On February 16th, Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (E.D. Tex.) entered a consent judgment and a permanent injunction in a patent infringement case targeting replacement water filters marketed in the United States. The order for permanent injunction represents a victory for Benton Harbor, MI-based home appliance developer Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE:WHR) in taking on makers of replacement filter makers in court.
The official complaint in Whirlpool Corporation v. Wei et. al. was filed in March 2016. The defendants in the case manage business operations for Tianjin Jinghai Yunda Industry and Trade Co., a Chinese manufacturer of water purification and treatment systems. In its suit against Yunda, Whirlpool asserted a series of four utility patents and five design patents. Included among the utility patents are:
- U.S. Patent No. 7000894, titled Fluidic Cartridges and End Pieces Thereof. It claims an end piece for operatively engaging a head assembly which has valves, the end piece further being able to treat and control fluid passing through the head assembly.
- U.S. Patent No. 8356716, titled Filter Unit. It discloses a filter unit with a substantially cylindrical body and a unique engagement protrusion for interfacing with a complementary head assembly.
- U.S. Patent No. 8413818, same title as the ‘716 patent. It discloses a similar cylindrical filter with means for secure engagement of the filter media.
- U.S. Patent No. 8591736, titled Water Filter Unit. It claims a filter unit with keyed features for interfacing with engagement features on a filter head assembly in a way that creates a tight and secure engagement of the filter unit.
Whirlpool’s allegations included the online marketing and sale of replacement water filters through a website operated by Yunda as well as other websites hosted by Alibaba.com. Efforts to market the infringing replacement water filter products include multiple exhibitions at the annual Water Quality Association Convention as well as the distribution of wholesale pricing catalogs to people in the U.S. Screenshots of Yunda’s online marketing show that the replacement filters are marketed as replacements for Whirlpool’s filter products.
In its case, Whirlpool successfully argued that it would be irreparably harmed without the relief of permanent injunction in addition to the settlement agreement, which is executed separately of the court order. The recent court order for permanent injunction also affirmed the validity of all four utility patents asserted in the case along with finding that the defendant’s importation and sale of replacement water filters infringed on claims covered by the patents-in-suit.