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Quarles & Brady Obtains Victory in Patent Case

MILWAUKEE, WIS. - After over a decade of litigation, Quarles & Brady attorneys David R. Cross, Daniel G. Radler, Johanna M. Wilbert, and Joel A. Austin achieved a victory on January 23 for the firm's client Rexnord Industries LLC in a dispute involving a competitor's patent. Rexnord's competitor, Habasit Belting Inc.'s patent on a mechanical conveyer belt was declared invalid due to the obviousness of the patent.

In 2003, Habasit sued Rexnord for infringing its patent on a mechanical conveyer belt which does not pinch the fingers of workers. After a reexamination of the patent upon the request of Rexnord, the examiner from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office declared Habasit's design unpatentable, stating that several older belt designs rendered anticipated and obvious the '680 patent's alleged novelty: a belt that covers up the gaps that can snare a finger.

However, in July 2010, the internal appeal from the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences reversed the examiner's decision, stating Habasit's design was patentable due to none of the prior inventions stating that it covered up pinch-causing belt gaps of 10mm or smaller, which was a key feature of Habasit's patent. Rexnord requested a rehearing in March 2011, but was rejected because Rexnord's reasons for why Habasit's claims were obvious were not the same as the examiner's reasons.

On January 23, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the internal appeal's ruling, reinstating the examiner's invalidity ruling. Its obviousness ruling invalidated the patent, and the Federal Court held that the patent appeals board made a mistake by declining to consider Rexnord's arguments to the patent examiner that Habasit did not raise on appeal.

"Rexnord is very grateful that the Federal Circuit recognized and corrected the Patent Office's errors and declared this patent to be invalid," said Cross.

To view articles on the case, please click on the following links; Law360, The National Law Journal, and The American Lawyer.

For more information, please contact David Cross at (414) 277-5669 or david.cross@quarles.com.