Two U.S. companies that produce toys for children, Fisher-Price Inc. and its parent company Mattel, Inc., have filed a complaint against bicycle distributor Dynacraft BSC, Inc. of American Canyon, CA, for patent infringement. The complaint was filed on January 17 at the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.The subject of the complaint are a series of patents covering electronic speed control technologies used in battery-powered ride-on products marketed by Dynacraft.
According to the four-count complaint, Fisher-Price and Matttel Inc. claim ownership of a number of U.S. patents. They patents are:
- U.S. Patent No. 7222684, acquired from Innovation First Inc., and entitled System, Apparatus, and Method for Providing Control of a Toy Vehicle. It claims a method for controlling acceleration of a toy vehicle configured to be operated by a person which involves generating a transition signal from a throttle signal in such a way that softens the initiation of the toy vehicle’s motion.
- U.S. Patent No. 7487850, entitled Children’s Ride-On Vehicles Having Improved Shifter Assemblies. It discloses a children’s ride-on vehicle which has a shifter handle which allows a child to change the velocity of the vehicle by adjusting the shifter handle’s position. This patent was acquired through an assignment.
- U.S. Patent No. 7621543, entitled Blow-Molded Wheels Having Undercut Treads, Methods for Producing the Same, and Children’s Ride-On Vehicles Including the Same. This discloses a children’s ride-on vehicle using wheels that are blow-molded from plastic in such a way that improves the complexity of the treads which can be molded into the tires.
- U.S. Patent No. 7950978, entitled System, Apparatus, and Method for Providing Control of a Toy Vehicle. It claims a toy vehicle operated by a person having a throttle switch electrically connected to a motor and capable of sending a throttle signal in such a way that improves safety and reduces the risks of a vehicle flipping or slipping on a wet surface. This patent was also acquired from Innovation First.
Fisher-Price alleges that it is in the process of releasing a new line of battery-powered ride-on products with electronic speed controls that are based on the technology of the ’684 and ’978 patents. This technology will be included in Fisher-Price’s Power Wheels ride-ons with Smart DriveTM and Smooth Start TechnologyTM. But just as Fisher-Price’s new line was reaching market, Dynacraft released the Accused Products with an electronic speed control circuit without rights to any of Fisher-Price’s and Mattel’s patents. Dynacraft is also accused of developing its speed control circuit by copying the design of a prior Innovation First electronic speed control circuit board that was incorporated into Fisher-Price Power Wheels products.
Dynacraft also released the Accused Products without rights to certain Fisher-Price and Mattel shifter and wheel patents, described below, that apply to them.
In the complaint, it is stated that the electronic speed control technology allows a child’s ride-on to soft-start, or accelerate more smoothly, which reduces the abrupt nature in which many children’s batterypowered ride-ons start. Fisher-Price claims Dynacraft willfully infringed its patent by selling products embodying the technology, promoting, advertising, and instructing customers about the Accused Products.
Fisher-Price is seeking a judgement declaring that Dynacraft has willfully infringed the asserted patents-in-suit and as well as trebled damages under the terms of Title 35 U.S.C. Section 284.