Bosch announced last week that it will release its Reaxx table saw despite an ongoing patent dispute with SawStop. News of the June 1st delivery date was accompanied by a press release highlighting the safety features of the product, indicating that Bosch may be feeling confident of a legal victory, or that their legal team is employing some other strategy.
SawStop and Bosch have been engaged in a patent infringement case since 2015 over the implementation of flesh-detecting injury mitigation technology found on the Reaxx table saw. The technology allows the saw to “sense” when flesh contacts the saw blade, triggering a mechanism that stops the blade from severely injuring the user. SawStop first developed flesh-detecting technology, and after being rebuked by major manufacturers, began producing their own version in 2004. SawStop brought Bosch to trial in order to prevent the Reaxx table saws from reaching U.S. shores.
In patent infringement litigation it is common for the plaintiff to file a preliminary injunction: a type of restraining order that prevents the defendant from selling the contested product while the case is pending. In the present case SawStop has yet to file for one, which means legally Bosch is within its rights to produce and sell the Reaxx table saws on the open market. Preliminary injunctions are especially important in cases that deal with monetary damages - for example a plaintiff suing a defendant to recover the profits of the sale of an infringing product. SawStop’s complaint against Bosch was more concerned with preventing the Reaxx table saw from being sold in U.S. markets at all, which makes sense considering it had not been released yet, and less concerned with recovering monetary damages. The June 1st release date complicates the issue, and may require SawStop intervention to prevent the Reaxx from taking up valuable market share.
An announcement like this could be a show of confidence by the defendant that the law is on their side, but it could also be a sign that they are pursuing a different strategy. Companies facing an uphill patent litigation battle will sometimes release a contentious product in order to recover the costs in developing, selling and litigating the product. It’s difficult to tell exactly what Bosch’s strategy may be considering the procedural loss they suffered at their Markman Hearings.
A company that tries to push the product out as fast as possible before an adverse ruling can open themselves up to the legal phenomenon known as “treble damages.” In some courts this type of maneuver can be construed as acting in bad faith, allowing the plaintiff to motion for treble damages – triple the amount of the actual damages – in order to punish the offending company. If SawStop alleges monetary damages, and wins a preliminary injunction over Bosch, it could sway the court in favor of SawStop. While this is just hypothetical, it is something that Bosch’s legal team would have considered prior to allowing the company to release the product.
It will be interesting to see how SawStop reacts to the news of the Reaxx release date. It is entirely possible that SawStop, considering its complaint, is unconcerned with punishing Bosch monetarily and is focused instead on protecting its full access to the U.S. markets. However, if the company thinks triple damages are now in play we may see a lot more legal maneuvering from both sides in the coming months.
Neil L. Wilcove is a partner at Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP and Chair of the Construction Law and Commercial Litigation practice groups in which he represents contractors, subcontractors, owners, architects, engineers, and sureties. He handles payment disputes, delay claims, and construction and design defect cases. Mr. Wilcove also assists his clients in negotiating and drafting construction contracts.
Daniel A. Nicholson is an associate attorney at Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP (Accepted to the New York Bar, Pending Acceptance to the Georgia Bar) practicing Construction Law in Atlanta, GA.