A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


Entries for tag: claim-narrowing

Scissors
Markus Winkler, Unsplash

A few months ago, we wrote about claim narrowing in patent cases, noting that Delaware judges will often set additional limits when a case reaches trial. Because this typically comes up during the pretrial conference, there is often no written record on the docket.

Last Thursday, however, Chief Judge Connolly issued a rare, written order requiring the parties to narrow their claims and defenses before trial:

ORAL ORDER: Per today's call, it is HEREBY ORDERED that the pretrial conference will be held on July 27, 2021, and the trial will be held on August 2, 2021. Plaintiff shall identify for Defendant no later than 5:00 p.m. on July 7, 2021 no more than two patents and …

The first part of this headline is no surprise. As long as a motion to amend is filed before the deadline in the scheduling order, it's very hard to lose. In fact, Judge Andrews didn't even issue a written opinion on this one (another plug for the importance of monitoring oral orders in D. Del.):

I do not see undue delay, and Defendant basically concedes that any prejudice can be pretty easily ameliorated. The Court is not concerned about the prospect of a five-day trial with seven patents from seven families. That scenario will never come to pass.

The surprising part is what happened next. After dismissing the defendant's concerns, Judge Andrews ordered the plaintiffs to narrow their …

Continuing in the vein of last week's discussion of claim narrowing, Judge Andrews issued an interesting opinion on Friday discussing the number of invalidity arguments a defendant was allowed to present at trial.

Although we still occasionally see orders in the district limiting the number of prior art references a defendant is allowed to assert, it has become increasingly common in recent years to see the Court limit the number of prior art arguments or combinations or defenses an accused infringer can assert -- either instead of, or in addition to, a set number of references.

The question of how to count "arguments" has generated a fair amount of opinions in the district, with slightly varying results. Judge Burke gave …

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 …

Ok, maybe not all people, and not all of the time. But in ranking the kinds of prior art I'd like to be able to assert against a tech patent, off of the top of my head, I'd rank system references pretty low:

  1. A U.S. Patent: Simple and easy.
  2. A foreign patent: Proving authenticity and publication is usually easy (but sometimes not).
  3. A journal publication: You may have to jump through some hoops, but no big deal.
  4. A Wayback Machine reference: Now one of those hoops is waiting (and waiting...) for a declaration through the Internet Archive's procedures. But it's not hard to get.
  5. A book. Now you may be dealing with librarian declarations.
  6. . . . …

Litigant requesting
Litigant requesting "extra pages" Belinda Fewings, Unsplash

This week saw the birth of a novel way to raise a claim narrowing dispute, and it strikes me as rather clever.

Typically the number of claims asserted gets raised as a discovery dispute or as part of the scheduling or status conference.

The plaintiff in TQ Delta, LLC v. Pace Americas, LLC, C.A. No. 13-1835-RGA (D. Del.), though, took a different tack and instead moved for extra pages for summary judgment briefing, explaining that it needed the extra pages because the defendant was asserting 18 invalidity defenses (against plaintiff's 2 asserted claims).

This resulted in the following turn of events:

  • Judge Andrews immediately issued an Oral Order requesting defendant …

Clerks frantically tallying prior art references and combinations
Clerks frantically tallying prior art references and combinations Brown Abaca, Crissy Jarvis, Unsplash

This blog could be nothing but disputes about claim narrowing. We'd have 72,000 posts a year and we'd never get to the bottom of all the little sub-disputes, and how each judge prefers to handle them. I'm sure it would be quite popular.

This week in IPA Technologies Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., Judge Andrews clarified his position on one of the more common disputes -- how exactly to count "references" for the purposes of narrowing.

The defendant, Amazon, had been ordered to reduce the number of references in its invalidity contentions and had responded by limiting itself to 4 prior art "systems." …

Claim Construction Meet and Confer Ends in the Usual Way
Claim Construction Meet and Confer Ends in the Usual Way Ein Gedenkbuch an das glorreiche Jahr 1866 in Wort und Bild, British Library, Unsplash

Last Friday, Judge Noreika ordered the parties in two separate actions to submit revised joint claim charts "identifying no more than a total of ten (10) terms to be argued at the [claim construction] hearing."

The Ongoing Struggle to Limit Terms

This represents a bit of an escalation in the Court's struggle to reduce the number of terms it construes, largely led by our newest Judges, Noreika and Connolly. Last year, Judge Noreika begin issuing her "now-standard post-briefing order directing the parties to meet and confer in an attempt to narrow issues prior to the …

michal-parzuchowski-oT-XbATcoTQ-unsplash.jpg
Poker Night, Michał Parzuchowski, Unsplash

On Monday, Judge Connolly issued a Memorandum Order squarely rejecting the notion that requiring a patentee to drop asserted claims for case management purposes violates due process.

Claim narrowing is one of those issues in patent law that is frequently litigated, but rarely produces a full opinion. Often, a plaintiff asserts a monstrously large number of claims, the defendant then complains that a trial on 396 claims is impossible, and the plaintiff notes that requiring them to drop the claims implicates due process. Then, everything is teed up for a discovery dispute resulting in a brief oral order narrowing the case without significant analysis.

The dispute in VLSI Technology LLC v. Intel Corporation …