The Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA) is pleased to announce that it has made significant progress in its ability to challenge on appeal the validity and enforceability of design patents related to automotive body repair parts. During the week of November 13, 2018, ABPA representative New World International went to trial against Ford Global Technologies, LLC after New World declined to stop selling automotive body parts allegedly recovered by Ford’s patents. New World declined based on a belief, shared by ABPA, that the Ford Global design patents are invalid, unenforceable, and not infringed.
Before trial, rulings were made that New World infringed upon Ford Global’s design patents as a matter of law. The pre-trial rulings were challenged by New World and will be appealed. The infringement rulings prevented New World from presenting all its defenses. On November 16, 2018, the jury returned a verdict that the patents were not invalid, and that New World willfully infringed the patents.
New World is exploring all its options and plans to file a number of post-trial motions based on evidence presented during trial that the repair parts sold looked substantially different from the Ford Global design patents. A question the jury asked during their deliberations indicated they agreed with New World because they did not think one of the parts looked like the patent either. The jury was not able to make a finding of non-infringement due to the pretrial rulings already made.
The jury communication, read in open court by the Trial Judge, stated “[o]n patent No. D582,065, we consider that New World didn’t willfully infringe because the patent is inconsistent with the actual product. Can you please clarify how we should proceed to answer question No. 3?” Question number 3 only asked what amount of damages should be awarded to Ford Global. The jury then returned a verdict that inconsistently found that New World willfully infringed all the patents.
New World believes it has excellent grounds for a new trial or appeal on non-infringement that will eliminate the findings on patent validity, willful infringement, and damages for all the patents. In addition, New World’s appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals will present another opportunity for the ABPA to argue the defenses of functionality and patent exhaustion. These defenses already are on appeal before the Federal Circuit in the ABPA v. Ford Global case that has been pending since 2013. The case has been fully briefed and will be argued on January 8, 2019.
Both ABPA and New World wish to thank the Trial Judge and Jury for their service in the jury trial just ended.