Arlington Industries, Inc. v. Bridgeport Fittings Inc
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re: Motion for Summary Judgment 429 filed by Arlington. (See memo for complete details.) Signed by Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner on 4/24/14. (ki)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
ARLINGTON INDUSTRIES, INC.,
BRIDGEPORT FITTINGS, INC.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:06-CV-1105
(Chief Judge Conner)
Presently before the court is Arlington Industries, Inc.’s (“Arlington”) motion
(Doc. 429) for summary judgment. Arlington claims that defendant Bridgeport
Fittings, Inc.’s (“Bridgeport”) Whipper-Snap Duplex Connectors (“Duplex
Connectors”), catalog numbers 3838ASP and 3838SP, infringe Arlington’s patent
number 5,266,050 (“the ‘050 patent”). For the reasons that follow, the court will
grant the motion.
Arlington and Bridgeport are fierce competitors in the electrical conduit
fitting industry. This case concerns a particular type of electrical conduit fitting
with a snap-in feature. Litigation between the parties over the patent underlying
this type of fitting has been ongoing since 2001. See Arlington Indus., Inc. v.
Bridgeport Fittings, Inc., Civ. A. No. 3:01-CV-0485 (M.D. Pa.) (hereinafter
“Arlington I”). The Arlington I litigation instituted in 2001 originally concerned
only Bridgeport’s Single Connector snap-in products. The Duplex Connectors that
form the basis of Arlington’s present motion for summary judgment were first
asserted as infringing products in the above-captioned case in 2006 (“Arlington II”).
(Doc. 3). The Duplex Connectors became a part of the Arlington I litigation during
the discovery phase of that litigation, but after the same claim was asserted in the
instant litigation. Unbeknownst to Honorable A. Richard Caputo, who was initially
assigned to the above-captioned case,1 and the undersigned, who presided over the
Arlington I litigation, the Duplex Connectors were subject to litigation in two cases
for identical allegations of infringement of Claim 8 of the ’050 patent. Through
oversight or inadvertence, neither party found it necessary to seek immediate
consolidation, and this matter and Arlington I proceeded on parallel tracks. Suffice
it to say that the procedural path leading to the instant motion has been rather
Arlington’s ’050 Patent
In 1992, Arlington developed and manufactured a new type of electrical
conduit fitting, intended to replace previous units whose installation required the
use of two hands to screw the device into an electrical junction box.2 (See Doc. 102,
Ex. B). This connector features a circular spring metal adaptor, to which at least
two outwardly sprung members are attached at the trailing end. (See id. at col. 10).
When the adaptor is inserted into the knockout hole of an electrical junction box, its
Judge Caputo transferred the case to the undersigned on June 24, 2011.
An electrical junction box is used to run multiple conductors in two or more
directions, allowing power to flow simultaneously to various electrical devices.
outwardly sprung members lock the adaptor into place. (See id.) Thus, Arlington’s
connector allows a user to quickly connect the device to a junction box using one
hand instead of two, thereby reducing the time and effort required during
installation. (See id. at col. 1).
On December 15, 1992, Arlington was awarded United States Patent Number
5,171,164 (“the ’164 patent”) which covered the design of the above-described
device. (Arlington I, Doc. 404 ¶ 2; Doc. 432 ¶ 2). Arlington acquired the ’050 patent
the following year. (Doc. 102, Ex. B). The ’050 patent is a “continuation patent,”
meaning that it shares a common specification with the ’164 patent, but includes
different claims. (Arlington I, Doc. 404 ¶ 2; Doc. 432 ¶ 2.) The ’050 patent
encompasses eight claims, only one of which is the focus of the instant litigation.
