Achieved $42.4 Million Verdict in Landmark Patent Infringement Trial for Inventor of Innovative Prelit Artificial Christmas Trees
January 18, 2024
Willis Electric Co., Ltd., v. Polygroup Limited et al, 15-cv-3443, U.S.D.C., D. Minnesota
Robins Kaplan won a jury verdict on behalf of client Willis Electric, in a competitor-v-competitor patent infringement dispute related to prelit artificial Christmas trees. The jury awarded $42.4 million – believed to be the largest patent jury verdict in District of Minnesota history – in favor of Willis Electric, as well as a finding that the patent infringement was willful.
In 2010, Johnny Chen, General Manager of Willis Electric, invented and manufactured an innovative prelit artificial Christmas Tree, the One Plug Tree, that revolutionized the assembly of artificial Christmas trees with a unique pole-to-pole electrical connection system, allowing users to effortlessly assemble and illuminate the whole tree with just one plug, in less than a minute. The product garnered immediate success after its release to major retailers.
Willis Electric’s largest competitor, Polygroup, the world's largest manufacturer of artificial Christmas trees, studied the One Plug Tree and released its version called Quick Set in the following year. Despite knowing about the patent and receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Willis Electric, Polygroup neither licensed the patent nor stopped selling Quick Set in 2014.
In 2015, Willis Electric filed a lawsuit in federal court in the District of Minnesota. Polygroup, in turn, filed 16 petitions to challenge Willis Electric’s patents at the Patent Office, which stayed and delayed the litigation process. Willis Electric retained Robins Kaplan as trial counsel in 2020.
Ultimately, after an eight-day trial, the jury delivered a unanimous verdict in favor of Willis Electric and against Polygroup. Willis Electric will now seek enhanced damages, prejudgment interest, and an award of attorneys’ fees.
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