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Judge Robinson considers motions for summary judgment, motions to strike and exclude

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In Carrier Corp. v. Goodman Global, Inc., C.A. No 12-930-SLR (D. Del. Aug. 14, 2014), Judge Sue L. Robinson considered several motions for summary judgment, and defendants’ motions to strike and exclude certain expert testimony. First, Judge Robinson denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment of non-infringement. Regarding defendants’  argument that they did not practice the “selecting” limitation of the asserted patent, Judge Robinson explained that defendants presented only “attorney argument . . . without explanation from [their] expert or citation to an expert report.” Id. at 9. Judge Robinson also denied defendants’ non-infringement argument that they only sell individual HVAC units, not HVAC systems, as required by the asserted patents. Id. at 10-12. Judge Robinson explained that defendants did not supplement their contentions with this theory until “11:19 p.m. on the last day of fact discovery,” and also “failed to articulate [their] position with any clarity so that [plaintiff] could respond and give the court the opportunity to adjust the schedule to accommodate discovery on an important issue.” Id. at 10-11. Judge Robinson thus concluded that defendants “did not play the rules” and therefore “must suffer the consequences,” and denied their motion for summary judgment in this regard. Id. at 11-12. Judge Robinson also denied defendants’  motion for summary judgment of non-infringement with respect to indirect infringement, finding that there were disputed issues of fact. Id. at 12.

Judge Robinson next addressed the parties’ motions for summary judgment of invalidity. Judge Robinson denied defendants’ motion for summary of indefiniteness as to the term “optimal control strategy,” explaining that “one of ordinary skill in the art is apprised with reasonable certainty that the claims focus on whether a manufacturer has predetermined control strategies that it deems optimal for a given set of HVAC units.” Id. at 13. Judge Robinson also denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment of anticipation, explaining that “[t]he court respectfully disagrees with [defendants’] argument that no expert opinion is needed to support [their] anticipation argument. The present technology involves complex technology, i.e., controlling HVAC systems using algorithms loaded into a central control. The court concludes that attorney argument is not sufficient to meet the burden of persuasion on invalidity at the summary judgment motion stage.” Id. at 16. Judge Robinson also denied plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment of no anticipation, explaining that the Court was “left without the essential analysis (or citation thereto), that is, [plaintiff’s] demonstration of the absence of a genuine issue of material fact regarding [defendants’] anticipation arguments, to determine whether the limitation at issue . . . is . . . not found in the prior art.” Id. at 17. Judge Robinson denied defendants’  motion for summary judgment of obviousness, finding that defendants relied only “on attorney argument.” Id. at 20. Judge Robinson also denied plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment of non-obviousness, finding that there were genuine issues of material fact in view of expert disagreement. Id. at 22-23.

Judge Robinson denied defendants’ motions to strike with one exception. That is, Judge Robinson granted defendants’ motion to strike plaintiff’s expert opinions on secondary considerations to the extent that the experts “attribute commercial success to the ease of installation due to the single data bus, an invention disclosed in the ‘452 patent, not the [asserted patent].” Id. at 24. Judge Robinson also excluded a certain invalidity theory from trial based on a prior art reference that was not asserted by defendants until nine months after the deadline to do so, explaining that it “was not properly vetted through discovery and it is unreasonable at this late stage to require [plaintiff] to respond to such allegation.” Id. at 23-24.

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