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Dresser, LLC v. VRG Controls, LLC

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

July 16, 2019

DRESSER, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
VRG Controls, LLC, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RUBEN CASTILLO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Dresser, LLC ("Plaintiff) brings this lawsuit against VRG Controls, LLC ("Defendant") alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8, 141, 843 (the '"843 Patent"). (R. 48, Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-32.) Defendant filed a counterclaim alleging that the '843 Patent is invalid, (R. 71, Countercl. ¶¶ 10-20), and Plaintiff, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), moves to dismiss Defendant's counterclaim of invalidity. (R. 81, Mot. at 1-2, 6-10.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff s motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On March 27, 2012, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") issued the '843 Patent, which relates to a valve that controls or regulates the flow of fluid, such as natural gas. (R. 48, Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8; R. 48-1 at 13, 19-21, '843 Patent.) The invention disclosed in the '843 Patent uses a "throttling ball"-a spherical structure in the middle of the valve-and various other components that regulate fluid pressure in way that reduces vibration, turbulence, and shear associated with poorly-regulated fluid flow. (R. 48-1 at 13, '843 Patent.)

         In one exemplary embodiment of the '843 Patent depicted in Figure 1 of the patent below, a valve regulates a fluid coming into the valve, and the valve has a stem (item 105) and a plate (item 115) to connect the valve to another mechanical device that can open or close the valve. (Id. at 15.)

         (Image Omitted)

         Within the body of the valve (item 125) is a throttling ball (item 145) through which fluid is directed when the valve is open. (Id. at 16.) The throttling ball is the chief component of the valve that regulates fluid pressure, as it reduces the pressure of fluid flowing through the valve in one or more stages. (Id.) It operates by rotating, which either opens or closes the throttling ball for fluid to pass through in a controlled manner. (Id. at 17.)

         An embodiment of the throttling ball disclosed by the '843 Patent is depicted in Figure 3 A of the patent below:

         (Image Omitted)

         There is a flow conduit (item 267) inside the throttling ball that allows fluid to pass through the ball, and the flow conduit may be opened or closed when a solid surface (item 232) is rotated to cover the conduit. (Id.) Within the throttling ball are channels (item 274) separated by plates (items 240 and 270) with openings (items 272 and 245) that further regulate the pressure of fluid passing through the throttling ball. (Id. at 17-18.) Ultimately, the throttling ball operates by using multiple stages of pressure regulation and channels of flow to reduce vibration, turbulence, and shear. (Id. at 18-19.)

         Consistent with the figures shown above, the '843 Patent's claims generally describe "a valve comprising: a body" with a "flow passage" and an interior cavity containing a "throttling ball," which includes a "fluid conduit extending through the throttling ball[.]" (Id. at 19.) The '843 Patent also claims methods of regulating fluid pressure using the valve and throttling ball apparatus disclosed in the'843 Patent. (Id. at 20-21.)

         Before the USPTO issued the '843 Patent, the inventors of the '843 Patent, Vladimir Rimboym ("Rimboym") and Vladimir Etinger ("Etinger"), allegedly assigned the rights to the '843 Patent to Plaintiff. (R. 48, Second Am. Compl. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff manufactures and sells valve products that incorporate the inventions disclosed in the *843 Patent, which Plaintiff markets under its "Becker" brand. (Id. ¶ 10.) For many years, Rimboym had allegedly worked for a corporation that was ultimately acquired by Plaintiff, but Rimboym is now the Chief Executive Officer ("CEO") of Defendant. (Id. ¶ 11.) Defendant has also allegedly employed several former employees of Plaintiff. (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant manufactures and sells valves described as "Pipeline Rotary Control Valves" ("PRCV") that infringe the'843 Patent, and that Defendant induces as well as contributes to infringement of the method claims in the'843 Patent. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 21-32.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has sold and manufactured its PRCV product knowing about the '843 Patent and knowing that Defendant induces its customers to infringe claims of the'843 Patent. (Id. ¶¶ 25-27.)

         According to Plaintiff, Defendant's products are manufactured in Italy, but Defendant represents on social media websites that its products are manufactured in the United States. (Id. ¶¶ 13-19, 36-37.) Plaintiff alleges that these representations "actually deceived or have the tendency to deceive" customers who have seen Defendant's social media, and that Defendant's "deception is material because it is likely to influence the purchasing decision of... customers[.]" (Id. ΒΆ 38.) Plaintiff also claims that Defendant has falsely disseminated materials stating that Defendant's products are more durable than Plaintiffs ...


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