Earlier this week, a jury reached a decision in the longstanding dispute between LadaTech LLC and Illumina Inc, finding that Illumina's DNA sequencing products infringe LadaTech's genome technology patent. The case has been pending since August 2009 and began a week-long jury trial on February 21. The jury returned a verdict on the same day that the trial ended, finding direct infringement, infringement by the doctrine of equivalents, indirect infringement by inducement, and that the patents are valid. Damages are bifurcated and have not yet been determined.
In a recent memorandum order, Judge Robinson provided rulings and guidance on several evidentiary issues in advance of trial. Ladatech, Inc. v. Illumina, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 09-627-SLR (D. Del. Feb. 14, 2012). First, the Court rejected the defendants' proposed jury instruction that would have required the plaintiff to show evidence of a “lack of good faith” by the defendants to prove inducement to infringe. Judge Robinson explained, “Defendants may properly argue that Illumina possessed a good faith belief that its directions to customers would not cause the acts that constitute infringement. . . . [but] Illumina’s lack of good faith is not an element of plaintiff’s prima facie case[.]” Id. at 1-2 (emphasis in original). Next, Judge Robinson ruled that, given the parties' stipulation that Illumina knew of the patent at issue, any evidence regarding failed licensing attempts between the plaintiff and defendants was not necessary to plaintiff’s proving that Illumina intended to induce infringement, and would be more prejudicial and potentially confusing than probative. Id. at 2-3. Judge Robinson disagreed, however, with the defendants' argument that evidence of licensing attempts also should be inadmissible under Rule 408, explaining that “[t]here is no indication that the parties’ discussions took place while litigation was pending (such that defendants’ license request(s) could be deemed an offer of settlement).” Id. at 2 n.2 (citing SanDisk Corp. v. STMicroelectronics, Inc., 480 F.3d 1372, 1375 n.1 (Fed. Cir. 2007)). Finally, Judge Robinson provided guidance on the parties’ use of the reexamination file wrapper at trial, and cautioned that “it has been the court’s observation that reexamination evidence is, at best, confusing vis-à-vis the complex invalidity standards the jury is asked to apply. . . . Therefore, the parties are required to give notice to each other (and to the court) prior to referencing the reexamination at trial. Id. at 4.
Judge Robinson has issued a memorandum opinion considering summary judgment on several issues in LadaTech, LLC v. Illumina, Inc., C.A. No. 09-627-SLR (D. Del. Jan. 24, 2012). The plaintiff, LadaTech, accused defendants Illumina and Solexa of direct and indirect infringement of a patent directed to a method of amplifying a mixture of different sequence duplex DNA fragments and a method of isolating complex DNA fragments. The claims at issue on summary judgment concerned only the former. The court issued a separate claim construction opinion and considered motions for summary judgment on noninfringement, invalidity, patent expiration, and no anticipation.
Finding that her claim construction order had resolved many of the arguments raised, Judge Robinson refused several bases for summary judgment of noninfringement, because “[t]he infringement dispute is, essentially, one of claim construction.” Id. at 21. She did, however, grant summary judgment with respect to only one of the defendant’s accused products and the use of third party products, finding no “evidence that any customer actually performed the method of the ‘023 patent using [the accused third party product.]” Id. at 27-28.
Judge Robinson also denied the defendants motion for summary judgment of invalidity and expiration of the patent-in-suit. Under the claim construction adopted by the court, there was no dispute that one of the limitations was well known in the art. Therefore, the written description was not inadequate for failure to sufficiently disclose this limitation. Furthermore, she rejected the defendants’ argument that plaintiffs had lost small entity status and paid a deficient fee, and thus their patent had expired. Under Federal Circuit precedent, the court had no obligation or authority to analyze whether a patent has expired due to fee deficiency. Id. at 28-36.
Finally, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment of no anticipation for two separate prior art references. Again, the court found that the claim construction it had adopted had largely resolved the defendants’ arguments regarding both references. Id. at 36-46.
