Patent infringement litigation
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found in favor of our client Ateliers de la Haute-Garonne and F2C2 Systems SAS (AHG), a French airplane equipment parts manufacturer, in a patent infringement case filed against German rival Bröetje Automation and its American subsidiary Broetje Automation USA.
AHG held two US patents relating to the dispensing of objects such as rivets through a pressured tube with grooves along its inner surface which improved the rapidity and smooth supply of rivets to assemble the metal parts of aircraft. Bröetje had previously purchased AHG’s rivet dispensing system from AHG, but then set about making its “own” rivet dispenser system, which, according to AHG’s complaint, virtually matched the one designed and patented by AHG.
AHG then sued Broetje for two counts of patent infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair competition in the Delaware District Court. Bröetje argued that claims filed by the plaintiff were invalid because AHG had intentionally failed to disclose the best mode of carrying out the invention, which, under US patent law, stipulates that the inventor must appropriately disclose the best “way” or “method” for making the product. The defendant further alleged that AHG had abandoned its patent because it allegedly failed to pay the issue fee. Though the Delaware District Court rejected Broetje’s argument that the AHG had abandoned its patent, it sided with the defendant on the best mode argument. It deferred ruling on the other claims filed by AHG.
Our attorneys appealed on behalf of AHG, arguing that even though AHG ultimately developed and sold for commercial use a five-groove tube, the description it provided, including the use of three groves to prevent the rivets from jamming in the tube, was the best mode known to the inventors at the time the patent was filed, and the three-groove embodiment was specifically described and thus adequately disclosed in the specification’s text and drawings and in no way concealed a better mode beyond that described. The Federal Circuit agreed, finding that the inventor of AHG’s product had disclosed why an odd number of grooves was necessary and the invention specifications reflected an odd number of grooves in the text and drawings, thus “the best mode is satisfied when the inventor includes the preferred mode in the specification at the time the application was filed.”