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April 2017: ITC Victory for SawStop

April 2017

The firm recently secured a complete victory in the U.S. International Trade Commission on behalf of our client, SawStop, LLC, in a bet-the-company case.

In 1999, Dr. Stephen Gass, a physicist and IP lawyer, patented a revolutionary active safety technology for use in table saws. Using electronics and software to detect contact between a user and the spinning saw blade, the invention quickly fires a brake that stops the blade’s rotation within milliseconds, leaving the user with at most a superficial scratch. The reaction to his invention was phenomenal; woodworking groups, trade shows, safety advocates, and even the Consumer Product Safety Commission praised Dr. Gass’s invention.

Dr. Gass sought to license his technology to existing power tool manufacturers, but each declined because of product liability concerns. Still believing in the promise of the technology, Dr. Gass and colleagues raised money from friends and family and designed and built their own table saws under the SawStop brand. Between 2005 and 2015, SawStop grew from five employees working out of a barn in Oregon to become the leading cabinet saw manufacturer in the United States. Throughout, SawStop offered the only saw on the market with active safety technology.

In March 2015, however, Robert Bosch Tool Corporation and Robert Bosch GmbH (“Bosch”) announced plans to bring its own version of the technology to market. Prior to Bosch’s launch, SawStop turned to Quinn Emanuel to file a complaint for patent infringement in the ITC, with the hope of securing an exclusion order barring imports of Bosch’s infringing table saw. Quinn Emanuel ensured that our client’s hope was fulfilled.

Using press releases and cell phone videos shot at trade-show demonstrations of Bosch’s prototype, Quinn Emanuel pieced together enough evidence about Bosch’s new product to draft a complaint months before Bosch’s product was publicly released. As soon as the ITC instituted the investigation, Quinn Emanuel took targeted discovery and depositions to prove up its infringement case, and gathered the evidence of “secondary considerations”—that SawStop’s patented technology was groundbreaking, unbelievably effective, and a huge commercial success—that would help SawStop show that its patents were valid and infringed. Quinn Emanuel then litigated its way through the initial claim construction hearing and two rounds of supplemental claim construction briefing, after which the ITC’s judge settled on proposed constructions of disputed claim terms that were highly favorable to SawStop.

After a one-week trial, the ALJ ruled in SawStop’s favor, issuing a 150-page opinion that Bosch had infringed two of SawStop’s patents, and that SawStop’s patents were not invalid. The ALJ recommended that the Commission issue an order excluding Bosch’s active safety technology from the U.S. market. On January 27, 2017, the Commission agreed with the ALJ, issuing an exclusion order blocking Bosch from importing the infringing products, and a cease and desist order preventing Bosch from selling any infringing products it had already imported into the U.S.

As a result of Quinn Emanuel’s work, Bosch’s rollout of infringing products has been halted, SawStop will maintain its strong market position, and power tool users nationwide will continue to benefit from SawStop’s active safety technology.