John Hageman, Forum News Service, Published January 02 2014
Polaris accuses rival snowmobile manufacturer Arctic Cat of violating patentGRAND FORKS – Two rival manufacturers of outdoor recreation vehicles, both with operations in northwest Minnesota, are in the midst of a patent dispute.
Polaris Industries sued Arctic Cat in December, claiming that Arctic Cat’s Wildcat line infringes on Polaris’s patents on its side-by-side all-terrain vehicles.
“We ... demand that your company cease and desist making, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing any product that infringes upon our client’s rights, including the Arctic Cat vehicles referred to above,” wrote Eric Groen, a partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, which represents Polaris.
Arctic Cat denies that it has infringed on Polaris’s patents, and requests the case be dismissed. Polaris filed the suit in U.S. District Court.
Polaris, based in Medina, Minn., has a plant in Roseau, Minn. Arctic Cat is based in Thief River Falls.
The complaint filed by Polaris doesn’t specify which specific claim in its patent has been violated. Groen and Arctic Cat’s legal department didn’t return calls seeking comment. Anthony Zeuli, an attorney at Merchant & Gould in Minneapolis who filed Polaris’s complaint, declined to comment when reached Thursday.
But an ATV website suggested that it may be targeting the Wildcat Trail’s 50-inch width, which allows it easier access to trails.
“Patent law is far from our area of expertise, but could Polaris be targeting the new Wildcat Trail in particular with this lawsuit?” Lucas Cooney wrote in a blog post for ATV.com. “It is the first competitive Sport UTV to feature a trail-legal 50-inch width – a class long owned by the Polaris RZR 800.”
But Groen’s letter claims that the Wildcat, Wildcat 4 and the newly introduced Wildcat Trail infringe on Polaris’s patent. The Wildcat 4 has a width of 64 inches, according to Arctic Cat’s website.
In its complaint, Polaris claims that it “led the industry with the introduction of its Ranger side-by-side off-road vehicle. The Ranger was such a success that many other recreation vehicle manufacturers also began offering side-by-side off-road vehicles.”
It added that it introduced the Ranger RZR in 2007, making it “the industry’s only trail capable side-by-side.”
In its patent No. 8,596,405 Polaris states that “most parks have established a maximum trail width of about 50 inches, making the use of most side-by-side ATVs on trails unacceptable or impractical.”
“Increasing numbers of ... riders are enjoying recreational trail riding through public lands including state parks and national forests,” the patent states.
Polaris’ patent application for its side-by-side ATV was approved on Dec. 3, the same day Groen’s letter to Arctic Cat is dated.
Eric Johnson, a law professor at the University of North Dakota who specializes in intellectual property law, said companies that initiate patent lawsuits are generally trying to protect a new invention.
“The idea of patents is that by removing competition and allowing manufacturers to charge higher prices, that will create an incentive for companies to invent new products,” he said. Johnson is not involved in the Polaris litigation and didn’t analyze its claims.
He said defendants in patent lawsuits may attempt to prove that their product isn’t covered by the plaintiff’s patent, or prove that the patent isn’t valid by showing the product it covers isn’t a new invention. Companies may also agree to pay a license fee to the patent holder in order to continue manufacturing the product.
In addition to barring Arctic Cat from allegedly infringing on its patent, Polaris is asking the court to order Arctic Cat to pay damages and its legal costs. Polaris is asking that “all issues be determined by a jury.”