Articles Posted in Christopher J. Burke, Magistrate Judge

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Magistrate Judge Burke recently issued an interesting memorandum order addressing requests for admission and the parties’ disputed objections to those requests. Judge Burke first addressed several RFAs seeking “admissions regarding features of certain chemical structures from the prior art, namely whether those structures read on certain limitations found in the claims at issue.” Integra Lifesciences Corp., et al. v. Hyperbranch Medical Tech., Inc., C.A. No. 15-819-LPS-CJB, Memo. Or. at 2 (D. Del. Sept. 27, 2017). Plaintiffs objected to these RFAs as improperly directed to legal conclusions, but Judge Burke found that this objection was not justified. Judge Burke explained that although “[t]his Court has explained that RFAs that ‘seek legal conclusions are not allowed,’ . . . [w]hether a prior art reference anticipates the claim limitations of a patentee’s invention is a question of fact . . . [and obviousness] is a question of law, but it is based on underlying factual determinations as to matters including the differences between the claims and the prior art.” Id. at 2-4. Thus, the RFAs at issue “seek admission as to whether certain chemical structures from asserted prior art include particular features found in the relevant claim language. To be sure, such admissions could indeed ultimately be used to help prove up an ultimate legal issue in the case, but that does not change the fact that they themselves are directed to factual questions.” Id. at 4-5. Judge Burke further determined that it was possible for Plaintiffs to provide a substantive response to several of the disputed RFAs because the RFAs were sufficiently clear, and for the RFAs on which the Court could not determine a response was possible, the Defendant has the remedy of seeking reasonable expenses incurred in proving a matter that Plaintiffs refused to admit. Id. at 5-8, 11-12. Similarly, Judge Burke ordered a response to RFAs asking Plaintiffs to admit they were “aware” of off-label uses, overruling Plaintiffs’ objection, advanced only in their letter-briefs, that the word “aware” is ambiguous. Id. at 9-11.

For other RFAs, however, Judge Burke denied the motion to compel a response because he agreed with Plaintiffs’ objection that the RFA sought admission of multiple facts rather than a singular fact than can be admitted or denied. Id. at 8, 12-13. Finally, Judge Burke granted Defendant’s motion to compel responses to RFAs regarding “former customers” of Plaintiffs because the RFAs were not overly vague, incomplete, or directed to multiple facts to be admitted or denied. Id. at 13-16.

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Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke recently denied a motion to stay pending the resolution of inter partes review of certain claims of one patent-in-suit.  Triplay, Inc. v. WhatsApp Inc., C.A. No. 13-1703-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Sept. 18, 2017).  Judge Burke explained that the IPR, including any appeals, would likely be resolved before any significant events were were likely to occur in the litigation (which did not yet have a case schedule), a factor weighing against a stay.  Second, while the lack of a case schedule usually means that a case is in its early stages – a factor weighing in favor of a stay – in this case the litigation was nearly four years old, and the lack of a case schedule was due to an early claim construction of certain claims for purposes of a pending motion to dismiss under section 101.  Because the case was not, practically speaking, in its early stages, Judge Burke found “no compelling reason to further stall the entirety of this case to allow for the Federal Circuit to review the PTAB’s decisions relating to only some claims of a single patent-in-suit.”

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Plaintiff Ethicon filed a motion for limited expedited discovery, stating that it “intends to file a preliminary injunction motion against [defendant] Intuitive’s . . . products, but it first needs a limited set of materials to confirm infringement” by products which are not yet sold publicly, but which Ethicon believed were about to be commercially launched. Ethicon LLC, et al. v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 17-871-LPS-CJB, Memo. Or. at 1-2 (D. Del. Aug. 16, 2017). Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke denied the motion, noting that no answer or Rule 12 motion had been filed, no motion for preliminary injunction had been filed, and “the majority of courts have held [that failure to file a motion for preliminary injunction] weigh[s] against allowing [a] plaintiff’s motion for expedited discovery.” Id. at 3. Moreover, although the requested discovery may be helpful in proving likelihood of success and causal nexus when Ethicon does file a motion for preliminary injunction, “normally, a party that accuses another of patent infringement is first required to articulate a basis for such allegations in a pleading–without getting the prior opportunity to force access to its opponent’s confidential documents, all in order to ‘confirm’ whether its assertions are well-founded,” which would cause prejudice to defendant Intuitive. Id. at 5-6.

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Magistrate Judge Burke recent issued a memorandum order addressing the scope of discovery into a defendant’s products that are not “specifically-accused products.” Judge Burke reached slightly different conclusions with respect to different sets of asserted patents. For one set of patents, Judge Burke agreed with the Defendant’s arguments that the Plaintiff’s infringement contentions do not provide “sufficiently particularized information, so as to allow it to assess which non-specifically-accused products have the same attributes as the specifically-accused product . . . e.g., how they would be ‘reasonably similar’ to the accused products at issue.” Because of this lack of information about similarity, Judge Burke denied Plaintiff’s request for discovery “about non-specifically-accused products that allegedly infringe these two patents” but stated that Plaintiff could renew the request if “in the future, Plaintiffs provide greater specificity to Defendant as to what characteristics an unaccused product would have such that it would satisfy these limitations.” Tessera, Inc., et al. v. Broadcom Corp., C.A. No. 16-380-LPS-CJB, Memo. Or. at 1-2 (D. Del. June 16, 2017).

