Articles Posted in Leonard P. Stark, Chief Judge

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Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark recently decided issues raised at the pretrial conference, after considering letter briefs submitted by the parties.  Masimo Corp. v. Philips Elec. N.A, C.A. No. 09-80-LPS (D. Del. Sept. 12, 2014).  Judge Stark allowed Philips to try its indirect infringement claims despite failing to “adequately” respond to Masimo’s interrogatories.  Id. at ¶ 1.  Because Masimo never complained of the sufficiency of Philip’s responses until a few weeks before trial, Judge Stark determined that “the best exercise of [the Court's] discretion is to permit the indirect infringement allegations to be tried.”  Id.  Judge Stark also decided issues related to Masimo’s trial presentation regarding damages in light of Philips’ recent concession of infringement.  Judge Stark permitted Masimo to present evidence of Philips’ alleged infringement and that the infringement allegations were pending during the parties negotiations:  “This is necessary to avoid the jury incorrectly assuming that Masimo engaged in negotiations with Philips because Masimo was highly motivated to license the patents.”  Id. at ¶ 2.A.    Masimo would not be permitted, however to present any further information because Masimo failed to demonstrate that such information would be “necessary as part of a proper damages analysis” and the risk of confusing the jury outweighed any probative value.  Id.  As part of its damages presentation, Judge Stark also permitted Masimo to present evidence about Masimo’s prior litigation involving the patent-in-suit and that the the patent was found valid and infringed prior to the parties entering into a settlement agreement (the details of which were relied upon by the parties’ experts).  Id. at ¶ 2.B.

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Judge Leonard P. Stark decided numerous pending motions in various Intellectual Ventures’ lawsuits, C.A. Nos. 12-193-LPS, 13-1631-LPS, 13-1634-LPS, 13-1635-LPS, 13-1668-LPS, to 13-1672-LPS (D. Del. Sept. 8, 2014).  First, Judge Stark granted Sierra Wireless America Inc.’s and Ericsson Inc.’s motions to intervene, finding that the intervenors’ motions were timely (having been filed prior to claim construction) and were necessary so that the intervenors could “protect their interest in products which [the intervenors] manufacture for Defendants, an interest put at risk by the litigation as Plaintiffs accuse these products of infringement.”  Id. at ¶ 6.  Judge Stark rejected plaintiff’s argument that intervention as a right is only appropriate if the intervenors owe an indemnity obligation to defendants.  Id. at ¶ 7.  An intervenor must demonstrate “an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action[,].” which they have done here by “demonstrating their interest in the very devices accused of infringement.”  Id. at ¶ 8 (quoting Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Treesdale, Inc., 419 F.3d 216, 220 (3d Cir. 2005).

Judge Stark also granted Plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend its complaints to add certain subsidiaries as named defendants, finding the motions timely and the amendment not futile or prejudicial.  Id. at ¶ 13.  Judge Stark also granted numerous defendant’s motion to sever, creating ten separate cases; and defendant Nextel Operations Inc.’s unopposed motion to redact portions of a discovery conference transcript.  Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.

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In a recent memorandum opinion, Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark invalidated on summary judgment Walker Digital’s U.S. Patents No. 5,884,270 and 5,884,272 for lack of patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  Walker Digital, LLC v. Google, Inc., C.A. No. 11-318-LPS (D. Del. Sept. 3, 2014).  The patents related to “controlling the release of confidential or sensitive information of at least one of the parties in establishing anonymous communications.”  The Court agreed with a hypothetical proposed by Google, which showed that a human would infringe the independent claim of the ’270  patent during “routine headhunting,” and found that “[t]o allow the claim to survive would disproportionately risk preempting a building block of human interaction, retarding rather than promoting progress, contrary to the very purpose patents are granted.”  With respect to the ’270 patent’s dependent claims, the Court explained that “[e]ven accepting that the use of a computer increases speed and efficiency of performing the steps of the claims, and improves the likelihood of preserving anonymity of the first and second parties, these characteristics do not save the claims.  As the Supreme Court has stated, the mere recicitation of a generic computer cannot transform a patent-ineligible abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).  The analysis was largely the same with respect to the ’272 patent.

