A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


CFC
The Honorable Colm F. Connolly

Hang in there baby
Hang in there baby The Fall of Icarus, John Doyle

We discussed last month how it has, in Judge Andrews' words, become fairly routine for the Court to grant stays following IPR institution. With the recent increase in granted stays, one can see how a litigant might be tempted to fly even closer to the sun, and extend a stay through an appeal to the Federal Circuit.

Judge Connolly gave those gallant dreamers a bit of hope on Tuesday when he granted just such a motion in DDR Holdings, LLC v. Priceline.com LLC, et al., C.A. No. 17-498-CFC, D.I. 101 (D. Del. Jan 19, 2021). In that case, the parties had stipulated to a stay pending …

The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Boy Who Cried Wolf Francis Barlow

I think that most Delaware attorneys tend to hesitate before filing an "emergency" motion, because they know how busy the Court is. The Court takes emergency motions seriously. It may defer work on other pressing issues to assist the parties with a true emergency.

I don't think anyone would want be standing before the judge (or on a conference call, or a video conference) explaining why they unnecessarily disturbed the Court's management of its docket.

Last week, Judge Connolly issued an opinion showing what may happen when a party files an unwarranted "emergency" motion.

In FinancialApps, LLC v. Envestnet, Inc., C.A. No. 19-1337-CFC-CJB (D. Del.), a trade secret and contract …

Caution Tape
Hiroshi Kimura, Unsplash

I came across this case today, and I thought it was a good example of why, in Delaware, it can be dangerous to be seen as acting unreasonably, particularly when it comes to things like discovery disputes and case management.

Plaintiffs filed a first case in 2018, asserting infringement of a single patent. Earlier this year, it filed a second case against the same defendant for a newly-issued patent relating to the same subject matter.

Plaintiffs sought to consolidate the two cases because they involved similar facts:

[The cases involve] identical parties, identical accused acts of infringement, the same accused process, and related patents with identical inventors, materially identical specifications, and overlapping claim terms.

Defendants opposed …

In a case that's been pending for years, Judge Connolly just ordered the parties to redo their three-year-old Markman briefs.

Although the parties briefed and argued claim construction at the end of 2017, Judge Sleet granted an IPR stay before a Markman opinion was issued. While the stay was in place, Judge Sleet retired and the case was reassigned to Judge Connolly.

The parties were set to argue claim construction again this week, with 18 disputed terms from the plaintiffs' patents and 26 disputed terms from the defendant's patents. But on Monday, Judge Connolly issued an oral order cancelling the Markman hearing and ordering the parties to substantially narrow their disputes (to 10 limitations for each side's patents).

He also …

Longstanding practice in the District of Delaware, pursuant to the Court's local rules and the Judges' form scheduling orders and other standing orders, mandated page limits for briefing.
For example, the Court's local rules set limits of 20 pages for opening, briefs 20 pages for answering briefs, and 10 pages for reply briefs, all in 12 point font. See LR 7.1.3(a)(4); LR 5.1.1(a). However, since about mid-2019, some Judges here have permitted or required word limits in lieu of page limits for some types of documents.

Threading the Needle
amirali mirhashemian, Unsplash

Motions for reconsideration are almost impossible to win, often because the legal standard requires parties to thread a very small needle. On one hand, you can't rehash arguments you already made. On the other hand, you can't raise new arguments that you could have made earlier.

Judge Connolly illustrated this catch-22 a few days ago, when the plaintiffs on the wrong end of a Markman order tried to convince the judge to reconsider one of his claim constructions. He ignored many of the plaintiffs' arguments, which "simply regurgitate the arguments [they] made in their share of the 113-page Joint Claim Construction Brief and at the Markman hearing."

The plaintiffs raised one new argument: that Judge Connolly's construction …

As we discussed last week, people sometimes forget that parties can object to even non-dispositive rulings by a magistrate judge under FRCP 72—although I don't know whether that is what happened here.

In Boston Scientific Co. v. Micro-Tech Endoscopy USA, Inc., C.A. No. 18-1869-CFC-CJB (D. Del.), defendants moved to strike plaintiff's infringement contentions for failure to apply the Court's claim construction. The motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Burke, who denied it:

(1) With regard to Defendant's request that Plaintiffs' FICs regarding the term "breakable link... adapted to be broken[,]" be stricken, (D.I. 169 at 2), it is DENIED. The Court did not construe this term, and Defendant has not convinced the Court that Plaintiffs are …

I couldn't find a picture of
I couldn't find a picture of "teleorthodontics" H. Shaw, Unsplash

Today, Judge Connolly held ineligible a patent directed to "teleorthodontics," i.e., a business method for practicing orthodontics remotely through the use of 3D scans of a patients' mouth.

The outcome is not all that unusual—Judge Connolly characterized the patents as essentially "do it with a computer" patents for orthodontics, where the patent claims performing a traditionally offline activity remotely using conventional computers and commercially available 3D scanners.

And, as the Court noted, other courts have held telehealth business method patents ineligible under § 101. Here, according to the Court, the patents at issue simply applied available commercial technology to the abstract idea of connecting patients and orthodontists …

Corporations, looking down at the tattered remains of their common interest privilege
Corporations, looking down at the tattered remains of their common interest privilege Foggy skyscrapers, Matthew Henry, Unsplash

When magistrate judges are referred a dispositive matter, they issue an R&R that goes to the district judge. In Delaware, an R&R typically notes the objection period at the end, and the losing party typically (but not always) files objections.

When magistrate judges are referred a non-dispositive matter, they issue an order (and possibly an opinion). The order typically does not mention any review period or process for review.

What parties often forget is that you can object to a magistrate judge's order just as easily as you can to an R&R under FRCP 72. And, in fact, the District Court …

Phone Booth
Phone booth in London city centre, Katarzyna Pracuch, Unsplash

Sometimes it's better to be heard than seen. Although most of the D. Del. judges have been holding hearings by video since March, Judge Connolly has consistently held his hearings and conferences by telephone.

Yesterday, the parties in one of his cases filed a joint request to hold a Markman hearing by video instead of by phone. They explained their rationale (to "allow for more effective and efficient presentations" and help direct the court's "attention to exhibits and demonstratives"), and offered to handle all of the logistics.

The court was not interested. Judge Connolly issued a one-sentence oral order the same day, saying only that "the Markman hearing will be held by telephone."

What's the takeaway? It's been almost nine months since the court issued its first COVID-related standing order, and the judges have had plenty of time to hone their procedures. It might not hurt to ask, but don't expect them to change what's been working.