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Arctic Cat Inc. v. GEP Power Prods.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

March 26, 2019, Decided

2018-1520, 2018-1521

Opinion

 [*1322]  Taranto, Circuit Judge.

Arctic Cat Inc. owns U.S. Patent Nos. 7,072,188 and 7,420,822, which are both titled "Power Distribution Module for Personal Recreational Vehicle." The patents describe an assertedly inventive electrical-connection box having an array of receptacle openings that allow wires to be arranged and secured in various positions for distributing power to various electrical components, including components of a personal recreational vehicle. GEP Power Products, Inc. petitioned the Patent Trial and Appeal Board for inter partes reviews of all claims of both patents. The Board determined that all claims of the '188 and '822 patents are unpatentable.

Arctic Cat appeals. It [**2]  argues principally that the Board erred by (1) rejecting Arctic Cat's submission of the full transcript of its inventor's deposition, (2) construing various claim preambles as not stating limitations on the claimed inventions, and (3) finding U.S. Patent No. 6,850,421 (Boyd) to be prior art applicable against the '188 and '822 patents. We conclude that the Board did not abuse its discretion in rejecting the deposition-transcript submission; that the Board correctly held preamble references to a vehicle in the claims at issue not to be limiting; but that the Board improperly determined that Boyd was prior art. Based on those conclusions, as to the '188 patent, we reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings. As to the '822 patent, we affirm.

The '822 patent issued from an application that was a continuation of the application from which the '188 patent issued. The patents claim the same priority date of October 29, 2002, when the application for the '188 patent was filed, and they have essentially the same specification. The specification describes a power distribution module, which includes a housing and a cover. '188 patent, col. 1, lines 61-64; '822 patent,  [*1323]  col. 2, lines 5-7. The interior of the housing includes a "component attachment portion," which is a wall with an array [**3]  of electric-receptacle openings meant for "receiving and securing electrical components." '188 patent, col. 1, line 61 through col. 2, line 1; '822 patent, col. 2, lines 8-11. The module also includes a distribution harness with electrical conductors that connect electrical components to the receptacles and facilitate power distribution. '188 patent, col. 2, lines 1-6; '822 patent, col. 2, lines 12-16. The specification states that "[a]nother aspect of the present invention is directed to a personal recreational vehicle having an electrical distribution system" that includes the same power distribution module. '188 patent, col. 2, lines 7-9; '822 patent, col. 2, lines 17-19. The invention is purportedly useful because standardization of components across different vehicle models reduces manufacturing time and costs. See '188 patent, col. 1, lines 38-55; '822 patent, col. 1, lines 50-67.

In the '188 patent, claims 1, 11, and 19 are independent. Claim 1 reads:

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919 F.3d 1320 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8964 **

ARCTIC CAT INC., Appellant v. GEP POWER PRODUCTS, INC., Appellee

Prior History:  [**1] Appeals from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in Nos. IPR2016-01385, IPR2016-01388.

Disposition: REVERSED IN PART, VACATED IN PART, AND REMANDED IN APPEAL NO. 2018-1520. AFFIRMED IN APPEAL NO. 2018-1521.

CORE TERMS

preamble, invention, patent, electrical, module, recreational vehicle, lines, prior art, recites, diligence, deposition, openings, unpatentable, receptacle, specification, attachment, regulation, instituted, inventor, conductors, antedate, grounds, housing, intended use, declaration, plurality, reduction to practice, reasonable diligence, critical period, full transcript

Patent Law, Jurisdiction & Review, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Business & Corporate Compliance, US Patent & Trademark Office Proceedings, Patent Law, US Patent & Trademark Office Proceedings, Claims, Claim Language, Elements & Limitations, Claim Parts, Preambles, Infringement Actions, Claim Interpretation, De Novo Review, Anticipation & Novelty, Description in Prior Patents