Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A.C. Aukerman Co. v. R.I. Chaides Construction case brief

A.C. Aukerman Co. v. R.I. Chaides Construction case brief summary
960 F.2d 1020 (1992) (en banc)

Plaintiff patentee appealed an order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granting summary judgment to defendant, the alleged infringer, under the principles of laches and equitable estoppel in a suit that alleged patent infringement with respect to the patentee's method and device for forming concrete highway barriers.


  • Plaintiff held two patents relating to a slip-form device for forming concrete highway barriers capable of separating highway surfaces of different elevations. 
  • After defendant purchased one of these slip-forms from plaintiff's licensee, plaintiff warned that it raised a question of infringement and offered defendant a license. 
  • Discussions followed for a few months, then defendant refused a license. 
  • There were no further communications for more than eight years, during which defendant made a second form and increased its business of making highway barriers. 
  • Plaintiff then threatened to sue unless defendant executed a license. 
  • A year later, plaintiff sued defendant for patent infringement. 
  • Defendant was granted summary judgment on the basis of laches and equitable estoppel and plaintiff appealed. 

  • In reversing, the court ruled, inter alia, that, although those equitable defenses were available under 35 U.S.C.S. § 282, the burden of persuasion was improperly shifted to plaintiff to rebut the presumption of laches that arose from a delay of more than six years and genuine issues existed as to whether plaintiff's conduct suggested that it would not enforce its patents.


Summary judgment was reversed and the case remanded for trial.

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