The claim at issue—Claim 8—reads as follows:
A quick connect fitting for an electrical junction box comprising:
a hollow electrical connector through which an electrical conductor
may be inserted having a leading end thereof for insertion in a
hole in an electrical junction box;
a circular spring metal adaptor surrounding said leading end of said
electrical connector which has a leading end, a trailing end, and
an intermediate body;
at least two outwardly sprung members carried by said metal adaptor
near said trailing end of said adaptor which engage the side walls
of the hole in the junction box into which said adaptor is inserted;
at least two spring locking members carried by said metal adaptor that
spring inward to a retracted position to permit said adaptor and
locking members to be inserted in a hole in an electrical junction
box and spring outward to lock said electrical connector from
being withdrawn through the hole; and
an arrangement on said connector for limiting the distance said
connector can be inserted into the hole in the junction box.
In 1999, Bridgeport introduced its own product line of quick-connect fittings
called the “Snap-In Fitting.” (See Arlington I, Doc. 170 at 7-10). The “Snap-In
Fittings” were designed with characteristics nearly identical to those featured in
Arlington’s patented products. (See Arlington I, Doc. 310 ¶ 2.5). Arlington filed the
Arlington I litigation in March 2001, alleging that the “Snap-In Fittings” infringed
both the ‘164 and the ’050 patents. (See Arlington I, Doc. 1).
The Whipper-Snap Duplex Connectors
In September 2005, Bridgeport designed a new quick-connect electrical
fitting, which it called the “Whipper-Snap.” (Arlington I, Doc. 404 ¶ 14; Doc. 432 ¶
14). The Whipper-Snap is similar to the ’050 patent, in that it features a circular
spring metal adaptor that is affixed atop a hollow connector body. (See Arlington I,
Doc. 383 ¶ 9(a); Doc. 438 at 1; Doc. 439 ¶ 9(a)). Attached to the leading end of the
adaptor are a total of four tensioning tangs and two anchoring tabs. (See Arlington
I, Doc. 307, at 5). The tensioning tangs’ purpose is twofold: (1) to lock the adaptor
securely in position when the fitting is inserted into a knockout hole, and (2) to
thereafter “maintain good electrical continuity, or ground, between the electrical
connector, the junction box and the electrical source leading to the box.” (See
Arlington I, Doc. 384, Ex. K ¶¶ 17, 20; Doc. 394, Ex. A ¶¶ 36, 44; Doc. 401 at 16-18;
Doc. 425, Ex. M at 85-88; Doc. 439 ¶ 11(d)). The purpose of the anchoring tabs is to
fasten the spring metal adaptor durably to the hollow connector body. (See
Arlington I, Doc. 394, Ex. A ¶ 38).
On May 31, 2006, Arlington filed the instant litigation alleging that
Bridgeport’s Duplex Connectors—two products in the Whipper-Snap product
line—infringed a separate Arlington patent, number 6,521,831 (“the ‘831 patent”).3
(Doc. 1). By amended complaint dated June 27, 2006, Arlington asserted a second
claim against the Duplex Connectors, alleging that the Duplex Connectors infringed
Claim 8 of the ’050 patent. (Doc. 3). The above-captioned matter (hereinafter
“Arlington II”) was initially assigned to the Honorable A. Richard Caputo. Shortly
after commencing this litigation, Arlington also amended its complaint in Arlington
I to add the Duplex Connectors as products infringing the ’050 patent.
On December 4, 2007, Judge Caputo issued his Markman claim construction
ruling on the ’050 patent. (Doc. 98). Nearly three months later, on February 25,
2008, the Arlington I court issued its Markman ruling in which it construed certain
terms of Claim 8 of the ’050 patent in a manner materially different from the
construction issued by Judge Caputo. (Arlington I, Doc. 376). The parties filed
motions for summary judgment in each case. (Arlington I, Docs. 382, 385; Arlington
II, Docs. 110, 112, 113). On September 18, 2008, Judge Caputo granted Bridgeport’s
The ‘831 patent claims against the Duplex Connectors are currently stayed
pending the appeal of the United States Patent & Trademark Office reexamination
to the Federal Circuit. (Docs. 426, 427, 428).
motions for summary judgment in the above-captioned case, concluding that
Arlington could not prove infringement of the ’050 patent by Bridgeport’s Duplex
Connectors. (Doc. 307). However, on February 4, 2009, the Arlington I court denied
the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of infringement and
set trial for September 2009. (See Arlington I, Docs. 471, 474).
