An absent claim limitation and an unsupported motivation to combine are not sufficient to raise a substantial question as to a patentee’s likelihood of success on the merits, supporting entry of a preliminary injunction

The alleged infringer appealed the district court’s grant to the patentee of a preliminary injunction. The district court held that the patentee established a likelihood of success in proving infringement of its patent claiming lawnmowers equipped with suspended operator platforms. The alleged infringer argued that its mowers do not meet the asserted limitation regarding support of “an entire body of an operator” because their steering controls are mounted to the chassis, not the operator platform, and thus, the operator’s hands and arms are not supported by the platform and are not isolated from chassis vibration. The district court rejected these contentions as defenses to infringement, finding that the claims do not require the steering controls to be mounted on the operator platform. 

Additionally, the alleged infringer argued that the claims of the asserted patent were obvious in light of two prior art patents/patent applications. The district court also rejected this argument stating that “a patent composed of several elements is not proved obvious merely by demonstrating that each of its elements were, independently, known in the prior art” and stating that the alleged infringer had failed to identify a motivation to combine the two references. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court’s decision was not clearly erroneous and specifically agreed with the district court’s statement that an alleged infringer cannot just demonstrate that all of the individual elements were known in the prior art.

The Federal Circuit also affirmed the district court’s finding of irreparable harm due to impossible-to-quantify damages flowing from the loss of a potentially lifelong customer. Finally, the Federal Circuit refused to disturb the district court’s discretionary weighing of the parties’ harms and the public interest.