PTAB Nixes Air Bag IP Asserted Against Major Automakers
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By Ryan Davis
Law360 (March 22, 2018, 7:27 PM EDT) -- The Patent Trial and Appeal Board on Thursday invalidated all claims of an air bag patent asserted against Toyota, Hyundai and others by a subsidiary of major patent licensing company Acacia Research Corp.
In a final written decision in an inter partes review, the PTAB found that a group of petitioners including Hyundai’s auto parts arm had shown all 44 claims of the patent owned by American Vehicular Sciences Inc. are invalid as obvious. The board agreed that various combinations of more than a dozen earlier patents on car safety equipment, including those issued to Autoliv ASP Inc., a petitioner in the case, would make the claims of the Acacia unit’s patent obvious to a person skilled in the art.
“We determine that petitioner has demonstrated, by a preponderance of the evidence, that claims 1-44 are unpatentable,” the board wrote.
The board had previously reviewed the same patent twice before in inter partes reviews and invalidated subsets of claims. One of those reviews was requested by the same group while the other was requested by Unified Patents Inc., a group that challenges patents on behalf of its members.
American Vehicular Sciences’ patent describes a “single side curtain air bag,” a system in which the air bag deploys along the entire side of a vehicle, including both the front and rear seats.
It includes a series of limitations that the PTAB held were found in the prior art, including a single air bag extending across the front and back seats, a cover to protect the air bag and provide a deployment path, and various types of flow and inflation technology.
The Acacia unit has sued Hyundai Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Am. Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. over the patent in infringement litigation that is pending in the Eastern District of Michigan.
The review of the patent was requested by a group of companies that supply safety equipment to major automakers, including Autoliv, Hyundai Mobis Co. Ltd., Takata Corp., Toyoda Gosei North America Corp. and others.
Attorneys for the parties could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent Number 9,043,093.
The petitioners are represented by Siraj M. Abhyankar, Keith E. Broyles and Wesley C. Achey of Alston & Bird LLP, Irfan A. Lateef and Brian C. Claassen of Knobbe Martens, William Mandir of Sughrue Mion PLLC, William Oldach of Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease LLP, and Daniel Yannuzzi of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.
The patent owner is represented by Gregory Gonsalves of The Gonsalves Law Firm and Christopher Casieri of McNeely Hare & War LLP.
The case is Autoliv ASP Inc. v. American Vehicular Sciences Inc., case number IPR2016-01794, at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
--Editing by Jack Karp.