A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Fee Awards

A motion for attorneys' fees is a tough row to hoe. The shoddiest AI lawyer could pull together 8 paragraphs of quotes from the Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit, Blackstone, and Hammurabi's code, warning that fees are an extreme sanction to be used only sparingly, lest their mysterious power be depleted.

And he works for peanuts!
And he works for peanuts! AI-Generated, displayed with permission

As Judge Williams' opinion in BearBox LLC v. Lancium LLC, C.A. No. 21-534-GBW (D. Del. Jan 9, 2024) shows, you can even lose a motion for fees if the Court previously held the other party acted in bad faith.

The opinion in Bearbox, contains a healthy recitation of losses by the plaintiff at various stages of the case, culminating in an unsuccessful trial on the merits. Its' not worth rehashing the whole thing for our purposes—

(Eds. note - what is our purpose? sound off in the comments, but know in advance that I will not read anything by a philosopher or anyone else with a fuller beard than I possess)

—but the big takeaway is that the defendant's failure to win the case at summary judgment effectively scuttled any argument that the plaintiffs' claims were objectively baseless and unreasonable:

Moreover, while the Court adopted Defendants' proposed claim constructions, the Court denied Defendants' motion for summary judgement because the Court found that there existed genuine issues of material fact regarding who conceived of the '433 patent's subject matter. Thus, Plaintiffs' decision to continue litigating the sole inventorship claim after receiving the Court's claim constructions was not sufficiently unreasonable to warrant a finding that this case is exceptional . . .
The Court, in denying Defendants' motion for summary judgement, rejected Defendants' argument that no reasonable juror could find that Mr. Storms was the sole inventor of the '433 patent. Thus, even considering the '632 patent application, Plaintiffs' position that Mr. Storms was the sole inventor of the '433 patent was not meritless.

Id. at 4, 6-7 (internal citations omitted).

The one issue where they seemed to get some traction was in a successful motion to strike filed earlier in the case. The plaintiff had apparently served a new expert report, without leave, in order to conform their expert's opinion to a the Court's claim construction. Defendants successfully moved to strike the report. In its decision, the Court applied the Pennypack factors and actually found that the plaintiffs' actions indicated bad faith.

Nevertheless, in ruling on the § 285 motion, Judge Williams found that this act of bad faith was not enough to make the case exceptional:

Accordingly, even though the Court found Plaintiffs' timing indicative of bad faith, the Court finds that, in this instance, Plaintiffs' desire to supplement Dr. McClellan's expert report to ensure consistency with the Court's claim construction order did not render this an exceptional case.

Id. at 5.

So take heart, those have shown bad faith. You may yet find yourselves sufficiently redeemed to avoid fees.

Dollar Bills
Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash

It's always good to know where the lines are. Today, Judge Williams awarded attorneys fees after the plaintiff in a Defend Trade Secrets Act action maintained an "objectively specious" argument after the close of fact discovery:

A claim is objectively specious where there is a complete lack of evidentiary proof from the party suing. . . . [T]he Court agrees with [defendant] Backer that [plaintiff] ZIM litigated this matter with knowledge that its claims were objectively specious. While Backer contends that ZIM knew that its claims were objectively baseless when it filed the Complaint, the Court finds that ZIM understood that its claims were objectively specious by the close of fact discovery on January 12, …

Money: Something defendants probably won't be seeing here.
Money: Something defendants probably won't be seeing here. Giorgio Trovato, Unsplash

We've talked before about the Court's decision to award fees against Blackbird Tech LLC, based on Blackbird's "objectively baseless post-Markman litigation strategy."

Back in August, the Court ordered the parties to submit a stipulated fee amount, or for the defendant to submit a fee accounting. Since then, Defendant submitted a fee accounting showing $485,420.74 in fees, consisting of $404,734.68 for lead counsel and $80,686.06 for local counsel. Blackbird filed a very short statement opposing the fees amount.

The substance of Blackbird's statement is entirely redacted, but we can tell from the Court's order that they basically just argued that they are out of business:

Blackbird responded [to the fee accounting] with a "Statement" containing less than a page of text. (D.I. 275). Blackbird says it is out of business, has no assets, and is winding up under Massachusetts law.

M2M Solutions LLC v. Sierra Wireless America Inc., C.A. No. 14-1102-RGA, D.I. 279 at 1 (D. Del. Apr. 25, 2023).

The Court held that the fact that Blackbird is out of business has no impact on the fee award amount, but noted the (very, very likely) difficulty of collecting on fees:

That may all be true, but that does not state any reasons why I should not make the award. It merely suggests that collecting on the award may be difficult to impossible.


Redactions Strike Again

If you are someone who frequently files fee declarations after winning fee motions, you probably know that it can be tricky to support the reasonableness of fee requests. Most firms keep their rates ...