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Total Rebuild, Inc. v. PHC Fluid Power, L.L.C.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

September 13, 2019

TOTAL REBUILD, INC.
v.
PHC FLUID POWER, L.L.C.

          CAROL B. WHITEHURST MAG. JUDGE

          PRELIMINARY FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a patent infringement case in which Plaintiff Total Rebuild (“Plaintiff”) contends systems and/or methods utilized by or through Defendant PHC (“Defendant”) infringe claims of United States Patent No. 8, 146, 428 (“the '428 Patent”). The '428 Patent is directed to systems and methods for safely testing devices and components under high-pressure.

         A bench trial on inequitable conduct was conducted from September 12 to September 13, 2019. The Court holds that the '428 Patent is unenforceable due to inequitable conduct, because the inventor, Mr. Terry Lavergne, withheld material information of prior sales from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) with the specific intent to deceive the PTO into granting the patent. The following constitutes the Court's preliminary findings of fact and conclusions of law.[1]

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. Mr. Terry J. Lavergne is the sole inventor named in the '428 Patent. Mr. Lavergne filed the earliest provisional application, No. 61/188, 435, on August 8, 2008. The '428 Patent issued April 3, 2012. The “critical date” for analyzing the on-sale and public-use bars of 35 U.S.C. § 102(b) is August 8, 2007, one year prior to the earliest application.[2]

         2. The “ABSTRACT” of the '428 Patent describes the invention as follows:

A safety system for testing high-pressure devices comprising an explosion-proof safety housing; a high-pressure pneumatics testing equipment located within the housing; a closeable access opening in the housing for inserting a high-pressure device for testing within the housing; a device located within the housing for coupling the high-pressure pneumatics testing equipment to the high-pressure device for testing; a control panel located outside the housing; and a device linking the high-pressure pneumatics testing equipment to the control panel for operating the high-pressure pneumatics testing equipment within the safety housing from the control panel.

'428 Patent at Abstract.

         3. There is clear and convincing evidence of substantial on-sale and public uses of the invention described in the '428 Patent dating as early as June 23, 2006.

         4. Mr. Lavergne admitted at trial that prior to the critical date, he and Plaintiff sold, installed, and demonstrated safety systems for testing high-pressure devices containing all of the elements of Claims 1 and 16 of the '428 Patent.

         5. Defendant displayed on its website since at least 2002 the safety system for testing high-pressure devices containing all of the elements of Claims 1 and 16 of the '428 Patent.

         6. Invoices produced at trial, Mr. Lavergne's testimony, and the testimony of other witnesses establishes that Mr. Lavergne and Plaintiff sold, installed, and demonstrated safety systems for testing high-pressure devices in multiple locations prior to August 8, 2007.

         7. The safety systems for testing high-pressure devices was accomplished utilizing the system and method ...


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