OCTANE FITNESS v. ICON HEALTH & FITNESS
ICON Health & Fitness, Inc. (ICON) manufactures and sells exercise equipment throughout the United States. In 2000, ICON obtained U.S. Patent No. 6,019,710 (the ‘710 patent) for a system designed to link parts in elliptical exercise machines. In 2010, ICON filed a complaint against another manufacturer and seller of exercise equipment, Octane Fitness (Octane), and claimed that Octane’s elliptical design infringed upon the ‘710 patent.
The federal district court held that Octane’s design did not violate ICON’s ‘710 patent. ICON appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit. Octane argued that ICON’s lawsuit was not based on any real patent infringement, but instead aimed at hampering upstart competitors with expensive, frivolous lawsuits. Therefore, Octane asked the court to apply a patent law attorney fees statute, a statute that awards attorney fees when the plaintiff’s suit is found to be “exceptional.” The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision, but found that ICON had not acted “exceptionally” under the statute.
Did the appellate court’s interpretation of “exceptional” under the attorney fees statute improperly raise the standard for accused patent infringers to recoup attorney fees and encourage potential plaintiffs to bring frivolous patent lawsuits that cause competitive harm?