Judge Robinson claim construction order construing terms of a patent covering DNA sequencing technology
In Ladatech, LLC v. Illumina, Inc., C.A. No. 09-627-SLR (D. Del. Jan. 24, 2012), Judge Robinson construed the following terms of U.S. Patent No. 6,107,023 which is directed toward DNA sequencing technology:
"A method of amplifying a mixture of different sequence duplex DNA
"Both strands of the fragments, at both fragment ends"
"Single fragment strand"
"Whose sequence is complementary to a linker region on each fragment
"Each fragment strand"
"Repeating said denaturing, hybridizing, and converting steps until a
desired degree of amplification is achieved"
In a recent decision, Judge Robinson found that although the plaintiffs’ initiation of an ANDA action was not frivolous, its continued prosecution of suit after “agreeing to stipulate” that the defendant did not infringe was “exceptional” and justified an award of attorneys’ fees under § 285. In re: Cyclobenzaprine Hydrochloride Extended-Release Capsule Patent Litig., Civ. No. 09-MD-2118-SLR (D. Del. Jan. 12, 2012). Judge Robinson rejected the defendant’s argument that the initiation of the suit in the first place was frivolous, finding that the plaintiffs’ suit legitimately sought to obtain information about the defendant’s generic formulation that the defendant had refused to provide to the plaintiffs voluntarily, and which the plaintiffs argued should have been (but was not) included in the defendant’s Paragraph IV Notice letters. Id. at 4. However, despite "agree[ing] to stipulate to the fact that [the defendant’s] product, as formulated in its ANDA, did not infringe,” id. at 7, the plaintiffs pressed on. They argued that continued prosecution of the action was the only safeguard against a generic bait-and-switch in which the defendant would secure a final judgment of non-infringement on its current generic formulation (which testimony suggested would never gain FDA approval), benefit from the resulting termination of the 30-month stay, and then reformulate in an infringing manner that would quickly be approved by the FDA. Id. at 5-6. Judge Robinson rejected the plaintiff’s rationale, finding that “[t]he decision to . . . maintain the suit in order to ‘police’ against any possible reformulations by [the defendant] warrants a finding of ‘exceptional’ in light of the FDA’s requirement of re-certification once reformulation occurs.” Id. at 7. “In the event [the defendant] changes its formula, plaintiffs should receive another certification notice and be given the opportunity to file an infringement action based upon the amended formulation.” Id. at 6.
Judge Robinson has denied motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial following jury determinations of validity and non-infringement in McKesson Automation, Inc. v. Swisslog Italia S.p.A., C.A. No. 06-028-SLR (Jan. 12, 2012). In her opinion, Judge Robinson noted that a reasonably jury could have concluded that the accused product did not infringe. Id. at 14. She also found that the defendant’s expert testimony regarding infringement and invalidity was consistent and could not be the basis for a new trial. Id. at 18.
The plaintiff also argued that “the court had a duty to construe [a] term [of the patents-in-suit] and [that] the court’s failure to do so resulted in a miscarriage of justice.” Id. at 14. This argument stemmed from the court’s prior finding that the term at issue need not be construed because the detail provided by the claim sufficiently defines the term and “‘belies any need for further construction.’” Id. at 8. The plaintiff cited the Federal Circuit’s holding in O2 Micro International Limited v. Beyond Innovation Technology Co., 521 F.3d 1351 (Fed. Cir. 2008), for the proposition that where claim construction is improperly placed before the jury, the case must be remanded for a new trial. Judge Robinson rejected this argument for two reasons. “First, the court note[d] that plaintiff’s proposed construction would not have resolved the issue as it is now characterized by the plaintiff.” Id. at 17. “Second, the court emphasize[d], as it did during its [claim construction] opinion, that ‘the specific detail provided by claim 1 defines the precise nature of [the claim term at issue] and belies the need for further construction.’” Id. Judge Robinson further suggested that “even if it was error not to construe the term, it was harmless error since the jury interpreted the term in accordance with the court’s understanding (i.e., the jury did not construe the term in the restrictive fashion advocated by plaintiff).” Id. at 18 n.9. For these reasons, the court found no error requiring a new trial in “declin[ing] to adopt plaintiff’s construction and instead conclud[ing] that the detail in claim one defines the precise nature of the claim.” Id. at 17-18.
