A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


CJB
The Honorable Christopher J. Burke

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Road Block, Tim Collins, Unsplash

As chronicled in this very publication, for the last year or so, Judge Noreika has consistently declined to construe more than 10 terms at Markman.

An Unwritten Rule

This practice, however, has not been memorialized in Judge Noreika's form scheduling order, standing orders, or preferences and procedures. This leads to the question of whether the limit still holds when Judge Noreika refers claim construction to a magistrate.

Having just received our first data point, the answer appears to be "yes."

Judge Burke Limits Construction to 10 Terms

In March, Judge Noreika referred "all pretrial matters" in Commvault Sys., Inc. v. Rubrik, Inc., C.A. No. 20-524-MN-CJB, D.I. 55 (D. Del Mar. 5, …

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"SECRET" stamp, RestrictedData, CC BY 2.0

The parties in Progressive Sterilization, LLC v. Turbett Surgical LLC, C.A. No. 19-637 (D. Del.) brought a dispute about "excessive" redactions to certain production in their patent action.

The defendant sought information from third parties who were under contract with the plaintiff, including various consultants and a former business partner.

Plaintiff apparently has confidentiality agreements with these people, and tried to filter their document production in the case, redacting information it thought should not be produced to the defendant. According to defendant's letter brief:

[Plaintiff] insisted on reviewing [the] third-party subpoena recipients’ responsive documents and redacting certain non-privileged content . . . prior to their production to Defendants

According …

Although the trend in D. Del. is to grant IPR stays post-institution, the inverse is also true: pre-institution have become much more difficult to obtain.

In an oral order denying a pre-institution stay last Thursday, Judge Burke took the opportunity to reiterate why these motions are generally denied:

[W]ith regard to the simplification factor, the Court (absent some unique circumstance not present here) does not see the wisdom in staying a case that is otherwise proceeding forward (with a schedule already in place), in favor of the occurrence of an event (grant of an IPR petition and subsequent institution of an IPR) that has not happened yet. The Court also notes that although, as a statistical …

It is not uncommon for patent infringement plaintiffs naming multiple defendants to group those defendants in the complaint and make allegations of infringement generally, rather than separately detailing what wrongful acts each defendant is alleged to have done. The group pleading approach is not "impermissible per se," as Judge Burke recognized in a recent R&R, claims based on group pleading are subject to dismissal where they do not include "'enough facts to render it plausible that each defendant has performed at least one type of U.S.-related infringing act' or if it otherwise fails to provide each defendant with sufficient notice of the basis for the claims against it."

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David Clode, Unsplash

In Reputation.com, Inc. v. Birdeye, Inc., C.A. No. 21-129-LPS (D. Del.), the plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction.

Judge Stark referred the PI motion to Judge Burke, who held an initial status conference and set a truncated schedule for PI discovery. The scheduling order set deadlines for PI discovery and supplemental briefing to be completed within 4 months.

Shortly after the PI motion, defendant moved to dismiss on § 101 grounds; in response, the plaintiff amended the complaint.

After the amendment, the Court issued an oral order sua sponte denying the motion to dismiss as moot—a common practice among some D. Del. judges (these orders helpfully make explicit that the pending motion …

Dollar Bills
Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash

It seems like litigation funding is becoming a more active area for discovery disputes lately—a trend that is likely to continue after Judge Connolly granted a dismissal based on a litigation funding agreement late last year. See Uniloc USA, Inc. v. Motorola Mobility, LLC, C.A. No. 17-1658-CFC, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 244512, at *25 (D. Del. Dec. 30, 2020).

Last week, Judge Burke confirmed a previous denial of litigation funding discovery, offering some additional thoughts:

ORAL ORDER: The Court, having now reviewed the parties' supplemental letter briefs . . . in which Defendants ask the Court to reconsider its March 2, 2021 Order . . . , hereby notes as follows: . . …

Earlier today, Judge Burke unsealed an interesting order addressing the applicability of the common-interest doctrine to communications between a generic pharmaceutical company and its API manufacturer.

No attorneys directly participated in most of the underlying communications, but the defendants argued that they shared "a common legal interest" with their API manufacturer in avoiding a lawsuit "and that their communications furthered that interest." Although Judge Burke found that this "argument has some initial, superficial appeal[,]" in that "the subject of these communications is in some sense legal in nature[,]" he concluded that any shared legal interest came too late:

when one contextualizes the communications with regard to what was happening in the relevant time period, Defendants have not met …

Tennis Court
Bannon Morrissy, Unsplash

On Wednesday, Judge Burke issued the following order cutting the parties off from further discovery dispute teleconferences—but not discovery disputes—after they brought their fourteenth request for discovery assistance in just over a year:

ORAL ORDER: The Court, having reviewed the parties' . . . request [for] a discovery teleconference . . . hereby notes as follows: (1) since the Court was referred this matter in February 2020 to resolve discovery/protective order disputes, this is the 14th different time that the parties have sought the Court's assistance in that regard; (2) as part of those 14 different requests for Court assistance, the parties have brought the Court a total of 31 different disputed issues to …

We've written several posts about the Pennypack factors and how hard it can be to win a motion to strike in D. Del. The upshot is that it's often better to simply reach agreement on a curative remedy rather than spend time on full-blown motion practice.

Case in point: on Monday, Judge Burke denied a motion to strike a two-page supplemental expert declaration on a patentability issue. Applying the Pennypack factors, he concluded

that having to respond to the supplemental declaration (which, after all, relates to one discrete issue, and is only two pages long) would occasion some great prejudice to Defendants. The issue can be resolved by permitting Defendants to file a supplemental sur-rebuttal expert report on …

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).