KneeBinding Inc. filed a complaint for patent infringement against Marker Volkl USA in June 2015. The ski binding offered by KneeBinding allows the boot to twist laterally at the toe piece and vertically at the heel piece. However, the ski binding manufactured by KneeBinding further allowed the heel to have a lateral release feature, previously assumed to be uncommon to ski bindings.
KneeBinding asserted that the Kingpin Ski Binding, sold by Marker Volkl, incorporated a lateral release at the heel, thereby infringing on KneeBindings patented ski binding (U.S. 8,955,867).
After two and a half years of deliberation, including an inter partes review petition filed by Marker Volkl, it was determined that a majority of the KneeBinding patent is invalid as anticipated or obvious. Marker Volkl cited two patents, a German patent published in 1975 and a U.S. patent issued in 1985. In the petition, Marker Volkl hammered KneeBinding for not explicitly stating that the lateral release assembly and the upper heel housing are not separate functional parts, the upper heel housing providing the vertical release. Thus, the common components may not be two parts isolating lateral and vertical release forces.
This was a key argument for Marker Volk to establish. The German patent, which was the primary reference, shows a common device which “allows the resistance against release in the upward direction, on the one hand, and against release in the lateral direction, on the other hand, to be dimensioned and adjusted independently of each other.”
The court determined that Marker Volkl showed by preponderance of the evidence that 7 of 9 claims (claims 1, 4-9) of the KneeBinding patent were obvious and unenforceable. It seems that Marker Volkl has thus advanced its ability to sell their Kingpin Ski Binding freely.