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Court Rejects Appeal of Man Who Won, Then Lost $71.2 Million Judgment

January 11, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today turned down the appeal of an inventor who won, and then lost, a $71.2 million patent-infringement award against toymaker Mattel Inc.

The justices, without comment, left intact a federal appeals court ruling that said Mattel’s Hot Wheels flexible car track is not an illegal use of Jerome Lemelson’s invention.

Mattel introduced the Hot Wheels cars and track system in 1968, and it became what the appeals court called ″one of the most popular and commercially successful toys in U.S. history.″

Lemelson, who works out of his home in Princeton, N.J., had applied for a patent on a flexible track in 1967.

Lemelson sued in 1977, and a federal jury in Chicago found in late 1989 that Mattel willfully infringed on Lemelson’s patent.

The jury awarded him $24.8 million in damages, and U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras later increased that amount to $71.2 million by adding prejudgment interest.

The Washington-based U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed Lemelson’s victory last June. It ruled that the jury and trial judge wrongly assessed the ″prosecution history″ of Lemelson’s patent and the ″prior art″ that existed before he applied for the patent.

In the appeal acted on today, lawyers for Lemelson urged the justices ″to restore the Federal Circuit (court) to its proper, and limited, role in reviewing patent judgments.″

The case is Lemelson vs. Mattel Inc., 92-818.

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