Days before trial, Bridgeport filed a motion to stay the trial in Arlington I on
claim and issue preclusion grounds as a result of Judge Caputo’s judgment of noninfringement of the Duplex Connectors in the above-captioned case. (Arlington I,
Doc. 561). The undersigned denied the motion, but excised the Duplex Connectors
from trial to circumvent the issue preclusion conundrum stemming from conflicting
claim constructions. (Arlington I, Doc. 584). A jury subsequently returned a verdict
in favor of Arlington, finding that thirty of Bridgeport’s Single Connector products
infringed the ’050 patent. (Arlington I, Doc. 632).
After the trial, Bridgeport filed a motion for renewed judgment as a matter of
law and for a new trial, alleging in part that res judicata barred the jury’s verdict
concerning the Single Connectors. See Arlington I, 692 F. Supp. 2d 487, 498-503
(M.D. Pa. 2010). The court found that Judge Caputo’s claim construction in
Arlington II could be entitled to issue preclusive effect, but the court declined to
apply the doctrine because “relitigation has already occurred” and Bridgeport
delayed in presenting the issue until “the eve of a complex trial with witnesses,
advocates, and the court assembled at significant expense.” Id. at 502. The court
also found that claim preclusion did not apply because Bridgeport failed to
establish that the Single Connectors adjudged infringing at trial were “essentially
the same” device as the Duplex Connectors adjudged non-infringing in Arlington II
pursuant to Judge Caputo’s claim construction. Id. at 503. Bridgeport also filed a
motion to alter or amend the judgment in Arlington I, requesting in part that the
court enter final judgment with respect to the Duplex Connectors. (See Arlington I,
Doc. 774). The Arlington I court found that, based on Judge Caputo’s judgment of
non-infringement of the Duplex Connectors in the above-captioned case,
Bridgeport was entitled to judgment of non-infringement as a matter of law on the
Duplex Connectors. (Id.)
The parties appealed both cases to the United States Court of Appeals for the
Federal Circuit. On January 20, 2011, the Federal Circuit issued its opinion with
respect to the above-captioned matter. See Arlington II, 632 F.3d 1246 (Fed. Cir.
2011). The Federal Circuit vacated the grant of summary judgment of noninfringement of the ’050 patent by the Duplex Connectors due to an erroneous
claim construction of the ’050 patent. Id. The mandate issued on April 21, 2011.
(Doc. 365). Judge Caputo subsequently re-opened the above captioned matter on
June 24, 2011 and re-assigned the case to the undersigned for all further
proceedings. (Doc. 368). On July 18, 2011, the court granted Arlington’s motion for
preliminary injunction, enjoining Bridgeport from directly or indirectly making,
using, selling, offering to sell or importing, or causing or inducing others to make,
use, sell, offer to sell or import the Duplex Connectors. (Doc. 392). That
preliminary injunction dissolved on December 4, 2011, when the ‘050 patent
Following the Federal Circuit’s decision in the above-captioned matter, the
court in Arlington I issued an indicative ruling under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 62.1 that it would vacate the court’s final judgment of non-infringement
by the Duplex Connectors if the Federal Circuit were to remand the judgment for
that purpose. (Arlington I, Doc. 837). However, this indicative ruling became moot
on November 9, 2011, when the parties stipulated to the dismissal of the Duplex
Connectors from the Arlington I matter. (Arlington I, Docs. 838, 839, 840). The
Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment in Arlington I on September 6, 2012.
(Arlington I, Doc. 841).
On April 29, 2013, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of all claims of willful
infringement in the above-captioned matter and to limit the damages period for
infringement of Arlington’s ‘050 and ‘831 patent by the Duplex Connectors. (Docs.
