About a month after the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Court affirmed an earlier trial court ruling, Douglas Dynamics released a short statement regarding their patent infringement suit against Buyers Products. This delayed announcement is hopefully the last chapter in a drawn out story about patent infringement between two of the larger players in the snow and ice industry.
When Buyers Products jumped into making plows in 2007, they found inspiration for their products from some of the best features of a variety of manufacturers. Snow Dogg plows quickly grabbed market share and many wondered how much change Buyers was going to bring into the industry. They seemed to have hit the market right, borrowing insights from other great plows while keeping their plows priced below many of their direct competitors. Yet “inspiration” was seen as “infringement” by the folks at Douglas Dynamics.
Now, almost 9 years later, it appears the consequences for the “infringing inspiration” has come to full fruit.
Should you care? We thought that this earlier opinion piece about the patent lawsuit was at the very least thought provoking regarding the long term impact of the lawsuit. What about in the short term?
The earlier trial court ruling awarded Douglas Dynamics $9.75 million and the federal appeals court upheld the ruling. Will Buyers Products stumble over having to pay almost $10 million? Buyers Products is large enough and assumedly well insured enough to be able to absorb the penalty of the lawsuit in stride, so do not look to see much change out of Buyers in the short term over this decision.
The patents in question (Patent No. 5,353,530 and U.S. Patent No. 6,944,978) are also getting stale. One of the patents dates all the way back to a publication date of 1994, the other 2005. While the 2005 patent still has a few years left of protection, there have been many innovations in the snow plow industry since then, including changes by Buyers Products to their own snow plow assemblies. So while some might still be looking to outright copy those designs in a few years, most manufacturers have made updates to how their plows mount to vehicles over the last decade to remain competitive making those patents mostly irrelevant to them.
So it is not likely you will see a lot of change in the short term from the decision by the Appeals Court. We reckon Douglas Dynamics is glad to just have this lawsuit over and done with, and if Buyers Products did not win this round, they will look for other ways to win the long term game of dominance in the snow and ice removal industry.