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In a recent memorandum order, Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark granted defendants’ motion for leave to amend their answer to add a defense and counterclaim asserting that U.S. Patent No. 7,215,984 (“the ’984 Patent”) is unenforceable due to plaintiff’s inequitable conduct during the ex-parte reexamination of the ’984 Patent. Masimo Corp. v. Philips Electronic North America Corp. et al, C.A. No. 09-80-LPS-MPT (D. Del. Sept. 2, 2014). The main issue Judge Stark resolved was whether defendants’ claim was futile. Defendants alleged that several plaintiff representatives committed inequitable conduct when they “each failed on several occasions to inform the PTO that the interpretation of the asserted claims of the ‘984 patent [plaintiff] urged the PTO to adopt had been rejected by this Court, including: (i) when Magistrate Judge Thynge issued her Report & Recommendation (“R&R”) regarding summary judgment, (ii) when the PTO issued its Notice of Intent to Issue Reexamination Certificate (“NIRC”) based on that rejected construction, and (iii) when the undersigned District Judge issued his Summary Judgment Opinion and Order (“SJ Order”) adopting the magistrate’s R&R.” Id. at 3. Plaintiff submitted the R&R to the PTO and expressly identified the pages containing Judge Thynge’s construction, but did not “explain how Judge Thynge’s construction or explanation related to the claim construction positions [plaintiff] had advocated before Judge Thynge and was continue to advocate before the PTO.” Id. at 7. Subsequent to the R&R but prior to the PTO’s NIRC, the Court adopted the R&R, making the previous recommended construction an Order of the Court. Id. As Judge Stark explained, plaintiff never disclosed to the PTO the Order of the Court adopting the R&R, even after the issuance of the NIRC. Id. at 8. Judge Stark also noted that the examiner’s reasoning in the NIRC “appeared to indicate that she was relying on the rejected construction advanced by [defendant]” and that the examiner mistakenly believed she was adopting the same construction as the Court. Id. at 8-9. Judge Stark ultimately concluded the following:

Regardless of whether a patentee in all cases has an obligation to disclose a District Court’s adoption of an unobjected-to recommended claim construction, or whether a patentee has an obligation to explain the impact of a Court’s claim construction on arguments the patentee has made to the examiner, under the facts alleged here it is plausible to believe that [plaintiff] intentionally decided not to make these disclosures because [plaintiff] intended to deceive the examiner into believing she was applying the Court’s claim construction, when [plaintiff] knew she was not, and when [plaintiff] feared application of the Court’s claim construction could lead the examiner to invalidate its claims. While [defendants have] not yet proven these allegations, [they have] stated plausible claims for relief . . . .

Id. at 9. Judge Stark also found that plaintiff would not be unduly prejudiced from the amendment, as defendants sought “only limited additional discovery, including short depositions of the four [plaintiff] representatives and production of the readily available reexam history . . . , which should not affect the [scheduled trial].” Id. at 10.

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Chief Judge Stark recently denied motions filed by defendant Toshiba for summary judgment of non-infringement and for spoliation sanctions in a case brought by plaintiff St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants. St. Clair Intellectual Prop. Consultants, Inc. v. Toshiba Corp., et al., C.A. No. 09-354-LPS, Memo. Or. at 1 (D. Del. Aug. 27, 2014).

Judge Stark first denied summary judgment of non-infringement with respect to one patent because there was a genuine dispute of material fact where a “jury could reasonably credit the expert opinion of [the plaintiff’s expert] and, thereby, find infringement.” Id. at 3-4. The expert’s opinion included the possibility of meeting the claim limitations by the doctrine of equivalents, which he opined on at his deposition after reserving the right to do so in his report. Id. at 4.

