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Riddell, Inc. v. Kranos Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 26, 2018

RIDDELL, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
KRANOS CORPORATION, d/b/a SCHUTT SPORTS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Riddell has sued Kranos Corporation, which does business as Schutt Sports, for alleged infringement of two of Riddell's football helmet patents: U.S. Patent Nos. 8, 528, 118 (the '118 patent) and 8, 938, 818 (the '818 patent). In May 2017, the Court issued a claim construction order and denied Schutt's motions for partial summary judgment on a number of the infringement claims based on the '818 patent. See Riddell, Inc. v. Kranos Corp., No. 16 C 4496, 2017 WL 2349714 (N.D. Ill. May 30, 2017) (memorandum opinion and order denying partial summary judgment); Riddell, Inc. v. Kranos Corp., No. 16 C 4496, 2017 WL 2264347 (N.D. Ill. May 24, 2017) (claim construction memorandum opinion and order).

         Schutt has moved for summary judgment of non-infringement and invalidity, and Riddell has filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment regarding the validity of claim 6 of the '118 patent as well as infringement. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants summary judgment of non-infringement in favor of Schutt regarding claims 11 and 50 of the '818 patent with respect to three specific models of the accused helmets but denies the rest of Schutt's motion for summary judgment. The Court grants summary judgment in favor of Riddell with respect to infringement on all '818 patent claims, [1] but denies summary judgment of infringement on claim 6 of the '118 patent and otherwise denies Riddell's cross-motion for summary judgment.

         Background

         Riddell manufactures and sells football helmets, among other types of sports equipment. It owns the '118 and '818 patents at issue in the present litigation. Both patents are for protective sports helmets. The '118 patent, which was originally issued in September 2013, was reexamined and amended in September 2014. The '818 patent, which was filed as a continuation of the '118 patent, was issued in January 2015. Both patent applications claimed entitlement to the May 1, 2002 filing date of a provisional application filed with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).

         Schutt also manufactures and sells sports helmets. Riddell filed suit against Schutt in April 2016, alleging that Schutt's "Vengeance" line of football helmets infringes a number of claims of the '118 and '818 patents.[2]

         In August 2016, Schutt filed petitions with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (the Board) for inter partes review (IPR) of all of the patent claims asserted by Riddell. Specifically, Schutt sought review of claims 1-7, 11-13, 25-28, 30, and 32-37 of the '118 patent and claims 1-3, 5-6, 8-12, 14-16, 18-19, 21-25, 27, 29-32, 34, 36-52, 56-58, and 60-65 of the '818 patent. The Board instituted review with respect to claims 1, 2, 5, 11, 12, 25, 27, 28, 30, 32-35, and 37 of the '118 patent and claims 41, 42, 49, 51, 56-58, and 62-65 of the '818 patent. In February 2018, the Board issued final written decisions with respect to each of the two proceedings. With respect to the '118 patent, the Board concluded that Schutt had shown, by a preponderance of the evidence, that claims 1, 11, 12, 25, 28, 33-35, and 37 were unpatentable as obvious under 35 U.S.C. § 103, but had failed to prove that claims 2, 5, 27, 30, and 32 were unpatentable. See dkt. no. 220, Def.'s Notice of Suppl. Authorities in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 1 (PTAB Decision on '118 Patent) at 83. As for the '818 patent, the Board determined that Schutt proved by a preponderance of the evidence that claims 41, 49, 51, 56, 57, 62, 63, and 65 were unpatentable as obvious, but failed to prove claims 42, 58, and 64 unpatentable. See id., Ex. 2 (PTAB Decision on '818 Patent) at 46.

         Following the Board's issuance of these decisions, Riddell stipulated to the dismissal of all claims of infringement regarding any of the claims of the '118 patent except for those based on claim 6 and all claims of infringement regarding any of the claims of the '818 patent except for those based on claims 1, 2, 5, 6, 11, 40, 50, and 58. See dkt. no. 201, Joint Notice of Stipulation Regarding Dismissal of Certain Claims of U.S. Patent No. 8, 528, 118; dkt. no. 203, Joint Notice of Stipulation Regarding Dismissal of Certain Claims of U.S. Patent No. 8, 938, 818. Accordingly, Riddell's infringement claims in this lawsuit rest on claim 6 of the '118 patent and claims 1, 2, 5, 6, 11, 40, 50, and 58 of the '818 patent.

         Claim 6 of the '118 patent depends from unasserted claim 5, which in turn depends from unasserted claim 1. Claim 1 of the '118 patent discloses:

A football helmet comprising:
a plastic shell configured to receive a head of a wearer of the helmet, the shell having:
a front region,
a crown region,
a rear region,
two side regions wherein each side region has an ear flap with an ear opening,
a raised central band integrally formed as part of the shell and extending across the crown region to the rear region,
a first plurality of vent openings formed in the shell outside of the raised central band, wherein the first plurality of vent openings are aligned, and positioned along a first side of the raised central band; and
a chin strap assembly that releasably secures the helmet to the wearer.

Compl., Ex. C ('118 Patent Ex Parte Reexamination Certificate) 1:24-1:40. Claim 5 adds the limitation that the raised central band "has a width defined by a pair of opposed side walls that extend transversely from an outer surface of the shell." Id. 1:41-1:44. Claim 6 adds the limitation that "the side wall has a curvilinear configuration as it extends between the crown region and the rear region of the shell." Compl., Ex. B ('118 Patent) 14:45-14:47.

