By Dennis Crouch
Arlington Industries, Inc. v. Bridgeport Fittings, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2014)
Back in 2002, Arlington sued Bridgeport for infringing its patent covering a method of snap-fit electrical connectors. U.S. Patent No. 6,335,488. The parties settled that case in 2004 and the court issued a decree permanently enjoining Bridgeport from making certain products or their “colorable imitations.” Bridgeport then re-designed its product but not to Arlington’s liking. However, on motion, the district court agreed held Bridgeport in contempt – finding that the new design was too-close to the old. The court did not (yet) enter any sanctions, but did expressly enjoin Bridgeport from selling the re-designed product. To be clear, however, the district court [arguably] did not modify the injunction but instead held that the new products fell within the injunction. Here, Bridgeport appeals that decision.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit has dismissed the case – finding that it lacks appellate jurisdiction. In particular the court finds that (1) the contempt holding was not a “final” judgment and therefore not normally directly appealable and (2) the ruling regarding the injunction was not actually a modification of the injunction and therefore not directly appealable. See Entegris, Inc. v. Pall Corp., 490 F.3d 1340, 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
The facts in this case parallel Entegris. And relying on that precedent, we similarly conclude that we lack jurisdiction to consider Bridgeport’s appeal because the district court’s order simply interpreted or clarified its original 2004 injunction.
Bridgeport will get its appeal. The district court has now determined a sanctions order and issued a final judgment that appears to be appealable. The next time around, the Federal Circuit will need to actually decide whether the contempt order was correct.
Looking through the district court docket for a case like this provides some suggestion as to how powerful injunctions – especially their ongoing power to control infringement without the need to re-do another trial.