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Magistrate Judge Mary Pat Thynge: What are “Reasonable” Attorneys’ Fees?

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What are reasonable attorneys’ fees when a court finds a plaintiff pursued litigation in bad faith as to 29 of 33 claims in a total of 3 patents? That was the question raised by the parties and addressed by Magistrate Judge Thynge in a recent opinion, Microstrategy Inc. v. Crystal Decisions, Inc. d/b/a Business Objects Americas, C.A. No. 03-1124-MPT, Memo. Order (D. Del. Nov. 19, 2008). After the Court awarded defendant’s motion for fees and expenses pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 285, (see earlier blog posting here), the defendant submitted its request for approximately $2 million in fees and expenses and additional fees incurred in submitting the original motion for fees and the submission supporting their fee request. Id. at 3. Plaintiff argued that the only fees that should be awarded are those where the invoices detail that the time was spent specifically on defending the 29 claims that were found invalid and not infringed, and that the block-billed invoices that defendant submitted were therefore inadequate. Id. at 4.
The Court found that “[a]lthough many of the entries do not address a specific patent, they describe conduct and tasks consistent with and necessary in patent litigation.” Id. at 9. Following the District of Maryland’s opinion in Beckman Instruments Inc. v. LKB Produkter AB, 17 U.S.P.Q.2d 1190 (D. Md. 1990), aff’d, 930 F.2d 37 (Fed. Cir. 1991), Magistrate Judge Thynge further held that it was not necessary for the defendant or the Court to determine “precisely what fees and expenses are solely attributable to defending those patent claims made in bad faith.” Id. The legal work performed must be related in some way to the bad faith not that it flow solely from the bad faith or misconduct. Id. at 10.

Therefore, defendant was entitled to $2,249,387.22 in fees and costs less the overhead costs charged. Id. at 11. The Court awarded an additional $138,399.02 for fees and costs related to the fee application and related briefing. Id. at 13.

As a procedural note, this case was a fee petition after an award of summary judgment and not after a full trial on the merits.

Microstrategy Inc. v. Crystal Decisions, Inc. d/b/a Business Objects Americas, C.A. No. 03-1124-MPT, Memo. Order (D. Del. Nov. 19, 2008).

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