December 22, 2011

Noninfringement Judgment Appropriate where Plaintiff’s Expert provides “conclusory opinions with respect to the function-way-result test”

In November, Judge Robinson issued a claim construction order and summary judgment opinions in Apeldyn Corp. v. AU Optronics Corp., C.A. No. 08-568-SLR (D. Del. Nov. 15, 2011). Since then, Judge Robinson has considered motions for reargument from each side and this week issued an opinion and amended order in Apeldyn Corp. v. AU Optronics Corp., C.A. No. 08-568-SLR (D. Del. Dec. 19, 2011). Noting that the standard for obtaining relief on motions for reconsideration “is difficult to meet,” the court nevertheless granted one motion, denied another, and clarified its claim construction order.

Judge Robinson had previously granted summary judgment of noninfringement to CMO, and “[a]t the pretrial conference, Apeldyn argued that the court erred in granting summary judgment of noninfringement . . . [based on the fact that] ‘Apeldyn [did] not cite any evidence in opposition to CMO’s motion.’” Id. at 1. Judge Robison gave Apeldyn a chance to submit a “letter directing the court to any such evidence properly cited in its responsive brief.” Id. Apeldyn submitted citations to its expert’s report and other evidence that was either not in the record or was not adduced by Apeldyn. Apeldyn also submitted a motion for reargument. Although Judge Robinson noted that “CMO objects to Apeldyn’s expansion of the record,” she noted that “the court must ultimately address more of [the expert’s] report than that which was cited in Apeldyn’s opposition brief in order to fully articulate Apeldyn’s infringement position and, ultimately, the sufficiency of [the] noninfringement proffer.” Id. at 5. Having determined that she would look at the expert report, Judge Robison found the report “insufficient to pass muster.” Because the report did not “provide the limitation-by-limitation discussion of equivalence contemplated by the Federal Circuit, the court denie[d] Apeldyn’s motion and [did] not amend its grant of summary judgment of noninfringement with respect to CMO.” Id. at 9.

Judge Robinson had also previously denied AUO’s motions for summary judgment of noninfringement “because AUO did not support its noninfringement arguments with an expert’s opinion.” Id. Judge Robinson granted reargument, however, because there was “no dispute as to how the accused products operate.” Because Apeldyn’s expert’s “proffer with respect to AUO parallels that for CMO . . . the judgment must be amended to prevent manifest injustice to AUO by allowing Apeldyn to go forward to a jury trial on legally insufficient evidence.” Id. at 10. As with CMO, “[b]ecause [Apeldyn’s expert] did not provide particularized testimony describing his doctrine of equivalents theory on a limitation-by-limitation basis, and provided only conclusory opinions with respect to the function-way-result test, the court grants AUO’s motion for reargument and will enter judgment of noninfringement with respect to AUO.” Id. at 12.

Judge Robinson also clarified her claim construction order, stating that the “court’s understanding of the technology of the ‘382 patent, as articulated at the pretrial conference, may not have been most clearly conveyed in the claim construction order.” Id. at 3-4. She issued a separate amended memorandum order clarifying the construction of the terms at issue consistent with this understanding.

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December 20, 2011

Judge Burke Denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Substitution, But Rules That the Proposed New Plaintiffs Be Joined as Parties in the Action