Judge Stark next denied summary judgment of non-infringement of a second patent because there were genuine issues of material fact involved in each of St’ Clair’s theories of infringement. Among the issues that could not be resolved on summary judgment were whether a fixed clock rate must necessarily have a fixed bandwidth, where the parties had not previously asked for construction of the term “bandwidth” and whether there could be direct infringement where Toshiba had sold or offered to sell all of the components of a claimed system, even if the components were sold separately to be assembled by the customer. Id. at 5-7.

Finally, Judge Stark denied Toshiba’s motion for spoliation sanctions based on the destruction of documents by a prior owner of the patents-in-suit. As Judge Stark explained, Toshiba did not “put forth sufficient evidence to support a finding of bad faith,” as required for a finding of spoliation. Id. at 8-9. Rather, the evidence suggested that a “benign explanation [was] more plausible” because the records destroyed by the predecessor-in-interest to St. Clair were destroyed under a standard record retention policy. Id. The more recent destruction of backup data was “more complex” because it more likely contained relevant information, it occurred after St. Clair had already commenced litigation and notified the prior owner that it would be subject to document requests and subpoenas, and St. Clair appeared to have control over the documents. Id. at 9-10. But here too there was no evidence of bad faith in destruction of the backup data. Accordingly, Judge Stark explained that although the “nearly complete destruction of many of [the prior owner’s] historic files is worrying (and potentially negligent), the record does not support sanctioning St. Clair for spoliation.” Id. at 10.

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In a recent memorandum order, Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark ruled on several pre-trial in limine motions and provided guidance on trial issues.  Masimo Corp. v. Philips Elec. N. Am. Corp. et al., C.A. No. 09-80-LPS (D. Del. Aug. 27, 2014).  Chief Judge Stark first denied a motion seeking to exclude evidence that a third party’s  product received FDA clearance pursuant to §510k, finding such evidence relevant to whether the product is an acceptable alternative to the plaintiff’s own product, and not unfairly prejudicial.  The Court also excluded, sua sponte, any evidence of reexamination of any of the patents-in-suit, finding that the risk of jury confusion and waste of the jury’s time outweighed any probative value such evidence may have.

Chief Judge Stark also provided some guidance on objections at trial to the scope of an expert’s testimony, and to the manner in which certain evidence could be presented during the jury trial, which was to precede a bench trial on equitable issues.  First, the Court granted the parties’ request that the Court rule on objections to the scope of an expert’s testimony during trial, rather than simply preserving the objections for post-trial briefing.  Chief Judge Stark explained that he “views the ‘scope’ of what has previously been disclosed to include anything that was disclosed by an expert in any expert report, any expert declaration, and/or any expert deposition testimony.”  With respect to equitable issues, in this case one relating to laches, Chief Judge Stark made clear that “no evidence that is solely admissible with respect to the issues to be tried to the bench will be presented to the jury.  Such evidence will be presented only to the bench. . . . The Court will rule at trial on objections to evidence that is arguably relevant both to issues being tried to the jury and to the bench.”

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Chief Judge Stark, considering a defendant’s motion to transfer a patent infringement case to the Southern District of Ohio, recently issued a memorandum order granting the motion because all but one factor of the transfer analysis were either neutral or weighed in favor of transfer. Nalco Co. v. AP Tech Group Inc., C.A. No. 13-1063-LPS, Memo. Or. at 1 (D. Del. Aug. 8, 2014). Judge Stark explained that only the choice of forum of the plaintiff disfavored transfer and the “amount of deference to be given to [the plaintiff’s] choice of forum is somewhat reduced given that Delaware is not [the plaintiff’s] ‘home turf.’” Id. at 1-2 (citing In re Link_A_Media Devices Corp., 662 F.3d 1221, 1223 (Fed. Cir. 2011)). By contrast, the defendant’s choice of forum, relative convenience of the parties, location in which the claims arose, and location of books and records all weighed in favor of transfer. Id. at 2-3. Accordingly, Judge Stark found that the defendant had “met its heavy burden of demonstrating that this case should be transferred to the Southern District.” Id. at 3.

