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Vita-Mix’s Patent Office challenges were ultimately unsuccessful, as Grant says they were able to, on all levels, have the patents reaffirmed without changes to the claims.
Brett says despite this, “I can say they never made a good-faith attempt to settle the case. We didn’t get a meaningful offer until the night before trial and it was not enough. We were blown away that with the strength of our case, not once did they make a genuine offer to settle.”
In the End
“When the dust settled, all of our patents were intact and every single claim was confirmed,” Grant says. K-TEC won the largest patent infringement judgment in Utah history at $24 million.
Aside from the size of the judgment itself, Grant says the case is significant because it reaffirms the value of patents.
“Over the last decade or so there’s been a view from the public that patents aren’t worth getting because the Patent Office grants too many patents. What this case has done is reinforced the concept that when you have a valuable idea and you take the time and effort to protect that idea, you can count on the judicial system to protect those rights, and damages, where appropriate, can be awarded.”
Brett says one of the most important things about the Federal Circuit opinion is that it is precedential. K-TEC moved forward to prove that this case was about willful infringement and won. Even better, Brett says the ruling affirmed a “real-world story.” They had proof the Blendtec blender was a groundbreaking invention that had shaken up the industry, that Vita-Mix had copied Dickson’s invention and created a number of non-infringing designs.
“It’s neat to watch a small Utah company become a real big player in the market through protecting and enforcing their intellectual property,” Brett says. “He trusted in the system and the system didn’t let him down,” Grant adds.
The Canyons v. Wolf Mountain Resorts: A Proposed Golf Course Leads to the Courtroom
By Sarah Cutler
Wolf Mountain Resorts, L.C., and The American Skiing Company Utah—now a subsidiary of Canyons owner Talisker Corp.—signed a ground lease agreement in 1997. The agreement leased 4,000 skiable acres of land, known as “The Canyons Ski Resort,” to ASCU from Wolf Mountain for a period of up to 200 years.
The ground lease originally signed required ASCU to make annual rent payments to Wolf Mountain, develop the property and pay Wolf Mountain a percentage of the costs of development. Over time and as the property developed, the ground lease gave ASCU the option to transfer title of the property from Wolf Mountain to ASCU.
At the time of the agreement, the land being leased to ASCU was considered a “green field opportunity.” Canyons attorney John Lund explains, “It’s one of the last places anybody could find in the world that there’d been no meaningful development, where there was a lot of prospect to do a lot of development and build, essentially, a ski village and four-season resort area from scratch.”
Some of the Canyons’ development plans included condominiums and a golf course. The golf course is what finally brought what Lund referred to as years of contention between the two parties to a courtroom. “This whole story unfolded over years… And from our perspective there were years and years of failure to cooperate on their part…they would always have another demand,” he says.
The Game Begins
While the Canyons sought to develop the area, Wolf Mountain attorney David Wahlquist, however, claims that the Canyons was in the wrong and ultimately in breach of the lease agreement. The agreement required the Canyons to obtain a Summit County permit for the golf course prior to receiving rights from Wolf Mountain for the land.
Requiring the Canyons to obtain the Summit County permit prevented Wolf Mountain from having to give the acreage up, unless there was a guarantee of the planned golf course.
“It’s been 10 years since [Canyons] promised to develop the golf course,” Wahlquist says. “They blamed Wolf Mountain for the first five years; they blamed the economy for the second five years.”
In relation to the golf course dispute, Lund says, “There was a day in April of 2006 when every other person that had to sign every other document had signed it, and Wolf wouldn’t.” He continues, “Instead…they said, ‘Oh you know what, actually, you’re in default under the leases. That 200-year-long lease—you’re in default. You have all these things you’ve done that are breaches of the lease and we’re going to terminate your lease. We’re going to try to get you off the land, and get the now vastly improved land back.’”