A federal district court judge in Des Moines has denied a preliminary injunction in a patent infringement case involving a backhoe tire design.
Goodyear and Titan Tire Corp. filed suit last February, claiming that Case New Holland, one of the world's largest manufacturers of agricultural equipment, has infringed on Goodyear's 862 backhoe tire design by selling tires made with the 862 design but not manufactured by Goodyear or Titan. Titan licenses the 862 design from Goodyear.
Later on, the tire makers added CNH America L.L.C., a subsidiary of Case New Holland, and GPX Tire International Inc. as defendants in the suit. GPX replaced Titan in 2006 as a backhoe tire supplier for Case New Holland.
Goodyear and Titan claimed that the Easy Rider tire manufactured by GPX and supplied to Case New Holland was nearly identical to the 862-design tire Titan previously supplied.
Goodyear and Titan sought to make GPX stop making the Easy Rider tire and Case New Holland to stop buying it.
They also sought triple damages, total profits from the sale of the allegedly patent-infringing tires and attorneys' fees.
In May, Goodyear and Titan asked the court to grant a preliminary injunction against GPX, Case New Holland and CNH to stop the sale of Easy Rider tires.
In his Oct. 3 decision, Judge James E. Gritzner determined that on most counts Goodyear and Titan's patent infringement claims were solid. The overall appearance of Easy Rider tires is almost indistinguishable from that of 862 design tires, he said, and Goodyear and Titan also met the legal tests for proving that the sale of Easy Rider tires caused both companies irreparable harm.
However, GPX and Case New Holland effectively undercut the plaintiffs' arguments by introducing the ``obviousness'' argument based on a precedent created in another case, Judge Gritzner said.
If a person of ordinary skill can create a predictable and obvious variation on a patented design, the patent likely is invalid, according to the obviousness precedent.
The U.S. Patent Office originally rejected the 862 design patent on the grounds that it was obvious in light of prior art, and Goodyear only obtained the patent on appeal, the judge noted. In any case, he ruled, the obviousness defense alone was enough to deny the preliminary injunction.
The attorney for the defendants referred comments to a CNH spokesperson who said, ``CNH is pleased with the outcome and with the results.''
Goodyear's and Titan's attorneys have filed an appeal of Judge Gritzner's ruling with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Their attorneys could not be reached at press time.