A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Daubert

AI-Generated, displayed with permission

Visiting Judge Wolson of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a colorful opinion on Monday. It starts with a joke:

Economists love assumptions. One joke recites that a physicist, a chemist, and an economist find themselves on a desert island with a single can of food. The physicist offers to calculate the force needed to use a coconut to open the can. The chemist offers to make a solution that will eat through the can’s top. The economist tells them they are making it too complicated and just to assume a can opener.

Wirtgen America, Inc. v. Caterpillar, Inc., C.A. No. 17-770-JDW, at 1 (D. Del. Feb 5, 2024).

The opinion involves an …

"What do you mean, attorney argument! This is unbiased expert testimony about how awesome our positions are." Braydon Anderson, Unsplash

Well, this is a new one for me. In Wirtgen America, Inc. v. Caterpillar, Inc., C.A. No. 17-770-JDW-MPT (D. Del. Jan. 16, 2024), the plaintiff had previously brought an action in the ITC against the defendant, and won—achieving an exclusion order that stood up (in part) on appeal.

Now, in a District of Delaware action on the same patents, plaintiff argues willfulness based in part on the previous ITC ruling. Defendant tried to offer an expert who would testify about how great its defenses were at the ITC:

Caterpillar offers Mr. Bartkowski to opine on how …

Dauberts, especially of technical experts, are notoriously difficult. An error needs to be pretty blatant for the Court to find that it's not mere grounds for cross-examination. Moreover, it tends to be hard to find something useful to cite in a Daubert brief because the inquiry is often very fact-specific.

Thankfully we have Judge Bryson's opinion in Prolitec Inc. v. ScentAir Technologies, LLC, C.A. No. 20-984-WCB (D. Del. Dec. 13, 2023) (Mem. Op.), which sets forth a pretty bright line rule on a technical failure that warrants exclusion—failure to use a control in an experiment.

AI-Generated, displayed with permission

The specific experiment at issue was elegant in its awfulness. The claims required that the lid to a device have a "tortuous passage" that assisted in preventing leakage. To test if the accused product's tortuous passage prevented leakage, the plaintiffs' expert filled up the device, turned it on its side and checked for leaks. Finding none, he opined that the passage prevented leakage.

Judge Bryson noted the obvious flaw in this test and excluded the experts opinion:

ScentAir’s third and most telling objection is that Dr. Hultmark did not also test a device similar to the Breeze cartridge but lacking a tortuous passage, in order to determine whether that device would leak when filled 45 percent full of fragrance oil and placed on its side . . . .Given that there was no control for Dr. Hultmark’s test, the fact that the Breeze product did not leak under those conditions does not show that it was the tortuous passage in the Breeze cartridge that was responsible for the absence of leakage. Because Prolitec has failed to provide a satisfactory answer to this flaw in Testing Configuration 1, I find that the evidence regarding that test would not be helpful to the jury, and the evidence will therefore be excluded.

Id. at 28-29.

That's about as straightforward a Daubert ruling as I've ever seen. I'll hope to cite it myself soon (enemies beware!)

Five Candles
Steve Johnson, Unsplash

Chief Judge Connolly's scheduling order requires parties to rank their Daubert motions, and gives the Court the discretion to automatically deny all lower-ranked motions if it denies any one motion. In other words, if a party files five Daubert motions, and the Court grants the first-ranked motion but denies the second, the Court can then deny motions three, four, and five:

If the Court decides to deny a motion filed by the party, barring exceptional reasons determined sua sponte by the Court, the Court will not review any further Daubert motions filed by the party.

It has a similar provision for summary judgment motions Thus, it's important that parties split up their motions and rank them. …

Many years ago, before Andrew made me put a picture in EVERY TURTLE-CURSED POST, I wrote a post about the very easiest Daubert motion to win. As a brief refresher, it turned out to be a motion to exclude a damages experts reliance on a jury verdict point as the starting point for a hypothetical negotiation. Both Judge Andrews and Judge Burke were particularly firm on the issue, coming just short of setting a bright-line rule:

A jury verdict does not represent evidence from which a hypothetical negotiation can be reliably determined. A jury verdict represents the considered judgment of twelve (or maybe fewer) random non-experts as to what a hypothetical negotiation would have resulted in for the patent(s) …

One of the hardest parts of being a patent litigator is that all of your stories are boring. With enough hand gestures and elbows to the rib you can sometimes get a polite chuckle from a colleague, but normals? Fuhgedaboutit.

