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Joovy LLC and Albert T. Fairclough v. Target Corporation

August 5, 2011

JOOVY LLC AND ALBERT T. FAIRCLOUGH, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
TARGET CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-CROSS APPELLANT.



Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in case no. 06-CV-0616, Judge W. Royal Furgeson.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Linn, Circuit Judge.

NOTE: This disposition is nonprecedential

Before RADER, Chief Judge, LINN and PROST, Circuit Judges.

Plaintiff-Appellant, Joovy LLC ("Joovy"), sued Defendant-Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Target Corporation ("Target"), in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,622,375 ("'375 Patent"). Target moved for judgment as a matter of law ("JMOL") that claim 1 of the '375 Patent is invalid and that the '375 Patent is unenforceable due to inequitable conduct. The district court denied JMOL of invalidity but granted JMOL of unenforceability due to inequitable conduct. Joovy LLC v. Target Corp., No. 06-616-F, slip op. at 16 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 8, 2010). Joovy appeals and Target cross-appeals. Because the '375 Patent is anticipated as a matter of law under the proper claim construction of "rear wheels," this court reverses the district court's denial of Target's motion for JMOL of anticipation. Further, for the reasons set forth below, this court vacates the district court's JMOL of unenforceability.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The '375 Patent

On April 22, 1997, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") issued the '375 Patent to Albert Fairclough ("Fairclough"). The object of Fairclough's invention was "to provide a novel form of push-chair which is capable of carrying a second child" on a "platform provided at its lower rear." '375 Patent, col. 1, ll. 47-52. Representative claim 1 covers:

1. A push-chair for transporting a first child and a second child, comprising:

a frame to which is attached front and rear

wheels and a seat for the first child;

a platform on which the second child can stand disposed at a lower rear position on the frame and including a substantially unobstructed trailing edge, the rear wheels being mounted adjacent the trailing edge of the platform; and means for mounting the seat to the frame at a position substantially forward of the platform; wherein a substantially unobstructed space is formed above the platform and behind the seat, and whereby the second child can step onto and off the platform.

Id. at col. 5, l. 24--col. 6, l. 4 (emphases added).

Fig. 1 ('375 Patent)

Fairclough hired European patent attorney, Michael Harman ("Harman"), to file an international patent application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty ("PCT"). Harman associated United States patent counsel Lowe, Price, LeBlanc & Becker (the "Lowe firm") to file the United States patent application preceding the '375 Patent ("'375 Application") in the PTO. The PTO examiner originally rejected the '375 Application as anticipated by U.S. Patent Nos. 3,061,028 ("Konar") and 2,917,316 ("Gill"), both of which disclose a stroller with a platform that accommodates a basket. To overcome the rejection, Fairclough amended claim 14-issued as claim 1-to require the platform of the stroller to have: (1) "a substantially unobstructed trailing edge" with "rear wheels mounted adjacent the trailing edge"; and (2) "a substantially unobstructed space [] above the platform and behind the ...


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