South Bend, Indiana — Lippert Components Manufacturing, Inc. (“Lippert”) of Goshen, Indiana sued AL-KO Kober, LLC (“AL-KO”) of Elkhart, Indiana alleging patent infringement of three patented inventions: Retractable Room Actuation Assembly for Recreational Vehicle Having Engagement Means for Maintaining Constant Distance Between Drive Members and Engagement Members, Patent No. 8,235,455 (the “‘455 Patent”); Retractable Room Actuation Assembly for Recreational Vehicle Having Engagement Mechanism for Maintaining Constant Distance Between Drive Members and Engagement Members, Patent No. 8,240,744 (the “‘744 Patent”); and Retractable Room Actuation Assembly for Recreational Vehicle, Patent No. RE44,002 (the “‘002 Patent”); which have been issued by the U.S. Patent Office.
Lippert claims ownership of the three patents-in-suit, which related to a retractable room assembly used in extending and retracting slide-out compartments for recreational vehicles. The patents were granted in 2012 and 2013.
AL-KO is accused of having made, used, offered for sale and/or sold its retractable room actuation assembly for use in extending/retracting recreational vehicle slide-out compartments. Lippert notified AL-KO of Lippert’s ‘002 Patent, ‘455 Patent and ‘744 Patent and claimed infringement of those patents in a letter dated June 28, 2013 and received by AL-KO on July 1, 2013.
Patent attorneys for Lippert sued AL-KO on July 11, 2013 claiming patent infringement by AL-KO. The complaint also asserts that AL-KO has induced and contributed to others’ use of the patents-in-suit, including at least Augusta RV, by selling to them and instructing them to use Lippert’s intellectual property.
The complaint lists the following:
· Count I: ‘002 Patent Infringement
· Count II: ‘455 Patent Infringement
· Count III: ‘744 Patent Infringement
Lippert also contends that AL-KO has engaged in its conduct willfully and in complete disregard of, or with indifference to, Lippert’s rights and interests. It asks the court to consider this an “exceptional case” as that term is defined in 35 U.S.C. §285.
Lippert, via its patent attorneys, asks for an injunction; for an accounting; for damages, up to treble the amount of actual damages; for attorneys’ fees and costs; and that the court require AL-KO to notify AL-KO’s customers of AL-KO’s unlawful acts.
Practice Tip: While the exact contents of the letter to AL-KO are unclear from the complaint, a company that receives a notification letter alleging infringement is well advised to contact intellectual-property counsel promptly. The receipt of such a letter may constitute a legally significant event which triggers a duty by the recipient to take action, such as investigate whether any of the infringement claims in the letter have merit. If the letter threatens legal action, the alleged infringer should consider initiating a suit under the Declaratory Judgment Act. Declaratory judgment actions are frequently filed in intellectual-property matters, especially patent litigation. Such a suit allows the potential defendant not only to choose its own forum, to the extent that the forum is consistent with jurisdictional restrictions, but also to remove an ever-present cloud of potential litigation and potential damages for patent infringement that may be continuing to accrue.
This case has been assigned to District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen and Magistrate Judge Christopher A. Nuechterlein in the US District Court, Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division and assigned Case No. 3:13-cv-00697-JVB-CAN