A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Claim Narrowing

Disappointment Ice Cream
Sarah Kilian, Unsplash

In Exeltis USA, Inc. v. Lupin Ltd., C.A. No. 22-434-RGA-SRF (D. Del.), plaintiff asserted infringement of claims from six patents. Back in July, 2023, Judge Andrews ordered the plaintiff to narrow its case to seven asserted claims across all of the patents prior to trial, which is set for Monday, February 26, 2024.

On Tuesday of this week, the Court issued its ruling on several pre-trial claim construction disputes. Plaintiff lost some of the disputes and, apparently, decided that it needed to stipulate to non-infringement of that claim.

With one of its seven claims out of the case, and with less than a week to go before trial, Plaintiff sought leave to re-assert one …

Sami, CC BY 2.0

There was an interesting oral order from Judge Burke last week in Natera, Inc. v. CareDX, Inc., C.A. No. 20-38 (D. Del. Apr. 28, 2023). Defendant apparently asserted a large number of § 112 defenses based on lack of enablement or written description. The Court held that the defendant had to narrow it's defenses.

The parties further disputed whether the parties should count § 112 arguments by limitation or by claim. The Court held that they should be counted by claim limitation, not by claim:

With respect to the parties' dispute as to whether an argument that a claim is invalid under section 112 based on a particular claim limitation counts …

I usually don't expect a fight about withdrawing a claim. Adding one? sure. Striking one? Also Sure. Squishing two of them together and pretending they're dancing? Definitely.

Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!
Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go! AI-Generated, displayed with permission

Generally though, the voluntary withdrawal of a claim makes life easier for the parties and the Court and passes from the case without comment or concern. That said, you can see why the withdrawal in MirTech, Inc. v. AgroFresh, Inc, C.A. No. 20-1170-RGA (D. Del. Mar. 23, 2023) (Mem. Op.) was more contentious.

The case had been pending for almost two years when Judge Andrews "encouraged the parties to avoid the over-litigation that [he] thought was happening in th[e] case." This "encouragement" took place about a week before the Defendant moved for SJ on several topics. plaintiff filed its opposition brief a month after that.

The defendant then took the unusual step of withdrawing one of the claims it had moved on—nominally without ...

This morning I woke up and everything hurt. It was cold, and my old house made a sound like a sad kazoo with every mournful gust of wind. I'm still working out the physics of that last bit. As I sat down to my porridge, I admitted to myself that I was old.

More than usually cursed art (FYI, it's supposed to be a kazoo)
AI-Generated, displayed with permission


All this is to say that I felt like nothing was going my way. So I empathized with the filers of a seemingly simple stipulation in Cleveland Medical Devices, Inc. v. ResMed Inc., C.A. No. 22-794-GBW.

The scheduling order there differed from Judge Williams' form in that it added a specific provision for the reduction of prior art, limiting the number of claims asserted for each patent, as well as the number of prior art references for each patent:

The parties shall reduce the number of asserted claims and asserted prior art used for anticipation and obviousness combinations as follows:
• On January 9, 2023 . . . Plaintiff shall serve an Initial Election of Asserted Claims, which shall identify no more than 64 total asserted claims, and no more than 10 asserted claims per patent.
• On February 8,2023 . . ., Defendant shall serve an Initial Election of Prior Art, which shall identify no more than 64 total references and no more than 10 references per patent that can be used for anticipation or as combinations for obviousness . . .

Id. at D.I. 41 Paragraph 3(g).

Later, the parties had a dispute over the per-patent cap ...

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An interesting opinion from Judge Thynge last week on case narrowing, and in particular, how to count invalidity arguments.

The defendant in Targus International LLC v. Victorinox Swiss Army, Inc.., C.A. No.20-464-RGA-MPT (D. Del. Nov. 18, 2022), had agreed to reduce the number of prior art "arguments" to 5. In its expert reports, however, they had counted reference "A in view of B", as well as "B in view of A" as a single argument. This lead to the inclusion of (what plaintiff counted as) more than 5 arguments. Plaintiff then moved to strike the extraneous arguments and Judge Thynge agreed, holding:

In its letter brief, Defendant maintains that it "never labeled any reference …

"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 …

The Greatest of Funnels
John Matychuk, Unsplash

More and More, case narrowing has become a fact of life in Delaware. What was once an ad-hoc process recorded in a handful of unpublished orders has become more formal, and the various by-laws and codicils that govern it are congealing into something knowable, citable, and inevitable.

But we're not there yet, and even I can still be surprised by a novel ruling on the intricacies of the process. Such was the case in Tonal Systems, Inc. v. iFIT Inc., C.A. No. 20-1197-VAC-CJB, D.I. 100 (D. Del. May 16, 2022). Following an earlier dispute on the schedule for narrowing, The parties there were set to narrow of both claims and prior art, following the disclosure of initial infringement and invalidity contentions. So far, normal.

The wrinkle was that the narrowing schedule left more than 30 days between the service of Defendant's initial invalidity contentions and the deadline by which they had to narrow their prior art. They thus took the clever step of serving a rog requesting plaintiffs validity contentions -- a response to which would have been due before Defendant had to pick their prior art arguments. Plaintiffs objected, stating "[t]he Court ordered [Defendant] to narrow its Section 102/103 invalidity case to no more than 50 prior art references

David Pisnoy, Unsplash

On Friday, Chief Judge Connolly issued an order in the lead-up to an ANDA bench trial compelling the plaintiff to reduce its number of asserted claims by 75% to 4 claims, or face consequences:

ORAL ORDER: WHEREAS, the parties filed the proposed pretrial order (D.I. 225) on May 10, 2022; WHEREAS, the bench trial in this case is 24 days away, and, according to the pretrial order, Plaintiffs are still asserting 15 claims across eight patents . . . ; and WHEREAS, Plaintiffs' assertion of 15 claims across eight patents at this juncture makes clear that Plaintiffs have yet to focus adequately on the relative strength of their various infringement claims, the limited resources of …

Delaware Memorial Bridge
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Observant readers will have noticed that the new scheduling orders Chief Judge Connolly unveiled last week were specifically for non-Hatch-Waxman cases, and perhaps deduced that further orders for ANDA cases would be forthcoming. Well, the wait is over.

The new Hatch-Waxman case order, released yesterday, contains many of the same updates as the orders from last week, including a procedure for ranking Daubert motions, the tweaks to claim construction procedures, and the requirement for colored covers on courtesy copies. All to be expected given the changes last week.

Early Case Narrowing

The big change was that the new scheduling order includes a staged procedure for narrowing asserted claims and prior art. The first such stage begins just 7 days after the scheduling conference:

No later than seven days after the date of this Order, Plaintiff(s) shall serve Defendant(s) with a "Preliminary Disclosure of Asserted Claims" that lists each claim of each patent alleged to be infringed by Defendant(s), including for each claim the applicable statutory subsections of 35 U.S.C. § 271 asserted. Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, Plaintiff(s) may assert no more than ...