Aspex Eyewear Loses Appeal of Magnetic Sunglass Patent Lawsuit

By Joseph Mandour on April 23, 2013

Patent Infringement AttorneysOrange County – A Federal Court of Appeals Judge upheld the decision made by a Florida District Court by holding that Aspex Eyewear Inc. is precluded from making a nearly identical patent infringement claim that it made in a previously failed patent infringement case against a different company.

In 2002, Aspex sued Altair Eyewear Inc., distributor of Tommy Bahama Sunglasses, believing Altair had been marketing and selling an infringing magnetic clip-on sunglass product.  The case concluded in 2007 when New York District Court Judge Stephen C. Robinson granted a motion for summary judgment filed by Altair.  Judge Robinson ruled that Altair products did not infringe on Aspex’s patents.  Aspex later appealed the case and lost.

More recently, Aspex sued Zenni Optical LLC basing its claims on the same patents at issue in the Altair Eyewear case, namely U.S. Patent Nos. 5,737,054, 6,012,811 and 6,092,896.   The patents owned by Aspex cover a design for sunglasses which involves a clear lens and a tinted lens that are interchangeable and held in place magnetically.

When Aspex brought the new action against Zenni Optical and another company over the same 3 patents, U.S. District Judge William Zloch mirrored the previous case by granting a motion for summary judgment filed by Zenni in 2012, citing the decision in the Altair case.

Aspex once again appealed the decision arguing that it had new issues to assert against Zenni Optical that had not been brought to light in the Altair case.  The Federal Circuit Court did not agree, however, and found that the two companies’ allegedly infringing clip-on sunglass lenses were virtually identical to the Altair case and that neither infringed on any of the Aspex patents.  “We affirm the district court’s ruling of collateral estoppel, for there is no material difference as to the claims now in suit, nor difference between the Altair and Zenni Optical products to which the claims are applied.”

Zenni’s legal team felt the decision was a victory not just for them, but for all eyewear consumers.   Apparently Aspex did not agree with the Appellate decision since it tried to bring the case to the Supreme Court in March in its petition for writ of certiorari, which was also denied.

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