A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Litigation

"How much of the puzzle do we really have to give them . . . ?" Bianca Ackermann, Unsplash

The District of Delaware's Default Standard for Discovery requires contentions in patent cases.

One common Delaware counsel question is: what level of detail is required for contentions?

The answer varies on what the concern is. There is a certain level of detail that will probably preclude the Court from ordering you to supplement your contentions—but providing just that bare level of detail may not be enough to preserve all arguments that you later want to make.

On Monday, Judge Burke denied a motion to strike invalidity contentions where a party had disclosed an obviousness theory as to a patent based on modification of a prior art reference, but had not disclosed their intent to cite and rely on their own product as evidence that the modification was obvious.

The plaintiff had moved to strike the discussion of the defendants' own product from their expert reports, on the theory that their contentions failed to to disclose their intent to use that product in their obviousness analysis. Judge Burke denied the motion, and explained that a party need not disclose all evidence in support of its contentions:

Although this is a difficult issue, the Court is not prepared to say that Defendants' actions amounted to an untimely disclosure. This is because Defendants have affirmatively represented that they are not relying on the direct aortic Engager system as prior art itself; instead, they rely on it only as a piece of evidence that will be used to "show that a direct aortic version would have been an obvious modification to Engager 3.0 at the relevant time." (D.I. 361 at 2) In other words, Defendants are relying on the system simply as evidence in support of a theory that was itself timely disclosed. And as Defendants note, courts generally hold that: (a) in validity-related or infringement-related contentions, a party is not required to cite to every piece of evidence that will be used to support a given theory; and (b) it is proper for an expert to expand upon such theories in his expert report. . . . The Court also notes that it is not as if Plaintiff had zero prior knowledge of the existence of the [Defendants'] system. As Defendants point out, they produced documents in discovery regarding this system, and their engineers testified at some length about the device during depositions. . . . (4) In light of the above, the Court cannot say that Defendants' conduct amounts to untimely disclosure that should be stricken.

Speyside Medical, LLC v. Medtronic CoreValve LLC, C.A. No. 20-361, D.I. 447 (D. Del. Dec. 18, 2023).

In my view, the Court is not saying that no evidence at all needs to be disclosed in support of the contentions—just that this particular evidence went beyond what was necessary, under the facts of the case.

In fact, the Court seemed uncomfortable ...

Jon Tyson, Unsplash

The District of Delaware has a 5pm ET filing deadline. This was originally instituted as a 6pm deadline, back in 2014, to improve quality of life for practitioners here. As I've said before—it has been extremely successful.

The 5pm deadlines keeps young associates and staff from having to unexpectedly stay until midnight, disrupting family plans (I recall this happening about once a week). It also keeps clients from having to pay attorneys and staff to sit around and wait for filings. And everyone quickly adapted to working towards either a 5 or 6pm deadline rather than a midnight deadline.

That said, whether the deadline is 5pm, 6pm, or midnight, it's not uncommon for parties to miss it by a few minutes. Often these delays relate to the fact that PACER and CM/ECF tend to slow down quite a bit around 5pm, especially before weekends, as everyone tries to file things simultaneously.

Normally this is not cause for panic. Unlike some jurisdictions, judges in D. Del. generally have not taken an interest in enforcing exact, precise compliance with the 5pm deadline. I have seen parties miss the 5pm by a few minutes countless times, with no response from the Court. Most Delaware counsel seem to agree that it's not worth the Court's or the parties' time to seek a remedy from the Court for a deadline that was missed by only a few minutes.

5 Hours May Be a Bit Much

So I thought it was worth pointing out an instance this week where a party pushed it to far. In Dental Monitoring v. Get-Grin Inc., C.A. No. 22-647-WCB (D. Del. Dec. 13, 2023), a party filed a letter brief at 10:14, and an unopposed motion for leave to file the brief late:

On Tuesday, December 5, 2023, the parties advised the court by email that they had a discovery dispute in this case. They suggested a briefing schedule granting the plaintiff one week to file its letter brief, followed by the defendant’s letter brief one week later. The court directed the parties to file their letter briefs on a shorter briefing schedule, giving the plaintiff until 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, December 8, 2023, to file its three-page letter brief, followed by the defendant’s responsive three-page letter brief at 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, and an optional reply brief for the plaintiff, to be filed by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, December 13, 2023.
The plaintiff filed its opening letter brief on time. The defendant did not. Instead, at 9:04 p.m. Eastern Time, after the deadline had passed, the defendant filed a motion to extend the time for filing its brief until 11:59 p.m. on December 12, 2023. The plaintiff did not oppose the motion, provided it was given a one-day extension for filing its one-page reply letter. At 10:14 p.m., more than five hours after the deadline, the defendant filed its responsive letter brief.

Id. at 1. Judge Bryson (sitting by designation) criticized the motion for an extension because ...

Any time someone moves to withdraw, the question is: Will the client be able to convince the next set of lawyers that the client will pay?
Any time someone moves to withdraw, the question is: Will the client be able to convince the next set of lawyers that the client will pay? Micaela Parente, Unsplash

Having to move to withdraw because a client won't pay is the absolute worst. You have ethical duties to your client, but you can't work for free. You are stuck in a position where you need to tell the Court enough that it will let you out—but you can't tell it everything without violating the ethics rules. The local rules also place some procedural hoops in the way of a motion to withdraw. It's tricky!

