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Polaris Industries Inc. v. Arctic Cat Inc.

United States District Court, District of Minnesota

May 12, 2015

ARCTIC CAT, INC. and ARCTIC CAT SALES INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
POLARIS INDUSTRIES INC., a Minnesota Corporation, and POLARIS INDUSTRIES, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Defendants.

John C. Adkisson, Joseph A. Herriges, and Ann N. Cathcart Chaplin, FISH & RICHARDSON PC, for plaintiffs.

Dennis C. Bremer, William F. Bullard, Alan G. Carlson, and Samuel T. Lockner, CARLSON, CASPERS, VANDENBURGH, LINDQUIST & SCHUMAN, PA, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

JOHN R. TUNHEIM, United States District Judge.

This is one of three patent infringement actions currently before the Court, involving Arctic Cat Inc. (“Arctic Cat”) and Polaris Industries Inc. (“Polaris”). Each of the actions involves patent disputes concerning all-terrain vehicles with side-by-side seating. Arctic Cat moved to consolidate the three actions, and on February 11, 2015, Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the Court grant Arctic Cat’s motion for consolidation. Polaris has objected to one paragraph in the “Findings of Fact” section of the R&R, which describes a letter sent by Polaris to Arctic Cat in 2013. Because the Court finds that the R&R’s characterization of the letter may be misleading, the Court will sustain Polaris’s narrow objection and adopt the R&R with modified language in the second paragraph.

BACKGROUND

Arctic Cat and Polaris are currently involved in three patent disputes over Arctic Cat’s “Wildcat” all-terrain vehicles and Polaris’s patents for its “RANGER RZR” side-by-side all-terrain vehicle.[1] (See Pls.’ Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Consolidate at 1-5, Nov. 11, 2014, Docket No. 51.) On November 14, 2014, Arctic Cat moved to consolidate all three actions for pretrial purposes, in light of the related nature of the cases. (Mot. to Consolidate, Nov. 14, 2014, Docket No. 49.) On February 11, 2015, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that Arctic Cat’s motion be granted and the cases consolidated. (Report & Recommendation (“R&R”) at 1, Feb. 11, 2015, Docket No. 68.)

Polaris timely objected to the R&R on February 25, 2015, narrowly challenging one paragraph contained in the “Findings of Fact” section. (Def.’s Objection to the Magistrate Judge’s R&R (“Objection”), Feb. 25, 2015, Docket No. 71.) Specifically, Polaris objects to the second paragraph of the R&R, which states:

On December 3, 2013, Defendant Polaris Industries Inc. (“Polaris”) sent Plaintiff Arctic Cat Inc. (“Arctic”) a letter informing Arctic that its “Wildcat” line of all-terrain vehicles (“ATVs”) infringed on Polaris’s U.S. Patent Nos. 8, 596, 405 (“the ‘405 patent”), 7, 819, 220 (“the ‘220 patent”), and 8, 382, 125 (“the ‘125 patent”). See Herriges Decl. Ex. B, ECF No. 52. Polaris additionally claimed that Arctic’s “Wildcat” ATVs would infringe on two of Polaris’s pending patent applications. Id.

(R&R at 1-2.) Polaris argues that this characterization of the December 3, 2013 letter is not consistent with the record. Polaris maintains that the letter separately refers to two different sets of Arctic Cat products and treats their potential to infringe on Polaris’s patents more tentatively than the R&R suggested. The full text of the relevant paragraph of Polaris’s letter reads as follows:

As for the Arctic Cat product line, we are aware of the Wildcat and Wildcat 4 versions, as well as, the newly introduced Wildcat Trail. We have reviewed the Wildcat and Wildcat 4 vehicles and have concluded that they infringe Polaris’ U.S. Patent No. 8, 596, 405 (copy enclosed), which issued today, December 3, 2013. While the Wildcat Trail has only recently been released, based upon photos and other information obtained, we believe that it too will infringe upon at least one or more of the claims of Polaris’ U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 819, 220; 8, 382, 125; 8, 596, 405; or one or more of the claims of Polaris’ pending published patent applications; for example US20080023240 or US20130161109; collectively referred to as “Polaris Patents.”

(Decl. of Joseph A. Herriges in Supp. of Mot. to Consolidate (“Herriges Decl.”), Ex. B at 2, Nov. 11, 2014, Docket No. 52.) This matter is now before the Court on Polaris’s objection to the R&R’s characterization of the December 3, 2013 letter.

DISCUSSION

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Upon the filing of a report and recommendation by a magistrate judge, a party may “serve and file objections to the order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). The standard of review applicable to an appeal of a Magistrate Judge’s order on nondispositive pretrial matters is a deferential one, under which the Court will reverse such an order only if it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Roble v. Celestica Corp., 627 F.Supp.2d 1008, 1014 (D. Minn. 2007). “A finding is ‘clearly erroneous’ when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the ...


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