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Judge Sue L. Robinson recently denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss a first-filed declaratory judgment action or, in the alternative, to transfer it to the Northern District of New York where a second-filed infringement action was pending. Trustco Bank v. Automated Transactions LLC, Civ. No. 12-613-SLR (D. Del. Mar. 27, 2013). After the parties’ licensing negotiations broke down, the plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action in the District of Delaware, and within about three hours the defendant filed its own affirmative infringement action in the Northern District of New York. Id. at 2. The defendant then moved to dismiss the Delaware action, or in the alternative to transfer it to New York, and the plaintiff moved to enjoin the New York action. Id. at 1.

Judge Robinson explained that “[t]he Federal Circuit prefers ‘to apply in patent cases the general rule whereby the forum of the first-filed case is favored, unless considerations of judicial and litigant economy and the just and effective disposition of disputes, require otherwise.’” Id. at 3 (quoting Genentech, Inc. v. Eli Lilly and Co., 988 F.2d 931, 937 (Fed. Cir. 1993), rev’d on other grounds, Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277 (1995). To that end, the Court explained that the first-to-file rule should only be departed from in situations involving “bad faith, forum shopping, when the second-filed action has developed further than the initial suit, and when the first-filing party instituted suit in one forum in anticipation of the opposing party’s imminent suit in another, less favorable, forum.” Id. at 4.

The defendant first argued that the plaintiff’s bad faith negotiation tactics (alleged delay tactics intended to provide additional time to draft a declaratory judgment complaint) justified departing from the first-to-file rule. The Court rejected that argument, explaining that “[p]reparations for litigation during negotiations are commonplace and the court concludes that there is no evidence of bad faith.” Id. at 7. Further, the Court found that the plaintiff had justifiable reasons for choosing to file its declaratory judgment action in Delaware (including the defendant’s status as a Delaware entity with a history of litigating in Delaware), such that forum shopping was not an issue. Id. Finally, the Court did not view transferring the case to New York as compellingly favorable from a judicial economy standpoint given that the New York action was stayed pending resolution of the motion before the Court, and a related New York action was subject to a motion to transfer to the District of Delaware. Id. at 8.

The Court next considered whether it should exercise its discretion to transfer the action to New York under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), upon a consideration of the Jumara factors, and found that transfer was not warranted based on the information provided to the Court. Id. at 8-10. The Court explained that the plaintiff did not satisfy its “burden of overcoming the first-filed rule” or its “burden of persuading the court, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Jumara factors warrant transfer.” Id. at 11. As a result, the Court denied the defendant’s motion, and granted the plaintiff’s motion to enjoin the New York action. Id.

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Judge Leonard P. Stark recently denied a plaintiff’s motion to dismiss counterclaims for direct, indirect, and willful infringement. Fairchild Semiconductor Corp. v. Power Integrations, Inc., C.A. No. 12-540-LPS (D. Del. Mar. 29, 2013). The Court first considered the plaintiff’s argument that an allegation of infringement by “power supply controllers that include a ‘soft start’ feature and circuit covered by one or more claims of the ’366 patent” failed to sufficiently identify the accused products. Id. at 3-4. Judge Stark explained that “this Court has repeatedly declined to dismiss pleadings that accuse general categories of products[,]” because that is all Form 18 requires. Id. at 3-4. With respect to the specific allegation at issue, the Court explained that the defendant “has expressly identified a general category of products, power supply controllers, and further restricted that category to controllers that include certain features and circuits.” Id. at 4.

