Federal Court Upholds Cocona’s Patent Claims Against The North Face, Columbia Sportswear

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the validity of key claims of a patent asserted by Cocona Labs in patent infringement cases brought against VF Outdoor LLC d/b/a The North Face (TNF) and Columbia Sportswear.

In 2017, Cocona Labs, a small Boulder, Colorado-based company, known for its dynamic thermoregulating 37.5 Technology, sued TNF and Columbia in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado for alleged infringement of U.S. patent number 8,945,287 B2 (the “‘287 Patent”).

In the years preceding the lawsuit, TNF and Columbia had purchased Cocona’s proprietary 2.5L waterproof breathable laminate technology from authorized suppliers and incorporated it into various outerwear product lines.

Cocona sued TNF and Columbia for patent infringement after the large outdoor apparel companies terminated their business relationships with Cocona and ceased purchasing material from Cocona’s authorized suppliers but allegedly continued to offer products that incorporated Cocona’s patented technology.

Cocona asserted in its complaint that infringement by both companies was knowing, intentional and willful.

After litigating the merits of Cocona’s claims for almost a year, TNF filed a petition before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTAB) challenging the validity of claims of the ’287 Patent.

After a full trial, the PTAB rejected TNF’s arguments and ruled that key claims of the ‘287 Patent were not invalid.

TNF appealed the PTAB’s decision, resulting in the Court of Appeals affirming the validity of those claims at the March 4 hearing.

“This is a great day not only for Cocona, but for all small, technology companies in the United States working to protect the unauthorized use of their American-made technology from large firms sourcing products overseas where IP rights are nearly impossible to protect,” said Jeff Bowman, Cocona CEO.

“This concept of rational infringement is common today,” Bowman said. “Large companies apparently view it as more cost-effective to infringe than it is to pay royalties, under the belief that small technology companies will be unable to bear the legal costs of enforcing their IP.”