With respect to a separate set of asserted patents, Judge Burke was “not necessarily convinced that (as Defendant suggests) Defendant does not have enough information to understand which of its unaccused products share ‘the same or reasonably similar circuitry[,]’ as the two specifically-accused products.” However, there were “over 100 discrete products” at issue, and Judge Burke found that not only did he lack “information as to whether, in fact, all or any such products do in fact share the same relevant circuity” but also the record evidence “indicates that Defendant would face a significant burden were it required to prepare the relevant schematics for review and/or to assess whether the relevant circuit’s design is the same or similar to the accused design.” Again, however, Judge Burke indicated that the outcome might be different if “Plaintiffs’ request had been targeted toward a smaller number of specifically-unaccused products, or if Plaintiffs had information that called into question the magnitude of the burden that Defendant says it would face.” Id. at 2-3.

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Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke recently issued a Report and Recommendation on claim construction, construing terms and applying the doctrine of issue preclusion with regard to the proper function for one term in dispute.  Princeton Digital Image Corporation v. Konami Digital Entertainment, No. 12-1461-LPS-CJB (D. Del. June 16, 2017).  Defendants argued that issue preclusion applied because during prior inter partes review proceedings, plaintiff argued for a function for the term that it now opposes before this court.  Id. at 6-7.  Judge Burke agreed:

The Federal Circuit has recently explained that “administrative decisions by the [PTAB] can ground issue preclusion in district court when the ordinary elements of issue preclusion are met[.]” SkyHawke Techs., LLC v. Deca Int’l Corp., 828 F.3d 1373, 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2016). Issue preclusion (often referred to as the doctrine of “collateral estoppel”) applies when “(1) the identical issue was previously adjudicated; (2) the issue was actually litigated; (3) the previous determination was necessary to the decision; and (4) the party being precluded from relitigating the issue was fully represented in the prior action.” Fairchild Semiconductor Corp. v. Power Integrations, Inc., C.A. No. 12-540-LPS, 2015 WL 1905871, at *1 (D. Del. Apr. 23, 2015) (quoting Jean Alexander Cosmetics, Inc. v. L ‘Orea! USA, Inc., 458 F.3d 244, 249 (3d Cir. 2006)).

Id.at 8.  All prongs of the test were met because the PTAB previously adjudicated the issue of the proper function for the term in question, the PTAB adopted the function using the same standard for claim construction applicable in this case, and the Final Written Decision was a “final and valid judgment.”  Id. at 8-9.

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Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke recently considered plaintiffs’ motion to exclude defendants’ expert’s testimony regarding “how the dispensing of prescription drugs occurs at pharmacy, and to discuss the factors that influence which product ultimately is dispensed for a particular prescription.”  GlaxoSmithKline LLC, et al., v. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Inc., USA, No. 14-877-LPS-CJB, at 3  (D. Del. May 2, 2017).   Judge Burke found the expert’s proposed testimony was sufficiently reliable as “Defendants [] sufficiently explained how [the expert’s] past and present work experience provide[d] a firm foundation for her opinions.”  Id. at 7.   Judge Burke also found that the expert’s proposed testimony fit the facts of the case because the expert’s testimony would be “based on her experience working with and overseeing numerous pharmacies in the United States regarding how [the relevant] prescriptions are filled.”  Id.at 11.

GlaxoSmithKline LLC, et al., v. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Inc., USA, No. 14-877-LPS-CJB, at 3 (D. Del. May 2, 2017)

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In a detailed Report and Recommendation issued in International Business Machines Corporation v. The Priceline Group Inc., et al., C.A. No. 15-137-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Apr. 10, 2017), Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke recommended that Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss Defendants’ inequitable conduct counterclaim and to strike their corresponding affirmative defense be granted-in-part.

Defendants’ inequitable conduct allegations fell into three separate “theories”: “allegations relating to the failure to disclose (1) certain prior art references against [two asserted patents] . . . (2) commercialization efforts . . . [and] (3) co-pending patent applications and office actions related to those applications.” Id. at 12.  Plaintiff challenged the sufficiency of Defendants’ allegations of materiality and intent, and also that the inequitable conduct allegations regarding certain patents could “infect” others.

As a threshold matter, Defendants contended that because “‘Rule 12(b)(6) doesn’t permit piecemeal dismissals of parts of claims[,]’ . . . if any one theory of inequitable conducts passes muster under Rule 9(b), then all of Defendants’ theories set out in the counterclaim should survive, even if some are clearly insufficiently pleaded.” Id. at 13.  The Court disagreed, citing, inter alia, case law from this District where portions of inequitable conduct claims were dismissed, and further observing that Defendants’ single-count approach to their pleading was confusing and may frustrate the particularity requirements of Rule 9(b). See id. at 13-16.

