Magistrate Judge Mary Pat Thynge recently granted a defendant’s motion seeking early claim reduction, and a plaintiff’s corresponding motion to limit the number of prior art references relied upon by the defendant. Masimo Corp. v. Philips Electronics N. Am. Corp., C.A. No. 09-080 (D. Del. Jan. 23, 2013). As the Court explained, “more than 39 claim terms are proposed for construction: 95 claims are asserted by [the plaintiff] on seven patents, averaging more than 12 claims per patent, making this litigation unwieldy.” Id. at 8.
The plaintiff proposed that in order to narrow the issues to be tried to the jury, it would be appropriate to limit the number of claims to be construed, and then following the Markman decision for the parties to meet and confer and agree upon a reduction of the claims asserted and prior art references relied upon. Following summary judgment decisions, under the plaintiff’s proposal, the parties would again meet and confer to further reduce the claims asserted and prior art references relied upon. Id. at 7. The Court rejected this proposal based on a review of the parties’ history in earlier litigation: “depending on the parties’ discretion to reduce the claims at issue until sometime after summary judgment is decided is at best doubtful, and will not simplify the matter. The fairer and more effective approach is to limit both the number of claim terms to be construed and the number of asserted claims.” Id. at 8.
The Court found that “early claim reduction is warranted before claim construction briefing and summary judgment motions are filed. In light of the analysis herein, including the breakdown between the number of presently asserted independent and dependent claims, the related subject matter of the patents, the genealogy of the asserted patents and the relationship among them, the previous claim construction decisions, and the filed summary judgment motions, [the plaintiff] is ordered to identify thirty (30) claims that are representative of the claims presently at issue from any or all of its asserted patents.” Id. at 12. In addition, the Court ordered the parties to limit the claims to be construed to “no more than twenty … taking into account terms that would be unfamiliar or confusing to the jury or unclear or ambiguous in the context of the claim.” Id. at 13. The Court added that following the reduction in reduction of claims and terms to be construed, the defendant must “identify no more than 40 prior art references, and shall provide its invalidity contentions with charts … for each prior art reference.” Id. at 15. The Court explained that these ordered limitations were within the Court’s discretion, and were consistent with the Federal Circuit’s decisions in In re Katz Interactive Call Processing Patent Litigation, 639 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2011) and Stamps.com Inc. v. Endica, Inc., 437 Fed. Appx. 897 (Fed. Cir. 2011), because additional claims could be added at a later date upon a showing of good cause such that the limitations were not immutable. Id. at 8, 11, 15.