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Quickie Manufacturing Corp. v. Libman Co.

January 23, 2002

QUICKIE MANUFACTURING CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE LIBMAN COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, District Judge

HONORABLE JOSEPH E. IRENAS

OPINION

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Quickie Manufacturing Corporation's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. The Quickie Manufacturing Corporation (hereinafter "Quickie"), a producer of household and industrial cleaning products, is the assignee of United States Patent No. RE 37,415 (hereinafter "the `415 patent"), entitled "Cam Actuated Roller Mop with Scrubber Attachment". Quickie contends that a competing mop produced by the Defendant, the Libman Company (hereinafter "Libman"), the "Nitty Gritty Roller Mop", infringes on the claims asserted in the `415 patent. With the instant motion, Quickie seeks a preliminary injunction of Libman's alleged infringement of the `415 patent. As discussed below, because Quickie has not made the required "clear showing" that the `415 patent is being infringed, its motion will be denied.

I.

The Quickie Manufacturing Company and the Libman Company are, as mentioned, businesses engaged in the production of household and industrial cleaning instruments such as mops, brushes and brooms. In June 1997, Quickie filed two provisional patent applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (hereinafter "USPTO"). These applications, filed in the name of Robert Petner, one of Quickie's engineers, were entitled "Roller Mop Having Integral Head with Convertible Scrubber", S.N. 60/048,599, and "Cam Actuated Roller Mop", S.N. 60/051,003. On March 31, 1998, Quickie filed a utility patent application, S.N. 09/050,895, entitled "Cam Actuated Roller Mop with Scrubber Attachment." On December 14, 1999, Quickie was issued a patent for this mop, U.S. Pat. No. 6,000,087 (hereinafter "the `087 patent").

On May 17, 2000, allegedly in response to a Libman mop that was "strikingly similar" to the mop disclosed in the `087 patent, Quickie filed a reissue application, S.N. 09/595,559, with the USPTO. After an interview and subsequent amendment, the `415 patent, the contents of which are at issue in this case, was issued on October 23, 2001.

Quickie contends that the mop disclosed in the `415 patent is infringed by Libman's "Nitty Gritty Roller Mop." In a letter dated October 24, 2001, Quickie made its position known to Libman and, on October 25, 2001, filed a Complaint with this Court seeking damages and a permanent injunction of further infringement of the `415 patent. On November 14, 2001, Quickie filed the instant motion, seeking a preliminary injunction of Libman's alleged infringement of Quickie's patent. Libman answered on December 6, 2001 and asserted a counterclaim for a declaration that the `415 patent is invalid as anticipated by prior art. Oral argument on the instant motion was held on January 9, 2002.

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1338.

II.

As noted, the `415 patent discloses and claims a "cam actuated" roller mop with a scrubber attachment, designed for cleaning and scrubbing floors and similar surfaces. While roller mops have been in use for many years, Quickie contends that prior to the invention of the mop contained in the `415 patent, no mop had "effectively and efficiently managed to support an abrasive scrubbing surface for efficient use in combination with the roller features of the mop." (Def. Br. at 2). To this end, the `415 patent discloses a mop containing a deformable, water-absorbent sponge secured to the end of a longitudinally extending handle and on which a removable mop scrubber attachment with an abrasive scrubbing surface (such as "coiled, spiraled or tufted nylon") can be mounted. The mop's sponge is deformed by means of two "spaced apart roller members" (see Fig. 1 of `415 patent), each of which contains a separate, transversely-extending axis and which rotate independently of one another. These roller members are supported by a frame which is located at the sponge end of the mop handle. Extending from the frame up the mop handle (toward the user) is a "sleeve means", which is "of generally cylindrical configuration" and fully encases the lower portion of the handle up to its midpoint. Adjacent to the sleeve means, at about the midpoint of the mop's elongated handle, is a lever assembly containing a camming wheel "pivotally" secured to the mop handle (see `415 patent, Figs. 1, 15-23). When a user desires to wring out the mop's sponge, he or she pushes a handhold located on the lever assembly, thereby rotating the camming wheel around the pivot on the mop handle. According to Quickie's description, this rotation "urges" the sleeve and frame toward the end of the mop, moving the rollers over the sponge and squeezing the water therefrom. (See Pl. Br. at 5). If a user so desires, the mop's scrubber attachment can be mounted into a slot located on one surface of the frame supporting the mop's roller means. According to Quickie, the location of the scrubber attachment - mounted on the frame supporting the rollers, rather than on the rollers themselves - is one of the novel developments of the `415 patent. (See Pl. Reply at 12).

III.

