In U.S. Philips Corp. v. Samsung Electronics Co., C.A. No. 09-692 GMS (D. Del. Mar. 25, 2011), Chief Judge Sleet recently decided plaintiff’s motions to dismiss several counterclaims and affirmative defenses and to strike defendant’s inequitable conduct defense. Judge Sleet granted plaintiff’s motion to dismiss defendant’s time-barred fraud and negligent misrepresentation counterclaims. Id. at 1-2. Although defendant attempted to avoid the statute of limitations by limiting damages to “litigation expenses incurred in connection with defending this action[,]” Judge Sleet held that defendant cannot “circumvent the usual rules governing litigation expenses by recasting those expenses as the sole basis for damages in its fraud and negligent misrepresentation counterclaims.” Id. at 2-3. However, Judge Sleet denied plaintiff’s motion to strike or dismiss defendant’s affirmative defenses in light of “the well-established rule that affirmative defenses are not ordinarily subject to the statute of limitations so long as they are properly pled and arise from the same transaction as the claims in the original complaint.” Id. at 3. Finally, Judge Sleet denied plaintiff’s motion to strike defendant’s inequitable conduct allegations as insufficiently pled, declining to rule, “[a]t this early stage in the proceedings,” “on whether specific documents are prior art or otherwise make determinations as to the materiality or relevance of particular documents.” Id. at 5.
In a recent opinion, District Judge Sue L. Robinson commented on the nature of expert testimony in patent cases. In particular, the Court highlighted the important distinction between scientific “truth” and the role of the judiciary in the decidedly non-scientific legal system:
“[Expert] Matzger’s testimony is, of course, only reliable to the extent [Expert] Bates’s data (and Bates’s testimony thereupon) is also reliable. That two scientists at the top of their field could disagree on their reading of ‘hard’ data is, unfortunately, neither surprising nor a rare occurrence in this court. The court is not tasked with determining the scientific ‘truth’ with respect to infringement, to the extent one exists, only weighing the parties’ evidence and resolving their business dispute according to established burdens of proof. Consequently, the court does not deem Bates’s evidence more or less credible insofar as Matzger also relied upon it but ultimately disagreed as to its import.”
For those of you interested in the Court’s findings in the companion infringement action, click here.
Judge Robinson recently issued an opinion following a bench trial in Medtronic v. Boston Scientific Corp., C.A. No. 07-823-SLR (Mar. 30, 2011). This was a declaratory judgment action by plaintiff Medtronic, Inc.
One interesting aspect of the case was the way that the parties treated the burden of proof regarding infringement. The parties each argued that the other side bore the burden due to the procedural nature of the case (a declaratory judgment action). The patentee (defendant) argued that the alleged infringer (plaintiff) had the burden of proof on non-infringement because “the plaintiff usually has the burden of proof,” and because prior agreements between the parties overrode caselaw that says that the patentee always bears the burden of proof. Id. at 16-17. Judge Robinson, however, held that “‘[t]he burden is always on the patentee to show infringement,'” and the burden never shifts to the other party. Id. at 17. Thus, the patentee defendants bore the burden of proving non-infringement.
The patentee’s expert, however, had focused only on rebutting the plaintiff’s expert’s allegations of non-infringement, rather than setting forth his own allegations of infringement. Judge Robinson held that the plaintiff had therefore failed to offer affirmative evidence that all limitations of the patents at issue were met by the accused products, either literally or through the doctrine of equivalents, and found that the defendant had failed to show infringement.
In BigBand Networks, Inc. v. Imagine Communications, Inc., C.A. No. 07-351-LPS (D. Del. Mar. 24, 2011), Judge Stark recently issued a claim construction opinion for the four patents at issue relating to video technology. Judge Stark construed the following terms:
“selecting basic media data units to be modified, in response to the modification priority of each basic media unit”
“selecting basic media data units to be modified, in response to the modification priority”
“basic media data blocks”
Judge Stark recently construed the following terms in the Wyeth, LLC v. Intervet, Inc., et al. matter:
-“Porcine circovirus type B,” “PCVB,” “type B porcine circovirus,” “porcine circovirus-B,” and “PCV-B”
-“amplifying said nucleic acid”
Wyeth, LLC v. Intervet, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 09-161-LPS, Opinion (D. Del. Mar. 22, 2011).
