A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Case Narrowing

Watch out for what may be in that draft scheduling order...
Watch out for what may be in that draft scheduling order... AI Generated, displayed with permission

In International Business Machines Corporation v. Zynga Inc., C.A. No. 22-590-GBW (D. Del.), the parties agreed in the scheduling order to a rather vague set of case narrowing provisions:

On November 30, 2023, Plaintiff shall perform a first narrowing of the number of asserted claims. On December 7, 2023, Defendant shall perform a first narrowing of the number of asserted invalidity references.
. . . On February 28, 2024, Plaintiff shall perform a second narrowing of the number of asserted claims. On March 5, 2024, Defendant shall perform a second narrowing of the number of asserted invalidity …

"Do you think 11 patents might be more than we need? Nah" Maciej Ruminkiewicz, Unsplash

Back in May, we wrote about an order by Chief Judge Connolly directing an ANDA plaintiff to cut back to 4 claims prior to trial, or potentially face a more difficult road for injunctive relief.

Plaintiff cut back to 6 claims, apparently dropping five patents from the case, and the bench trial proceeded.

Last month, Chief Judge Connolly issued his post-trial opinion regarding infringement and invalidity, and directed the parties to enter a proposed order. The parties ended up disputing what should happen to those dropped claims from the five dropped patents in the final judgment:

The proposals differ with respect to the disposition …

Andrew E. Russell, CC BY 2.0

In my experience, parties in patent actions in the District of Delaware (and elsewhere) routinely drop claims in the lead up to trial. "Dropping claims" includes withdrawing asserted claims (e.g. "Claim 1"), whole asserted patents (e.g., "the '123 patent"), infringement contentions (e.g., "direct infringement" or "infringement by product A"), and other claims (including non-patent claims).

Most often, in practice, this is accomplished via an e-mail to the other side or, if the parties want something on the docket, by stipulation. I don't know of a case where the Court here insisted that a plaintiff not drop claims (of course, a defendant may also have counterclaims).

Are the Claims Withdrawn with Prejudice?

But parties rarely …

Nick Fewings, Unsplash

Yesterday, Magistrate Judge Burke released a new form scheduling order. There are redlines embedded below.

Here is a quick rundown of some of the changes in the patent scheduling order:

  • Added from Judge Andrews' scheduling order:
    • A requirement for plaintiffs to provide licenses and settlement agreements as part of their disclosures
    • A prompt in the scheduling order for the parties to consider a staged reduction of asserted claims and prior art, before and after claim construction (this comes up a lot)
  • Added from Judges Connolly, Noreika, and/or Hall's scheduling orders:
    • A requirement to include chart at the end listing the deadlines all together (convenient!)
    • A Concise Statement of Facts requirement for summary judgment
    • He …

Karan Chawla, Unsplash

Case narrowing is an issue that eventually comes up in most patent cases—the idea that each party should have to reduce the number of claims and prior art references at points during the case.

How Claim Narrowing Usually Goes in a Patent Action

If parties want to avoid a dispute down the line, they can include case narrowing in the scheduling order. More often, however, it comes up at some point after the plaintiffs makes its initial election of asserted claims, and the parties start to get an understanding of the scope of the case.

Typically the initial narrowing occurs before claim construction, and a second round occurs afterwards, sometimes around the time of final contentions. …

Case narrowing is an issue that comes up in most patent cases at some point, whether in the scheduling order, as a discovery dispute, or at the pretrial conference (or, possibly, all three).

Average amount of prior art references each defendant seeks to assert.
Average amount of prior art references each defendant seeks to assert. Cristina Gottardi, Unsplash

When requested, judges in Delaware typically implement an initial two-stage reduction in asserted claims and prior art references, with the first stage occurring before claim construction, and the second afterward.

Of course, sometimes they will implement other schedules depending on the needs of the case and the requests of the parties. And, for cases that reach a pretrial conference, the Court often imposes an additional limit on the number of claims for …

In the most recent entry in the case narrowing saga in IPA Techs., Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 16-1266-RGA (previously covered here and here), Judge Andrews addressed defendant Amazon's objection to the reassertion of previously dropped claims.

Earlier this year, Judge Andrews directed IPA to reduce its asserted claims to 30, and it did. Subsequently, nearly half of its asserted claims were invalidated in an IPR. Plaintiff IPA, no longer asserting the invalidated claims, then added (or "reasserted") seven of the previously dropped claims in place of the invalidated claims.

Amazon opposed the addition of the new claims because fact discovery was nearly complete and because it had crafted its invalidity case with the 30 asserted claims in …