Grill manufacturer gets roasted for patent infringement. NAI v. NEXGRILL

Grill manufacturer gets roasted for patent infringement. NAI v. NEXGRILL

A United States patent grants its owner the exclusive right to make, use, sell and import within the United States.   If someone other than the patent owner attempts to exercise one of these exclusive rights that can be considered patent infringement.  A patent owner can combat patent infringement by filing a lawsuit against the infringer.  A plaintiff in a patent infringement lawsuit can request that the court impose an injunction to stop the infringing activity and get monetary damages for patent infringement which has occurred.

A patent is defined by its claims.  If an aspect of an invention is described in a patent but not claimed, then that aspect of the invention is not granted patent protection.  When a product is accused of patent infringement, the claims of the patent are what determines infringement.  Even if a product appears to be similar to a patented invention, patent infringement has not occurred unless the product demonstrates each of the properties claimed in a patent.   A plaintiff in a patent infringement lawsuit needs to carefully itemize each patent claim and demonstrate how a product infringes on the claim.  The more a plaintiff describes how a product embodies the claims of a patent, the easier it is for a court to rule in favor of a plaintiff.

A case which demonstrates a comprehensive comparison of a patent’s claims and an allegedly infringing product is NORTH ATLANTIC IMPORTS, LLC v. NEXGRILL INDUSTRIES, 19-cv-01195 (C.D.CA 2019).  The plaintiff in this case creates products for outdoor cooking. The plaintiff imports these products and sells them in the United States under the brand BLACKSTONE.  On June 25, 2019, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued U.S. Patent No. 10,327,588 (the ’588 Patent), entitled “Griddle Device, System, and Method.”  and U.S. Patent No. 10,327,589 (the ’589 Patent), entitled “Outdoor Cooking Station with Griddle, System and Method Thereof.” Reduced to their most simplistic form, patent claims a drain on the rear of the grill and a cup mounted under the hole to catch the grease.  A picture of the invention is available above.  The plaintiff is  the assignee of the entire right, title and interest in the ‘588 and ‘589 patents.

The defendant in this case imports a grill into the United States which has a drain on the rear of the grill and a cup mounted under the hole to catch the grease.  The defendant sells its products on its own website as well as at physical retail stores in the United States.

The plaintiff feels that the defendant’s rear grease drain grill design infringes on the plaintiff’s patent and filed a suit for patent infringement 2 days after the patents issued.  In the plaintiff’s complaint the defendant is accused of direct infringement, inducing infringement and contributory infringement.  To demonstrate how the defendant is infringing the plaintiff has provided a claim chart which compares the claims of each patent to the properties of the defendant’s product.  The claim chart is 16 pages long and itemizes each of the claims of the patent.  Next to the patent claims is a visual illustration of the defendant’s product with arrows pointing out the infringing aspect.

The plaintiff’s attorney should be commended on the level of detail in the claim chart.  The court will ultimately decide whether patent infringement has occurred, but the plaintiff’s attorney has created such a through illustration of how the patent was infringed, it is difficult to see how the court could not rule in favor the the plaintiff.

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