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In Technology Innovations Associates v. Google, Inc., C.A. No. 13-0355-LPS (D. Del. Aug. 7, 2014), Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark recently construed a single term of the patents-in-suit – “sticky path” – having previously granted defendant’s request for early construction of this term.  The Court had agreed that this “proposed early, limited claim construction process would likely facilitate the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of this action, even if the Court’s construction did not prove to be case dispositive.”  Id. at 1.  The Court adopted the plaintiff’s proposed construction, although the issue was a “close call.”  Id. at 6.

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In a recent Oral Order, Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark addressed the parties’ protective order dispute and adopted defendant’s proposed prosecution bar, which extended to post-grant proceedings, including inter partes review. M/A-COM Technology Solutions Holdings Inc. v. Laird Technologies Inc., C.A. No. 14-181-LPS, Oral Order (D. Del. July 31, 2014).  Judge Stark explained that “[g]ood cause for the requested protection exists, at least to deal with the risk of the patentee strategically narrowing the scope of its claims based on (even inadvertently) information it learns from [defendant’s] highly confidential information.” Judge Stark further explained that “[p]atentee has provided no evidence that it will be unduly prejudiced by [defendant’s] proposed bar,” noting particularly that “there is no evidence that current litigation counsel has ever participated in prosecuting patents for Plaintiff.” Judge Stark concluded that the “balance of interests” favored defendant.  The final prosecution bar entered in the matter reads as follows:

Any attorney or agent who receives or reviews any information or documents designated as “Highly Confidential – Outside Attorney Eyes Only” and/or “Confidential” by any party other than his or her client shall not thereafter prosecute, supervise, or materially assist in the prosecution of any patent application, or otherwise in the amendment of any application and/or patent, related to the technology that is the subject matter of this lawsuit during the pendency of this case and for one year after the conclusion of this litigation. To avoid any doubt, for purposes of this paragraph, “prosecution” includes directly or indirectly drafting, amending, advising, or otherwise affecting the scope or maintenance of patent claims of the patent-in-suit, a divisional, a continuation, a continuation-in-part, a re-issue, an ex parte reexamination, a post-grant review, inter partes review, or a foreign counterpart related in any way to the patent-in-suit and/or related to the technology that is the subject matter of this lawsuit.

 See D.I. 176.

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In Magnetar Technologies Corp., et al. v. Six Flags Theme Parks, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 07-127-LPS (D. Del. July 29, 2014), Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark adopted a number of Magistrate Judge Thynge’s Reports and Recommendations, having heard oral argument on plaintiffs’ objections in April 2014. The Court found the asserted claim of one patent-in-suit invalid and the other patent-in-suit not infringed. As these rulings resolved the case in favor of defendants, the Court also directed that judgment be entered in their favor in this same Memorandum Order.

The Court adopted Judge Thynge’s recommendation to grant defendants’ Daubert motion to exclude plaintiffs’ infringement expert, as the expert’s report did not adequately show how each element of a claim of the patent-in-suit was satisfied (Judge Thynge’s opinion here). Id. at 5-6.

The Court also granted-in-part defendants’ motion to exclude plaintiffs’ lay opinion witness (Judge Thynge’s opinion here), rejecting plaintiffs’ argument that Judge Thynge did not have authority to address this issue because it was a “pretrial matter” going to relevance. Id. at 6 (it was proper and efficient to refer all motions to Judge Thynge, “including those requiring a determination of the relevancy of testimony”).

The Court also adopted Judge Thynge’s rulings on infringement and invalidity (linked here), granting-in-part plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment of infringement of one claim of a patent-in-suit, but also granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment of invalidity of the same claim. The parties had requested that the Court address infringement even though the Court ruled this claim invalid. Id. at 9.

As to summary judgment on a second patent-in-suit, the Court again accepted Judge Thynge’s recommendations to grant defendants’ motion for summary judgment of non-infringement and to deny plaintiffs’ motion for infringement. Id. at 11.

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