Judge Robinson: summary judgment of non-infringement based on patent exhaustion.

Judge Sue Robinson recently granted a defendant summary judgment of non-infringement based on the doctrine of patent exhaustion. Keurig, Inc. v. Sturm Foods, Inc., Civ. No. 10-841-SLR (D. Del. Sept. 13, 2012). The plaintiff in the case, Keurig, is the manufacturer of popular beverage brewers, as well as individual serving cartridges for use in its brewers. Id. at 1. Keurig sued the defendant, Sturm Foods, asserting various patent and non-patent claims, based on the defendant’s manufacture and sale of its “Grove Square” line of individual serving cartridges, the packaging of which indicates that they are “*For use by owners of Keurig coffee makers.” Id. at 3. In one of several competing motions for summary judgment, the defendant argued that the doctrine of patent exhaustion precluded a finding of infringement. The Court agreed, explaining that the “purpose of the patent exhaustion doctrine is to ensure that a patentee surrenders its statutory monopoly after it has received compensation for an article sold that embodies its patent.” Id. at 10. Here, the “article sold” was the patented brewer. The Court distinguished the case from those in which patent exhaustion arises in connection with the sale of an “incomplete” item because, in this case, Keurig “sells a product that completely practices the patent. … There is no need to determine the extent to which the brewers embody the patent when the brewers are sold in a completed form. For this reason, the court agrees with defendant that the two-prong test [under Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc., 553 U.S. 617 (2008)] is inapplicable; instead, the ‘long standing doctrine’ that an ‘initial authorized sale of a patented item terminates all patent rights to that item’ is applicable. Id. at 9-10 (quoting Quanta, 553 U.S. at 625). With regard to the non-patent claims (including trademark and trade dress infringement, unfair competition, and false advertising), the Court found that genuine issues of material fact exist which precluded entry of summary judgment.

Keurig, Inc. v. Sturm Foods, Inc., Civ. No. 10-841-SLR (D. Del. Sept. 13, 2012).

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