Zeiss Prevails in Patent Infringement Suit Against Signet, as Court Orders Signet to Pay Triple Damages and Pull its Kodak Unique Lens From Market

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SAN DIEGO—The five-year old patent infringement lawsuit between spectacle lens makers Carl Zeiss Vision International GmbH and Signet Armorlite finally concluded Monday in Zeiss’ favor when a federal court judge tripled the amount of damages a jury had awarded Zeiss and ordered Signet to pull its Kodak Unique progressive lens from distribution.

The case has drawn widespread attention throughout the optical industry because it concerns the licensing of patents for backside progressive lenses, a fast growing product category. 

According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of California on Aug. 6, the Court granted Zeiss’ motion that it be awarded “enhanced damages” of $2,054,892, which is triple the compensatory damages awarded to Zeiss by the jury in April. The jury had ruled that Signet’s Kodak Unique lens had infringed on Zeiss’ U.S. Patent No. 6,089,713, which covers a “spectacle lens with spherical lens with spherical front side and multifocal back side and process for its production.” Signet was producing Kodak Unique under a licensing agreement with Seiko Epson.

In awarding the enhanced damages to Zeiss, the Court supported Zeiss’ claim that “Signet never investigated the scope of the patent and never formed a good faith belief that the patent was invalid or not infringed,” and did not obtain a “competent” legal opinion on the whether it would infringe on Zeiss’ patent, relying instead on the opinions of Signet’s optical engineering manager and vice president for research and development.

The Court also issued a permanent injunction against Signet which required the company to “remove and recall all Kodak Unique lenses from the marketplace” within 14 days and turn them over to Zeiss, as well as “any other lens product that is no more than colorably different.”

Judge Dana M. Sabraw, who presided over the case, rejected Signet’s motions for a new trial or a retrial, effectively concluding the lawsuit, which Zeiss filed against Signet in May, 2007. Signet Armorlite was acquired by Essilor International in 2010.

VMail will continue to report on developments related to the case and its potential impact on lens manufacturers.