In Eastman Chemical Co. v. Alphapet Inc., et al., C.A. No. 09-971-LPS-CJB, Judge Burke denied plaintiff’s motion to substitute two parties, but ruled that the two proposed parties be joined as plaintiffs in the action. Id. at 1. On the one hand, the original plaintiff argued that because it had sold “certain assets and technology” to the two parties it was seeking to be substituted for, including assigning the patents-in-suit to at least one of those parties, it should be dismissed from the lawsuit and that the two new parties should substituted in its place as the named plaintiffs. Id. at 2. On the other hand, in opposition to plaintiff’s motion for substitution, the defendants argued that the original plaintiff should not be dismissed because it “failed to provide sufficient evidence that all of the intellectual property, agreements, and other assets at issue had been transferred to the proposed new plaintiffs” and that, if anything, the appropriate course of action is to “join the two proposed plaintiffs rather than substitute them” for the plaintiff. Id. at 3. The Court agreed. The Court found that while the plaintiff had shown that “certain” of its relevant interests had been transferred to the proposed plaintiffs, the plaintiff had failed to offer sufficient evidence demonstrating that “all” of its interests relating to the litigation had been transferred. Id. at 7. The Court further found that, as a practical matter, joinder of the two new plaintiffs to the action (rather than substitution) would better facilitate the conduct of the litigation, and that the case is likely to proceed more efficiently if the original plaintiff remained a party. Id. at 10-11. The Court noted that while it did “not doubt that [the plaintiff] would fully comply with its discovery obligations under Rule 45 if [the proposed plaintiffs] were substituted for it in this action . . . such an outcome would likely add a significant layer of complication that would slow the progress of the case.” Id. at 11 (citation and internal quotations omitted). In addition, the Court noted that “Rule 25(c) does not explicitly provide for substitution or joinder on a claim-by-claim basis” and that the two proposed plaintiffs were being joined as parties to the entire action. Id. at 13.

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December 16, 2011

Judge Robinson Denies Motion to Stay Pending Reexam, But Notes Likelihood of a Different Result Under Similar Facts In the Future

In Helicos Biosciences Corp. v. Pacific Biosciences of California, et al., Civ. No. 10-735-SLR (D. Del. Dec. 16, 2011), Judge Robinson denied a motion to stay litigation pending the outcome of inter partes reexamination proceedings. Id. at 5. Judge Robinson first explained that the status of the litigation was neutral to the Court’s decision—discovery was initiated in March 2011, and was slated to be completed, including expert discovery, by April 2012. Id. at 3. Next, Judge Robinson noted that the “simplification of litigation” factor weighed against granting a stay, because “there is not a complete overlap between those issues to be resolved upon reexamination . . . and the issues to be tried in the case . . .,” especially since the litigation included one patent that was not involved in the reexamination. Id. at 4. Finally, considering potential prejudice resulting from granting a stay, Judge Robinson found that both the timing of the motion to stay (filed approximately eight months after litigation began, three months after the requests for reexamination were filed, and between two weeks and one month after the requests for reexaminations were granted) and the status of the reexaminations (prosecutions of 3 of 4 patents had not yet closed) weighed against granting a stay. Id. at 4-5. Finally, Judge Robinson considered the relationship of the parties, and found that although the Court was not making definitive findings on the issue, the Court was satisfied at this juncture that “Helicos is a market participant . . . such that this factor generally disfavors a stay.” Id. at 6. Judge Robinson noted that the Court’s ruling likely would be different if the same facts were presented in the future: “The Leahy-Smith Act (H.R. 1249) . . . requires courts to automatically stay litigation filed after a petition for reexamination. H.R. 1249 is not yet controlling. While the reexamination was filed after the litigation in this case, the court would likely stay the case if it were subject to the new legislation.” Id. at 3 n.2.

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December 16, 2011

Judge Andrews Considers Failure to Prosecute Claim, Orders Monetary Sanction Rather Than Immediate Dismissal

Judge Andrews recently issued a memorandum opinion in the case of WebXChange Inc. v. Dell Inc., et al., Civ. No. 08-132-RGA (D. Del. Dec. 15, 2011). WebXChange sued Dell and Federal Express for patent infringement, but has had a history of “irreconcilable-and total-breakdown[s] in the client-lawyer relationship.” Id. at 2-4. The defendants sought dismissal of the case, and on November 9, the court issued an order to show cause why the action should not be dismissed with prejudice. Id. at 4. When the plaintiff, without counsel, requested an extension of time to show cause, Judge Andrews noted that the plaintiff “has been in default of its obligations to prosecute the case since July 6, 2011.” Id. The plaintiff was “personally responsible for its lack of counsel . . . prejudice to the defendants arises from the delay . . . [and the] plaintiff’s conduct has been willful.” Id. at 6-7. Nevertheless, the court found that the plaintiff’s claim could be meritorious. Id. at 8. Therefore, although the facts “mostly suggest[ed] that dismissal [was] appropriate,” the court it instead took an “intermediate step . . . namely the imposition of a monetary sanction.” Id. at 8. Because “‘nothing has happened in the case’ since February 2011,” Judge Andrews concluded that it would “not make sense . . . that if new counsel do enter an appearance on January 17, 2012, the case should just go on as if the last six-to-eleven months had not happened.” Id. at 7. The plaintiff was therefore given until January 17, 2012 to both find new counsel and post $100,000 in escrow with the Clerk of the Court for defense costs.