So then I said, O2 MIcro, more like O2 Nano! Hey-O!
So then I said, O2 MIcro, more like O2 Nano! Hey-O! Mark Williams, Unsplash

Because of this, I've always felt a certain kinship with PTO experts. There is a robust body of law in the district about what exactly they can testify to, but my rule of thumb has always been that the more boring the testimony, the more likely it is to be admissible. Judge Williams had an interesting opinion unsealed today dealing with a pair of Daubert motions directed to both parties experts on patent office procedures. Let's see how my little rule holds up.

Expert the first offered rebuttal expert opinion on inventorship:

Mr. Stoll, who has nearly thirty years of experience at the USPTO . . . refutes Dr. Cooper’s conclusions on inventorship through detailed explanations "related to the ins and outs of internal PTO practices and procedures.” Mr. Stoll’s opinions also include an explanation that the request to correct inventorship and signed statements by the named inventors complied with all of the relevant regulations and guidelines of the USPTO and were properly accepted as such, as is evidenced by the USPTO Director’s issuance of the certificates of correction to inventorship.

Natera, Inc. v. ArcherDX, Inc., C.A. No. 20-125-GBW, at 7 (D. Del. May 2, 2023) (Mem. Order) (cleaned up).

"[I]ns and outs of internal PTO practices," "compliance with the relevant guidelines" -- sounds pretty boring to me. This testimony gets in!

Expert the second, on the other hand, put a bit more of a dramatic spin on his testimony relating to

Stealth Bomber
Matt Artz, Unsplash

We've talked before about MILs that are really stealth summary judgment motions, but now let's talk about MILs that are stealth Daubert motions and stealth motions to strike!

On Friday, Judge Burke denied a motion in limine to preclude the testimony, holding that it was really a Daubert motion, and the party had waived it by failing to present it by the deadline for Daubert motions:

ORAL ORDER: The Court . . . hereby DENIES [Defendants' Motion in Limine No. 1] for the following reasons: (1) [T]he Scheduling Order in this case provided that "[n]o Daubert motions or motions to strike expert testimony shall be filed unless discussed with the [C]ourt at [the status conference …

Photograph of a damages expert report involving the Georgia-Pacific factors, the Panduit test, apportionment, convoyed sales, non-infringing alternatives, marking . . .
Photograph of a damages expert report involving the Georgia-Pacific factors, the Panduit test, apportionment, convoyed sales, non-infringing alternatives, marking . . . Luca J, Unsplash

It seems like people are always messing up with patent damages experts. There are just a lot of ways to get tripped up on damages, and—obviously—big incentives to take risks to drive damages numbers up or down.

We had another example of that on Monday, when visiting Judge McCalla granted a Daubert motion and excluded testimony from an expert who applied a later date for the start of infringing sales for the royalty calculation, and an earlier date for the hypothetical negotiation. The expert apparently used a December 2014 date for his royalty calculation:

Wonderland argues that neither Evenflo nor Mr. Peterson presented evidence of any manufacture or testing that occurred at the dates that Mr. Peterson suggested. . . . Wonderland supports its assertion by pointing to sections of Mr. Peterson’s report and deposition in which Mr. Peterson . . . uses December 2014 and not an earlier date as the starting point for calculating royalty damages based on his hypothetical rate. . . .

But the expert used an earlier date for the reasonably royalty calculation, arguing that the earlier date is when the infringement actually began:

When using a hypothetical negotiation to assess damages, “the date of the hypothetical negotiation is the date that the infringement began.” . . . Mr. Peterson asserts that a date falling between December 2013 and April 2, 2014 “more naturally aligns with the actual date of first infringement.” . . .

But the Court found that the party had failed to put forth evidence of the earlier date, and ...

Dave Adamson, Unsplash

It happens all of the time: You've got arguments A, B, and C that you want to fit in your brief, but you don't have the space to address them all.

What to do? Cut the weaker arguments?

For most attorneys, the answer is: of course not! They move the lesser argument to a footnote in a hail-mary attempt to win if the better arguments fail.

Does it work? Not usually. Here in D. Del., judges have suggested that parties waive arguments when they present them only in cursory footnotes, and Judge Noreika recently noted that "courts traditionally do not consider arguments presented entirely in footnotes." Nw. Univ. v. Universal Robots A/S, C.A. No. …

Schedule issues
Towfiqu barbhuiya

We've recently flagged Judge Noreika's evolving practice of sometimes requiring parties to seek leave before filing summary judgment or Daubert motions. It doesn't seem to happen in every case, and so far the Court has often granted leave for at least one summary judgment or Daubert motion in each case. But it's worth keeping in mind if you have a case before Judge Noreika.

Yesterday, we saw a new variation on Judge Noreika's previous orders on this issue. She specifically noted that the trial was a bench trial (it is an ANDA case):

ORAL ORDER re . . . Stipulation and Proposed Order - WHEREAS, the parties have submitted a proposed stipulation that includes, inter alia, new …