On September 13, 2013, Arlington filed the instant motion for summary
judgment of infringement on claim 8 of its ‘050 patent by the Duplex Connectors.
(Doc. 429). The motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do
not present a “genuine dispute as to any material fact” and for which a jury trial
would be an empty and unnecessary formality. See FED . R. CIV . P. 56(a). The
burden of proof is upon the non-moving party to come forth with “affirmative
evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings,” in support of its right to relief.
Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); see also Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a
matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986). Only if this threshold
is met may the cause of action proceed. Pappas, 331 F. Supp. 2d at 315.
A party who “without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any
patented invention” may be held liable to the patent owner for patent infringement.
35 U.S.C. § 271(a); see also 35 U.S.C. § 281 (“A patentee shall have remedy by civil
action for infringement of his patent.”). “Victory in an infringement suit requires a
finding that the patent claim ‘covers the alleged infringer’s product or process,’
which in turn necessitates a determination of ‘what the words in the claim mean.’”
Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 374 (1996) (quoting H.
SCHWARTZ , PATENT LAW AND PRACTICE 1, 80 (2d ed. 1995)). Thus, determining
whether an accused device infringes a patented invention requires a two-step
analysis. Union Carbide Chems. & Plastics Tech. Corp. v. Shell Oil Co., 308 F.3d
1167, 1176-77 (Fed. Cir. 2002). First, the court must ascertain the proper
construction of the patent’s claims; this is a question of law. Markman, 517 U.S. at
384; Cybor Corp. v. FAS Techs., 138 F.3d 1448, 1454 (Fed. Cir. 1998). In the second
step, the trier of fact must compare the allegedly infringing device with the properly
construed patent claim. Research Plastics, Inc. v. Fed. Packaging Corp., 421 F.3d
1290, 1295 (Fed. Cir. 2005); Southwall Techs. v. Cardinal IG Co., 54 F.3d 1570, 1575
(Fed. Cir. 1995).
A patent claim is literally infringed when each limitation of the properly
construed claim is found in the accused device. Jansen v. Rexall Sundown, Inc., 342
F.3d 1329, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2003); Catalina Mktg. Int’l, Inc. v. Coolsavings.com, Inc.,
289 F.3d 801, 812 (Fed. Cir. 2002). Literal infringement is a question for the trier of
fact. Cross Med. Prods., Inc. v. Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc., 424 F.3d 1293, 1302
(Fed. Cir. 2005); Bai v. L. & L. Wings, 160 F.3d 1350, 1353 (Fed. Cir. 1998). Courts
may properly resolve literal infringement claims at the summary judgment stage
“when no genuine issue of material fact exists, in particular, when no reasonable
jury could find that every limitation recited in the properly construed claim either is
or is not found in the accused device.” Bai, 160 F.3d at 1353; see also Catalina, 289
F.3d at 812 (“Summary judgment of no literal infringement is proper when,
construing the facts in a manner most favorable to the nonmovant, no reasonable
jury could find that the accused system meets every limitation recited in the
properly construed claims.”). The Federal Circuit has cautioned district courts to
“approach a motion for summary judgment on the fact issue of infringement with
great care.” Cole v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., 102 F.3d 524, 528 (Fed. Cir. 1996).
In the instant matter, the first step in the infringement analysis is complete.
The disagreement at the heart of the parties’ summary judgment motions concerns
step two of the inquiry: comparison of the accused products with Claim 8’s properly
construed limitations. With one exception, the parties agree that the accused
Duplex Connector products meet each of the limitations identified in Claim 8 of the
‘050 patent. (Doc. 431 ¶ 7; Doc. 439 ¶ 7). The sole disputed limitation concerns
whether Bridgeport’s Duplex Connectors contain “outwardly sprung members.”