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December 12, 2011

Court Issues Claim Construction Order Relating to Vehicle Navigation Systems

In Vehicle IP, LLC v. AT&T Mobility LLC, et al., Civ. No. 09-1007-LPS (D. Del. Dec. 12, 2011), Judge Stark construed three claims of a patent entitled “Method and Apparatus for Determining an Expected Time of Arrival” which the Court explained was “directed at improving vehicle navigation systems through more efficient distribution of navigation functions between a mobile unit located in the vehicle and a remote dispatch, yielding a more accurate determination of expected time of arrival.” Memo Op. at 1. Finding that the patent claims and specification used the term “expected time of arrival” consistently to mean a time of day, and not an interval of time, Judge Stark construed the term to mean “time of day at which the vehicle is expected to arrive somewhere (and not remaining travel time).” Id. at 6-7. Judge Stark construed the term “way point(s),” again focusing on the claims and specification (and rejecting both parties’ proffer of extrinsic evidence), to mean “intermediate point(s) on the way to the final destination (and not the final destination itself).” Id. at 9. Finding in the specification an additional function-based limitation, Judge Stark construed the term “dispatch” to mean “a computer-based communication and processing system remotely located from the vehicle that manages and monitors vehicles.” Id. at 11. Finally, the Court adopted the parties’ agreed-upon construction of the term “determine in response to the vehicle position” to mean “determine based on the vehicle position and update as the vehicle position changes position throughout the trip.” Id. at 6 n.2.

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December 9, 2011

Judge Kugler Grants Preliminary Injunction but Refuses to Order Recall in ANDA Case

Judge Kugler recently ruled on the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction in Sciele Pharma Inc. v. Lupin, C.A. No. 09-0037-RBK (D. Del. Dec. 6, 2011). Considering likelihood of success on the merits, Judge Kugler found that “since a generic drug’s label is found to control the analysis of potential infringement in a case like this one, and since Defendant’s label reflects a Tmax that falls within the range claimed in Plaintiff’s patent, Plaintiff has shown a likelihood [of infringement].” Id. at 11. Regarding irreparable harm, the court observed that the market for the branded drug was “in steady and irreversible decline, and has been for some time,” and found “that a loss of market position accompanied by market diminution presents an even stronger case for irreparability.” Id. at 18. The court then found irreparable harm based on “projected lost sales, price erosion, and lost market share, in concert with [a] claimed loss of goodwill.” Id.

While Judge Kugler found that a balancing of hardships generally favored the plaintiff and granted a preliminary injunction, he refused to order a recall of the generic product that had already been released. The court accepted the defendant’s argument on this point that a recall would be “onerous, complicated and expensive” and would result in “a loss of goodwill and harm to its reputation with distributors and retailers.” Id. at 19.

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December 9, 2011

Chief Judge Sleet Issues Order Construing Claims of Wireless Networking Technology Patent

Chief Judge Sleet recently issued a claim construction order in Extricom, Ltd. v. Meru Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 10-391-GMS (D. Del. Dec. 5, 2011). Of particular note, Judge Sleet construed the phrase “all the access points” to mean “a plurality of access points,” rejecting the argument that this construction would “inject confusion” into the meaning of the term. Id. at 1-2 n.2. The court found that “‘all access points’ refers for antecedence to ‘a plurality of access points,’ which appears in Claim 1 four lines above the instant term, and, as such, qualifies the term to define a plurality of access points rather than all access points on a network.” Id. The patent’s specification also supported this meaning, according to the court, because “the preferred embodiments describe the access points acting in groups that ‘are substantially independent’ and may be ‘regarded as separate systems,’ not a single unit.” Id.