In Grape Technology Group, Inc. v. Jingle Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 08-408-GMS (D. Del. January 9, 2012), following a jury verdict of no infringement and validity, Judge Robinson recently decided the parties’ post-trial motions. When denying defendant’s JMOL motion as to the validity of the patents-in-suit, Judge Robinson rejected defendant’s argument that the asserted claims of one patent-in-suit were invalid because it would have been obvious to one of skill in the art to combine two prior art references. Id. at 17. Because defendant failed to present any evidence regarding the level of skill of the art, the court was unable to determine said level of skill, nor was the jury verdict against the weight of evidence. Id. at 19-20.
Jingle had argued that “its expert, Dr. Forys referenced a person ‘in the industry’ when discussing the prior art, and that that testimony is sufficient evidence to establish the level of ordinary skill in the art.” Id. at 18, n.11. Judge Robinson disagreed. “Dr. Forys’s brief, and unsupported, ‘reference’ of a person in the industry hardly creates any evidence that the ordinary level of skill in the art is ‘an individual working in the telecommunications industry,’ as [defendant] claims.” Id. Judge Robinson also pointed out that the expert’s report “inconsistently defined the level of skill in the art as a ‘B.S. degree in Electrical or Computer Engineering or equivalent training as well as 3-5 years of experience in the fields of call center architecture and their components especially involving directory assistance as well as marketing and advertising.’” Id.
Judge Robinson Denies Motion for Reconsideration of Prior Decision Granting Motion for Summary Judgment of “No Invalidity”
In Intermec Technologies Corp. v. Palm Inc., C.A. No. 07-272-SLR, Judge Robinson denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of a prior decision granting in part defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Id. at 11. Regarding the prior decision at issue, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment of no invalidity and infringement of two patents-in-suit. Id. at 2. Conversely, the plaintiff filed a corresponding cross-motion for summary judgment of noninfringement and invalidity of the same. Id. at 2. In deciding the parties’ competing motions for summary judgment, on the issue of invalidity, the Court ruled in favor of the defendant. Id. at 1-2. In its summary judgment decision, the Court rejected the plaintiff’s anticipation, indefiniteness, non-enablement and lack of written description arguments and held that the asserted claims of the patents-in-suit were not invalid. Id. at 2-3. As a result, the plaintiff subsequently moved for reconsideration of that decision, arguing that, among other things, it was “necessary to ‘correct errors of law and fact and to prevent manifest injustice,’” and that the Court “did not apply the proper standard . . . in granting [defendant] summary judgment.” Id. at 4. The Court, however, denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, finding that the motion was without merit. In denying the motion, the Court noted that the plaintiff: (1) did not point to “a change in the controlling law or any newly discovered evidence”; (2) had not shown “a need to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice”; and (3) had not “demonstrated that the court patently misunderstood a party, . . . made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the court by the parties, or . . . made an error of apprehension.” Id. at 11. The Court further noted that the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration sought to only reargue the same issues and evidence that were before the Court in the prior summary judgment decision, and that the plaintiff’s “chief complaint” was essentially that the Court did not weigh the facts of record as plaintiff would have wanted, and, as such, is “insufficient to meet the motion for reconsideration standard.” Id. at 11. This decision further exemplifies the point that the standard for obtaining relief on a motion for reconsideration is, indeed, “difficult for a plaintiff [or defendant] to meet.” Id. at 3.
