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Arctic Cat, Inc. v. Bombardier Recreational Products Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 2, 2018

ARCTIC CAT, INC., Plaintiff,

          Niall A. MacLeod and Aaron A. Myers, KUTAK ROCK LLP, for plaintiff.

          Robert K. Goethals, LOCKE LORD LLP, Three World Financial Center, New York, NY 10281, Kevin D. Conneely and Ruth A. Rivard, STINSON LEONARD STREET LLP, for defendants.



         Arctic Cat Inc. brought this patent-infringement action against Bombardier Recreational Products (“BRP”), accusing BRP's snowmobile engines of infringing several of Arctic Cat's patents related to engine ignition-timing systems. BRP moves for summary judgment of noninfringement of all asserted claims. Because the Court finds that there is no genuine dispute of material fact that BRP's engines do not “select” ignition patterns based on sensed exhaust gas temperature - either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents - the Court will grant BRP's motion for summary judgment of noninfringement and enter judgment for BRP.


         This patent case involves snowmobile engines - specifically the ignition-timing systems in those engines. Arctic Cat filed this patent-infringement action against BRP, alleging that certain BRP snowmobile engines (the “Accused Products”) infringe three of Arctic Cat's patents: U.S. Patent No. 6, 237, 566 (“the '566 Patent”), U.S. Patent No. 6, 371, 082 (“the '082 Patent”), and U.S. Patent No. 6, 550, 450 (“the '450 Patent”) (collectively “the Patents-in-Suit”).[1] (Decl. of Robert K. Goethals (“Goethals Decl.”), ¶¶ 6-8, Exs. 3-5, Mar. 21, 2017, Docket No. 256.)

         Arctic Cat asserts that BRP infringes claims 1, 3-8 and 10-14 of the '566 patent; claims 1, 3-8 and 10-14 of the '082 patent; and claims 1-3, 5-11 and 13-21 of the '450 patent (collectively “the Asserted Claims”). (Goethals Decl. ¶¶ 12-15, Exs. 9-12.)


         The Patents-in-Suit are part of the same patent family, have the same title, share a common specification, and claim similar subject matter - two-stroke engines that electronically control the engine's ignition timing by using sensed exhaust gas temperature to select an ignition pattern and activate the engine's ignition source according to that pattern. (See Goethals Decl. ¶¶ 6-8, Exs. 3-5.) Claim 1 of the '450 patent is representative of the Asserted Claims. It provides in relevant part:

         A two-cycle engine, comprising:

a cylinder;
a piston . . .;
an ignition source . . .;
a controller for activating the ignition source . . ., the controller containing a plurality of ignition patterns, each of said patterns reflecting desired ignition points that vary as a function of the operation speed of the engine; and
a sensor for sensing a temperature of exhaust gas from the cylinder and for providing a signal to the controller indicative of the temperature of the exhaust gas;
wherein the controller selects an ignition pattern based upon the sensed exhaust gas temperature.

('450 Patent at 7:30-48 (emphasis added).)


         The Court issued its claim-construction order last November. Arctic Cat Inc. v. Bombardier Recreational Prods. Inc., No. 12-2692, 2016 WL 6832623 (D. Minn. Nov.18, 2016). Among other things, the Court construed “ignition pattern” to mean “[a] set of at least two ignition timing settings, in which the ignition timing settings vary based on engine speed [and throttle position].” 2016 WL 6832623, at *3-7. The Court also found that prosecution history disclaimer applied to the Patents-in-Suit, and the Court issued the following constructions for claim 1 for each of the Patents-in-Suit:

Claim 1 of the '450 patent: “The controller selects an ignition pattern for a particular engine operating condition as indicated by the sensed exhaust gas temperature . . . .”
Claim 1 of the '566 and '082 patents: “The particular ignition pattern used by the controller being selected for a particular engine operating condition as indicated by the sensed exhaust gas temperature . . . .”

Id. at *10-11 (emphases added). The Court employed the same prosecution history disclaimer to construe other claims of the Patents-in-Suit similarly. Id. at *11-12.

         The parties agreed that “select, ” “selecting, ” and “selected” should have their plain and ordinary meaning, that is “to choose in preference to another or others; pick out, ” “to make a choice; pick.” (Defs.' Claim Construction Br. at 5, Dec. 7, 2015, Docket No. 229; Pl.'s Claim Construction Br. at 11, Dec. 7, 2015, Docket No. 231.)


         The Accused Products are snowmobile engines - not the snowmobiles themselves. Arctic Cat accuses BRP's E-TEC engines of patent infringement. The E-TEC engines are direct-injection engines, which are different from BRP's semi-direct injection (“SDI”) engines. Arctic Cat does not accuse BRP's SDI engines of infringing the Patents-in-Suit. (See Goethals Decl. ¶ 12, Ex. 9 at 3; Sealed Ex. 1 (“Cuzzillo Report”) at 53, Apr. 20, 2017, Docket No. 349.)[2]

         An E-TEC engine includes an ignition timing system. (Sealed Decl. of Glenn R. Bower (“Bower Decl.”) ¶¶ 34-35, Mar. 21, 2017, Docket No. 261.) That system includes an electronic control module, or ECM.[3] (Id.) The ECM receives input from a number of sensors, including an exhaust gas temperature sensor. (Id.) The ECM also transmits output signals to various engine components, including an ignition coil that activates the engine's spark plug. (Id.)

         The parties do not dispute how the E-TEC engine's ECM determines an ignition timing point for a given engine cycle. First, the ECM selects one of four ignition timing base maps. (Id. ¶¶ 37-38.) The ECM selects which of the four base maps to use based on altitude and fuel octane quality. (Id.) Those base maps contain ignition timing settings that vary based on engine speed and throttle position. (Id. ¶¶ 39-41.) Next, the ECM extracts an ignition point from the selected base map based on engine speed and throttle position. (Id.) Then, the ECM determines, based on input from several sensors, whether to use any of six correction maps - each containing correction (or adjustment) values for the ignition timing point - and, if so, extracts correction values from the applicable correction map or maps. (Id. ¶¶ 42-54.) Finally, the ECM sums the correction values, applies them to the initially extracted ignition timing point to obtain a final ignition point, and transmits that final ignition timing point to the ignition coil, which in turn fires the spark plug. (Id. ¶¶ 55-57.) This entire process repeats for each engine cycle, typically hundreds of times per second. (Id. ¶ 57.)

         The E-TEC engine's ECM uses sensed exhaust gas temperature in its ignition timing system in two of the six correction maps: the Dynamic Acceleration Correction map and the Muffler Overheat Protection map. (Id. ¶¶ 47-53.) It is the use of sensed exhaust gas temperature in those two correction maps that gives rise to Arctic Cat's allegations of patent infringement.



         Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party can demonstrate that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the lawsuit, and a dispute is genuine if the evidence could lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A court considering a motion for summary judgment must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from those facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if the nonmoving party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “To defeat a motion for summary judgment, a party may not rest upon allegations, but must produce probative evidence sufficient to demonstrate a genuine issue [of material fact] for trial.” Davenport v. Univ. of ...

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