A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: R&R

Look closely—down at the bottom, where the huge bolt of lightning meets the hill, are defendant's R&R objections
Look closely—down at the bottom, where the huge bolt of lightning meets the hill, are defendant's R&R objections Brandon Morgan, Unsplash

R&R objections can be a minefield for attorneys. First, the governing rules are fairly stringent, and are set forth in multiple places (including Local Rule 72.1 and a separate standing order). Second, I think it's fair to say that most judges are not eager to have to review another judge's work and potentially reverse it if they don't have to, so the rules for objections tend to be enforced.

Here are some examples of things that parties sometimes miss. The objecting party must:

  1. "[S]pecify the portions of the findings and recommendations to which objection is made and the basis for each objection, . . . supported by legal authority."
  2. Include a certification stating that "the objections do not raise new legal/factual arguments" or identifying good cause for new legal/factual arguments.
  3. Set forth its objections in a single, 10-page opening brief with no reply brief, and the page limit is generally strictly enforced.
  4. File courtesy copies of "of all filings (e.g., motions, briefs, appendices) associated with the matter to which the R&R"—this can be easy to miss, and can result in waiver.
  5. Identify the exact standard of review.

That last one, identifying the standard of review, is easier said than done. The standard of review for R&R objections can be tricky, because ...

Last week, Judge Hall denied a motion to dismiss claims of infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(g), finding that the plaintiff had "barely met the low threshold for alleging infringement of the asserted patents." The plaintiff's amended complaint alleged that the defendants imported and sold phone displays that were "remanufactured" overseas using patented methods of removing damaged glass covers from mobile phone displays so that replacement glass can be attached.

Broken Screen
Broken Screen Samsung Galaxy S6 with shattered screen, Ashkan Forouzani, Unsplash

Judge Hall's R&R, issued in Viking Techs., LLC v. Squaretrade Inc., C.A. No. 20-1509-CFC-JLH, addressed four arguments made by the defendant, namely that the amended complaint: (1) did not adequately allege that the remanufacturing process performed all of the claimed steps; (2) failed to attribute specific misconduct to either defendant; (3) did not allege pre-suit notice; and (4) failed to allege infringement under 271(g) because the accused devices are not "made" by the accused process and are "materially changed" by subsequent processes.

On the first argument, the sufficiency of the allegations that the remanufacturing process met all claimed steps, Judge Hall found that "Viking has barely met the low threshold" for pleading infringement. Although the allegations of infringement in the complaint largely tracked the claim language, and did not include allegations of infringement for every claim mentioned in the complaint, Judge Hall found that the allegations were "sufficient to provide Defendants notice of the grounds on which Plaintiff’s claims rest," including "what portion of their business—mobile device repair—and what specific products—those that have had the display assemblies repaired/remanufactured—are accused of infringement." Citing the Federal Circuit's Nalco decision, she explained that there is simply "no requirement that a plaintiff plead facts establishing that each limitation of an asserted claim is met." ...

We have written about the ways in which a party can, despite its intention to object to a portion of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, waive or otherwise fail to properly assert its objections.

However, an even more fundamental issue is whether a party is permitted to object in the first instance (or more specifically, whether a party is entitled to have a Judge rule on the merits of its objections). In a recent decision, Judge Andrews could not find "any reason to consider the merits of Plaintiffs' objections" to an R&R in which the plaintiffs prevailed.

Judge Andrews' decision evokes the general rule that a party cannot appeal from a judgment in its favor. Although Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) - which set out the basic framework for objections to R&Rs on dispositive motions - do not themselves preclude objections by a prevailing party (both discuss objections to the proposed findings and recommendations by "any party"), Judge Andrews suggested that where a party prevails on the substance of the issues before the Magistrate Judge, that party's objections may be "moot."

The Magistrate Judge recommended...

Crack on white concrete surface, Brina Blum, Unsplash

We've been following the district court cases holding that a complaint itself cannot establish knowledge of patent infringement sufficient to support a claim of indirect infringement or willfulness.

On Friday, Judge Hall jumped in, noting that judges in this district have taken views on this issue:

As many have acknowledged, courts—including courts within this district—disagree as to whether a pleading alleging post-suit inducement must allege that the defendant had the requisite knowledge prior to the filing of that particular pleading (or the lawsuit itself). I am also aware that there are courts—including in this district—that appear to hold that in the absence of pre-suit knowledge, a post-suit indirect infringement claim …

Stop Sign
Luke van Zyl, Unsplash

Back in March, we noted Judge Connolly's adoption of a bright-line rule regarding reliance on post-complaint knowledge for indirect and willful infringement allegations:

[I]n the absence of binding authority to the contrary from the Federal Circuit and Supreme Court, I will adopt the rule that the operative complaint in a lawsuit fails to state a claim for indirect patent infringement where the defendant's alleged knowledge of the asserted patents is based solely on the content of that complaint or a prior version of the complaint filed in the same lawsuit. And I conclude that the operative complaint in a lawsuit fails to state a claim for willfulness-based enhanced damages under § 284 where the …

Mohamed Ajufaan, Unsplash

The most interesting part of a judicial decision is often found in the footnotes.

Case in point: yesterday, Magistrate Judge Burke issued an R&R on a motion to dismiss, recommending dismissal with prejudice of the patentee's contributory infringement claims (but otherwise recommending that the motion be denied).

For the most part, the R&R presents a fairly standard analysis of induced, contributory, and willful infringement claims. But it also contains several interesting footnotes, including a stern word of caution on sloppy pleadings:

As Tonal notes, . . . ICON gets off to a poor start here, since in its counterclaims, ICON did not even bother to state whether it is alleging induced infringement, contributory infringement, or both. …

Objections to Reports and Recommendations are something like an appeal. The District Judge is tasked with addressing the alleged errors of the Magistrate Judge de novo only to the extent they are "properly objected to." Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). Thus, it is the job of the parties to raise objections to an R&R in a procedurally proper way. If they fail to do so, the District Judge is hamstrung to an extent. This outcome was on display in a recent ruling by Judge Andrews, in which both sides failed to properly object to a portion of the Magistrate Judge's R&R, leaving a patent with "serious" validity problems alive (for now).

Judge Andrews just issued some tough guidance for parties thinking about filing R&R objections in D. Del.

The entire order is worth a read, but the most interesting tidbit is in the first footnote. Magistrate Judge Burke issued an R&R on a motion to dismiss, where he recommended dismissing the plaintiff's indirect infringement claims (without prejudice) and denying the defendant's § 101 motion.

Judge Andrews wasted no time overruling the plaintiff's objection to the dismissal of its indirect infringement claims, noting that:

Plaintiff’s argument has no impact on this case; Defendant wisely did not waste paper filing a response.

Although Judge Andrews spent more time discussing the defendant's objections, he quickly dispatched several arguments that were raised only …

Judge Burke's exacting standards regarding the sufficiency of pleadings in a patent case were on display in a recent R&R, in which he recommended dismissing indirect and willful infringement claims. This ruling demonstrates that although plaintiffs are not required to prove their case as the pleading stage, they are well advised to bolster their complaint with allegations that link the elements of their claims to specific facts.

The key passages of the 24-page R&R in Midwest Energy Emissions Corp. v. Vistra Energy Corp., C.A. No. 19-1334-RGA-CJB concern what makes an infringement claim "plausible" under the Twombly/Iqbal standard.