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Metalcraft of Mayville, Inc. v. Toro Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

August 1, 2016

METALCRAFT OF MAYVILLE, Inc., d/b/a SCAG POWER EQUIPMENT, Plaintiff,
v.
THE TORO COMPANY and EXMARK MANUFACTURING, Inc., Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. RUDOLPH T. RANDA U.S. District Judge

         Metalcraft of Mayville, Inc., d/b/a Scag Power Equipment, moves for a preliminary injunction precluding The Toro Company and Exmark Manufacturing Co., Inc., from making, using, selling, and offering to sell lawnmowers equipped with platform suspension systems that infringe Scag’s patent, U.S. Patent No. 8, 186, 475. This motion is granted on the condition that Scag posts adequate security. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(c).

         Background

         In 1986, M craft of Mayville purchased Scag, one of the world’s largest independent manufacturers of commercial mowing equipment. M craft manufactures Scag mowers in plants located in Mayville and West Bend, Wisconsin.

         Operators of riding lawnmowers involved in commercial enterprises, such as landscaping and golf course maintenance, often operate the mowers for extended periods of time, day after day. This can be physically debilitating due to the mowers being driven across uneven terrain.

         In 2010, Scag developed a suspended operator platform that greatly improved over existing prior art cushioning systems, many of which focused upon seat suspensions. These seat suspension configurations, however, left the operator susceptible to vibrations, shocks, and forces being transmitted through other components of the lawnmower, such as footrests. In order to better insulate the operator, Scag developed a suspended operator platform, which is disclosed and claimed in the ‘475 patent. The operator seat is mounted on a suspended operator platform that has the ability to absorb and damp shock impulses. The operator platform is attached via a linkage and shock absorption system to the frame of the lawnmower.

         Shortly after developing this technology, Scag commercialized the system disclosed and claimed in the ‘475 patent, offering the suspended operator platform as a feature in its newly created Cheetah line consisting of lawnmowers with various sizes of cutting decks, i.e., 48”, 52”, 61”, and 72”. Scag’s website explains that the “entire operator platform (seat and foot plate) are suspended to deliver a smooth ride, with only three moving parts.” Since its introduction in 2010, Scag has sold about 15, 000 Cheetah units, generating gross revenue of about $30 million.

         Scag sells its lawnmowers, including its Cheetah line, to distributors who in turn sell to dealers. Scag estimates that there are around 1100 dealers in its network. Dealers typically carry products from multiple manufacturers, so it is not uncommon for Scag lawnmowers to compete head-to-head on the dealer floor with competitors’ lawnmowers, including Toro and Exmark lawnmowers. All three companies also have significant web presences, including web sites that tout the features and other aspects of their products.

         In 2015, both Exmark and Toro introduced a mower with a suspended operator platform to compete with Scag’s Cheetah line. Exmark announced a limited launch in a July 1, 2015 press release. Because of customer demand, Exmark subsequently announced in an October 21, 2015 press release that it was expanding the suspended operator platform for 2016 to additional lawnmower models. Exmark touts its suspended platform on the “Recent Innovations” page on its website. A promotional video provides a demonstration of the Exmark suspended platform system.

         On November 2, 2015, Toro similarly announced the introduction of “the all-new MyRIDE™ suspension system available on select Toro® Z-Master® zero-turn mowers.” Toro’s website also features a promotional video showing a detailed demonstration of the MyRIDE suspension system.

         Analysis

         To obtain a preliminary injunction, a party must show that it is likely to succeed on the merits, that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in its favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest. See Luminara Worldwide, LLC v. Liown Elecs. Co. Ltd., 814 F.3d 1343, 1352 (Fed. Cir. 2016); Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). “No one factor, taken individually, is necessarily dispositive. … [T]he weakness of the showing regarding one factor may be overborne by the strength of others.” FMC Corp. v. United States, 3 F.3d 424, 427 (Fed. Cir. 1993). However, “a movant cannot be granted a preliminary injunction unless it establishes both of the first two factors, i.e., likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable harm.” Amazon.com, Inc. v. Barnesandnoble.com, Inc., 239 F.3d 1343, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (emphasis in original). In that respect, there is no longer an “express presumption of irreparable harm upon a finding that a plaintiff [is] likely to succeed on the merits of a patent infringement claim.” Robert Bosch LLC v. Pylon Mfg. Corp., 659 F.3d 1142, 1148 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (discussing eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388 (2006)).

         I. Likelihood of success

         If the accused infringer “raises a substantial question concerning either infringement or validity, ” then the patentee “has not established that it is likely to succeed on the merits, and a preliminary injunction is not appropriate.” LifeScan ...


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