Judge Farnan recently dismissed Microsoft’s declaratory judgment complaint, involving Microsoft’s MapPoint and Virtual Earth services, against WebXchange because no case or controversy existed sufficient to confer subject matter jurisdiction. Microsoft Corporation v. Webxchange, Inc., C.A. 09-484-JJF (D. Del. Oct. 30, 2009). Microsoft had previously filed a complaint against WebXchange in the Northern District of California which was also dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at 2-3. Granting WebXchange’s motion to dismiss, Judge Farnan reasoned that: (1) “Microsoft does not allege even one instance of WebXchange accusing infringement based on the use of Virtual Earth[,]” id. at 7; (2) “no controversy exists by virtue of WebXchange’s infringement suits against Microsoft customers who use MapPoint[,]” id. at 8; (3) “the alleged damage caused by [WebXchange’s cases against Microsoft customers] to Microsoft’s relations with its customers, . . . does not create a controversy between the parties[;] id. at 10, and (4) “WebXchange’s failure to covenant not to sue Microsoft does not create an actual controversy by itself.” Id.
In Personalized User Model LLP v. Google, Inc., C.A. No. 09-525-JJF (D. Del. Oct. 27, 2009), Judge Farnan issued an opinion on a motion by defendant Google to transfer a pending patent infringement suit to the Norther District of California (its home state) under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
The opinion implicitly criticized the current state of Third Circuit law on § 1404(a) motions to transfer. According to the Court, "1404(a) is not complicated," and lays out three "simple, straightforward principles." Id. at 2. But "[i]n the Third Circuit, district courts are required to analyze and weigh a set of eleven (11) private/public factors." Id. The Court analyzed each of the 11 factors, listing in four pages of tables each party's arguments and the Court's conclusions. The Court ultimately denied the motion to transfer under the 11 factors, noting that "[i]nterestingly, the Court would reach the same conclusion by applying the three principles of Section 1404(a) without the enhanced analysis required by the eleven private/public factors of the case law." Id. at 7-8.
As it has in the past, the Court rejected arguments regarding the location of witnesses and documents. Id. at 4, 6. Among the Court's findings on each of the 11 factors, the Court noted that "[t]here are no significant public efficiency" or "public policy" differences between the District of Delaware and the Northern District of California, and that "[p]atent cases are national cases and seldom open to a local interest analysis." Id. at 6-7. The Court made no indication that it plans to start granting motions to transfer any time soon; when a patent plaintiff files a case in Delaware, it stays in Delaware.
Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Eduardo C. Robreno, sitting by designation, recently issued a memorandum opinion addressing discovery issues in Inventio AG v. Thyssenkrupp Elevator Americas Corporation et al., C.A. No. 08-874-ECR (D. Del. Oct. 8, 2009). Defendant moved to compel production of two categories of documents: letters and deposition transcripts from plaintiff's pending S.D.N.Y infringement case on a related patent, and "all nonprivileged documents contained in [plaintiff's] internal patent prosecution files with respect to the patents-in-suit." Id. at 1-2.
As to the first request, Judge Robreno determined that the documents from the S.D.N.Y. suit, although mostly relevant, were covered under a stipulated protective order and that "this Court is without authority to alter the Protective Ordered entered by another court by ordering production of any documents within [its] scope." Id. at 18. The court did, however, order plaintiff to identify the protected documents in a privilege log and, after the court determines which documents are relevant, to return before the judge in the S.D.N.Y. action and seek relief from the protective order as to those documents. Id. at 18-19.
As to the second request, seeking all of the plaintiff's internal patent prosecution documents, Judge Robreno held that the only ground under which plaintiff could withhold the documents is privilege, and that privilege must be claimed on a document-by-document basis rather than plaintiff's "blanket statement" that all internal patent prosecution documents are non-discoverable. Id. at 20.
Judge Robreno also included an interesting explanation of the scope of discovery under Rule 26. He analogized the types of information discoverable under Rule 26 to "three concentric circles," because parties must disclose first "information integral to the litigation . . . without the necessity of a discovery request," FRCP 26(a), then "nonprivileged information that is 'relevant to any party's claim or defense' upon a request," FRCP 26(b)(1), and finally "broader discovery of 'any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action,' where such information is likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and the party making the discovery request can establish 'good cause' to support the request." Id. at 7-9 (hyperlink added). As far as I can tell from a brief Lexis search, this apt analogy is unique to this memorandum opinion.
