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Update: Automotive Body Parts Association v. Ford Global Technologies LLC


On November 25, 2013, the Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA) filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against Ford Global Technologies, LLC (Ford Global).  The lawsuit requested a declaration that certain Ford Global design patents directed toward automotive body repair parts are invalid and unenforceable under the doctrines of functionality and patent exhaustion.  ABPA is proceeding on the basis of associational standing.

Ford Global filed a motion to dismiss based on alleged lack of jurisdiction and the motion was denied.  Ford Global then filed a motion to transfer venue to the Eastern District of Michigan and the motion was granted. ABPA filed motions challenging the authority of the district court judge to transfer venue and the motions were denied.  ABPA currently is seeking review of the transfer decision by the United States Supreme Court and a petition for writ of certiorari was filed on April 21, 2016.  No rulings have been made in this case yet concerning patent invalidity and unenforceability.

In a second lawsuit, Ford Global filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the Eastern District of Michigan against ABPA Member New World International (New World) and two related companies.  New World filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and other issues.  Extensive jurisdictional discovery has been completed and the motion to dismiss has been briefed and we are awaiting a decision by the court.

In a third lawsuit, New World sued Ford Global in the Northern District of Texas seeking a declaration that the Ford Global design patents are invalid and unenforceable under the doctrines of functionality and patent exhaustion.  Association standing is not an issue in this lawsuit since New World and one other related company are proceeding individually.  Ford Global filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction and the Court granted the motion and dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning that an additional lawsuit could be filed.  New World appealed the dismissal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington DC and filed a second lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas.  In the second lawsuit, New World also is challenging the validity of the patents on an individual basis.  The challenge includes the defense that the design patents are invalid because the drawings are inconsistent and indefinite, and a recent case decided by the United States Supreme Court has strengthened this defense.  Ford Global has filed a motion to dismiss due to alleged lack of personal jurisdiction and the parties currently are briefing that issue.

A substantial amount of discovery in the form of document production, written interrogatories, and depositions have been taken and exchanged between ABPA, New World, and Ford Global.  APBA and New World are working on motions to get the substantive legal issues before the courts such as motions for summary judgment where APBA and New World will argue that they should win as a matter of law.

The courts are continuing to review and decide cases involving design patent functionality, patent exhaustion, and definiteness, and we are closely monitoring these cases and how they may impact the arguments we are making in our cases.

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