Decided: May 15, 1991; As Corrected May 15, 1991. .
Appealed from: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia; Judge Forrester.
Rich, Archer, and Michel, Circuit Judges.
Plaintiff-Appellant Slimfold Manufacturing Company, Inc. (Slimfold) and Defendants/Cross-Appellants Kinkead Industries, Inc. and United States Gypsum Company (collectively Kinkead) appeal from the May 29, 1990 Orders of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Civil Action No. 78-CV-1798, finding Slimfold to be entitled to treble damages and attorney fees, but denying Slimfold's application for attorney fees. We affirm-in-part, reverse-in-part, and remand.
Slimfold is the owner of U.S. Patent No. Re. 31,553 (Ford), reissued on April 17, 1984 and entitled "Pivot and Guide Rod Assembly for Bi-Fold Door."*fn1 The invention of the Ford patent is disclosed specifically for use with metal bi-fold doors, which are the folding doors commonly used for closets and cabinets. In such doors, one end of the door is pivotally attached to the door frame, while the other end of the door has a "pivot rod assembly" attached thereto which has a head portion or "hat" which slides within a track formed in the door frame as the door is opened and closed. As the district court found, the invention of the Ford patent is an improved "cartridge-type" pivot rod assembly which is advantageous over the prior art assemblies which were cumbersome, had many more parts, and were difficult to install.
An example of the improved pivot rod assembly of the Ford patent is shown at right. As seen therein, the assembly is made up of a plastic sleeve 30 in which a pivot rod 48 is moveable. The sleeve extends downwardly through two holes formed in a stiffening channel of the door, the top flange of which is shown at 18. A head portion 50 attached to one end of the pivot rod is biased upwardly by spring 66. At the top of the sleeve 30 is an integral collar 26. Extending downwardly from the collar is a finger 42 which engages the top edge of a hole 44 formed in the stiffening channel of the door. Extending upwardly from the collar is a latch 64 which engages a lip 60 formed along the edge of the head portion by a peripheral notch 62. The purpose of the latch is to hold the head portion in a retracted position (against the force of the spring) during assembly, shipment, and installation of the door. When the door is installed, the bottom of the pivot rod is struck by a hammer, causing the latch to flex and disengage from the lip, thus allowing the spring to press the head portion upwardly into the door track.
Claim 1 of the Ford patent reads as follows:
1. In a metal door assembly:
a door panel comprising a face sheet,
a stiffening channel secured to one surface of said sheet along an edge thereof, said channel having a pair of spaced apart flanges extending outwardly from said surface and a connecting web,
a pivot rod assembly mounted in said channel, said assembly comprising
an elongated plastic sleeve extending through corresponding ...