The Court next considered whether the defendant sufficiently pled “that [the plaintiff] had knowledge of the patents-in-suit prior to [the defendant] filing its counterclaims[.]” Id. at 7. The Court explained that “service of a complaint constitute[s] sufficient notice for an inducement claim based on post-filing conduct.” Id. at 6. Accordingly, the motion was denied to the extent it targeted post-filing conduct by the plaintiff. Id. The Court reached the same result with respect to the plaintiff’s argument that “specific intent to induce infringement” was not adequately pled, explaining that the defendant “satisfied the pleading requirements for induced infringement [of all asserted patents] based on post-filing conduct.” Id. at 8. The Court noted that the allegations were more specific with respect to the ’366 patent, and rejected the plaintiff’s suggestion that those allegations were insufficient because they were pled “on information and belief,” explaining “[v]iewing a complaint in the ‘light most favorable to plaintiff’ may ‘include[] facts alleged on information and belief.’” Id. at 8 n.9 (quoting Frederick Hart & Co. v. Recordgraph Corp., 169 F.2d 580, 581 (3d Cir. 1948) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Finally, the Court rejected the plaintiff’s suggestion that the inducement counterclaims should be dismissed for failure to identify specifically a direct infringer, explaining “a plaintiff need not identify a specific direct infringer if it pleads facts sufficient to allow an inference that at least one direct infringer exists.” Id. at 6 (quoting In re Bill of Lading, 681 F.3d 1323, 1336 (Fed. Cir. 2012)).

Judge Stark also denied the plaintiff’s alternative request that the defendant be ordered to provide a more definite statement under Rule 12(e), explaining “[t]he Court has determined that [the defendant’s] counterclaims provide sufficient notice of the infringement allegations [and] are not ‘so vague and ambiguous’ that [the plaintiff] cannot frame a responsive pleading.” Id. at 9-10.

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Judge Stark recently considered the parties’ post-trial motions following a jury trial in the long-standing dispute between Power Integrations and Fairchild Semiconductor. Power Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor International Inc., et al., C.A. No. 08-309-LPS (D. Del. Mar. 29, 2013). The case involved infringement allegations by both the plaintiff and the defendants involving a total of six patents related to DC output power supplies or power converters. Regarding Power‘s U.S. Patent No. 6,249,876, the jury found that Fairchild infringed, literally and under the doctrine of equivalents, induced infringement and that the asserted claims were valid. Id. at 2. Regarding U.S. Patent No. 6,107,851, “the jury found in favor of Power and against Fairchild with respect to literal infringement, indirect infringement, and validity of the only asserted claim, claim 18.” Id. Regarding the remaining two patents asserted by Power, U.S. Patent Nos. 7,110,270 and 7,834,605, the jury found that the patent’s claims were valid, but not infringed. Id. Regarding the patents asserted by Fairchild, the jury found that Power infringed U.S. Patent No. 7,259,972 under the doctrine of equivalents, that Power did not infringe U.S. Patent No. 7,352,595, and that both patents were valid. Id. (See the verdict form here).

The parties filed various motions for judgment as a matter of law as to invalidity and non-infringement, as well as motions for a new trial. The Court denied all but one post-trial motion. In that motion, Power moved for judgment as a matter of law that Fairchild directly infringed and induced infringement of its ‘605 patent, or for a new trial. Id. at 13. Judge Stark granted Power’s JMOL motion as to direct infringement because “Fairchild admitted that it did ‘not present[] evidence of a defense with regard to direct infringement.’ In the absence of such evidence, no reasonable jury could have returned a verdict on this issue in Fairchild’s favor.” Id. (internal citation omitted). Judge Stark denied, however, Power’s motion regarding the inducement verdict, which Power argued was “the result of Fairchild’s improper trial tactics[,]” because the Court’s “curative instruction was sufficient to eliminate unfair prejudice.” Id. at 14.

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Judge Leonard Stark recently granted a patent infringement defendant’s motion for sanctions for violations of the Court’s scheduling order. Due to the specific facts of the case, however, Judge Stark denied the requested relief of dismissal of the case. Instead, he ordered the plaintiff to pay defendant’s costs in bringing the motion for sanctions and struck the plaintiff’s request for prejudgment interest. See St. Clair Intellectual Prop. Consultants, Inc. v. Motorola Mobility LLC, C.A. No. 11-1305-LPS, Memorandum Opinion at 1 (D. Del. Mar. 29, 2013).

The parties’ dispute stemmed from a motion to stay filed by plaintiff St. Clair during the claim construction process. After filing its motion to stay but before the Court granted that motion, St. Clair failed to provide infringement contentions and failed to file an opening claim construction brief on the dates required for each by the Court’s scheduling order. Defendant Motorola continued to comply with scheduling order deadlines while the motion to stay was pending and brought a motion for sanctions for St. Clair’s omissions, seeking an order dismissing the case or prohibiting St. Clair from supporting its claims of infringement. Id. at 1-2.