In Helicos Biosciences Corp. v. Pacific Biosciences of California, et al., Civ. No. 10-735-SLR (D. Del. Dec. 22, 2011), discussed previously here, Judge Robinson denied a defendant’s motion to sever or stay the litigation against it in a situation where the defendant argued that, unlike its co-defendant, it never had (and never would) commercialize the technology accused of infringement, and where there existed no allegation that its activities or products overlapped with its co-defendant to satisfy the “common transaction” requirement of FRCP 20(a). Id. at 1-2. Instead, the defendant argued, the allegations against it were based solely on non-commercial presentations made by its employees at biotech conferences. Id. at 2. The Court found that an issue of fact existed as to whether presentations made by the defendant’s employees amounted to “offers for sale” and whether the defendant’s research, if infringing, constituted permissible experimental use. Id. at 4. Further, because the defendant’s accused technology “shares fundamental elements in common with” the other defendant’s accused product (which was undisputed during briefing), the Court found that joinder was appropriate. Id. Specifically, the Court credited the plaintiff’s undisputed assertion that the defendants’ technologies were similar in that both rely on “detecting labeled nucleotides as a polymerase, [using] four nucleotides with distinct fluorescent labels and optical detection zones limited to the immediate vicinity of the polymerase.” Id. Finally, the Court rejected the argument that severance was appropriate because the co-defendants were direct competitors, finding that the agreed upon protective order and prosecution bar were adequate safeguards of confidential information and, moreover, that inadvertant disclosure likely would not result in substantial harm given the defendant's assertion that it did not plan to commercialize its technology. Id. at 5.
Noninfringement Judgment Appropriate where Plaintiff’s Expert provides “conclusory opinions with respect to the function-way-result test”
In November, Judge Robinson issued a claim construction order and summary judgment opinions in Apeldyn Corp. v. AU Optronics Corp., C.A. No. 08-568-SLR (D. Del. Nov. 15, 2011). Since then, Judge Robinson has considered motions for reargument from each side and this week issued an opinion and amended order in Apeldyn Corp. v. AU Optronics Corp., C.A. No. 08-568-SLR (D. Del. Dec. 19, 2011). Noting that the standard for obtaining relief on motions for reconsideration “is difficult to meet,” the court nevertheless granted one motion, denied another, and clarified its claim construction order.
Judge Robinson had previously granted summary judgment of noninfringement to CMO, and “[a]t the pretrial conference, Apeldyn argued that the court erred in granting summary judgment of noninfringement . . . [based on the fact that] ‘Apeldyn [did] not cite any evidence in opposition to CMO’s motion.’” Id. at 1. Judge Robison gave Apeldyn a chance to submit a “letter directing the court to any such evidence properly cited in its responsive brief.” Id. Apeldyn submitted citations to its expert’s report and other evidence that was either not in the record or was not adduced by Apeldyn. Apeldyn also submitted a motion for reargument. Although Judge Robinson noted that “CMO objects to Apeldyn’s expansion of the record,” she noted that “the court must ultimately address more of [the expert’s] report than that which was cited in Apeldyn’s opposition brief in order to fully articulate Apeldyn’s infringement position and, ultimately, the sufficiency of [the] noninfringement proffer.” Id. at 5. Having determined that she would look at the expert report, Judge Robison found the report “insufficient to pass muster.” Because the report did not “provide the limitation-by-limitation discussion of equivalence contemplated by the Federal Circuit, the court denie[d] Apeldyn’s motion and [did] not amend its grant of summary judgment of noninfringement with respect to CMO.” Id. at 9.
Judge Robinson had also previously denied AUO’s motions for summary judgment of noninfringement “because AUO did not support its noninfringement arguments with an expert’s opinion.” Id. Judge Robinson granted reargument, however, because there was “no dispute as to how the accused products operate.” Because Apeldyn’s expert’s “proffer with respect to AUO parallels that for CMO . . . the judgment must be amended to prevent manifest injustice to AUO by allowing Apeldyn to go forward to a jury trial on legally insufficient evidence.” Id. at 10. As with CMO, “[b]ecause [Apeldyn’s expert] did not provide particularized testimony describing his doctrine of equivalents theory on a limitation-by-limitation basis, and provided only conclusory opinions with respect to the function-way-result test, the court grants AUO’s motion for reargument and will enter judgment of noninfringement with respect to AUO.” Id. at 12.
Judge Robinson also clarified her claim construction order, stating that the “court’s understanding of the technology of the ‘382 patent, as articulated at the pretrial conference, may not have been most clearly conveyed in the claim construction order.” Id. at 3-4. She issued a separate amended memorandum order clarifying the construction of the terms at issue consistent with this understanding.