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Southco, Inc. v. Fivetech Technology Inc.

March 23, 2012

SOUTHCO, INC.
v.
FIVETECH TECHNOLOGY INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.

MEMORANDUM

The plaintiff in this case is a manufacturer of hardware, including "panel" or "captive" screws. The defendant is a competitor of Southco. Southco alleged patent infringement by Fivetech on three of its patents. Fivetech moved for partial summary judgment on clams 16 and 17 in one of these patents. The Court will grant Fivetech's motion. Also pending before the Court is Fivetech's Motion to Strike certain affidavits and exhibits submitted by Southco in its response to Fivetech's motion. The Court will deny this motion.

I. Procedural History

The plaintiff, Southco Inc., is a manufacturer of hardware, including panel screws. Panel screws are also known as "captive screws" or "fastener screws." Compl. ¶¶ 6-7. The defendant, Fivetech, is a competitor of Southco. Answer ¶¶ 2, 7. Southco alleges that Fivetech has infringed on its patents and trademarks through the sale of Fivetech Series 46 captive fasteners ("Series 46 screws"). More specifically, Southco alleges infringement on its patent number 5,851,095 ("the '095 patent") issued on December 22, 1998; on its patent number 6,280,131 ("the '131 patent") issued on August 28, 2001; on its patent number 6,468,012 ("the '012 patent") issued on October 22, 2002; and on its Trademark registrations numbers 2,478,685 and 3,678,153. Compl. ¶¶ 11-15 ('095 patent), 20-23 ('131 patent), 28-31 ('012 patent), 36-44 (trademark). In response, Fivetech alleged that Southco engaged in tortious interference with its customers.

On January 24, 2012, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Fivetech on 30 of the patent claims: all of the claims in the '131 Patent, and fifteen of the seventeen claims in the '095 Patent. This motion addresses the remaining two claims in the '095 Patent.

II. Fivetech's Motion to Strike

Pursuant to Rule 56(e), Fivetech moves to strike parts of Southco's response to Fivetech's summary judgment motion, specifically portions of the declarations of Antranig Baronian, Paul Soldo, and Dr. John Pratt. Fivetech objects to this material as inadmissible and irrelevant to the question of infringement. The Court finds that because some of the affiants have personal knowledge of each of the exhibits, the affidavits and exhibits are likely reducible to admissible evidence, the standard for admissibility at the summary judgment stage. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). The Court is not persuaded that the materials need to be struck, at the summary judgment stage, on grounds of relevance. Therefore the Court will deny Fivetech's Motion to Strike.

III. Summary Judgment Record

At issue in this summary judgment motion is the process through which the metal screw is fixed to the plastic knob of the captive screw. This process is described in claims 16 and 17 of the '095 Patent:

16. For a captive screw having a knob, a screw and a ferrule, a method of rigidly attaching the knob to the screw comprising:

a) providing a screw having a head having a head diameter and an annular chamfer around the base of the head of the screw and a plurality of protrusions protruding from the head of the screw,

b) providing a knob having an internal diameter generally equal to or smaller than the diameter of the head of the screw; and

c) attaching the screw into the knob by displacing knob material into the chamfer around the base of the head of the screw and by creating a press fit by displacing knob material caused by the protrusions on the head of the screw.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the head of the screw has an annular flange at the lower end of the head of the screw, the flange has a chamfer around the base, and the protrusions protrude ...


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