What do you do when a key witness falls ill and is no longer able to testify? Judge Robinson in Genetics Institute, LLC v. Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc. excused the inventor/witness from testifying based on a letter from her doctor. She noted, however, that "because it is not clear from the submission how the diagnosed condition is affecting [the inventor's] daily life, sanctions will be imposed against [the defendant] in this case if [the inventor] provides any testimony (through a declaration, a deposition or at trial) in any other case involving the patents at bar." C.A. No. 08-290-SLR, Order (D. Del. Oct. 23, 2009). She further stated that "[d]epending on the circumstances, I would consider sanctions ranging in severity from the imposition of an adverse inference to the imposition of the costs of a new trial to the imposition of an adverse judgment." Id.
Jurisdictional discovery is a valuable tool that can be used to stave off an action's dismissal for a lack of personal jurisdiction. A recent decision by Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet provides a roadmap for this type of discovery, at least where the formation of a separate Delaware entity comprises the jurisdictional dispute. After deferring decision on the underlying motion, the Court ordered the following discovery:
"(1) [Movant's] role in the formation, investment in, or contribution to any of the Delaware entities [at issue]; and (2) [the alleged alter ego's] corporate structure, as well as [movant's] role within that structure. Such discovery shall include, but is not limited to, all correspondence between [movant] and the State of Delaware Department of State, and all correspondence between [movant] and any State of Delaware registered agents."
Claim construction often can be a complex affair - or not. In a recent decision, Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet construed several terms according to their plain meaning. By doing so, the Court reminded practitioners of the Federal Circuit's admonition that not all claims must be rephrased:
"In some cases, the ordinary meaning of claim language as understood by a person of skill in the art may be readily apparent even to lay judges, and claim construction in such cases involves little more than the application of the widely accepted meaning of commonly understood words."
On Monday, Judge Robinson issued a thorough, lengthy opinion resulting from a patent infringement bench trial where Judge Robinson found in favor of plaintiff Alcon, despite several claim construction and validity arguments by defendant Teva. Alcon, Inc. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Civ. No. 06-234-SLR (Oct. 19, 2009). Teva had filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application (“ANDA”) “to market a generic version of the antibacterial drug VIGAMOX® proprietary to plaintiffs.” Id. at 1. VIGAMOX is an antibiotic, and its active ingredient, moxifloxacin hydrochloride, is protected by Patent No. 6,716,830, according to Alcon. Teva’s submission of an ANDA is an act of infringement, id. at 14, so the two issues in this case were (1) claim construction (whether the Teva’s generic is covered by the Alcon’s patent) and (2) validity.
Claim construction turned solely on the definition of “moxifloxacin” as used in claim 1 of Alcon’s ‘830 patent. Id. at 14-15. Both Teva’s generic and Alcon’s patent include “moxifloxacin” as the active ingredient, but Teva argued that Alcon’s patent had redefined “moxifloxacin” to mean something narrower than the ordinary industry understanding of that term. According to Teva, “because the specification . . . provides an alternate meaning for the claim term ‘moxifloxacin’ in the form of the depiction of a structurally different compound, the ordinary meaning of moxifloxacin has been displaced.” Id. at 18. Teva further argued that the specification referred to a “new class of antibiotics,” and that quinolones, the class to which moxifloxacin belongs, “were not a new class of antibiotics; therefore, the subject matter of the ‘830 patent must be directed to a different family of compounds.” Id. The court rejected each of these arguments, because “[t]he record before the court is replete with instances in which Teva’s proposed construction is at odds with the specification of the ‘830 patent so as to cause an absence of the . . . clarity, deliberateness and precision” required for a patentee to “act as his own lexicographer.” Id. at 18-19.
The validity analysis started with anticipation, which focused on a prior patent. Id. at 21-26. The prior patent disclosed a similar moxifloxacin composition, but at a different concentration range. Id. at 24-25. The ‘830 patent claimed a concentration range of “0.1 to 1.0 wt%,” while the prior patent’s range was “0.5 to 99.5 wt%.” Id. The court held that the prior patent did not anticipate the ‘830 patent, based on a genus/species analysis of the “range disparity” between the claimed and disclosed concentration numbers. Id. at 25. The court also rejected Teva’s argument that the prior patent had an “inherent range” that extended below the explicitly disclosed range. Id. at 26.
The court then addressed obviousness. Teva argued “that a motivation to combine exists inasmuch as moxifloxacin would have been ‘obvious to try’ in a topical ophthalmic composition, due to both market pressure and the existence of ‘a finite number of identified, predictable solutions’ to treat ophthalmic infections,’” and further that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have expected the combination to have desirable properties. Id. at 28. The court rejected each of these arguments, holding that “the record indicates anything but a finite number of identified, predictable solutions,” and that even if the result of substitution was predictable, that “provides little insight” into the “crucial” question of “whether the prior art motivated a person of ordinary skill to even select moxifloxacin for use in a . . . composition.” Id. at 30. In particular, the court focused on the fact that “the prior art consistently taught away from the use of moxifloxacin” in such compounds, due to its toxicity, poor performance, and ineffectiveness against certain “key” pathogens. Id. at 36, 30-33. Secondary considerations also supported non-obviousness, including initial skepticism by other experts in the field, the long felt need for a compound like this, the commercial success of VIGAMOX(r) (which achieved hundreds of millions of dollars in sales), and some unexpected properties of the invention. Id. at 35-36.