(Id.) The controlling construction of “outwardly sprung members” is “members
bent outward at an angle relative to the normal plane of the adaptor.” (Doc. 431 ¶ 8;
Doc. 439 ¶ 8). The parties agree that the phrase “members” refers to the tensioning
tangs on the adaptors of the Duplex Connectors. (Doc. 431 ¶ 9; Doc. 439 ¶ 9). In
determining whether Bridgeport’s Duplex Connectors infringe Claim 8 of the ’050
patent, the relevant state of the connector for the infringement analysis is a
connector that is fully assembled—a connector with the tensioning tang ring
attached to the connector body. (Id.)
The application of the “outwardly sprung members” limitation to the Duplex
Connectors was the subject of cross-motions for summary judgment in Arlington I.
See Arlington I, 610 F. Supp. 2d 370 (M.D. Pa. 2009). The court denied summary
judgment of infringement for both the Single and Duplex Connectors because of
three deficiencies with Arlington’s evidence: (1) the failure to depict the “normal
plane of the adaptor;” (2) the failure to provide angular measurements of the
tensioning tangs in relation to the normal plane; and (3) the failure to provide
measurements for each of the accused products. Id. at 381-83.
When the parties proceeded to trial on the Single Connectors in Arlington I,
Arlington’s expert, Dr. Christopher Rahn (“Dr. Rahn”) submitted supplemental
trial expert reports and testified at trial. The Rahn expert reports depicted the
“normal plane of the adaptor,” measured each Single and Duplex Connector model,
and took linear measurements of the diameters of the tensioning tangs and the
anchor tabs to determine the relative angle between them. (Doc. 431 ¶ 10; Doc. 439
¶ 10). At trial, Dr. Rahn limited his testimony to the Single Connectors, but his
methodology and results were the same for both types of connectors and consistent
with the content of his expert reports. (Arlington I, Doc. 660 at 15-207). Dr. Rahn
testified that the anchoring tabs on the connectors constitute “the normal plane of
the adaptor.” (Id. at 77). Dr. Rahn also demonstrated how the tensioning tangs are
bent outward at an angle relative to the anchoring tabs. (Id. at 84-99). Dr. Rahn’s
measurements of the Single Connectors showed that the tensioning tangs of the
Single Connectors are bent outward at an average angle of 1.4 degrees from the
anchoring tabs. (Id. at 98).
In response, Bridgeport’s expert Dr. J. Brian P. Williamson testified that the
normal plane of the adaptor is defined by the tensioning tangs, not the anchoring
tabs. (Arlington I, Doc. 661 at 289). He determined that when the accused products
are manufactured, the anchoring tabs are pulled inward out of the normal plane,
while the tensioning tangs continue to remain in the normal plane. (Id. at 224-225;
Doc. 439 ¶ 10). Dr. Williamson also critiqued Dr. Rahn’s methodology and
calculations on various grounds at trial. (Arlington I, Doc. 661 at 265-68, 277-82).
The jury ultimately determined that all of the Single Connectors at issue infringe
claim 8 of the ‘050 patent.
Bridgeport asserts that summary judgment is not warranted for the Duplex
Connectors because the parties’ experts continue to disagree about what
constitutes the “normal plane of the adaptor” and whether the tensioning tangs are
bent outward at an angle relative to the normal plane of the adaptor. (Doc. 438 at
16-28). Bridgeport further contends that Dr. Rahn’s measurements and
methodology are unreliable and subject to rejection by a jury. Bridgeport points to
the court’s previous denial of summary judgment in Arlington I and asserts that
“there is no way to prognosticate how a jury in this case would weigh the same
evidence.” (Doc. 438 at 13 (emphasis added)).
Arlington contends that the jury verdict reached in Arlington I on the Single
Connectors has collateral estoppel effects on the Duplex Connectors in the matter
sub judice. Specifically, Arlington contends that because the jury found that
Bridgeport’s Single Connectors infringe claim 8 of the ‘050 patent, and therefore
contain “outwardly sprung members,” the jury necessarily determined that (1) the
anchoring tabs constitute the normal plane of the adaptor; (2) the tensioning tangs
are bent outward from that normal plane; and (3) the angles between the tangs and
the normal plane were sufficient to meet the “bent outward” limitation. (Doc. 450
at 16). Arlington asserts that the parties have never distinguished between the
Single and Duplex Connectors on these factual issues and indeed, submitted pre-
trial expert reports that presented a single argument on these issues for both the
Single and Duplex Connectors. (Id. at 20).
