Indirect infringement claims by Cuisinart against Mr. Coffee not tossed

Conair Corporation v. Jarden Corporation et al.

Case Number: 1:13-cv-06702

Jarden (maker of “Mr. Coffee” brand expresso [should “expresso” be “espresso” throughout?], cappuccino and latte machines) asked the court to dismiss Conair’s inducement and contributory infringement claims with respect to U.S. Patent No. 5473972 (“Milk container attachment for cappucino (sic) maker”). (Conair owns the Cuisinart brand.) The accused products are Mr. Coffee brand machines that allegedly contain the claimed milk container. Judge Nathan declined the request.

With respect to inducement, she addressed three issues. First, she said that the complaint need not identify specific acts of direct infringement; rather, it is sufficient to “plead[] facts sufficient to allow an inference that at least one direct infringer exists.” Next, she said that, as coffee drinkers frequently put milk in their coffee and Mr. Coffee sold machines having a milk container, it was reasonable to infer that Mr. Coffee intended its customers to use claimed container. Thus, the court said, the complaint adequately alleged that Mr. Coffee intended its customers to infringe. Finally, because the complaint stated that Conair sent an infringement notice letter to Mr. Coffee, and that Mr. Coffee continued selling the accused machines, the court said that Conair had adequately pled Mr. Coffee’s knowledge that its customers’ acts constituted infringement.

With respect to contributory infringement, the court noted the difficulty of alleging enough facts that the accused product lacks substantial noninfringing uses at this stage in the proceeding, so it said that the allegation that the accused products “are not suitable for substantial non-infringing use” was sufficient. Finally, the court addressed Mr. Coffee’s argument that, as it sold complete expresso machines, the sale was not the sale of a component as required by § 271(c). Judge Nathan rejected that argument, citing Ricoh Co. v. Quanta Computer, Inc., 550 F.3d 1325, 1337 (Fed. Cir. 2008), for the proposition that § 271(c) “applies not only to the bare sale of an infringing component, but also to the sale of that component as part of a product or device.”

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