Arlington v. Bridgeport Patent Disputes Now Moving to Federal Appeals Court

April 9, 2010
The long-running court battles between Arlington Industries Inc., Scranton, Pa., and Bridgeport Fittings Inc., Stratford, Conn., will be heading to federal

The long-running court battles between Arlington Industries Inc., Scranton, Pa., and Bridgeport Fittings Inc., Stratford, Conn., will be heading to federal appeals court.

Arlington and Bridgeport are involved in two separate court cases (initially brought by Arlington in 2001 and 2006) that were heard by two different judges in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. They involve Arlington's U.S. Patents No. 5,266,050 and No. 6,521,831 (called “050” patent and “831” patent, respectively) for its Snap-Tite connectors and the company's allegations that some of Bridgeport's Whipper-Snap products infringe on these patents.

For those keeping score at home, Bridgeport will appeal the March 29 court order by Judge Christopher C. Connor that increased Arlington's damages to nearly $3.6 million from the $2.8 million the jury had previously awarded Arlington in lost profits for Bridgeport's sale of 30 Whipper-Snap products adjudged to infringe Arlington's 050 patent, and for breach of the settlement agreement entered into by the parties in 2004.

Arlington has appealed the Sept. 1, 2009 decision by District Judge A. Richard Caputo in U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania that found Bridgeport's Whipper-Snap connector did not infringe on either the 050 or 831 Arlington patents and that Arlington is not entitled to any damages (see EM — Oct. 9, p. 1).

An Arlington press release said the March 29 court order also denied Bridgeport's motion to stay the judgment pending appeal without having to post a bond. Instead, the court ordered Bridgeport to post a bond in the amount of $895,000 to stay the damages award, which is only 25 percent of the total damages award, because the court determined that requiring Bridgeport to post a bond in the full amount would cause it financial hardship.

In addition to these two court cases, Bridgeport has commenced a separate proceeding before the U.S. Patent Office. The company said the patent office has found that claims in issue and relevant with the 831 patent are invalid, and that Arlington has been required to appeal that decision.

Tom Stark, president, Arlington Industries, said his company and Bridgeport have been involved in several suits involving patents since 1999, and that Bridgeport is permanently enjoined from selling box extenders that infringe on his company's patents because of a 2003 decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to uphold a the findings of a jury trial concerning those products.

And in a 2004 court settlement, Bridgeport admitted it was infringing two of Arlington's patents and that the patents were valid. Because of that court settlement, Bridgeport withdrew 23 of its Snap-In fittings from the market and agreed not to sell the same product or a colorable imitation for the duration of the patent. An Arlington press release with its interpretation of the litigation history between the two companies is available at

Stark believes Arlington will win the pending appeals cases. “The two injunctions related to the Whipper-Snap products are only stayed pending the appeal, which will likely be completed before the end of 2010,” he said. “Arlington looks forward to the completion of the appeal, as we are confident that the appellate court will affirm the jury verdict of infringement.”

Alan Anderson, Briggs & Morgan, Minneapolis, Bridgeport's attorney on the case, said Arlington's 050 patent might expire before the appeals processes in the two separate court cases are complete. According to information Arlington gave to EM for the newsletter's Oct. 9 report, its 050 patent gives the company the right to exclude others from making products with its external adaptor ring until December 2011, while its Snap-2-It patent allows it to exclude others from making similar products with an external and internal ring at least until 2018.

However, Anderson is confident that Bridgeport will win its appeal of Judge Connor's decision. He said that in the post-trial motion process, Judge Connor found that Bridgeport has a “likelihood of success on appeal,” and that because of that he would let the case move to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where a final decision on the case could be made.

“Until there is a clarification from the court of appeals, nothing of any real significance is going to happen, said Anderson. “From the standpoint of what's going on in the marketplace, it's business as usual certainly for Bridgeport, and, I would suspect for Arlington. Any suggestions to the contrary simply are not proper.”

Added Paul Suzio, Bridgeport's president. “There is nothing any distributor, rep or end user can or needs to do. Final resolution is months down the road.”

All in all, it looks like the court cases are somewhere in the middle innings, and that the appeals processes could potentially extend past December 2011, when Arlington's 050 patent expires. Press releases issued by Arlington and Bridgeport during the past week ( both claimed victory and said both companies were pleased with different aspects of Judge Connor's March 29 court order.

Bridgeport's press release highlighted the judge's decision to vacate the jury's finding of willful infringement, and said the court had determined that the Whipper-Snap duplex connectors don't infringe on the 050 patent. In contrast, Arlington's press release promoted Judge Connor's final judgment in its favor for patent infringement and breach of contract. However, it would seem like the judge's ruling was a split decision at best for either company, and that an arduous appeals process still lies ahead.

Says Anderson, “It's a very unique and unusual situation where we have two diametrically opposed decisions from two judges in the same judicial district of the United States involving the same products and the same patent claim of the same patent. In the nearly 30 years that I have been practicing, I have never seen anything like this.”