Judge Robinson: no new trial based on purportedly improper jury instruction to which no objection was raised.
In a recent memorandum opinion, Judge Robinson denied a plaintiff’s post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial. Solvay, S.A. v. Honeywell Int’l Inc., Civ. No. 06-557-SLR (D. Del. Aug. 20, 2012). The patent-at-issue claimed “processes for making 1,1,1,3,3-pentaflouropropane (‘HFC-245fa’).” Id. at 2. At trial, the jury found that the patent was both anticipated and obvious. Id. at 1. The Court found ample evidence to support the jury’s findings, and denied the plaintiff’s motion for judgment as a matter of law of no anticipation or obviousness. Id. at 9, 12, 17.
The Court also denied the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, which was based, in part, on the argument that the Court’s jury instructions were inconsistent with the manner in which the Court and the parties originally construed claim 1 of the patent-at-issue. Id. at 17. The Court noted that in its Markman order, it construed a reaction in claim 1 as occurring “at a temperature and under a pressure whereby HFC-245fa and HCl are produced in gaseous form and separated from the reaction mixture in a gas stream[.]” Id. at 17. The Court acknowledged that in the final jury instructions, the same portion of claim 1 was construed slightly differently, to read: “at a temperature and under a pressure whereby HFC-245fa and HCl are produced in gaseous form and continuously separated or drawn off from the reaction mixture in a gas stream”. Id. (emphasis in original). The Court noted, though, that “[t]he threshold issue is whether [the plaintiff] properly objected to the change in instructions, thereby preserving its right to raise the instruction as grounds for a new trial.” Id. at 18. Here, the plaintiff “did not object to the [inclusion of ‘continuously’ or ‘or drawn off’] to the claim construction in its notice of objections to the final jury instruction …, and it did not raise any objection before the instructions were read to the jury.” Id. Further, the plaintiff “conceded that the version of the claim construction including the words ‘continuously’ and ‘or drawn off’ was consistent with the court’s previous construction.” Id. at 18-19 (citing trial transcript). Under the circumstances, the Court explained that a new trial based upon the purported improper jury instruction would not be warranted because there was no “grievous unfairness” resulting from the instruction. Id. at 19.