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SharkNinja cleans up in one of the largest U.S. design patent cases in U.S. history

July 2018

After Jones Day client SharkNinja Operating LLC successfully defended against vacuum and appliance manufacturer Dyson's claim for infringement on three asserted design patents, Dyson voluntarily dismissed its appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on July 30, 2018, bringing to close a case that began more than four years ago. SharkNinja's summary judgment win is among the largest design patent summary judgments ever.

On February 4, 2014, Dyson sued its competitor, SharkNinja, for design patent infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Dyson accused the popular Shark Rocket line of stick vacuums of infringing three of Dyson's design patents, U.S. Patent Nos. D577,163, D668,010, and D668,823. Shark denied infringement, and countered that Dyson's patents were invalid.

Over the next four-plus years, the parties battled over non-infringement, claim construction, invalidity, and inventorship issues through over 500 docket entries and three rounds of expert discovery. Summary judgment of non-infringement was denied twice, first in 2015 and again in 2016. In this hotly-contested case, Dyson sought $200 million in damages plus a broad injunction, making this case one of only three cases in U.S. history with more than $100 million at stake.

On March 29, 2018, Judge Robert M. Dow granted Shark's third motion for summary judgment of non-infringement of all three asserted patents. Judge Dow's rigorous decision was important in illustrating how the non-functional scope of a design patent should be determined, and when a challenged design is "plainly dissimilar" from a patented design for summary judgment purposes. In doing so, he concluded that the accused products are "plainly dissimilar" to Dyson's claimed designs—as properly construed. He explained that, even "viewing the undisputed facts in the light most favorable to Dyson, the Shark Rockets have a substantially different overall ornamental appearance than the Asserted Patents." As part of his analysis, he also rejected Dyson's aggressive theory of liability for "overall shape similarity," and carefully focused on the important role of design details in evaluating design patent infringement claims. He even showed how Dyson's expert testimony, meant to suggest the designs' alleged similarities, brought out their differences.

Dyson, Inc. et al. v. SharkNinja Operating LLC et al., Civil Action No. 1-14-cv-00779 (N.D. Ill.) (Judge Darrah; Judge Dow)

For additional information about this matter, please contact: John G. Froemming, David L. Witcoff, John C. Evans Ph.D.

Client(s): SharkNinja Operating LLC