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Court Orders Review of Patent Fight

CALIFORNIA | AEROSPACE | THE STATE

March 18, 1997|(Bloomberg News)

The U.S. Supreme Court told a federal appeals court to take another look at a high-stakes verdict against Honeywell Inc. in its long-running patent-infringement fight against Woodland Hills-based Litton Industries Inc. Honeywell's appeal centered on a challenge to a patent rule known as the doctrine of equivalents, which lets a patent holder get damages from competitors for products or processes that are similar, but not identical, to patented inventions. The case had been on hold at the high court while the justices considered an unrelated case about whether equivalent products should be subject to patent-infringement suits. Earlier this month, the high court upheld the doctrine of equivalents in that other case and laid down some new guidelines for how to interpret that legal rule. The justices told the U.S. Court of Appeals to review Honeywell's appeal again in light of that decision. The appeals court earlier ruled that Minneapolis-based Honeywell violated Litton's patent on a process for making highly refined mirrors used in aircraft navigation systems. A federal court jury originally awarded Litton $1.2 billion. Last year, the appeals court supported some of the jury's findings about infringement under the doctrine of equivalents but ordered more lower-court proceedings about damages.

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