OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A jury has awarded a Tecumseh heavy equipment manufacturer more than $1.5 million in a patent infringement dispute.
Dickson Industries Inc. was awarded $503,873 in actual damages and nearly $1.04 million in punitive damages.
The jury found defendant Patent Enforcement Team LLC's patent was invalid and that the company acted ''intentionally and with malice'' by suing or threatening Dickson's customers. The jury verdict was made on Sept. 28.
It is rare that a company is awarded punitive damages in such a patent dispute, said John Kenney, the lead attorney representing Dickson.
''The jury has to find that the actions were malicious and harmful,'' Kenney said. ''The general law is that patent owners have the right to enforce patents. Only when they step over the line do they qualify for punitive damages.''
Patent Enforcement Team attorneys did not return phone calls for comment.
The five-year case involved rumble strip grinding machines, which etch rough lines onto highway shoulders to warn drivers when they drift out of the driving lanes.
Patent Enforcement controlled a patent for the grinding machines Dickson manufactured. The Oklahoma company argued the patent was invalid because a patent cannot be issued for technology that is already known or used in an industry.
Dickson still manufactures and sells other heavy equipment, but it stopped making the rumble strip grinding machines after Patent Enforcement Team scared off its customers, Kenney said.
''With this judgment, Dickson will have the opportunity to get back in that business,'' Kenney said.