The District of Delaware has announced its newest panel of special masters. The five on the panel, three of whom are former judicial officers, are:
Vincent J. Poppiti
David A. White
Louis C. Bechtle
B. Wilson Redfearn
Richard K. Hermann
The panel members, who serve "at the pleasure of the Judges of the Court," are eligible to hear and resolve discovery disputes in intellectual property cases.
After a jury trial returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff, Judge Farnan recently presided over a bench trial on the issue of plaintiff’s standing. The Dow Chemical Company v. Nova Chemicals Corporation (Canada), et al., C.A. 05-737-JJF (D. Del. July 30, 2010). Plaintiff and its subsidiary entered into an agreement to transfer certain patent rights from plaintiff to the subsidiary. The issue before Judge Farnan was whether this agreement transferred ownership of the patents-in-suit such that plaintiff no longer had standing. Id. at 3. Judge Farnan concluded that plaintiff was the legal owner of the patents at all relevant times throughout the litigation. Id. at 6. Patents were transferred under the agreement once they were listed on a Schedule A to the agreement. Id. Defendants argued that the patents were transferred because there was no Schedule A to the agreement. Id. at 7. However, plaintiff presented evidence that a document entitled “Schedule B Supplement – Patent Rights” was intended to be Schedule A and reference to Schedule B was a typographical error. Id.
District judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr. recently issued a strongly worded decision on willfulness, one that all litigators - and in-house counsel - should heed. The Court initially ordered a retrial on willfulness following the Federal Circuit's Seagate decision. In its subsequent post-trial decision, the Court made clear its thoughts on reverse engineering:
"Faced with this failed attempt [at a design-around] and despite its knowledge of the '075 patent and its importance to the industry, Fairchild chose the option that presented the most objectively high risk of infringement, namely to continue the development of its product by copying, through reverse engineering, the methods and features claimed in the patent."
The Court characterized such behavior concerning the '075 patent and the other patents-in-suit as "industrial stalking" and "blatant copying." The result, even with evidence of post-litigation opinions of counsel, was a textbook willfulness finding.
Judge Farnan recently denied plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction related to handheld mobile computers. Symbol Technologies, Inc. v. Janam Technologies LLC, C.A. No. 08-340-JJF (D. Del. July 20, 2010). Judge Farnan found that plaintiff had shown a likelihood of success on the merits that two of plaintiff’s patents-at-issue were infringed. Id. at 16-17, 29. However, Judge Farnan also found that defendant “raised a substantial question” whether claims of the patents were invalid and plaintiff failed to prove that the defense lacked “substantial merit or [was] reasonably likely to fail.” Id. at 22; see also id. at 28, 33.
In the ANDA case Sepracor Inc. v. Dey L.P. and Dey, Inc., C.A. 06-113-JJF (D. Del. July 15, 2010), Judge Farnan granted plaintiff’s motion to amend its complaint to add claims for damages after defendants began selling their generic product and to add defendants’ parent companies as parties. Although the original claims were ready for trial Judge Farnan granted plaintiffs’ request to add the parent companies because the parent companies were involved in the sale and distribution of the generic product in question. Id. at 5. Moreover, any further discovery that may be necessary would not unduly prejudice the defendants because the discovery would be limited to only the sale and distribution of the product. Id. Judge Farnan also denied defendants request to bifurcate damages from liability because the limited discovery would not cause any undue delays and there would be no danger of confusion for the jury. Id. at 7.
The Court construed the following claim terms in a case involving patented telecommunications technology:
- a “connection” or “communications connection”
- “changing over…during the existing transfer” and “changing over…without interruption of the communications connection”
- “changing over…without interruption of a setup procedure”
- “means responsive to a control signal for changing over”
- The Court found the term “[a] device that provides access by said switching apparatus [to a mobile (phone) packet-switching network/through a line-switching network] through which data packets can be sent for delivery to a destination end terminal” indefinite for reasons set forth in a separate opinion.
Sigram Schindler Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH v. Cisco Systems, Inc., C.A. No. 09-72-SLR, Memo. Order (D. Del. July 26, 2010).
Of note, the court construed only the “most essential” terms based on the parties’ infringement contentions and deferred consideration of additional terms related to the parties’ invalidity contentions based on a stay of the merits of validity pending reexamination. Id. at 2 n.2.
Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss a copyright infringement action over audio compression technology. Vianix LLC v. Nuance Communications, Inc., C.A. No. 09-348-JJF, Memo. Op. (D. Del. July 20, 2010). Defendant argued that plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because plaintiff “has not identified the specific original works” that form the basis of their claims and because it has not “identified specific acts” that are actionable as infringement. Id. at 3. The court found that plaintiff’s complaint “sufficiently pleads which specific original works are the subject of its copyright claims” because it identifies the accused works as “four computer programs, in the form of source code, embodying the MASC Technology” and lists the four copyright registrations, in addition to alleging that plaintiff provided a number of the accused works to the defendant in “object code” and that there were seven specific products since 2005 that incorporate the accused works. Id. at 7-8. The court further found that plaintiff alleged specific acts of infringement when it alleged that defendant’s “making and storing  ‘archived copies of its own products, including versions that contain Vianix’ including the Subject Works” were acts of infringement. Id. at 9.
It’s always a looming question in patent litigation – who goes first in responding to contention interrogatories and how much information must be provided? Special Master Bechtle addressed just this issue in XPoint Technologies, Inc. v. Intel Corporation, C.A. No. 09-26-SLR, Special Master Order 14 (D. Del. June 25, 2010). In this case, the parties simultaneously exchanged responses to contention interrogatories, however, defendant argued that while it provided full and complete answers to the contentions plaintiff propounded on it, that plaintiff only provided some information and then waited until after receipt of defendant’s contentions to use that information and then supplement its own responses. Id. at 2. First, Special Master Bechtle stated that although the court’s scheduling order required that responses to contention interrogatories be filed on or before a date certain, there was no requirement that the responses be exchanged simultaneously. Id. at 3. Second, the Special Master disagreed with the plaintiff’s “theory that use of the word ‘first’ and the other words by the court in ¶2(c)(3) of its scheduling order means that a party with Rule 33 interrogatory answering responsibility can answer those interrogatories by providing a partial response.” Id. at 5. Rule 33 requires that the interrogatory “be answered completely and truthfully” and “must use all of the information a party has at that time…that allows the interrogatory to be fully responded to. The plain meaning of the Rule does not allow a knowing half answer, or a knowing partial answer, or some sort of temporary response.” Id. at 6. In this case, however, the defendant did not show any harm by plaintiff’s failure to comply to warrant dismissal of the claims and issues concerning products other than those included in its original interrogatory response. Id. at 12.
In a recent transfer opinion, Judge Bartle (sitting by designation from the E.D. Pa.) granted defendant Life Technologies Corporation’s motion to transfer to the Southern District of California. Boram Pharm. Co., Ltd. v. Life Technologies Corp., C.A. No. 10-31-HB, Memo. (D. Del. July 14, 2010). This was not a case where the plaintiff’s home turf is Delaware, since Boram is a South Korean company. The court found that the “critical factors” weighing in favor of transfer in this case are the “convenience of the parties and the witnesses.” Id. at 3. Specifically, Life Technologies demonstrated that 10 key witnesses are in the Southern California and all non-party witnesses are within that court’s subpoena power. Id. Furthermore, all of the “key research, testing, development, marketing, sales, and manufacture of the Accused Products” takes place in Southern California. Id. Also, although both parties are large corporations “and by implication can afford to indulge in litigation in this, the more expensive forum, it is no reason for the court to countenance this indulgence.” Id. at 4.