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Polaris Industries, Inc. v. Arctic Cat Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 11, 2019

POLARIS INDUSTRIES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ARCTIC CAT INC., and ARCTIC CAT SALES INC., Defendants. Term Construction

          Alan G. Carlson, Dennis C. Bremer, Nathan Louwagie, Peter Kohlhepp, Samuel T. Lockner, CARLSON CASPERS VANDENBURGH LINDQUIST & SCHUMAN PA, for plaintiff.

          Joseph Herriges, John C. Adkisson, Conrad A. Gosen, Jason M. Zucchi, Maria Elena Stiteler, FISH & RICHARDSON, for defendants.

          ORDER

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Polaris Industries, Inc. (“Polaris”) brings these patent-infringement actions against defendants Arctic Cat Inc. and Arctic Cat Sales Inc. (collectively “Arctic Cat”). Both parties moved for summary judgment on various issues, and Arctic Cat moved to exclude Polaris expert Timothy J. Nantell's opinion on lost profits. The Court will deny Polaris's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment regarding Arctic Cat's invalidity defense based on the Kymco vehicle, and Arctic Cat's motions for Summary Judgment of no lost profits of the ‘501 Patent and to Exclude Expert Testimony of Timothy J. Nantell. The Court will grant Polaris's motion for Summary Judgment of infringement of the ‘501 Patent, and Arctic Cat's motion for Summary Judgment of noninfringement of the ‘449 Patent.

         BACKGROUND

         This series of patent cases arises from the entry of Arctic Cat into the market for 4x4 Trail Recreational Off-Road Vehicles (“4x4 Trail ROV”). Prior to 2013, Polaris had a 90% market share in the 4x4 Trail ROV market. Polaris Indus. Inc. v. Arctic Cat Inc., No. 15-4475, 2017 WL 1180426, at *1 (D. Minn. Mar. 29, 2017). In 2013, Arctic Cat introduced a competing product-the Wildcat Trail-which allegedly reduced Polaris's market share by 10%. Id. In response, Polaris filed five separate patent infringement actions-two of which are the instant cases. Id. at *1-2. Specifically, Polaris alleged infringement of Claim 1 of the '449 Patent in November 2015 (No. 15-4129) and infringement of Claims 1, 10, and 11 of the '501 Patent in December 2015 (No. 15-4475). Id. at *2.

         The patents at issue are discussed briefly here. Because of the number of summary judgment motions discussed in this opinion, facts relevant to each motion will be discussed in the analysis section for those motions.

         Claim 1 of the ‘449 Patent states:

A vehicle, comprising: . . . . a generally U-shaped sway bar having a first end portion coupled to the first suspension, a second end portion coupled to the second suspension, and a middle portion supported by the frame, the first end portion and the second end portion are longitudinally positioned between the seating and the middle portion, the generally U-shaped sway bar being rotatably coupled to the frame and the middle portion is a continuous section which extends across a central longitudinal plane of the vehicle and the middle portion is positioned rearward of a rear end of the frame, wherein the first shock and the second shock are spaced apart from an interior region of the generally U-shaped sway bar.

(Decl. of Joseph A. Herriges in Supp. of Def.'s Opening Claim Construction Brief (“Herriges Decl.”), Ex. A at 44, Mar. 31, 2017, No. 15-4475, Docket No. 137 (emphasis added).)

         Claims 1 of the ‘501 Patent states:

A vehicle comprising: . . . . an air intake system operatively coupled to the CVT [transmission] unit to communicate ambient air to an interior of the CVT [transmission] unit, the air intake system receiving ambient air through an 45 inlet in a portion of the plurality of exterior body panels, the inlet in the portion of the plurality of exterior body panels being located rearward of the first wheel of the first ground engaging member and forward of the second wheel of the second ground engaging member and 50 located laterally outside of a lateral extent of the power source and the CVT unit.

