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.
Judge Robinson: Motion to amend complaint to add inequitable conduct claim DENIED under new Exergen standard
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).
Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet: Limits Disputed Claim Terms Per Patent to 10 in All Future Patent Actions
In an order issued in Grape Technology Group, Inc. v. Jingle Networks, Inc., Chief Judge Sleet pronounced in a footnote that the Court will impose a limit of 10 disputed claim terms per patent for claim construction in all future patent actions. Specifically, he noted:
"Although disinclined to do so in the past, the court - regrettably - will impose a limit of 10 disputed terms per patent for claim construction in this and all future patent actions." Grape Technology Group, Inc. v. Jingle Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 08-408-GMS, Order, at n. 1 (D. Del. October 20, 2009).
This opinion, by Judge Hillman (sitting by designation from the District of New Jersey pursuant to the standing order in this Court), addreses an issue of first impression for the Court related to subject matter jurisdiction over copyrighted images on the Internet. Moberg v. 33T LLC, C.A. No. 08-625-MLH-JS, Opinion (D. Del. Oct. 6, 2009). Pursuant to the Copyright Act, a plaintiff alleging infringement os a U.S. work must have registered the work. Id. at 5. The work plaintiff alleged was infringed was posted on a German website. Defendant argued the work was a U.S. work that plaintiff failed to register and therefore this Court lacked jurisdiction to hear any infringement action. Id. at 5-7. The Court, therefore, needed to decide whether a photograph posted to a foreign website is simultaneously "published" everywhere and therefore is a U.S. work and must be registed. Id. at 6-7.
The Court found that this work was not "published simultaneously" worldwide and therefore is not a U.S. work subject to registration. Id. at 14-15. A different finding would be contrary to the Berne Convention, would "allow American citizens to infringe on foreign copyrighted works without fear of legal retribution," and the United States copyright laws "provide for protection of foreign works in the United States without requiring the artists to undetake any formalties in the United States." Id.
In Honeywell International Inc. et al. v. Apple Computer, Inc. et al., C.A. 04-1337-JJF (D. Del. Oct. 5, 2009), Honeywell filed a motion to dismiss Defendant InnoLux without prejudice under Fed. R. Civ. P. 41, while InnoLux, in addition to previously filing a motion for summary judgment, requested that InnoLux be dismissed from the litigation with prejudice. Id. at 1-2. Special Master Poppiti denied both requests for dismissal. Instead, Special Master Poppiti gave Honeywell two days to decide whether they would “either (1) accept dismissal of InnoLux with prejudice or (2) withdraw the Motion and proceed to a resolution of InnoLux’s pending Motion for Summary Judgment.” Id. at 2, 14. Special Master Poppiti reasoned that the factors evaluated to determine whether voluntary dismissal without prejudice would prejudice the dismissed defendant weighed in InnoLux’s favor. Id. at 6-12.