Judge Stark considered the factors set forth by the Third Circuit in Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984) for determining whether dismissal of a case is an appropriate sanction. Ultimately, he found that the balance of these factors—the extent of the party’s personal responsibility, prejudice to the adversary caused by failure to meet the scheduling order, history of dilatoriness, willfulness or bad faith, effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, and meritoriousness of the claim or defense—favored the imposition of sanctions. Id. at 3-8. “By relying on its motion to stay as a purported basis not to participate in litigation St. Clair chose to initiate—and in which it remained subject to a Scheduling Order—St. Clair essentially engaged in improper self-help, acting as if it had already obtained the relief it had at that point merely requested of the Court.” Id. at 6. Nevertheless, Judge Stark found that “less extreme sanctions” than dismissal were warranted, concluding “that imposing fees and costs incurred in bringing this motion for sanctions and striking St. Clair’s requests for prejudgment interest are appropriate sanctions . . . [because] [n]o party may unilaterally rewrite the Court’s Scheduling Order.” Id. at 3-8. Judge Stark also found that “Plaintiff’s citation to Local Rule 16.4 is unavailing [because] [t]hat rule requires the filing of a request for extension of deadlines prior to the expiration of the deadline.” Id. at 6 n.3.

In the process, Judge Stark noted that there was no “valid excuse for not talking and trying to resolve disputes” between the parties related to the joint claim chart, the motion to stay, and the motion for sanctions. “While [the motion for sanctions] is arguably dispositive because the relief sought includes dismissal, it would have been far preferable [for the parties] to have met and conferred. . . . The Court is unconvinced that the parties could not have worked out their conflicts over how the other side was proceeding if only they had made more of an effort to communicate.” Id. at 5-6, 6 n.2.

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Judge Robinson recently denied a patent infringement declaratory judgment defendant’s motion to sever and transfer venue to the District of Kansas. Plaintiff Cox filed a declaratory judgment action in the District of Delaware regarding twelve patents owned by Sprint. Cox filed that action after Sprint had filed infringement suits related to the same twelve patents against Cox and three other defendants in the District of Kansas. In the declaratory judgment suit, Cox also asserted infringement by Sprint of two of its patents, and Sprint answered and asserted counterclaims for infringement of seven additional Sprint patents. Sprint then filed a motion to sever and transfer to the District of Kansas, where Sprint alleged it had previously litigated five of the patents-in-suit and had relevant witnesses and documents. The Judge in Kansas then found that the District of Kansas did not have personal jurisdiction over Cox and that the case should be transferred to Delaware, but the parties did not indicate that this mooted the motion to transfer before the Delaware court. Accordingly, Judge Robinson considered the motion to transfer the Delaware action to Kansas. See Cox Comms. Inc. v. Sprint Comms. Co., C.A. No. 12-487-SLR, Memorandum Order at 1-2 (D. Del. Mar. 27, 2013).

Judge Robinson first found that “exceptional circumstances . . . warrant[ed] departure from the first-to-file rule.” The case, she explained, “is unusual in that the alleged first-filed case, the Kansas litigation, has been transferred to this court. Accordingly, that litigation would be streamlined by having this court also resolve the declaratory judgment claims related to the same patents.” Id. at 4.

Judge Robinson then considered transfer pursuant to § 1404. Relying on her decision in Helicos Biosciences Corp. v. Illumina, Inc., 858 F. Supp. 2d 367 (D. Del. 2012), Judge Robinson observed that a defendant’s state of incorporation—here Delaware—has always been a “predictable, legitimate venue for bringing suit” and that a “plaintiff’s choice of venue should not be lightly disturbed.” Id. at 5 (citations omitted). Accordingly, after considering all of the Third Circuit’s Jumara transfer factors and because “the Kansas litigation has been transferred [to Delaware], the court [found] that the Jumara factors do not weigh in favor of transferring the Cox . . . declaratory judgment claims back to Kansas.” Id. at 6-8. Despite the three other Sprint cases remaining in Kansas, Judge Robinson determined that given “the transfer of [the Cox] case and the Kansas court’s lack of personal jurisdiction over Cox Communications, Sprint [had not] carried its burden of persuading the court, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Jumara factors favor transfer.” Id. at 9.