“A fundamental precept of common-law adjudication, embodied in the
related doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata, is that a ‘right, question or
fact distinctly put in issue and directly determined by a court of competent
jurisdiction . . . cannot be disputed in a subsequent suit between the same parties or
their privies . . . .’” Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 153 (1979) (quoting
Southern Pacific R. Co. v. United States, 168 U.S. 1, 48-49 (1897)). Collateral
estoppel, also referred to as issue preclusion,4 specifically bars relitigation of an
issue that was conclusively determined in a prior adjudication and that was
essential to the original judgment. Witkowski v. Welch, 173 F.3d 192, 198 (3d Cir.
1999). By foreclosing subsequent disputes over issues on which a court has ruled,
collateral estoppel promotes fairness and certainty, while preventing the wasteful
expenditure of resources upon issues already resolved through adversarial
proceedings. See Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980); Montana, 440 U.S. at 15354; Witkowski, 173 F.3d at 198-99.
A finding of issue preclusion is appropriate when (1) “the issue sought to be
precluded is the same as that involved in the prior action; (2) th[e] issue was
actually litigated; (3) it was determined by a final and valid judgment; and (4) the
The terms “issue preclusion” and “collateral estoppel” are used
interchangeably in modern jurisprudence. See, e.g., Venuto v. Witco Corp., 117
F.3d 754, 758 n.5 (3d Cir. 1997).
determination was essential to the prior judgment.” Peloro v. United States, 488
F.3d 163, 175 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Burlington N. R.R. v. Hyundai Merch. Marine
Co., 63 F.3d 1227, 1231-32 (3d Cir. 1995)). The party seeking to invoke collateral
estoppel bears the burden to prove each of its elements. Dici v. Pennsylvania, 91
F.3d 542, 548 (3d Cir. 1996).
It is undisputable that application of the “outwardly sprung members” claim
limitation to the Single Connectors was rigorously litigated and determined by a
final and valid judgment, and that the determination of this issue was essential to
that judgment. Thus, the only element of collateral estoppel at issue in the case sub
judice is the first: whether the application of the “outwardly sprung members”
claim limitation in the ‘050 patent to the Duplex Connectors presents the same
issues as the application of the “outwardly sprung members” claim limitation in the
‘050 patent to the Single Connectors in Arlington I. To analyze the first prong, the
court must examine whether “the same general legal rules govern both cases” and
whether “the facts of both cases are indistinguishable as measured by those rules.”
Suppan v. Dadonna, 203 F.3d 228, 233 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting WRIGHT AND MILLER ,
FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 4425 at 253 (1981)). The court must ask
whether there is a “substantial overlap between the evidence or argument to be
advanced” in each trial and whether the claims involved are closely related. Peloro,
488 F.3d at 175 n.12 (quoting RESTATEMENT (SECOND ) OF JUDGMENTS § 27, cmt. c
Unsurprisingly, the court has been unable to identify any cases where
litigation over the application of a patent claim’s terms to an accused product was
collaterally estopped due to the previous application of the same patent claim’s
terms to a similar accused product. The court presumes that the lack of factually
similar case law is explained by this litigation’s tortured procedural path.
Ordinarily, similar accused products are tried in the same action.
