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Arlington Industries, Inc. v. Bridgeport Fittings

March 9, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge

(Judge Conner)


Presently before the court are two post-trial motions concerning the propriety of permanent injunctive relief. The first, filed by Arlington Industries, Incorporated ("Arlington"), seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting Bridgeport Fittings, Incorporated ("Bridegport") from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing, or causing or inducing others to make, use, sell, offer to sell, or import any of the thirty Whipper-Snap connector models adjudged infringing in the above-captioned matter. (See Doc. 641.) The second motion, filed by Bridgeport, requests that the court stay enforcement of the 2006 confession of judgment and injunction (Doc. 270) entered by the court in 2006. (See Doc. 649.) For the reasons that follow, both motions will be granted.

I. Relevant Background & Procedural History*fn1

This patent infringement dispute focuses upon the market for electrical conduit fittings, which are typically used to connect electrical wiring and cable in a commercial construction site. In 1992, Arlington developed a new type of fitting whose uniquely-designed tensioning tangs allowed a user to more quickly connect the device to a junction box, thus saving significant time and expense. According to Arlington executive Thomas Gretz ("Gretz"), the quick-connect fitting was an instant market success:

[T]here was nothing on the market at the time like it that I know of. . . . [The product was] [a]ccepted very well. It was basically a very phenomenal product. We were getting constant phone calls on the first introductions. We were getting calls from every section of the country.

We were sending samples out. It was just, just well received. (Doc. 655 at 117-18.) Arlington eventually obtained several patents on this quick-connect fitting, including, inter alia, United States Patent 5,266,050 (the "'050 patent").

Arlington practices the invention taught by the '050 patent through its "Snap Tight" product lines and has sold over 550 million units of these products since their invention in 1992. (Id. at 120.) Over time, Arlington has attempted to maintain its position as the market's sole manufacturer of quick-connect products; thus, it refuses to license the patents for its quick-connect devices to any competitor. (See id. at 223.) Bridgeport is, in fact, the sole company that manufactures an acceptable market alternative to Arlington's Snap-Tite products. (See id. at 95-96, 234-36; Doc. 658 at 58-62.) Because there are only 5,000 distributors of quick-connect fittings throughout the United States, competition between the two companies is intense. (See Doc. 655 at 88, 94-95.)

Bridgeport first entered the quick-connect fitting market in 1999, when it designed its own connectors called the "Snap-In" and "Speed-Snap" fittings. Arlington eventually sued Bridgeport for manufacturing these products, arguing that the Snap-In and Speed-Snap devices infringed the '050 patent. The litigation proceeded for three years only to settle on the eve of trial. The two competitors then entered into a consent decree on April 7, 2004, wherein Bridgeport

(1) stipulated to the '050 patent's validity, (2) admitted that its Snap-In and Speed-Snap fittings infringed the '050 patent, and (3) submitted to entry of a permanent injunction prohibiting it from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the infringing products or "any colorable imitation of such products."*fn2 (See Doc. 270.)

Approximately one year later, Bridgeport designed a new quick-connect fitting, which it denominated the "Whipper-Snap." Although Bridgeport claimed that it had designed around the '050 patent and its enjoined devices, counsel for Arlington informally accused the Whipper-Snap connector models of patent infringement in December 2005. Arlington's accusation prompted Bridgeport to seek a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, in response to which Arlington countersued with claims of both infringement and breach of contract. (See Doc. 471 at 8.)

On May 31, 2006, Arlington filed a parallel suit for infringement before the Honorable A. Richard Caputo. (See Bridgeport Fittings, Inc. v. Arlington Indus., Inc. ("Arlington II"), No. 3:06-CV-1105 (M.D. Pa.), Dkt. No. 1.) Arlington therein alleged that two of Bridgeport's Whipper-Snap connector models-catalog numbers 3838ASP and 3838SP (hereinafter the "duplex connectors")-were infringing both the '050 patent and United States Patent Number 6,521,831 (the "'831 patent"). During the course of this lawsuit, Judge Caputo construed claim 8 of the '050 patent in a way that was inconsistent with the undersigned's construction of the same claim in the above-captioned matter. Arlington II thereafter proceeded to summary judgment, and Judge Caputo held that the duplex connectors did not infringe the '050 patent as a matter of law. Arlington's decision to prosecute parallel litigation on the same patent claim has complicated the instant suit considerably, a point to which the court will return below.*fn3

A jury trial in the above-captioned matter commenced on September 14, 2009. After two weeks of presentation, the jury returned a verdict that twenty-nine of the accused Whipper-Snap products literally infringed claim 8 of the '050 patent, and that one connector, the 802ASP, infringed claim 8 under the doctrine of equivalents. (See Doc. 632.) In addition, the jury held that twenty-six connector models were colorable imitations of the enjoined Snap-In and Speed-Snap connectors. The jury awarded infringement damages of $2,772,373 in lost profits and $662,278.54 in reasonable royalties. The jury awarded $2,780,555 in damages for Bridgeport's breach of contract. (See id.) The court thereafter entered the jury's verdict as a non-final judgment on October 7, 2009. (See Doc. 638.)

Bridgeport has continued to sell and market each of the products adjudged infringing by the jury. (See Doc. 698, Ex. 1.) On September 28, 2009, counsel for Arlington delivered a cease and desist letter to Bridgeport executive Delbert Auray, demanding that Bridgeport discontinue sales and marketing for each of the twenty-six connector models found to be colorable imitations of the enjoined devices. (See id., Ex. 2.) Counsel for Bridgeport responded to this correspondence on October 1, 2009, explaining that sales of the products would continue until a final verdict was entered in the instant matter. (See id., Ex. 3.) Such sales ostensibly continue to the present.

In its present motion, Arlington seeks a permanent injunction barring Bridgeport "from directly or indirectly making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing, or causing or inducing others to make, use, sell, offer to sell, or import, the Whipper-Snap Products" held infringing herein. (See Doc. 641 at 2.) Bridgeport objects to imposition of a permanent injunction, but also urges the court to stay enforcement of an injunction in the event that one is imposed.*fn4 According to Bridgeport, it is manifestly inequitable to enjoin its continued sale of Whipper-Snap products in light of the judgment of non-infringement issued by Judge Caputo in Arlington II. Consequently, Bridgeport requests that the court maintain the status quo pending the ...

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