Judge Robinson Excludes Patent Claims from Upcoming Trial Because Claims had Substantively Changed During Reexamination
Judge Sue Robinson has issued a memorandum order on a patent infringement defendant’s motion to exclude several claims of the patent-in-suit from consideration at trial. See MobileMedia Ideas, LLC v. Apple Inc., C.A. No. 10-258-SLR (D. Del. Nov. 15, 2012). During the pendency of the case, the PTO conducted an ex parte reexamination of the patent-in-suit and concluded that three claims were patentable as amended. After the PTO had concluded its reexamination, the defendant requested that Judge Robinson exclude the three amended claims from the upcoming trial, which was only a few weeks away and would proceed on the unamended claims. The plaintiff sought inclusion of the three amended claims in the trial, in place of the three original claims. Judge Robinson ultimately ordered that the claims be excluded. Id. at 6.
Judge Robinson explained that reexamined claims must be “legally identical to their original counterpart . . . [meaning] ‘without substantive change.’” Id. at 4 (citing Laitram Corp. (Laitram II), 163 F.3d 1342, 1346 (Fed. Cir. 1998)). Essentially, “the scope of the claims [must be] identical.” Id. She pointed out that the amendments to the claims at issue “incorporate limitations from other claims of the [patent-in-suit] . . . [but] the combination of elements in amended claim 1 did not exist in a single claim prior to the issuance of the reexamination certificate” and experts had not had the opportunity to address the combination of elements in one claim. Id. at 4-5. Accordingly, Judge Robinson found that the claim at issue and claims dependent on it had substantively changed during reexamination and that “proceeding with the reexamined claims at this stage may open the door to new infringement theories and opinions at trial that have not been vetted through discovery.” Id. at 5-6. Additionally, the defendant would be “unduly prejudiced . . . [because it had] framed its invalidity defenses for the [patent-in-suit] in light of the original claims.” Id. at 6. Accordingly, Judge Robinson excluded the amended claims from trial.