Courts having jurisdiction of patent cases "may grant injunctions in accordance with the principles of equity to prevent the violation of any right secured by patent, on such terms as the court deems reasonable." 35 U.S.C. § 283. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has noted that "the standards applied to the grant of preliminary injunctions are the same in patent cases as in other areas of the law...." High Tech Medical Instrumentation, Inc. v. New Image Indus., Inc., 49 F.3d 1551, 1554 (Fed. Cir. 1995). Thus, a party seeking a preliminary injunction must demonstrate: (1) a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm if the injunction is not issued; (3) a balance of hardships in favor of the moving party; and (4) that the public interest favors the issuance of the preliminary injunction. See Amazon.com, Inc. v. Barnesandnoble.com, Inc., 239 F.3d 1343, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (citing Reebok Int'l Ltd. v. J. Baker, Inc. 32 F.3d 1552, 1555 (Fed. Cir. 1994)). Although a court must consider all four factors before granting a preliminary injunction, see Reebok Int'l, 32 F.3d at 1556, the Federal Circuit has made it clear that both a likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable harm must be established before a preliminary injunction may issue, see Amazon.com, 239 F.3d at 1350 ("Our case law and logic both require that a movant cannot be granted a preliminary injunction unless it establishes both of the first two factors..."), and that findings as to all four factors are not necessary where a failure to show a likelihood of success or irreparable harm compels a denial of the requested injunction, see Texas Instruments, Inc. v. Tessera, Inc., 231 F.3d 1325, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2000); Polymer Tech., Inc. v. Bridwell, 103 F.3d 970, 973 (Fed. Cir. 1996); Reebok Int'l, 32 F.3d at 1555 ("[T]he district court may deny a preliminary injunction based on the movant's failure to establish either of these two crucial factors without making additional findings respecting the other factors.").

In order to establish a likelihood of success on the merits, a movant must make a "clear showing" that the patent at issue is both valid and infringed by the accused device. See Atlas Powder Co. v. Ireco Chemicals, 773 F.2d 1230, 1233 (Fed. Cir. 1985); see also, Amazon.com, at 1359; Nutrition 21 v. United States, 930 F.2d 867, 870 (Fed. Cir. 1991) (quoting Atlas Powder). If a patentee succeeds in making a strong showing of validity and infringement, a presumption of irreparable harm is raised. See Purdue Pharma L.P. b. Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, 237 F.3d 1359, 1363 (Fed. Cir. 2001); Reebok Int'l, 32 F.3d at 1556 ("A strong showing of likelihood of success on the merits coupled with continuing infringement raises a presumption of irreparable harm to the patentee."). For that reason, likelihood of success on the merits is often the primary issue in motion for a preliminary injunction of alleged patent infringement. Accordingly, it is an essential element of Quickie's motion that it carry its burden of demonstrating a likelihood of success on its claim that Libman's Nitty Gritty mop infringes on the `415 patent.

IV.

Generally, determination of the infringement of a patent is a two-step inquiry: first, the claims in the patent at issue must be construed to determine their scope and meaning; second, a comparison must be made between those claims as properly construed and the allegedly infringing device or process. See Seal-Flex, Inc. v. Athletic Track and Court Construction, 172 F.3d 836, 842 (Fed. Cir. 1999); Mas-Hamilton Group v. LaGard, Inc., 156 F.3d 1206, 1211 (Fed. Cir. 1998); see also, generally, 5A Donald S. Chisum, Chisum on Patents, § 18.03 (2001). In order for infringement to be proved, it must be shown that the infringing device contains or "reads on" each and every limitation disclosed in a given patent claim. See Mas-Hamilton, 156 F.3d at 1211 ("To prove literal infringement, the patentee must show that the accused device contains every limitation in the asserted claims."); Amhil Enters. v. Wawa, Inc., 81 F.3d 1554, 1562 (Fed. Cir. 1996). *fn1

Although claims must be construed to determine infringement, a court need not arrive at a final and conclusive claim construction in deciding a motion for a preliminary injunction, see Sofamor Danek Group, Inc. v. DePuy-Motech, Inc., 74 F.3d 1216, 1221 (Fed. Cir. 1996), and the court's findings and conclusions regarding claim construction are not binding at trial, see Illinois Tool Works, Inc. v. Grip-Pak, Inc., 906 F.2d 679, 681 (Fed. Cir. 1990). In sum, the court's obligation at the preliminary injunction stage is only to determine the probability that infringement can be proved after a full presentation of the evidence at trial. See Atari Games Corp. v. Nintendo of America, Inc., 897 F.2d 1572, 1575 (Fed. Cir. 1990); Dentsply Int'l, Inc. v. Great White, Inc., 132 F.Supp.2d 310, 315 (M.D.Pa. 2000).

The `415 patent contains forty-two claims, ten of which are independent. Quickie contends that Libman's Nitty Gritty mop infringes on claims 19 and 30-42 of its patent. (See Pl. Br. at 14). Although Quickie contends that there are a number of patentable features disclosed by the `415 patent, it has emphasized that the innovation targeted by the claims allegedly infringed by Libman is the attachment of an abrasive scrubber element to the mop's frame "independently of the roller means." Nevertheless, as noted, in order to prove infringement, Quickie must demonstrate that the Nitty Gritty mop possesses every limitation disclosed by the relevant claims of the `415 patent, not just those which the patentee believes to be the focus of its claims.

Each of the claims at issue in this case contains a number of limitations directed at the mechanism described in the `415 patent for squeezing liquid from the mop's deformable sponge member. Libman contends that because its product employs a "traditional rod and lever" wringing mechanism, rather than the sleeve-oriented structure ...


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