Courts applying the doctrine of claim preclusion to different accused
products invoke the doctrine only when there has been (1) a final judgment on the
merits in a prior suit, (2) that involves the same parties or their privies, and (3) there
is a subsequent suit based on the same cause of action. Elkadrawy v. Vanguard
Group, Inc., 584 F.3d 169, 172-73 (3d Cir. 2009). Federal Circuit case law dictates
that “an infringement claim in a second suit is the ‘same claim’ as in an earlier
infringement suit if the accused products in the two suits are ‘essentially the
same.’” Roche Palo Alto LLC v. Apotex, Inc., 531 F.3d 1372, 1379 (Fed. Cir. 2008)
(internal citations omitted).5 Accused products are “essentially the same” if their
differences are merely “colorable” or “unrelated to the limitations in the claim of
the patent.” Acumed LLC v. Stryker Corp., 525 F.3d 1319, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2008).
Issue preclusion does not always require the accused products to be identical,
because “[i]t is the issues litigated, not the specific claims around which the issues
The extent to which two infringement claims constitute the “same claim” is
an issue particular to patent law, which necessitates application of Federal Circuit
precedent. See Roche Palo Alto LLC v. Apotex, Inc., 531 F.3d 1372, 1379 (Fed. Cir.
were framed, that is determinative.” Westwood Chem., Inc. v. United States, 525
F.2d 1367, 1372 (Ct. Cl. 1975) (examining the application of collateral estoppel to a
non-litigated claim on the basis of claim invalidity).
The court agrees with Arlington that any disputes of material fact concerning
the Duplex Connectors are foreclosed by the jury’s verdict concerning the Single
Connectors in Arlington I. When a party seeks collateral estoppel based on a jury
verdict, the court must determine “whether a rational jury could have grounded its
verdict upon an issue other than” the issue sought to be precluded. Schiro v.
Farley, 510 U.S. 222, 233 (1994). From a general verdict, the court may presume
that the jury made implicit factual findings that would support that verdict. See
Power Integ., Inc. v. Fairchild Semicond. Int’l, Inc., 711 F.3d 1348, 1377 (Fed. Cir.
2013); see also Railroad Dynamics, Inc. v. A. Stucki Co., 727 F.2d 1506, 1516 (Fed.
Cir. 1984) (“[t]he general verdict thus includes the jury’s legal conclusion and a set
of implied fact findings, the latter being those necessary to support the legal
conclusion encompassed in the verdict.”).
In reaching its verdict that Bridgeport’s Single Connectors infringed
Arlington’s ‘050 patent, the jury clearly determined that the Single Connectors had
at least two “outwardly sprung members.” Thus, the jury could not have rationally
grounded its verdict upon any other theory than Arlington and Dr. Rahn’s theory
that the anchoring tabs constitute the normal plane of the adaptor and that the
tensioning tangs are bent outward from that plane. The jury necessarily concluded
that the tensioning tangs were “outwardly sprung” from the normal plane of the
adaptor. No other interpretation of the jury’s verdict is viable.
Bridgeport’s tenuous contentions in the case sub judice concerning the
normal plane of the adaptor and whether the tensioning tangs are bent outward
from that plane are identical to those considered and discarded by the jury in
Arlington I. Indeed, Bridgeport even admits that “[t]hese are the same issues that
gave rise to the trial in Arlington I.” (Doc. 438 at 6). Moreover, all of Bridgeport’s
exhibits submitted in support of its opposition to Arlington’s motion for summary
judgment derive from or were submitted in conjunction with the proceedings in
Arlington I. (See Doc. 440).
There is absolutely no indication from the record that the structure of the
Single and Duplex Connectors differ with respect to the “outwardly sprung
members” claim limitation.6 Indeed, prior to the Duplex Connectors’ excision from
the trial in Arlington I, both parties submitted expert reports that made no
distinction between the Single and Duplex Connectors regarding this claim
limitation. Using the same theories adopted by the jury in Arlington I,7 Dr. Rahn
has measured 89 Duplex Connectors with 267 tensioning tangs. (Doc. 431 ¶ 23; Doc.
