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Lifetime Industries, Inc. v. Trim-Lok, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

September 7, 2017

LIFETIME INDUSTRIES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
TRIM-LOK, INC., Defendant-Appellee

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in No. 3:13-cv-00819-RLM-MGG, Senior Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr.

          Michael David Marston, Botkin & Hall, LLP, South Bend, IN, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by Garrick Theodore Lankford.

          Daniel M. Cislo, Cislo & Thomas LLP, Los Angeles, CA, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Chong Wook Pak, Mark D. Nielsen.

          Before Lourie, Moore, and O'Malley, Circuit Judges.

          LOURIE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Lifetime Industries, Inc. ("Lifetime") appeals from the district court's final judgment granting Trim-Lok, Inc.'s ("Trim-Lok") motion to dismiss Lifetime's patent infringement complaint for failing to adequately allege that Trim-Lok either directly or indirectly infringed claims 1-6 of U.S. Patent 6, 966, 590 ("the '590 patent"). See Lifetime Indus., Inc. v. Trim-Lok, Inc., No. 3:13-cv-819, 2016 WL 5724451, at *3-5 (N.D. Ind. Sept. 30, 2016) ("Opinion"). For the following reasons, we reverse.

         Background

         Lifetime owns the '590 patent, which generally describes a two-part seal for use in a mobile living quarters (also referred to as a "recreational vehicle" or "RV") with a slide-out room. See '590 patent, col. 2 ll. 37-39. As the name implies, a slide-out room is formed by extending a portion of the side wall of the RV outward to create extra interior space. See, e.g., id. col. 2 ll. 37-51. Figure 1 of the '590 patent shows an RV with the slide-out room extended: (IMAGE OMITTED) Id. fig. 1. A seal is "commonly placed along the interface between the slide-out room and the opening in the side- wall of the mobile living quarters to prevent water, debris, and excessive air drafts from entering the interior of the mobile living quarters from the outside." Id. col. 1 ll. 18- 23.

         According to the patent, prior art seals had to be separately mounted to both the slide-out room and the wall of the RV, could not be easily adapted to different RV models, or were difficult to replace. Id. col. 1 ll. 36-38, 51-58. The inventor explained that the claimed two-part seal could be "easily adapted for installation on different slide-out room configurations" and could be "easily assembled and installed." Id. col. 2 ll. 12-18. Claim 1 is exemplary:

1. A resilient seal used in combination with a mobile living quarters having a slide-out room defining an interior space, said mobile living quarters comprising a first sidewall having an exterior side, said first sidewall defining an opening through which said slide-out room is shifted between open and closed positions relative the first sidewall, said slide-out room including a second sidewall spaced from said first sidewall and an end wall defining said interior space, said end wall including a peripheral flange overlapping said first sidewall when said slide-out room is in its said closed position, said seal comprising a mounting portion attached to said first sidewall along said opening and a separate bulb portion, said bulb portion slidably connected to said mounting portion for comp[r]essible contact with said flange of said exterior wall when said slide-out room is in its said closed position.

Id. col. 4 ll. 7-22. Dependent claims 2-5 further limit "the seal and mobile living quarters of claim 1, " and independent claim 6 is directed to a "method of attaching a seal to a mobile living quarters having a slide-out room." Id. col. 4 ll. 23-64.

         On August 12, 2013, Lifetime sued Trim-Lok, alleging that Trim-Lok both directly and indirectly infringed the '590 patent. See Joint Appendix ("J.A.") 1-4. Trim-Lok moved to dismiss the original complaint on the basis that Lifetime did not adequately identify the product or products that allegedly infringed. J.A. 22-33. Lifetime thus filed a first amended complaint ("FAC") in an attempt to identify the accused products. J.A. 37-43. Trim-Lok moved to dismiss the FAC on that same basis. J.A. 65- 84. The district court granted the motion, and also granted Lifetime leave to file a second amended complaint ("SAC"). J.A. 180-87. Accordingly, Lifetime filed an SAC. See J.A. 188-199.

         In the SAC, Lifetime alleged that in the months before it filed the original complaint, two of its engineers with knowledge of the '590 patent and the Lifetime products that it covered left Lifetime and began working for Trim-Lok. Lifetime alleged that Andrew Busch ("Busch"), who participated in the design of Lifetime's seals, left Lifetime on or around March 1, 2013. J.A. 190-91 ¶ 17. Lifetime also alleged that Daryl Torrey ("Torrey"), who participated in the design of manufacturing equipment and tooling for Lifetime's products, left Lifetime on or around May 3, 2013. J.A. 191 ¶ 18. Lifetime alleged that within one month of Busch and Torrey leaving Lifetime, they began working at Trim-Lok. J.A. 190-91 ¶¶ 17-18.

         Lifetime further alleged that it learned that Trim-Lok, for the first time, was offering for sale a two-part seal for an RV with a slide-out room in June 2013, soon after Busch and Torrey began working for Trim-Lok. J.A. 190 ¶ 16. Specifically, Lifetime alleged that Ed Ksiezopolski ("Ksiezopolski"), a Lifetime representative, discovered a two-part Trim-Lok seal installed on an RV with a slide-out room at a plant run by Forest River, an RV manufacturer, in Elkhart County, Indiana ("the Forest River plant"). J.A. 190 ¶ 16.

         Thus, Lifetime alleged that Trim-Lok either directly or indirectly infringed the '590 patent by causing the two-part seal to be installed on the RV at the Forest River plant. Supporting its claim of direct infringement, Lifetime alleged that "[a]t least one representative, agent, or employee of" Trim-Lok visited the Forest River plant while "acting on behalf of" Trim-Lok, and "directly installed" Trim-Lok's two-part seal onto "an RV having a slide-out room." J.A. 194 ¶ 33. Lifetime alleged that the Trim-Lok agent installed the seal "for the purpose of test fitting [the seal] on a Forest River RV . . . and to solicit sales" of the seal to Forest River. Id.

         As for induced infringement, Lifetime alleged that Forest River's "making, using, offering for sale and selling of an RV having the Accused Product [i.e., the two-part seal] constitutes infringement, " J.A. 195 ¶ 40, that Trim-Lok "influenced Forest River" to include the two-part seal in their RVs, "knowing that such combination would fulfill all elements of at least one claim of the '590 patent, " J.A. 195-96 ¶ 42, and that "employees or representatives or agents of [Trim-Lok] assisted in the installation, [or] directed the ...


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