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Furrion Property Holding Ltd. v. Way Interglobal Network, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

October 30, 2019

FURRION PROPERTY HOLDING LIMITED, and FURRION LIMITED, Plaintiffs,
v.
WAY INTERGLOBAL NETWORK, LLC, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PHILIP P. SIMON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This case involves competing manufacturers of ovens for the recreational vehicle industry. Plaintiff Furrion Property Holding Limited and Furrion Limited, which I will refer to together as “Furrion, ” are the makers of a product dubbed the 2 in 1 Range Oven. Defendant Way Interglobal Network LLC is a competitor in this space, and it makes a product known as the Greystone oven. Furrion holds multiple design patents relating to its 2 in 1 Range Oven and-you guessed it-alleges that Way Interglobal's Greystone oven infringes on those design patents. Furrion has moved for a preliminary injunction, asking that I bar any further sales of the Greystone oven while this lawsuit is pending. But principally because Furrion has failed to meet its burden of showing irreparable harm, the motion for a preliminary injunction will be denied.

         Background

         Furrion is a Hong Kong-based company with offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and has been in the RV appliance business since 2013. [Healy Decl. ¶ 4.] Way Interglobal is likewise based in Elkhart[1] and has been in the RV appliance business since 2009 and specifically making ovens for RVs since 2012. [Kaylor Decl. ¶¶ 5, 7.] Both companies manufacture a variety of different appliances and furnishings for RVs beyond the ovens at issue in this litigation. [Id.; Healy Decl. ¶ 8.] But this case is all about ovens.

         Furrion introduced its 2 in 1 Range Oven in May 2017, selling both a 17” and 21” model. [Healy Decl. ¶¶ 5-6.] Since its introduction, it has been a big success for the company. Furrion has sold more than 200, 000 units, some directly to individual consumers but primarily to RV manufacturers who outfit their RVs with a full suite of appliances before the RVs are marketed to consumers. With a price range between $200 and $270, that means Furrion has realized sales in excess of $40 million on this one product alone. [Id. at ¶¶ 9, 12.] According to Furrion, there was no RV oven like it before it entered the market, and its innovation was bringing the aesthetic of upscale home appliances into RVs, primarily RV trailers which are pulled by a truck, as opposed to motor coaches which have more space and thus more traditional appliances. [Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.]

         Way Interglobal introduced its Greystone oven in July 2018. [Kaylor Decl. ¶ 11.] Furrion says it became aware of what it says is an “imitation” or “direct copy” oven in August 2018. [Healy Decl. ¶ 16.] The Greystone oven, like Furrion's competing product, is a combined oven and gas range, and it is also available in both 17” and 21” inch sizes. [Id. at ¶ 18.] But as Way Interglobal notes, these are the standard sizes for RV ovens, and other manufacturers including Atwood, Dometic, and Suburban (which is apparently the largest RV appliance maker by market share), make ovens that are sized to fit within the same area of an RV. [Kaylor Decl. ¶ 8.] The Greystone oven is also designed to be similar in appearance to a modern, residential combination oven and range one might find in any suburban house or the showroom floor of a home appliance store.

         At the cornerstone of this lawsuit are Furrion's design patents. Furrion applied for its design patents in late 2017 and 2018, and they were issued on various dates in January 2019 and June 2019. [Healy Decl. at Exs. D-G.] Those patents are laid out below, and because a picture is worth a thousand words, I will forgo a detailed written description of these patents as is the norm in design patent cases.[2].

         U.S. Patent No. D839, 038 (the “D'038 Patent”).

         The claim included within this patent is for “[t]he ornamental design for an oven, as shown and described.” [Healy Decl. at Ex. D.] Representative figures of this patent include:

         (Image Omitted)

         As can be seen, this patent covers the top portion of the oven's design, including its cover, the hinge placement of the cover, the front facade, and the design of the grate upon which pots rest when the range's burners are in use. The remainder of the oven (such as the knobs on the front) in the figures is represented with broken lines, indicating it has not been claimed to be part of the patent. See 37 C.F.R. § 1.152 ("Broken lines may be used to show visible environmental structure, but may not be used to show hidden planes and surfaces that cannot be seen through opaque materials.").

