On June 1, 2016, a Florida jury awarded Kutak Rock client Arctic Cat Inc. $15.5 million in its patent infringement suit against Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. and BRP U.S. Inc. (BRP). After nine days of trial, the jury found the BRP companies willfully infringed two Arctic Cat patents relating to controlled-thrust steering technology for personal watercraft (PWC). Arctic Cat had filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in October 2014, alleging that numerous models of BRP’s Sea-Doo PWC infringed Arctic Cat’s patents.
The jury unanimously found that the defendants infringed all asserted claims of Arctic Cat’s patents, and that the patents were valid. The jury also concluded that BRP’s infringement was willful.
“We are very pleased with the outcome of this case, and are especially appreciative of the hard work and long hours that the jury put into analyzing the evidence and testimony,” said Michael Okerlund, Arctic Cat’s Vice President of Legal Affairs. “I am also exceptionally proud of the legal team that represented Arctic Cat and helped achieve this outcome.”
Arctic Cat’s litigation team included Niall MacLeod, Aaron Myers, and Diane Peterson, all of Kutak Rock’s Minneapolis office. Myers and Peterson represented Arctic Cat at trial, co-counseling with trial lawyer Nick Boebel of Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman. Boebel, Myers, and MacLeod were all formerly partners of the Minneapolis law firm Myers, Boebel & MacLeod LLP. Peterson joined Kutak Rock in February 2016. She was formerly a partner at national litigation firm Robins Kaplan LLP.
“We appreciate Arctic Cat putting its trust in this team,” Peterson said, “and are thrilled our hard work brought about this result.”
Added MacLeod: “Patent lawsuits are always complex and hard-fought, and this case was no different. We’re very happy to have helped achieve this outcome for such a valued client as Arctic Cat.”
Arctic Cat’s patents addressed the safety concern stemming from the inability to steer PWCs in certain “off-throttle” situations, such as when a PWC operator releases a throttle and attempts to steer the PWC to avoid an obstacle. In 1998, the National Transportation Safety Board released a study attributing increasing PWC accidents to this “off-throttle steering” condition. The two patents asserted in the lawsuit are part of seven patents Arctic Cat received from the United States Patent & Trademark Office covering Arctic Cat’s controlled-thrust steering technology. The inventors named on the patents are Fred Bernier, Herman “Bud” Christopherson, and Frank Hazard.
“Arctic Cat has a long history of innovation in the power sports industry, and we are so proud to have the privilege of representing such an outstanding Minnesota company,” Myers said. “I am so humbled by the hard work that the jury and the Court put into understanding the issues in this case.”
Boebel, the lawyer who originally filed Arctic Cat’s complaint, agreed. “Arctic Cat worked hard to develop and protect its intellectual property,” Boebel said, “and we are happy that Arctic Cat’s fight to defend its original and novel inventions has paid off.”