Arctic Cat Inc., et al. v. Bombardier Recreational Products Inc.

(Federal Court) (Civil) (By Leave)


Intellectual property - Patents - Intellectual property — Patents — Claims construction — Patent claiming a snowmobile comprising a frame including a tunnel and an engine cradle forward of the tunnel — Another manufacture making snowmobiles with engine compartments that did not have walls — Trial judge finding such engine compartments not engine cradles — Appeal Court holding that person skilled in the art would understand engine cradle to refer to any rigid structure which acts as a receptacle or compartment to receive the engine and not be limited to only those including walls — In patent claim construction, how is the disclosure to be used as context to give meaning to the words in the claims? — What deference should be given to the trial judge’s claim construction?.


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Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. (Bombardier) owns patents for inventions made in the context of a design project referred to the Radical Evolution Vehicle. Bombardier claimed that Arctic Cat, Inc. and Arctic Cat Sales Inc. (Arctic Cat) infringed four of its patents. Arctic Cat denied infringing and counterclaimed, seeking a declaration that the asserted claims of the four patents were invalid. Three patents are collectively referred to as the Rider Forward Position (“RFP”) patents, which claim new configurations for a snowmobile bringing the rider in a more forward position when sitting on a snowmobile. A fourth patent (the 264 patent), relates to a frame assembly which includes a pyramidal brace assembly to be used in the construction of snowmobiles. It also facilitates the construction of snowmobiles with an improved rider positioning. In relation to the 264 patent, the Federal Court construed the term “engine cradle” appearing in the claims as being limited to a walled engine cradle. As the engine compartments in the Arctic Cat models at issue did not have walls, the Federal Court concluded that Arctic Cat’s snowmobiles did not infringe the 264 patent. On appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal held that the Federal Court had erred in its interpretation of the term “engine cradle” and allowed that part of Bombardier’s appeal. The Appeal Court determined that the only conclusion open to the Federal Court, based on the understanding of the term by a person skilled in the art, was that the term “engine cradle” would refer to any rigid structure which acts as a receptacle or compartment to receive the engine and was not limited to only those including walls.