So if you’ve been paying attention to the snow industry over the last 7-10 years then you know that Buyers Products the makers of Snowdogg Snowplows has been making a serious dent in the snow removal industry with their line of all stainless steel plows.
As one of the newest plow manufactures they had the ability to evaluate the current snow removal landscape and their competition before engineering their plows.
With extremely competitive pricing and standard equipment that is optional for other brands such as snow deflectors, plow shoes, and handheld controllers. In my personal opinion Buyers has taken away approximately 10% of the overall total industry’s market share in a relatively short time.
However, one of those evaluations has come at a substantial cost to the tune of $9.75 million dollars.
A Federal Circuit court left intact a Wisconsin federal jury’s $9.75 million award to Douglas Dynamics LLC in a patent infringement lawsuit that the vehicle equipment maker had brought against a competitor in a dispute over snowplow assemblies.
In a brief-two page order, the appeals court affirmed a federal judge’s finding that various claims in Douglas Dynamics’ patent were valid, along with the jury's 2014 decision that Buyers Products Co. owed $9.75 million in damages to compensate for the infringement.
The three-judge Federal Circuit panel that heard the case did not elaborate on its decision.
Aaron Olejniczak, an attorney for Douglas Dynamics was quoted saying, “We’re pleased with the ruling, and we’ll proceed with finalizing the matter,”
Scott Moorman, Director of Engineering at Buyers Products commented, “We are pleased to inform you that the on-going litigation between Buyers Products and Douglas Dynamics has concluded. We look forward to continuing our market growth strategies. This litigation has no impact on our distributors’ plows, orders, or past and future sales. Buyers Products has and will continue to invest heavily in our full line of SnowDogg snowplows to meet the needs of our customers.”
The appeals court’s decision is the latest chapter in a case that dates back to 2009 and has twice cycled through the Federal Circuit.
When Milwaukee-based Douglas Dynamics initially sued its Ohio competitor in federal court, it alleged that Buyers Products’ Snowdogg snowplow assemblies infringed five of its patents.
The district court delivered a series of mixed rulings in 2010, before a jury decided Buyers Products owed just over $1 million for infringing two of the patents in addition to a royalty for ongoing infringement, but Douglas didn’t think that judgement went far enough.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision to award Buyers Products judgement with respect to one of the other patents – U.S. Patent No. Re: 35,700. The appeals court ruled the manufacturer had infringed claim in that patent.
The case was sent back to district court for further proceedings, where the judge ruled that other claims had also been infringed and that no reasonable jury could find the patent invalid. Each of the disputed claims was directed to a snowplow assembly meant to be attached to a commercial truck.
A trial was held to determine damages, and jurors in April 2014 awarded Douglas Dynamics $9.75 million. The district court later tacked on royalties and interest, entering a judgement in favor of Douglas Dynamics for $9.93 million with respect to the ‘700 patent.
Buyers Products appealed not long after, challenging various decisions that had been made in district court since the case was remanded. It argued, among other things, the trial court had made a mistake in how it construed a key claim in the patent.
It also contended that the court’s judgement against it was limited to direct infringement, yet, at the trial on damages, Douglas Dynamics’ evidence was focused entirely on Buyers Products’ sales of Snowdogg aftermarket parts – an act of indirect infringement.
“There was a fundamental mismatch between the type of liability found by the court and Douglas’ damages theory,” it said.
Douglas Dynamics filed a cross-appeal last May, making the argument that there were errors with respect to prejudgment interest and royalty rates set by the district court.
Each of these issues was dealt with in the Federal Circuit’s decision, as the court affirmed each of the various trial court rulings that were challenged.
In other news Douglas Dynamics CEO & President James Janik was recently on Fox Business discussing the impacts that Winter Storm Jonas on the snow removal industry and any additional acquisitions the company may be eyeing in the near future. Currently the company is not very diversified and is almost exclusively dependent on snow to spur growth, one of the reasons they offer a nice dividend to investors.
Ironically, Buyers has a slightly better resistance to year-to-year weather fluctuations since they also produce several products used in spring and summer. Lastly, as a privately owned company they do not have the pressure from investors so they can be slightly more liberal with their acquisitions and strategic maneuvers.
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