Finally, the court addressed the form requirements for validity, including best mode, written description, and enablement. Teva argued that the inventor had known, but failed to disclose, that the salt form of moxifloxacin was more effective, thus failing the best mode requirement; the court held that the inventor was not subjectively aware of the increased effectiveness of the salt form, and even if he had been, the salt form provides no material improvement anyway. Id. at 39-41. Regarding the written description requirement, Teva claimed that the specification called for a preservative, but the composition claimed did not include one; the court held that the specification encompassed embodiments that did not include a preservative, and thus met the requirement. Id. at 41-44. Finally, as to enablement, Teva asserted that the claim required undue experimentation, based on a lack of process steps in the specification; the court held that a person of ordinary skill in the art could determine appropriate steps and practice the invention.
In Honeywell International, Inc. v. Nikon Corp., C.A. No. 04-1337-JJF (Oct. 14, 2009), Judge Farnan, adopting the recommendation of Special Master Vincent J. Poppiti, ordered $18,000 in sanctions against InnoLux, a defendant in a patent infringement case, for its discovery behavior. Id. at 2. These sanctions resulted from a November 25, 2008 order requiring InnoLux to give plaintiff Honeywell an opportunity to re-depose the InnoLux's 30(b)(6) witness, because at the original deposition InnoLux rased multiple groundless objections, improperly instructed the witness not to answer questions allegedly outside of the scope of the discovery order, and possibly failed to adequately prepare the witness.
According to the Court's original order, "each and every objection and ensuing instruction not to answer on the grounds of work product was improper, and each is hereby stricken." Nov. 25th Order, at 3. Further, "It is inappropriate to instruct a 30(b)(6) witness not to answer a question, unless there is an appropriate claim of privilege." Id. Honeywell raised concerns about the witness's lack of preparation, and the number of times that the witness answered "I don't know"; the Court found that each of the questions that elicited an "I don't know" or to which an objection was raised were actually within the scope of the 30(b)(6) notice. Id. at 4-5. Due to the InnoLux's behavior, the Court ordered that the 30(b)(6) witness be re-deposed, and that the firm bear the costs of the deposition, including attorney's fees. Id. at 5. Although the court did not characterize these costs as "sanctions" in the original order, the Oct. 14 order referred to them as "sanctions," and set the amount at $18,000. Oct. 14 Order, at 2.
A recent decision by district judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr. reaffirms the difficulty parties often have in transferring actions out of the District of Delaware. In considering defendant Hologic's motion to transfer venue, the Court recognized that nearly identical litigation between the same parties was already pending in the transferee jurisdiction. But, unlike most other transfer scenarios, Hologic had also filed a third action in Delaware, seeking to enforce its own patents on the same technology.
According to the Court, Hologic's decision to affirmatively litigate its own patents in Delaware weakened its position on transfer:
"The fact that Hologic initiated suit against Ethicon in this District - even though the parties were involved in other patent litigation concerning similar technology in the Southern District of Ohio - indicates that Hologic does not consider this District to be an inconvenient forum."
As a result, Hologic could not justify a transfer out of Delaware. This case stands as a reminder that first-filed pending litigation among the parties, which usually favors a transfer, can also stand as an impediment to obtaining a new forum.
In Robert Bosch LLC v. Pylon Manufacturing Corp., C.A. No. 08-542-SLR (D. Del. Oct. 19, 2009), Judge Robinson applied the Federal Circuit Exergen decision to Plaintiff’s motion to amend its complaint to add a claim of inequitable conduct. Plaintiff based its motion to amend on the assertion that one of the patent-in-issue’s inventors submitted an affidavit to the PTO containing a misrepresentation regarding the affiant’s review of the related application. Id. at 3. While agreeing with Plaintiff that submitting a false affidavit to the PTO “establishes at least a threshold level of materiality,” Judge Robinson noted that “there was no allegation that the affiant at bar did not contribute to the invention, or that the application that matured into the ‘380 patent contains otherwise false representations.” Id. at 4. Judge Robinson denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend because, under Exergen, she will not allow an inequitable conduct claim “to be pursued after the close of discovery when there are insufficient allegations of underlying facts from which [she] may reasonably infer that the material misrepresentation was made with a specific intent to deceive the PTO.” Id. (emphasis added).
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