439 ¶ 23). Dr. Rahn concluded that all of the Duplex Connectors tested had
tensioning tangs bent outward at an angle relative to the anchoring tabs. (Doc. 431
¶ 24; Doc. 439 ¶ 24). Indeed, Dr. Rahn’s measurements indicate that the tensioning
tangs of the Duplex Connectors are bent outward at an even wider angle–3.17
Bridgeport’s response (Doc. 439) is replete with references to Arlington’s
assertions in Arlington I that each product “is different and must be adjudicated on
its own facts” and that the Single Connectors were “materially different from the
duplex devices litigated” in this action. (See, e.g., Doc. 439 ¶ 10 (citing Doc. 440-1,
Ex. A at 13)). As Bridgeport is well aware, the court must view these statements in
proper context. Arlington’s assertions were raised in opposition to Bridgeport’s
motion for judgment as a matter of law. In its motion, Bridgeport suggested that
Judge Caputo’s conflicting claim construction and entry of summary judgment in
Bridgeport’s favor in Arlington II precluded the jury’s finding of infringement in
Arlington I. (See Arlington I, Docs. 647, 740). Bridgeport now alleges that the court
“accepted Arlington’s argument” when it determined that Bridgeport failed to
prove that the Duplex Connectors were “essentially the same” as the Single
Connectors found to infringe the ‘050 Patent. (See, e.g., Doc. 439 ¶ 10). Bridgeport’s
argument is meritless. The court did not make any factual finding concerning
whether the Single Connectors and the Duplex Connectors were “essentially the
same” products for the purposes of claim preclusion. See Arlington I, 692 F. Supp.
2d 487, 503 (M.D. Pa. 2010). To the contrary, the court simply held that Bridgeport
had made an insufficient evidentiary showing to warrant claim preclusion. Id. The
court notes with interest that Bridgeport risks being “hoisted by its own petard” in
that it previously argued (unsuccessfully) in Arlington I that the accused products
are “essentially the same.” (See Arlington I, Doc. 689 at 16-19).
Thus, Bridgeport has already had the opportunity to cross-examine Dr.
Rahn concerning this methodology and his measurements.
degrees–from the anchoring tabs than the Single Connectors. (Doc. 431 ¶ 26; Doc.
439 ¶ 26).
Conducting a trial to determine whether the Duplex Connectors infringe
Arlington’s ‘050 patent would involve identical arguments and witnesses to those
presented in Arlington I. Indeed, the accused products are virtually identical with
respect to the remaining issues. Moreover, the case sub judice is the veritable
poster child for the necessity of the collateral estoppel doctrine. The only reason
that the Duplex Connectors were not already adjudged infringing by the jury in
Arlington I is because of Arlington’s prophylactic litigation strategy of pursuing
identical claims in two separate actions and the parties’ failure to apprise the court
of the res judicata implications of such a strategy until the eve of trial. This case,
along with Arlington I, has been marred by significant delay for years, due in part to
the complexity of the issues involved, but also due to the protracted intransigence
of the parties on a variety of issues. Granting summary judgment of infringement
in Arlington’s favor based on collateral estoppel not only comports with the legal
requirements for such a doctrine, but also promotes fairness and judicial economy.
For all of these reasons, the court concludes that Bridgeport is estopped from
relitigating its arguments concerning the “outwardly sprung members” claim
limitation,8 and Arlington is entitled to summary judgment.
For the foregoing reasons, the court will grant Arlington’s motion (Doc. 429)
for summary judgment of infringement. An appropriate order follows.
/S/ CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge
United States District Court
Middle District of Pennsylvania
April 24, 2014
Even if collateral estoppel does not apply, Bridgeport continues to
misapprehend the relevant condition of the connector from which liability is
determined. Dr. Williamson’s measurements and ultimate conclusions are based on
the evolving state of the connector prior to assembly and after disassembly. (See,
e.g., Doc. 440-7, Ex. G; Doc. 440-9, Ex. I). However, the “outwardly sprung
members” claim construction must be construed with a fully-assembled connector.
(Doc. 431 ¶ 9; Doc. 439 ¶ 9).
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