(Herriges Decl., Ex. B at 111 (emphasis added).) Claim 10 states:

The vehicle of claim 9, further comprising: a second air intake system operatively coupled to the internal combustion engine to communicate ambient air to the internal combustion engine for combustion of the fuel, the second air intake system including a second air inlet in the plurality of exterior body panels through which ambient air enters the second air intake system, the second air intake system includes an airbox located rearward of the drive member of the CVT unit and below the cargo carrying portion, the airbox includes a base portion and a cover, the cover of the airbox is locate rearward of the base portion of the airbox, a filter is positioned in an interior of the airbox, the cover is removably coupled to the base portion to permit access to the filter.

(Id. (emphasis added).) And Claim 11 provides:

The vehicle of claim 10, wherein the air inlet and the second air inlet are located rearward of a center of gravity of the vehicle.

(Id. at 112 (emphasis added).)

         The Court issued an Order Construing Claim Terms on December 14, 2017 for both the '449 Patent and the '501 Patent. (Mem. Op. and Order Construing Claim Terms, Dec. 14, 2017, No. 15-4129, Docket No. 97, No. 15-4475, Docket No. 192.) hi that Order, the Court construed the disputed claim terms as follows:

Term
Construction

'449 Patent

[Claim 1]

"the middle portion is positioned rearward of a rear end of the frame"

"the middle of the sway bar is rearward of the rear end of the frame where the middle portion is positioned on the frame"

'449 Patent

[Claim 1]

"spaced apart from an interior region of the generally U-shaped sway bar"

"when viewed from above, located outside an area defined by the interior region of the generally U-shaped sway bar"

'501 Patent

[Claims 1, 101

"communicate ambient ah to an interior of the transmission or engine

Plain and ordinary meaning

'501 Patent

[Claim 11]

"a center of gravity of the vehicle"

Plain and ordinary meaning

         DISCUSSION

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Summary Judgment

         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 suit, and a dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it 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 non-moving 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).

         B. Exclusion of Expert Testimony

          Under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, expert testimony must satisfy three prerequisites to be admitted:

First, evidence based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge must be useful to the finder of fact in deciding the ultimate issue of fact. This is the basic rule of relevancy. Second, the proposed witness must be qualified to assist the finder of fact. Third, the proposed evidence must be reliable or trustworthy in an evidentiary sense, so that, if the finder of fact accepts it as true, it provides the assistance the finder of fact requires.

Lauzon v. Senco Prods., Inc., 270 F.3d 681, 686 (8th Cir. 2001) (emphasis added) (cleaned up). The Court has a “gatekeeping” obligation to make certain that all testimony admitted under Rule 702 satisfies these prerequisites. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993).

         Rule 702 requires that an expert possess “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education sufficient to assist the trier of fact .” Robinson v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., 447 F.3d 1096, 1100 (8th Cir. 2006) (internal quotations omitted). But this requirement is “satisfied where expert testimony advances the trier of fact's understanding to any degree, ” and “[g]aps in an expert witness's qualifications or knowledge generally go to the weight of the witness's testimony, not its admissibility.” Id. (internal quotations omitted) (emphasis added). “Although the factual basis of an expert's opinion is generally an issue of credibility rather than admissibility, an expert's opinion should be excluded if it ‘is so fundamentally unsupported that it can offer no assistance to the jury.'” Cole v. Homier Distrib. Co., 599 F.3d 856, 865 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Bonner v. ISP Techs., Inc., 259 F.3d 924, 929-30 (8th Cir. 2001)).

         Ultimately, the Court “should resolve doubts regarding the usefulness of an expert's testimony in favor of admissibility.” Marmo v. Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., 457 F.3d 748, 758 (8th Cir. 2006). “‘Vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.'” Robinson, 447 F.3d at 1100 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595). Nevertheless, overly speculative testimony should not be admitted, and the Court should not admit opinion evidence that is “connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert.” Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146 (1997).

         II. THE ...


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