Friday, April 19, 2013

Zenni prevails over Aspex

Aspex v. Zenni

The background

Contour Optik, Inc., a company of Taiwan, and sublicensee
Aspex Eyewear, Inc. (collectively “Aspex”) sued
Zenni Optical, LLC for infringement of several United
States patents for magnetic clip-on eyewear such as
sunglasses. The district court held that Aspex is collaterally
estopped from pursuing this suit, based on earlier
litigation between Aspex and Altair Eyewear, Inc. for
infringement of the same patents

The CAFC affirms the presence of collateral estoppel

On review of the premises, we affirm the district court’s
ruling of collateral estoppel

Thus, Zenni, the defendant, wins.

Legal background

Collateral estoppel “precludes a plaintiff from relitigating
identical issues by merely switching adversaries”
and precludes a plaintiff “from asserting a claim that the
plaintiff had previously litigated and lost against another
defendant.” Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322,
329 (1979) (internal quotation marks omitted).
A ruling of collateral estoppel receives plenary review
on appeal. Shell Petroleum, Inc. v. United States, 319
F.3d 1334, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2003). Since the criteria of
collateral estoppel are not unique to patent issues, on
appellate review we are guided by the precedent of the
regional circuit. Dana v. E.S. Originals, Inc., 342 F.3d
1320, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2003). However, for any aspects
that may have special or unique application to patent
cases, Federal Circuit precedent is applicable. See Aspex
Eyewear, Inc. v. Marchon Eyewear, Inc., 672 F.3d 1335,
1341 n.1 (Fed. Cir. 2012)

Zenni's position:

Zenni responds that the question of estoppel is not
whether the now-asserted claims contain some terms that
were not previously construed, but whether the ’811 and
’896 claims in suit can be asserted against Zenni, for the
Zenni eyewear is indistinguishable from the Altair eyewear
against which the same patents were previously
litigated to final judgment of non-infringement. Zenni
states that there are no material differences between
Altair’s magnetic rimless sunglasses and Zenni’s magnetic
rimless sunglasses; indeed, no material differences are
identified in Aspex’s briefs. Zenni states that Aspex had a
full and fair opportunity in Altair to litigate infringement
of the same patents as to the same products, and thus
that Aspex is collaterally estopped from relitigation.


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