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Hafco Foundry & Machine Co. v. GMS Mine Repair & Maintenance, Inc.

No Error in Design Patent Jury Instructions

Hafco Foundry & Machine Co. v. GMS Mine Repair & Maintenance, Inc., __ F.3d __, 2020 WL 1239842 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 16, 2020) (Per curiam: (Newman (CIP/DIP), Chen, Stoll)) (S.D. W.Va.: Faber) (2 of 5 stars)

Fed Cir affirms infringement judgment and remands for further proceedings. Hafco’s design patent relates to distribution of rock dust in areas of coal mines so as to reduce explosion hazard. There was no plain error in the district court’s jury instructions as to the test for design patent infringement from the perspective of an “ordinary observer.” The district court also did not err in deciding not to instruct the jury on standards for comparing a design patent to prior art, because GMS neither introduced nor attempted to introduce any prior art. The opinion does not take up any damages opinions, apparently due to the absence of a final judgment on damages.

Part-concurrence: Judge Newman would have taken up a damages issue, apparently raised by Hafco, concerning the jury’s decision to award to Hafco a sum of money inconsistent with all evidence concerning Hafco’s lost profits (lost profits was the only damages issue before the jury). The district court had remitted the amount of the jury’s award to zero and offered Hafco a new trial. Judge Newman would have remitted instead to $110,000, which was the undisputed amount of Hafco’s lost profits. “A new trial, on undisputed facts, is not needed to serve the purposes of the jury verdict.” Op. CIP/DIP at 3.

KEYWORDS: DESIGN PATENTS; INFRINGEMENT; JURY INSTRUCTIONS; REMITTITUR; LOST PROFITS