         Claim 1 of the '818 patent is an independent claim; the rest of the asserted claims of the '818 patent are dependent claims. Specifically, claims 2, 5, and 6 depend from claim 1; claim 11 depends from claims 9 and 1; claim 40 depends from claims 39, 36, and 29, and; claims 50 and 58 depend from claim 41. Claim 1 of the '818 patent is largely representative of the claimed invention:

A football helmet comprising:
a plastic shell configured to receive a head of a wearer of the helmet, the shell having:
a front region,
a crown region,
a rear region,
two side regions wherein each side region has an ear flap with an ear opening,
a lower edge surface extending generally from one of the ear flaps and along the rear region to the other of the ear flaps,
an inner shell wall surface,
an outer shell wall surface,
an offset band extending around the rear region and above the lower edge surface, the offset band including
an offset band wall having an inner band surface offset from the inner shell wall surface, and an outer band surface offset from the outer shell wall surface, and
a pair of angled transition walls, extending between the offset band wall and the rear region;
a raised central band integrally formed as part of the shell and extending across a crown region to the rear region, the raised central band having a width defined by a pair of opposed sidewalls,
a first plurality of vent openings residing outside of the raised central band and aligned along a first side of the raised central band, and
a second plurality of vent openings residing outside of the raised central band and aligned along a second side of the raised central band;
a face guard secured to the shell by a face guard connector; and
a chin strap assembly that releasably secures the helmet to the wearer.

Compl., Ex. A ('818 Patent) 14:49-15:17.

         Schutt has moved for summary judgment on the issues of invalidity, non-infringement, and Riddell's entitlement to lost profits. Schutt first contends that the asserted claims of the patents-in-suit are not entitled to the claimed priority date of May 1, 2002 and are therefore invalid as anticipated by Riddell's own helmets pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 102. Alternatively, Schutt argues that even if the patents-in-suit are afforded a 2002 priority date, all of the asserted claims are invalid as anticipated or obvious under 35 U.S.C. §§ 102 or 103. Schutt further contends that summary judgment of non-infringement is warranted on all asserted claims because the accused helmets lack the following limitations: (1) a raised central band; (2) a raised central band having a width defined by a pair of opposed side walls; (3) a plurality of vent openings aligned along the side of the raised central band, and; (4) a side wall that has a curvilinear configuration as it extends between the crown region and the rear region of the shell. Schutt also argues that three specific models of Vengeance helmets do not infringe claims 11 and 50 of the '818 patent because they are not sold with inflatable crown pads. Lastly, Schutt contends that summary judgment is warranted on the issue of Riddell's entitlement to lost profits because Riddell cannot prove the absence of acceptable non-infringing substitutes for its helmets.

         For its part, Riddell contends that disputed issues of material fact preclude a grant of summary judgment to Schutt with respect to the priority date and the validity of all the asserted claims of the '818 patent, as well as the issue of lost profits. Riddell has moved for summary judgment of infringement on the ground that at least some of Schutt's Vengeance helmets meet all of the limitations of the asserted claims. It has also moved for summary judgment regarding the validity of claim 6 of the '118 patent.

         Discussion

         In reviewing cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court takes the motions one at a time, construing all facts and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Advance Cable Co., LLC v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 788 F.3d 743, 746 (7th Cir. 2015). A party is entitled to summary judgment only if it shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). There is a genuine issue of material fact, and summary judgment is therefore precluded, "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         A. Infringement questions

         "An infringement analysis involves the two-step process of construing the claims and comparing the properly construed claims to the accused product." Tinnus Enters., LLC v. Telebrands Corp., 846 F.3d 1190, 1203 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Infringement is a question of fact. EMD Millipore Corp. v. AllPure Techs., Inc., 768 F.3d 1196, 1200-01 (Fed. Cir. 2014). Summary judgment on the issue of infringement is appropriate, however, "when no reasonable jury could find that every limitation recited in a properly construed claim either is or is not found in the accused device either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents." U.S. Philips Corp. v. Iwasaki Elec. Co., 505 F.3d 1371, 1374-75 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Riddell does not rely on the doctrine of equivalents in opposing summary judgment.

         Several of the limitations discussed by the parties in their respective summary judgment briefs are common to all or most of the asserted claims. The Court will address each of these limitations in the order in which they are presented by the parties.

         1. Raised central band (all asserted claims)

         Schutt first contends that no reasonable jury could find that the Vengeance helmets meet the "raised central band" limitation present in all asserted claims.[3] Schutt argues that the "saw-tooth offset feature" contained in the Vengeance helmets is not a raised central band within the plain and ordinary meaning of the term. Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. (Def.'s Mem.) at 34; see also Riddell, 2017 WL 2264347, at *3 (the phrase "raised central band" should be given its plain and ordinary meaning). The saw-tooth offset feature is pictured at three different angles below:

         (Image Omitted)

Def.'s Mem. at 34. Schutt does not appear to dispute (nor could it) that this feature is raised and in the center of the helmet. Rather, Schutt's argument rests largely on the proposition that it cannot be considered a band. Citing a number of online dictionaries that define "band" as "a thin, flat strip of some material, "[4] "a stripe, as of color or decorative work, "[5] and "something that confines or constricts while allowing a degree of movement, "[6] among other definitions, Schutt contends that no reasonable jury could conclude that the saw-tooth offset feature is a band because it does not confine or constrict and it "is not a thin, flat strip of material" or "a decorative stripe or strip." Id. at 34.

         The Court is unpersuaded by this selective comparison of the saw-tooth offset feature to dictionary definitions of the word "band." Although the feature may not be a flat strip that confines or constricts, it fits comfortably within several of the other definitions provided by Schutt. For example, it could easily be considered "a strip . . . or a stripe . . . differentiable (as by color, texture, or structure) from the adjacent material or area." Band, Merriam-Webster. The offset feature, which runs as a stripe from the front of the helmet to the back, is differentiable from the adjacent areas ...


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