WILMINGTON, Del., March 11, 2010 – A federal court jury today found that French Door refrigerators produced by LG Electronics do not infringe a Whirlpool Corporation patent for an ice storage bin located in the door, but found that some patent claims cover certain earlier-generation LG side-by-side refrigerators that LG is no longer making. The jury found that LG was not “willfully infringing” these claims. The jury found another Whirlpool patent asserted against LG invalid. In the case, LG Electronics v. Whirlpool Corporation, jury also found that an LG refrigerator patent is valid but does not cover the accused Whirlpool refrigerators.
The jury in the U.S. District Court in Delaware found that the ice system in accused LG French Door refrigerators does not infringe Whirlpool’s U.S. Patent No. 6,082,130. This verdict is generally consistent with last month’s final determination by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which found that none of the asserted claims of Whirlpool's ‘130 patent covers the accused LG French Door refrigerators. The ITC, however, also found that all but one of the asserted claims of the ‘130 patent are invalid and that the remaining claim does not cover the accused LG side-by-side refrigerators and thus is not infringed.
The jury was not permitted to hear any evidence concerning the ITC investigation or the ITC’s final determination in favor of LG. In reaching the opposite conclusion of the ITC regarding the validity of certain claims of the ‘130 patent, the jury awarded damages to Whirlpool of $1.79 million for infringement of the ‘130 patent by the earlier-generation side-by-side refrigerators. (Whirlpool was seeking total damages of more than $22 million.). LG Electronics plans to seek judicial review of this jury verdict.
While LG Electronics disagrees with the verdict for side-by-side models, the company has already taken appropriate steps to ensure that its refrigerators will continue to meet the expected high level of design and innovation. In fact, LG is introducing a new refrigerator design that uses different technology and improves performance compared to the design covered by the ‘130 patent. LG already has informed Whirlpool that its new generation of side-by-side refrigerators incorporate a new ice storage bin that eliminates the ice moving auger required by the ‘130 patent.
In the Delaware case, after two days of deliberations, the jury found that Whirlpool’s U.S. Patent No. 5,269,601 for “plaques,” the indentations on the plastic liner of a refrigerator cabinet, is invalid. LG’s U.S. Patent No. 7,316,121 covering an automatic spigot and retractable tray water dispensing system in a refrigerator door is valid but does not cover accused Whirlpool-manufactured refrigerators, according to the jury.
In a statement, the company said it is pleased that the jury has found in LG’s favor on all of the commercially significant issues in the case. LG plans to seek judicial review of the portions of the jury verdict that are inconsistent with the ITC’s final decision that all of the infringed claims of the ‘130 patent are invalid. If the judge reaches the same conclusion as the ITC, Whirlpool will receive nothing.
With Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet presiding, the five-woman, three-man jury made its determination of facts in the case after hearing from more than two dozen witnesses during the seven-day trial. With the jury phase of the case concluded, Judge Sleet still has the authority to rule on additional defenses LG has presented against Whirlpool’s assertion of the ’130 and ‘601 patents. Pending review of post-trial briefs, final judgment by the court in this case is expected by year-end but is subject to the Court’s resources and discretion.
LG Electronics filed another lawsuit against Whirlpool’s French door refrigerators in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey on Oct. 7, 2009.
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About LG Electronics USA
LG Electronics USA, Inc., based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is the North American subsidiary of LG Electronics, Inc., a global force and technology leader in consumer electronics, home appliances and mobile communications. In the United States, LG Electronics sells a range of stylish and innovative home entertainment products, mobile phones, home appliances and business solutions, all under LG’s “Life’s Good” marketing theme. For more information, please visit www.LGusa.com.
About LG Electronics, Inc.
LG Electronics, Inc. (KSE: 066570.KS) is a global leader and technology innovator in consumer electronics, mobile communications and home appliances, employing more than 84,000 people working in 115 operations including 84 subsidiaries around the world. With 2009 global sales of 55.5 trillion Korean Won (US$43.4 billion), LG comprises five business units– Home Entertainment, Mobile Communications, Home Appliance, Air Conditioning and Business Solutions. LG is one of the world’s leading producers of flat panel TVs, audio and video products, mobile handsets, air conditioners and washing machines.
John I. Taylor