Whirlpool purchased injection-molded plastic knobs and decorative metal stampings from Grigoleit. In 1992 Whirlpool told Grigoleit that it would start using products made by Phillips. Grigoleit believed that Phillips was using a method protected by its patents. Ultimately Grigoleit licensed its patents to Whirlpool and Phillips; instead of royalties Grigoleit got Whirlpool’s business for the “Estate” and “Roper” brand lines and a promise of consideration for other business. The agreement and the patents expired in 2003. An arbitrator concluded that Whirlpool had failed to consider Grigoleit’s parts for some lines of washers and dryers and was liable for payment of money royalties or damages. Grigoleit demanded the profit it would have made had Whirlpool purchased its requirements of knobs exclusively from Grigoleit. The district court concluded that a reasonable royalty fell in the range of 1¢ to 12¢ per part and the parties then agreed that royalties would then be $140,000. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that lost profits differ from royalties. The caption on the contract is “LICENSE AGREEMENT” and the heading on paragraph 3 is “Royalties.” The agreement is a patent license; the court was not obliged to treat it as a requirements contract.View "Grigoleit Co. v. Whirlpool Corp." on Justia Law
Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
In 1992 two companies began a joint venture to develop peptide compounds. The agreement provides that inventions created by joint efforts are jointly owned, but inventions attributable to a single party are owned by that party and that disputes will be arbitrated. In court-ordered arbitration, a panel decided that a certain group of patents are jointly owned, but that another group is owned by defendant. The district court confirmed those rulings, but vacated a ruling in defendant's favor on foreign patents. Holding that appeal is authorized by 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(1)(E), and that the dispute does not concern patent law, but is a contract issue, the Seventh Circuit reversed. The Federal Arbitration Act authorizes a court to vacate an award for any of four reasons, 9 U.S.C. 10(a); a conclusion that the arbitrators disregarded the law by failing to discuss the foreign patents separately from the domestic patents did not justify vacating the award. The judge mistakenly inferred from silence that the arbitrators must have had an extra-contractual ground; the arbitrators had no reason to discuss the foreign patents separately from the domestic patents.
Plaintiff claimed that several of defendant's brands of toilet paper infringed on its trademark design. The district court entered summary judgment, holding that toilet paper embossed patterns are functional and cannot be protected as a registered trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1115(b)(8). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff patented the design, claiming it to be functional and can only claim the protection of a patent, not that of a trademark. The "central advance" claimed in the utility patents is embossing a quilt-like diamond lattice filled with signature designs that improves perceived softness and bulk, and reduces nesting and ridging. This is the same essential feature claimed in the trademarks.