Even worse is when the other side opposes your withdrawal, because then you are potentially …

Not the hoped-for result.
Not the hoped-for result. Michael Jin, Unsplash

Sometimes it's nice to know what doesn't work.

In AlterWAN, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., C.A. No. 19-1544-MN (D. Del.), the parties stipulated to a judgment of non-infringement after the Court construed certain terms of the patent, and then appealed to the Federal Circuit.

The Federal Circuit vacated the stipulated judgment because it found it was not specific enough, and remanded the case. See AlterWAN, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 63 F.4th 18, 23 (Fed. Cir. 2023) (“[W]e cannot ‘ascertain the basis for the judgment’ of non-infringement, . . . because the parties did not adequately explain how the claim construction rulings related to the accused systems.”).

On remand, the …

"Yes, your honor, it literally meets the claim elements of an 'animal' in a 'structure' with a 'gable roof.' But under the reverse doctrine of equivalents . . ." Go to Tomas Tuma's profile Tomas Tuma, Unsplash

The reverse doctrine of equivalents and ensnarement are great for accused infringers, but for whatever reason they often seem to get set by the wayside.

RDOE for You and Me

Reverse doctrine of equivalents has a terrible name. It's really just the argument that even if the accused product meets the literal elements of the claim, it does not infringe because it is performs the claimed function in a substantially different way than the claimed invention.

As Judge Connolly put it …

Greg Rosenke, Unsplash

This post continues our Halloween theme of things that induce nightmares and shake the hearts of the stoutest Delaware counsel.

The parties in Stragent, LLC v. Volvo Car USA, LLC, C.A. No. 22-293-JDW (D. Del.) filed a joint appendix of exhibits alongside some supplemental SJ briefing. The defendant filed a motion to seal its SJ brief, which apparently discussed internal software specifications.

The Court granted the motion to seal the SJ brief, but criticized the brief in strong terms:

Volvo seeks to file its supplemental summary judgment brief under seal, but it’s supporting brief doesn’t say much. For example, while Volvo makes generic references to “proprietary commercial, financial and business information” and …

In D. Del., stipulated extensions of the schedule are routine and are normally granted, with occasional exceptions. Usually, when the Court grants them, it results in an unremarkable order like this:

Order re Stipulated Extension

There's really nothing there. Occasionally, though, it results in an order like the below. Can you spot the difference?

Order re Stipulated Extension with Attachment

Can you see it? It's tiny. The only difference is that the docket number ("52") is a link. I don't blame you if you missed it.

Usually, clicking on that link, you'll find a plain-Jane stamped or signed version of the stip as filed. Nothing remarkable or meaningful at all. It feels wrong to bill .1 hours to a client to click on the stip and look at …

Markus Winkler, Unsplash

An order on Friday reminded me of a local counsel issue that comes up from time to time here in D. Del.

Whenever a party files a motion or a brief, the docket on PACER automatically includes a due date, like so:

312 OPENING BRIEF in Support re 311 MOTION to Amend Judgment, filed by ViaTech Technologies Inc..Answering Brief/Response due date per Local Rules is 11/8/2023. (Mayo, Andrew) . . . (Entered: 10/25/2023)

ViaTech Technologies, Inc. v. Adobe Inc., C.A. No. 20-358-RGA-JLH (D. Del. Oct. 25, 2023).

The docket text is not perfectly clear, but that due date is automatically generated based on a set of rules in PACER (that are …

愚木混株 cdd20, Unsplash

It's easy to think that, once an opposing party takes a position on the record as to a legal issue, it can never change that position. Not so.

Today Judge Andrews addressed an argument that defendants who lost at trial were nonetheless bound by their "judicial admissions," thus preventing them from taking a (purportedly) contradictory position after trial. Not surprisingly, the defendants disagreed:

Plaintiff argues that Defendants made representations before and at trial that directly contradict positions that Defendants must take in order to prove an interference-in-fact. . . . Plaintiff notes that Defendants' representations were "judicial admissions." . . . . Therefore, Plaintiff argues, Defendants cannot establish an interference-in-fact between the '537 patent and the '207 patent, and I must dismiss the counterclaim against the '537 patent as moot for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Defendants respond that Plaintiff does not invoke estoppel—or any other legal theory—that would support dismissing their claims. . . . Defendants add that, in any case, they are not estopped from abandoning their trial positions, nor from invoking theories that Plaintiff presented at trial, because Plaintiff prevailed over them at trial.

The Court found the the defendants were ...

At a hearing today, Judge Kennelly set forth his preferences on how parties files documents in CM/ECF. He explained that he deals with all filings electronically, and large exhibits as permitted by the Delaware CM/ECF system interfere with his work flow.

He threatened to deny motions going forward (at least in that case) if parties combine exhibits in that way, specifically pointing to the following docket item:

Judge Kennelly Example

As you can see in the highlight, the party combined multiple exhibits into sub-filings, which makes it difficult and slow to download, and impossible to download individual exhibits.

Judge Kennelly prefers that parties do it this way:

Judge Kennelly Example - Correct

Visiting Judge Wolson has expressed similar concerns for similar reasons, and his procedures go a step …