Judge rules patent infringement case against Belkin can proceed to trial

By Kory Oswald | Jun 18, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO (Northern California Record) – A federal judge in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently ruled a patent infringement case involving two cellphone car-mount providers can proceed to a trial by jury to determine if one’s company’s mount design infringes on the other’s patent. 

In the suit, Kenu Inc. sued fellow phone accessory provider Belkin International alleging Belkin's mount that allows users to cellphones to the dashboard air vents in cars infringed on two of its patents. 

U.S. District Judge James Donato, in his May 31 ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, said Belkin’s Vent Mount product does not infringe on one of Kenu’s patents. 

In the matter of the second patent, Donato found that “neither side made a wining summary judgment argument” and “there are genuine disputes of material fact that will need to be resolved by a jury.”

In the patent infringement case, Kent alleged that Belkin International’s Vent Mount infringed on Kent's patents for its Airframe product, and also cited “unfair competition under California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), California Business and Professions Code § 17200. See Dkt. No. 141; Dkt. No. 68 (Case No. 14-4327).”

The court declared that state unfair completion laws are preempted by federal patent law “to the extent the claims are duplicative and contain no qualitatively different element,” and that the parties arguments regarding the claim were “rather cursory and underdeveloped, but the claim must be dismissed,” Donato said.

“Kenu has identified nothing that comes close to making out an antitrust claim against Belkin ... even crediting the facts it alleges now in its summary judgment briefing that it did not plead in the complaint,” Donato said.

As part of the unfair competition claim, Kenu argued that Belkin actively worked to “‘kick out Kenu’ from Apple ... and take away Kenu’s business,” according to court documents. However, Donato found that Kenu did not identify anything coming close to an antitrust claim against Belkin.

Kenu claimed that it lost sales because its Airframe product was removed from the Apple store in 2015 as a result of Belkin’s actions.

“That is hardly anti-competitive within the meaning of the antitrust laws,” Donato wrote in his decision. “The court consequently grants summary judgment for Belkin on Kenu’s UCL claim.”

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