Legacy Briggs & Stratton Corp. to pay nearly $34 million in decade-long patent lawsuit

The Briggs & Stratton Burleigh plant

Last updated on November 30th, 2020 at 11:23 am

More than a decade after Exmark Manufacturing Co. sued Briggs & Statton Corp., alleging some of its Ferris and Snapper Pro mower decks infringed on Exmark patents, the two companies have agreed to settle the case.

The agreement calls for Briggs & Stratton Corp. to pay Exmark $33.65 million, according to a securities filing.

Briggs & Stratton Corp. is the entity that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this summer. Most of the company’s assets were bought out of bankruptcy by an entity now called Briggs & Stratton LLC. The settlement does not involve the new entity that now controls the Briggs & Stratton brand.

Exmark originally brough the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Nebraska in 2010, alleging certain Briggs lawn mowers infringed on a 1999 patent for a multi-blade lawn mower design. The claim centered on the use of a baffle to direct the flow of air and grass clippings during operation.

In 2015, a jury found Briggs had willfully infringed on the patent and levied $24.3 million in damages against the company. In May 2016, Judge Joseph Bataillon added another $24.3 million because the infringement was willful.

Briggs asked the judge to reconsider, arguing its cost to resign the mower should have been accounted for in the damages. Bataillon denied the motion, contending the jury had awarded Exmark around $250 per infringing mower and Briggs had “earned a considerably larger profit than that on every mower it sold.”

In January 2018, an appeals court wiped out the $50 million judgement, finding the district court had errored in granting summary judgment to Exmark. The appeals court sent the case back with instructions to reconsider the decision and hold a new trial on damages if necessary.

In late 2018, the district court again sided with Exmark. A jury awarded $14.4 million in damages and the court added another $14.4 million in enhanced damages along with interest and other costs.

Briggs appealed again and the appeals court sided with Exmark in October. The company initially sought another review by the full appeals court before withdrawing that petition last week after reaching the settlement.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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