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Federal Circuit Affirms Jury Finding of Willful Infringement

March 13, 2001

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Last Month at the Federal Circuit - April 2001

Judges: Clevenger (author), Schall, and Bryson

In Polymer Industrial Products Co. v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., No. 00-1271 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 13, 2001) (nonprecedential decision), the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s claim construction and a jury’s finding of willful infringement.

Polymer Industrial Products Company and several other Plaintiffs (collectively “PIPCO”), sued Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. (“Bridgestone”) for infringement of PIPCO’s U.S. Patent No. 4,381,331 (“the ‘331 patent”) directed to an improved turnover bladder used in manufacturing rubber tires. After the jury found willful infringement, the district court awarded enhanced damages and attorney fees.

On appeal, Bridgestone argued that the district court had erred in refusing to include an “abrading” step as an essential limitation of the claims. The Federal Circuit disagreed, concluding that Bridgestone was improperly importing a limitation found in the written description into the claim. Having so construed the claims, the Federal Circuit found substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict of willful infringement. Moreover, the Court found no abuse of discretion in the district court’s decision to award enhanced damages and attorney fees.