In Automated Transactions LLC v. 7-Eleven, Inc. et al., C.A. No. 06-043-SLR (D. Del. March 9, 2011), Judge Robinson recently decided defendants and plaintiff’s cross motions for summary judgment. Judge Robinson granted defendants’ summary judgment motion because she construed the terms “internet” and “an internet interface” to require connection to a public network. Id. at 9-15. Because the accused products utilized a private network and did not connect to the internet, defendants did not infringe the patents in suit. Id. Judge Robinson found that defendants could not infringe literally or under the doctrine of equivalents because “construing ‘Internet’ to mean any network [public or private] would read the limitation out of the patent.” Id. at 12 (emphasis in original). Moreover, a finding that the private network was the equivalent of the Internet would read on prior art thereby violating the ensnarement doctrine. Id. at 13. Judge Robinson also granted-in-part defendants’ summary judgment motion on invalidity because the term “an Internet interface” in the mean’s plus function claims “d[id] not provide sufficient structure for performing the function of providing the customer with access to the Internet in order to complete the retail transaction.” Id. at 20.
Two days ago, in Minkus Electronic Display Systems Inc. v. Adaptive Micro Systems LLC, Civ. No. 10-666-SLR (D. Del. Mar. 16, 2011), Judge Robinson granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, limiting Plaintiff’s damages as to each Defendant unless Plaintiff amends its complaint to allege facts lacking in its original complaint. Id. at 7.
Plaintiff alleged that Defendants had directly infringed, contributorily infringed, and actively induced infringement of its patent disclosing a remotely-controlled electronic display system. Id. at 2-3. Defendants argued that Plaintiff had failed to satisfy the pleading requirements for indirect infringement because, inter alia, Plaintiff failed to allege facts sufficient to establish Defendants’ knowledge and intent to indirectly infringe. Id. at 4. The court agreed, finding that Plantiff’s pleading “resorts to a mere recitation of the elements for indirect infringement, which is insufficient.” Id. at 7 (quoting Xpoint Techs. v. Microsoft Corp., 730 F. Supp. 2d 349, 357 (D. Del. 2010)).
Judge Robinson noted that, because Defendants “will be deemed to have knowledge of [Plaintiff’s] patent as of the date the complaint was filed,” and because “the only consequence (I believe) of this decision is limiting plaintiff’s damages to the period dating from a defendant’s first knowledge of [Plaintiff’s] patent, the court will so limit plaintiff’s damages as to each defendant unless plaintiff chooses to amend its complaint to allege sufficient facts as to an individual defendant’s knowledge.” Id. at 7.
In a recent decision, District Judge Sue L. Robinson explained her practice on adjudicating post-trial equitable claims. The Court noted that it “does not entertain motions for summary judgment on equitable issues, instead holding bench trials on such issues.” In the underlying action, Defendant Pylon had filed its summary judgment motion on inequitable conduct following a jury trial on infringement and invalidity. According to the Court, “although Pylon styles its post-trial paper as a ‘motion,’ in reality Pylon has simply filed its post-trial brief in support of its claim of unenforceability.” D. Del. practitioners take note.
On March 10, 2011, in Keurig Inc. v. Sturm Foods, Inc., Civ. No. 10-841-SLR (D. Del. Mar. 10, 2011), Judge Robinson issued a memorandum opinion denying Keurig’s motion for a preliminary injunction and Sturm Foods’s partial motion to dismiss.
Keurig had moved for a preliminary injunction based on its trademark infringement claims, trade dress infringement claims, and false advertising and unfair competition claims. Id. at 7.
Regarding the trademark infringement claims, Judge Robinson determined, based on the current record, the likelihood of confusion in the market by applying a multi-factor test previously adopted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (modified for cases involving a nominative fair use defense), finding that the balance of factors favored Sturm Foods. Id. at 14.
Regarding the trade dress infringement claims, Judge Robinson found, based on the current record, that Keurig did not show that the overall look of its products was consistent, which is required for a finding of trade dress infringement. Id. at 17.
Regarding the false advertising and unfair competition claims, Judge Robinson found, based on the current record, that Sturm Foods’s statements did not necessarily imply that Sturm Foods’s products were of equal quality to Keurig’s products, especially given the lower price of Sturm Foods’s products. Id. at 19-20. For this and other reasons, Keurig was unable to show a likelihood of success on the merits proving the literal falsity of Sturm Foods’s statements. Id. at 20.
Earlier this month, in Spansion, LLC v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., C.A. No. 1:08-CV-00855-SLR (D. Del. Mar. 2, 2011), Special Master Redfearn denied Spansion’s application for an amendment to a Stipulated Protective Order withholding confidential business information from both parties’ in-house counsel.
Spansion argued that its in-house counsel needed access to confidential business information so that its in-house counsel could provide informed direction to trial counsel. Id. at 3. Applying a balancing test set forth by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Special Master Redfearn balanced the risk of injury to Samsung due to inadvertent disclosure of confidential business information against the risk that withholding information would impede Spansion’s prosecution of Samsung’s claims. Id. at 4-5. Because the risk of injury to Samsung outweighed Spansion’s need for in-house legal advice, Special Master Redfearn denied Spansion’s application to amend the Stipulated Protective Order. Id. at 5.