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In FastVDO LLC v. DXG Tech. USA, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 11-797-RGA (D. Del. Mar. 26, 2013), Judge Richard G. Andrews issued the Court’s claim construction order following a Markman hearing on March 22, 2013.

The following terms of U.S. Patent No. RE 40,081 were “construed definitively”:

“recursively”
“initial stage”
“MxM block coder”
“transform coder”
“invertible linear transform”/”invertible forward linear transform”
“representable as a cascade, using the steps”
”processing the output coefficients in the decoder into a reconstructed image”
“dyadic”
“orthogonal transform”

Judge Andrews provided “tentative” constructions of the following terms:

“butterfly step” I “±1 butterfly step”
“lifting step”

Judge Andrews held in abeyance the constructions of the following terms:

“rational complext coefficients”
“unitary transform”

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Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet recently granted defendants’ motions to transfer thirty-eight related patent infringement actions to the Eastern District of Michigan. E.g., Beacon Navigation GmbH v. Crysler Group L.L.C., C.A. No. 11-cv-921-GMS (D. Del. Mar. 20, 2013). The actions involve GPS technology. Id. at 8. Plaintiff, a Swiss company, “filed suit against every major automaker that sells automobiles in the United States.” Id. at 3, 23. Of the fifty-six defendants involved, forty-six filed motions to transfer venue to Michigan. Id. at 1 n.3.

In analyzing the Jumara factors, the Court concluded that only plaintiff’s forum preference weighed against transfer. Id. at 25. Because plaintiff was not a Delaware corporation, this factor was not of paramount consideration, but was accorded “some degree of heightened deference.” Id. at 13. The remaining factors were either neutral or favored transfer, although where the claim arose, defendants’ forum preference, the location of books and records, and the relative administrative difficulties in the two fora only slightly favored transfer. Id. at 14, 18-21, 23. The inconvenience of the fourteen defendants incorporated in Delaware was neutral in the Jumara analysis because these defendants had “submitted to suit in this district,” but as to the defendants not incorporated in Delaware, this factor weighed in favor of transfer. Id. at 17-18.

Many of defendants’ arguments for transfer focused on their locations in Michigan; “by and large, the defendants are headquartered, operate facilities, manufacture, and/or sell products in that district.” Id. at 14; see also id. at 10 n.13 (listing defendants’ activities in Michigan). Plaintiff, on the other hand, argued that “defendants’ interest in transferring to the Eastern District of Michigan is purely tactical, obviously based on their belief that they are likely to be favored in the traditional center of the American automotive industry.” Id. at 13 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The Court did not accept this argument, at one point noting that “federal courts provide a neutrality that negates [plaintiff’s concerns], particularly in cases such as these, which involve a national controversy.” Id. at 25.

Even though ten defendants had not filed motions to transfer, the Court sua sponte transferred all fifty-six actions to Michigan “because these actions present the court with such extraordinary circumstances.” Id. at 2 & n.4. “[T]he court transfers [the actions of the non-moving defendants] because it is left with no alternative but to do so in its effort to avoid an untenable result with respect to the forty-six defendants that have moved to transfer these actions. . . . It is easy to imagine the spectre of any number of inconsistent rulings and outcomes raising their heads [should the actions of the non-moving parties remain in Delaware].” Id. at 2 n.4. Two actions were administratively closed due to bankruptcy proceedings, but the Court also transferred these actions to Michigan for the same reasons. Id.

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Judge Leonard P. Stark recently considered plaintiffs’ emergency motion to stay the date for service of plaintiffs’ responsive expert reports pending resolution of plaintiffs’ motion to strike defendants’ untimely invalidity contentions. Avanir Pharms., Inc. v. Actavis South Atlantic LLC, C.A. No. 11-704-LPS (Consol.) (D. Del. Mar. 19, 2013). Judge Stark granted plaintiffs’ motion finding that plaintiffs “would be unfairly prejudiced by having to prepare and serve responsive expert reports while their motion to strike is pending, as they would not know whether it is necessary to respond to all of the opinions expressed in Defendants’ expert reports.” Id. at 3.