         U.S. Patent No. D851, 978 (the "D'978 Patent").

         The claim included within this patent is likewise for "[t]he ornamental design for an oven, as shown and described." [Healy Decl. at Ex. E.] Representative figures of this patent include:

         (Image Omitted)

         As can be seen, this patent covers the front portion of the oven's design, including its reflective glass front window, the hinges for the top glass cover, and generally the facade of the oven near the top. Once again, portions of the oven (the knobs, the front arm or handle, etc.) are presented with broken lines, indicating those portions of the product have not been claimed as part of the patent.

         U.S. Patent No. D851, 979 (the "D'979 Patent").

         The claim included within this patent is for "[t]he ornamental design for an oven bracket, as shown and described." [Healy Decl. at Ex. F.] Representative figures of this patent include:

         (Image Omitted)

         Specifically, this is the bracket on the top rear of the oven. It is visible in several of the Figures in other patents but covered by its own patent. It is used to secure the glass cover which sits over the grate portion of the range displayed in other illustrations contained in the D'038 Patent and the D'978 Patent.

         U.S. Patent D851, 990 (the "D'990 Patent").

         The claim included within this patent is for "[t]he ornamental design for oven alignment part, as shown and described." [Healy Decl. at Ex. G.] Representative figures of this patent include:

         (Image Omitted)

         To be honest about it, the scope of this patent is not as readily apparent as the others. Most of the figure is comprised of broken lines. The claimed portions include only small portions of the bracket displayed in Figure 1, namely the rectangle portion which is visible (barely) on the front of the oven (in the top right portion of the above figure), as well as portions of the bracket located in roughly the lower left-hand corner.

         In Figure 5, there is only a single solid line (near the top left). The rest of this alignment bracket represented in the figure is represented with broken lines, indicating it has not been claimed as part of the patent. The claimed portion of the flat rectangle is the only portion of the alignment part visible to a user of the 2 in 1 Range Oven.

         Furrion makes no claim as to the color of its ovens (black and stainless steel) or to the materials used (e.g., the glass of the range cover). But Furrion contends Way Interglobal's competing Greystone oven is a copycat, or knockoff version, designed to capitalize on Furrion's patented designs. Images of Way Interglobal's Greystone oven and the alignment brackets used with the oven are produced below. And while not every corresponding view of the Greystone oven is available, the parties brought the physical ovens themselves to the evidentiary hearing in this case, so that I was able to observe and inspect them first hand. Images of the Greystone oven include:

         (Image Omitted)

         With these images, one can see the front and top of the Greystone oven, as well as the bracket which holds the glass cover in place. In addition, the last two images show the oven alignment part which is alleged to infringe on the D'990 Patent.

         In support of its intentional copying and infringement argument, Furrion has another piece of evidence: each product's respective product manuals that are included in the box with the oven. While not an independent claim, Furrion says this is strong evidence of the lengths Way Interglobal went to copy it. [Healy Decl. ¶¶ 22-23; see also DE 7 at 8-9.] Here's why: the user manual that Way Interglobal was shipping with its ovens for roughly the first year the product was on the market has identical language to the text of Furrion's manual. This is either a blatant rip off or an exceptional coincidence. But undercutting any notion of coincidence (or any expected standardization of language as to certain safety warnings), is the fact that actual images of Furrion's 2 in 1 Range Oven were included in Way Interglobal's manual. As noted by Furrion during questioning of Way Interglobal's representative, the images in the manual were not representative of Way Interglobal's product. For example, the arm or handle on the oven doors are different. Way Interglobal's is rounded in appearance, while the image in the manual had a more trapezoid shaped handle, identical to the handle of the Furrion 2 in ...


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