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Chief Judge Stark finds no inequitable conduct following bench trial

In Masimo Corporation v. Philips Electronic North America Corporation, et al., C.A. No. 09-80-LPS (D. Del. May 18, 2015), Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark concluded, after a ten-day bench trial, that Defendants had not proven inequitable conduct by Plaintiff. Defendants had alleged that three of Plaintiffs’ attorneys had committed inequitable conduct during a reexamination of one of the patents-in-suit when they did not inform the PTO that Magistrate Judge Thynge, and the Court when it adopted the Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation (“SJ Order”), had rejected constructions on which Plaintiff had relied to overcome the PTO’s rejections.

The Court determined that Defendants had not proven that Plaintiff’s attorneys had “made a deliberate decision to withhold” the SJ Order from the PTO. Id. at 15 (internal quotation marks omitted).  Instead, the Court concluded that “these attorneys had set up a system of disclosure aimed at providing the PTO with all relevant district court orders by filing [invention disclosure statements] in [the relevant reexamination] [.]” Id. The Court  concluded that “the ‘single most reasonable inference’” as to why this particular order had not been disclosed to the PTO was that “this was the result of timing and circumstances of the reexamination process rather than any deceitful intent of [the attorneys].” Id. at 16. The attorneys had developed a system in which the prosecution attorneys, who could not view information in the litigation subject to the protective order, would still be kept apprised of developments, and the policy was that “anything even remotely relevant to the merits of the case should be submitted.” Id. at 15 (internal quotation marks omitted).

The Court also found that Defendants had not proven that the SJ Order was a “known material reference in the view of [these attorneys], at a time when any of them believed they could have submitted the SJ Order as part of the [relevant reexamination].” Id. at 21. The Court explained that “the record supports a strong inference that [Plaintiffs’] attorneys would have disclosed the SJ Order if they had understood its purported implications during the ten-day window between the SJ Order and the [Notice of Intent to Issue Reexamination Certificate] [(“NIRC”)] . . . and did not do so after that period only because they believed the [reexamination] was closed and, therefore, they were not permitted to do so. . . . Even if [the attorneys] were technically wrong about what post-NIRC disclosures were permissible under the MPEP (a dispute the Court need not resolve), what is decisive here is that they believed no such disclosures were possible.” Id. at 23.

Furthermore, the Court concluded that Defendants did not prove that the attorneys made a misrepresentation to the PTO by “failing to correct a statement [Plaintiff] made to the PTO in a response to an office action, a statement that in [Defendants’] view became false the moment Judge Thynge issued her R&R.” Id. at 23. The Court concluded these “statements” were, in fact, arguments regarding claim construction, and thus no misrepresentation had been made. Id. at 24-25.

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