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Judge Sue L. Robinson recently issued a memorandum opinion granting summary judgment of invalidity for lack of written description and no infringement under the doctrine of equivalents of a patented method of producing isobutanol using genetically-engineered yeast microorganisms aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Butamax™ Advanced Biofuels LLC v. Gevo, Inc., Civ. No. 11-54-SLR (D. Del. Mar. 19, 2013). Before addressing the merits of several competing summary judgment motions, the Court construed the disputed claims as follows:

“acetohydroxy acid isomeroreductase” was construed to mean “an enzyme known by the EC number 1.1.1.86 that catalyzes the conversion of acetolactate to 2,3-dihydroxyisovalerate and is NADPH-dependent”
“a recombinant yeast microorganism expressing an engineered isobutanol biosynthetic pathway” was construed to mean “a recombinant yeast microorganism that is genetically transformed such that it expresses the five enzymes that form the biosynthetic pathway described hereafter for the production of isobutanol, wherein one or more of those enzymes is recombinantly expressed”
“(pathway step a;…(pathway step b);…,” etc. was construed to mean “the pathway of steps a-e are contiguous steps such that the product of step a is the substrate for step b; the product of step b is the substrate for step c; etc.”
“The microorganism produces isobutanol as a single product” was construed to mean “[t]he microorganism produces isobutanol without substantial amounts of other fermentation products”
Id. at 8-23.

The Court considered, in light of these claim constructions, the parties competing motions for summary judgment on the question of infringement. The Court first explained that the plaintiff’s “evidence of infringement is less than compelling, nonetheless, . . . it [is] sufficient to withstand [the defendant’s] motion for summary judgment, as it raises genuine issues of material fact as to how a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time the invention was made would determine NADH-dependency.” Id. at 39. The Court granted, however, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment of no infringement under the doctrine of equivalents, which asserted that the defendant’s “NADH-dependent enzyme is not equivalent to an NADPH-dependent enzyme.” Id. at 39-40. In light of its claim construction, the Court disagreed with the plaintiff’s position that “the use of NADH as an electron donor is insubstantially different from the use of NADPH.” Id. at 40 (quoting D.I. 648 at 33).

The Court then considered several competing motions for summary judgment on the question of validity. The defendant argued that claim 12 (“[t]he recombinant yeast microorganism of claim 1 wherein the said microorganism further comprises inactivated genes thereby reducing yield loss from competing pathways for carbon flow”) and claim 13 (“[t]he recombinant yeast microorganism of claim 12, wherein said inactivated genes reduce pyruvate decarboxylase activity”) were invalid for lack of written description. Id. at 50-51. With regard to claim 12, the Court found that the patent “mentions inactivation of genes only once” and that “[n]one of the cited portions of the specification provide a description to one of skill in the art on how to construct a recombinant yeast microorganism with ‘inactivated genes’ to reduce ‘yield loss from competing pathways.’” Id. at 51, 52. “Although the specification may be interpreted as identifying both the . . . problem and the solution, it does not even begin to describe how to put into practice the solution.” Id. at 52. Similarly, the specification nowhere disclosed “inactivated genes” that “reduce pyruvate decarboxylase activity[,]” and the Court found that claim 13 was also invalid for lack of written description.

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Judge Andrews has issued a claim construction opinion in the ANDA dispute between GlaxoSmithKline and Sandoz over GSK’s Veramyst product. The parties disputed construction of only a single term, “at around.” Judge Andrews agreed with Sandoz that the phrase “at around” indicates a well-established margin of error in the context of X-Ray Powder Diffraction, the method indicated by the patents-in-suit for distinguishing various forms of fluticasone furoate. Because the intrinsic and extrinsic evidence supported the view that a separation of .2 degrees is reliably distinguishable, Judge Andrews concluded that Sandoz’s construction requiring a margin of error of only .1 degrees was correct. See Glaxosmithkline Intellectual Prop. Mgmt. Ltd. v. Sandoz, Inc., C.A. No. 11-1284-RGA at 4-7 (D. Del. March 20, 2013).

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