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John Bean Technologies Corporation v. Morris & Associates, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

September 6, 2019

JOHN BEAN TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION PLAINTIFF
v.
MORRIS & ASSOCIATES, INC. DEFENDANT

          OPINION AND ORDER

          P.K. HOLMES, III U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a motion (Doc. 136) for summary judgment filed by Defendant Morris & Associates, Inc. (“Morris”). Morris filed a redacted brief (Doc. 137) and statement of facts (Doc. 138) in support. Morris also filed an unredacted brief in support (Doc. 140-1), unredacted statement of facts (Doc. 140-2), and unredacted exhibits (Docs. 140-3, 140-4) to the motion. Plaintiff John Bean Technologies Corporation (“JBT”) filed a redacted response brief (Doc. 144) and statement of facts (Doc. 145) in opposition. JBT also filed an unredacted brief (Doc. 146) and statement of facts (Doc. 147). Morris filed a reply (Doc. 151), and JBT filed a surreply (Doc. 154) with leave of Court. Morris's motion requests judgment be entered against JBT on JBT's remaining federal law claims alleging false marking and false advertising of Morris's COPE products as patented under United States Patent Nos. 7, 470, 173 (“the ‘173 patent”) and 7, 588, 489 (“the ‘489 patent”) and North Carolina and Arkansas state law claims.

         Because no reasonable jury could find that Morris's COPE products are unpatented, the motion will be granted.

         I. Procedural Posture

         This action was filed in 2015 by Cooling & Applied Technology, Inc. (“CAT”). CAT asserted Patent Act false marking claims pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 292(b), Lanham Act false advertising claims pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1125, and various North Carolina and Arkansas state law claims against Morris. CAT's claims involved Morris's IntraGrill auger chiller, marked as patented under United States Patent No. 6, 308, 529 (“the ‘529 patent”), and Morris's COPE products, marked as patented under the ‘173 and ‘489 patents. Morris filed a motion to dismiss the false marking claims and any associated Lanham Act and state law claims. CAT's business was acquired by JBT, and CAT assigned its claims in this lawsuit to JBT without opposition from Morris. The Court substituted JBT for CAT and denied the motion to dismiss. (Doc. 42).

         On July 19, 2017, the Court held a claim construction hearing. JBT then amended its complaint (Doc. 64), primarily adding additional factual allegations in support of its willfulness claims, and maintaining its nonspecific allegations that it had been or was likely to be injured by Morris's false marking and false advertising. An unredacted copy (Doc. 65) of the amended complaint was filed under seal. On June 19, 2018, because of JBT's failure to show proximately-caused injury or reliance, the Court granted partial summary judgment (Doc. 110) to Morris on JBT's federal false marking and false advertising claims, North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act claims, Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act claims, and Arkansas common law unfair competition claims related to Morris's IntraGrill auger chiller and the ‘529 patent.

         On December 11, 2018, the Court entered a claim construction opinion and order. (Doc. 133). Thereafter, Morris filed its motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Summary Judgment

         After viewing the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and granting all reasonable factual inferences in the nonmovant's favor, a motion for summary judgment must be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Haggenmiller v. ABM Parking Serv., Inc., 837 F.3d 879, 884 (8th Cir. 2016). Facts are material when they can “affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Disputes are genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. “While the burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact rests on the movant, a nonmovant may not rest upon mere denials or allegations, but must instead set forth specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial.” Haggenmiller, 837 F.3d at 884 (quotations omitted).

         A party who seeks additional discovery in response to a motion for summary judgment must do more than speculate that additional discovery would be useful-it must show, without conclusory statements that some evidence might possibly be found, how additional discovery would alter the evidence before the court. Nat'l Bank of Commerce of El Dorado, Ark. v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602, 606 (8th Cir. 1999).

         B. Controlling Substantive Federal Law

         The Court applies Federal Circuit precedent to patent law issues, but otherwise applies the precedent of the Eighth Circuit. Midwest Indus., Inc. v. Karavan Trailers, Inc., 175 F.3d 1356, 1359 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (en banc in relevant part), abrogation on other grounds recognized by Amgen Inc. v. Sandoz Inc., 877 F.3d 1315, 1325-26 (Fed. Cir. 2017). The Court applies Federal Circuit precedent to JBT's Patent Act false marking claims. Panduit Corp. v. All States Plastic Mfg. Co., Inc., 744 F.2d 1564, 1573 (Fed. Cir. 1984), overruled on other grounds by Richardson-Merrell, Inc. v. Koller, 472 U.S. 424 (1985). The Court applies Eighth Circuit precedent to JBT's Lanham Act false advertising claims. Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. Delta Cotton Co-op, Inc., 457 F.3d 1269, 1273 (Fed. Cir. 2006). The Court applies the relevant state law to those claims over which it is exercising supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Felder v. Casey, 487 U.S. 131, 151 (1988) (“[W]hen a federal court exercises diversity or pendent jurisdiction over state-law claims, ‘the outcome of the litigation in the federal court should be substantially the same, so far as legal rules determine the outcome of a litigation, as it would be if tried in a State court.'” (quoting Guar. Tr. Co. v. York, 326 U.S. 99, 109 (1945))).

         III. Facts

         JBT and Morris are manufacturers and distributors of poultry processing equipment purchased and used by poultry processors in the United States. Among the products Morris manufactures and distributes to poultry processors are tanks in which poultry processors can submerge their product in fluid for a relatively short period for decontamination. Morris brands these decontamination tanks as COPE products and advertises three types of those as patented: Pre-COPE, COPE-FC, and Parts COPE. The Pre-COPE tanks typically treat poultry product prior to that product being chilled in a chiller.[1] The COPE-FC tanks typically treat poultry product after that product has been chilled in a chiller. The Parts COPE tanks typically treat poultry product that has been cut into discrete chicken parts familiar to poultry consumers-breasts, thighs, wings, strips, etc. Morris is the owner of the ‘173 patent and the ‘479 patent, which disclose “post chill decontamination tanks.” Morris marks its COPE tanks as protected by these patents, and advertises them for sale as patented.

         During processing, poultry product enters a COPE tank through an inlet chute, is maneuvered through the tank by a paddle wheel, and exits the tank through an exit opening. On many COPE products, the inlet chute and exit opening are located on opposite sides of the upper half of the tank. While in the tank, poultry product is submerged in a fluid, which can be supplied to the tank through an inlet port.

         IV. Analysis

         JBT brings Patent Act false marking claims under 35 U.S.C. § 292 and Lanham Act false advertising claims under 15 U.S.C. § 1125. JBT alleges that Morris's ‘173 and ‘489 patents do not read on Morris's COPE products and so those products are falsely marked and falsely advertised as patented. JBT also brings North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act claims pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 75-16, Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act claims pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 4-88-113(f)(2), and Arkansas ...


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