In March 2019, Lillebaby sued Columbus Trading Partners in this district, accusing the company of infringing two patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 8,172,116 and 8,424,732, directed to child carriers having adaptive leg supports. The same day, Lillebaby filed 22 additional suits around the country, accusing other entities of infringing the same patents (including, for some reason, redundantly suing Columbus Trading Partners in Connecticut), and filed a complaint regarding the same companies with the International Trade Commission (ITC) seeking to obtain an order preventing importation of the accused products into the United States. The Columbus Trading Partners suit appears to have settled in August, which resulted in the termination of the ITC complaint with respect to Columbus, but the ITC case pressed forward with respect to parties who did not reach a settlement.
The ITC case was eventually narrowed to a single claim of the ‘116 patent. The ITC has now deemed the patent invalid and unenforceable. To disqualify asserted references as prior art, LilleBaby sought to claim an earlier priority date than the filing date, relying on a declaration by inventor Lisbeth Lehan. This was rejected, however, as uncorroborated. The ITC then determined that the prior art both anticipated and rendered obvious the asserted claim of the ‘116 patent.
Additionally, the ITC determined the claim to be unenforceable due to inequitable conduct that occurred during prosecution of the patent. At the time of filing, Lisbeth Lehan and her husband, Stephen Lehan, both signed a declaration stating that each was an inventor. But at trial, both acknowledged that Lisbeth was the sole inventor, and that Stephen made no inventive contribution, and Stephen testified that he knew he was not an inventor at the time he signed the declaration. The ITC found this to be unmistakably false and per se material. The Lehans testified that they named Stephen because they believed (albeit incorrectly) that having a U.S. citizen on the application would bolster the strength of the patent, and Lisbeth was not a citizen. While the Lehans corrected the inventorship to remove Stephen just before filing suit, which would save the validity of the patent, such correction does not erase the intentional misleading of the Patent Office.
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