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Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke recently denied two co-pending motions to transfer venue to the Northern District of California. Applying the Third Circuit’s Jumara factors in considering whether all relevant factors strongly favored transfer, Judge Burke found that transfer was not warranted. Tessera, Inc., et al. v. Broadcom Corp., C.A. No. 16-379-LPS-CJB, Memo. Op. at 25-26 (D. Del. Mar. 21, 2017).

The plaintiffs’ principal place of business was in the Northern District of California, and the defendants also had significant operations in the Northern District of California, but the plaintiffs were incorporated in Delaware, weighing against transfer. Id. at 7-10. Judge Burke also explained that it was difficult to assess “where the alleged infringement has occurred” because of uncertainty as to the relevant facts and the parties’ unclear submissions on this point. Accordingly, this factor only slightly favored transfer. Id. at 11-14. The convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses, the location of books and records, and practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive weighed slightly in favor of transfer. All other Jumara factors were neutral. Id. at 14-25.

Judge Burke concluded that “This is, as Broadcom notes, a ‘dispute between California entities.’ And in balancing the Jumara factors, the Court acknowledges that Broadcom has pointed to a number of connections between the Northern District of California and the facts or people involved in this case. This has, in tum, resulted in a greater number of Jumara factors tipping Broadcom’s way, as opposed to Plaintiffs’ way. And yet a close examination of most of the factors favoring Broadcom shows that they do not have much of a practical impact. Had Broadcom been able to make a stronger showing even as to any one of the factors that only slightly tipped in its favor, the outcome may have been different. . . . But Broadcom did not make any such showing. As a result, any inconvenience it faces in trying the case in this District does not seem pronounced. After careful review, the Court is prepared to say that the balance of convenience is in favor of Broadcom. But it cannot conclude that this balance ‘is strongly in favor of’ Broadcom.” Id. at 26.

The case also presented an interesting procedural issue. Judge Burke’s decision addressed two separate civil actions, each of which involved a motion to transfer, which the parties agreed should be resolved together. One civil action, however, was stayed pending an ITC investigation, while the other action was not stayed. As Judge Burke pointed out, the “parties to the action agree that it is proper for the Court to resolve the transfer of venue issue in [the stayed case], even while this stay is pending, and they have cited to case law in support. The Court agrees with the logic set out in the cited cases, and, as a result, will proceed to address the Motions in both cases.” Id. at 5 n.3 (citations omitted).

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On January 23, 2017, Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke issued a standing order regarding courtroom opportunities for newer attorneys. The standing order explains that “[t]he Court is cognizant of a growing trend in which fewer cases go to trial, and in which there are generally fewer opportunities in court for speaking or ‘stand-up’ engagements. This is especially true for newer attorneys, that is, attorneys practicing for less than seven years (‘newer attorney(s )’).” Id. at 1. The standing order goes on:  “Recognizing the importance of the development of future generations of practitioners through courtroom opportunities, the undersigned Judge encourages the participation of newer attorneys in proceedings in my courtroom—particularly as to oral argument on motions where the newer attorney drafted or contributed significantly to the briefing for the motion.”

Accordingly, Judge Burke adopted the following procedures regarding oral argument as to pending motions:

  1. After a motion is fully briefed, either as part of a Request for Oral Argument, or in a separate Notice filed thereafter, a party may alert the Court that, if argument is granted, it intends to have a newer attorney argue the motion (or a portion of the motion).
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In a recent Memorandum Order, Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke denied plaintiffs’ (“Integra”) motion for leave to file an amended complaint, concluding that “to grant the Motion would cause substantial and undue prejudice to Defendant.” Integra LifeSciences Corp. v. Hyperbranch Medical Technology, Inc., C.A. No. 15-819-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Feb. 16, 2017). First, Judge Burke observed that the parties and Court have “spent substantial time and effort attempting to address and narrow the issues in what is already a large, complex matter.” Id. at 2.  As Judge Burke explained, the action is a “six-patent case” and one patent “involves complicated chemical technologies.” Id. Judge Burke further explained that the “parties . . . proceeded through a lengthy and involved preliminary injunction phase,” and since then, they “have expended more time on discovery (and on discovery disputes), have narrowed the number of claims and references at issue, and are currently in the midst of claim construction briefing (involving 20 disputed claim terms).” Id.

Second, Judge Burke found that the additions in the proposed Amended Complaint, which sought to add two new patents, “are not minor.” Id. While Judge Burke acknowledged that there is some overlap between the operative complaint and proposed Amended Complaint, he observed that the new patents had different inventors and implicated embodiments not directly at issue with the original patents. Id. at 2-3. Judge Burke further observed that defendant “is  . . . understandably concerned with how a jury will be able to grasp its arguments at trial, were a case as large as this to become ever larger after amendment.” Id. at 3.

Third, Judge Burke found that “were the Motion granted, this would surely do violence to the current case schedule.” Id. Judge Burke explained that “the addition of the new patents will no doubt necessitate significant additional fact and expert discovery, claim construction and discovery dispute proceedings, and dispositive motion practice.” Id. Further, “[t]he current trial date would surely be lost, and the case schedule would no doubt need to be pushed back by many months (at least).” Id.

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