Judge Sleet also construed the phrase “substantially in accordance with IEEE standard 802.11” as having its plain and ordinary meaning. Id. at 2. In doing so, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the term is indefinite “because it does not . . . ‘particularly point[] out and distinctly claim[] the subject matter which the patentee regards as his invention.” Id. at 2 n.4. The court pointed to the Federal Circuit’s decision in Fujitsu Ltd. v. Netgear, Inc., 620 F.3d 1321 (Fed. Cir. 2010), which concluded that “where a patent incorporates a standard such as 802.11, which includes both mandatory and optional provisions, courts should compare the ‘claims . . . to the accused product to determine infringement.’” Id. The court also that the plaintiff’s “contention that one of ordinary skill in the art would understand the meaning of this term is likewise supported by the fact that over forty issued patents and pending patent applications use this or similar language in describing 802.11 Standard compliance.” Id.

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December 9, 2011

District Court Adopts New Default Standards for E-Discovery and Access to Source Code

Yesterday, the District Court adopted new default standards, the Default Standard for Discovery, including Discovery of Electronically Stored Information ("ESI"), and the Default Standard for Access to Source code.

Default Standard for Discovery, Including Discovery of Electronically Stored Information

Default Standard for Access to Source Code

December 8, 2011

Special Master orders a complete response to contention interrogatory where party responds to only portions of the interrogatory

In XPRT Ventures, LLC v. eBay, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 10-595-SLR (D. Del. Nov. 30, 2011), Special Master White granted defendants’ motion to compel plaintiff to provide a complete response to its interrogatory seeking plaintiff’s contentions on conception and reduction to practice for each claim of the patents-in-suit. Plaintiff opposed defendants’ motion arguing that its response was complete, that the interrogatory posed an undue burden, was duplicative of other discovery and imposed an unnecessary expense. Id. at 8. Special Master White disagreed. He found that the response was incomplete because it failed to provide any information concerning due diligence and failed to identify any documents, although requested by the interrogatory. Special Master White noted that plaintiff “may not pick-and-choose which portions of the discovery request that it likes, and then claim that the response is complete.” Id. Special Master White also found that the interrogatory did not pose an undue burden, was not duplicative and did not impose an unnecessary expense. Id. at 9-11. There was no undue burden because it is the plaintiff not the defendant that controls the number of claims asserted in the case. Id at 9. The interrogatory was not duplicative because choosing to serve “written discovery in advance of a deposition is hardly novel; nor is it objectionable for a party to want to know basic facts and receive relevant information and documents before taking a deposition; and it is inappropriate for the responding party to instruct the propounding party to ask the question at a deposition rather than provide a written response.” Id at 10. Last, the interrogatory posed no unnecessary expense because the information sought should be readily available to plaintiff. Id. at 11.

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December 5, 2011

Order construing claim terms of patent for a shower curtain fastening device

In Allure Home Creation Co., Inc. v. Maytex Mills, Inc., C.A. No. 10-712-GMS, Judge Sleet recently construed the following terms of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,698,061 and 7,003,848 which claim a a shower curtain fastening device:

"a sheet material having at least one aperture"
"a second component having first and second ends"
"the first end comprises a sleeve and a recess for matingly engaging the
extending member with a bulbous head"
"a second end comprising means for engaging the aperture of the sheet
material"
"the second component is connected to and freely rotatable about the
first component"
"a first component having first and second ends, wherein ... the second end comprises an extending member with a bulbous head"
"a first component having a first end, a second end and a hook"
"the second end comprises an extending member with an enlarged end comprising a bulbous head"

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