A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


IP
Intellectual Property

Triple Damages
Marcel Eberle, Unsplash

We've written a lot on the developing case law in Delaware around willfulness and motions to dismiss. Willfulness requires knowledge of the infringement, and some of our judges have dismissed willfulness claims because the filing of a complaint for patent infringement cannot serve as the basis of knowledge of infringement.

Today, Judge Andrews followed that case law, and dismissed a willfulness claim in an amended complaint, stating that the original complaint cannot serve as a basis for establishing knowledge:

iFIT also alleges that Peloton knew of the '407 patent as of the filing of its original complaint. . . . I think this is irrelevant. My view is that an amended complaint cannot rely upon the …

Visualization of the average D. Del. judge's <a href='#' class='abbreviation' data-bs-toggle='tooltip' data-placement='top' title='Summary Judgment'>SJ</a> motion pile (circa 2021, pre-Judge Stark departure)
Visualization of the average D. Del. judge's SJ motion pile (circa 2021, pre-Judge Stark departure) Christa Dodoo, Unsplash

Last month Judge Noreika issued an order praising Chief Judge Connolly's ranking-based summary judgment procedure, and imposing a similar procedure—at least for one case.

Under his SJ procedures, Chief Judge Connolly addresses each party's motions in their ranked order, and if a single motion is denied, he may decline to consider all remaining motions.

Judge Noreika issued her order after the parties in the case, Dali Wireless, Inc. v. Commscope Techs. LLC, C.A. No. 19-952-MN (D. Del.), sought …

Bitcoin
Dmitry Demidko, Unsplash

Judge Burke issued an R&R today on two things we don't see very often: a successful motion for judgment on the pleadings, and preemption of state law claims by federal patent law.

The case, Bear Box LLC v. Lancium LLC, C.A. No. 21-534-MN-CJB (D. Del.), involves a patent on more-energy-efficient cryptocurrency mining systems. One of the plaintiffs claims to have met one of the defendants at a conference and, later, confidentially disclosed his ideas for improved cryptocurrency mining. Then, he says, the defendants patented his ideas.

According to the Court, plaintiffs brought two correction-of-inventorship claims, plus three state law claims:

  • Conversion ("theft of inventions")
  • Unjust enrichment (claiming inventorship of plaintiff's invention) …

Stop Sign
Luke van Zyl, Unsplash

There are certain situations that come up over and over in patent cases. One of them is that a plaintiff will bring identical infringement suits against multiple defendants, and one of those defendants will then file an IPR or CBM proceeding before the patent office attacking the validity of the patents.

Under the America Invents Act, the filing party and any real party in interest are subject to estoppel. But unrelated defendants are not. The filing party will often move to stay the district court litigation. Generally speaking, parties with an instituted IPR or CBM review of all patents-in-suit often have pretty good chances of getting a stay.

So what happens when the defendants in …

Pipeline
Mike Benna, Unsplash

Judge Andrews resolved a request for a permanent injunction in a patent case today, in a way I haven't seen before.

In Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals L.P. v. Powder Springs Logistics, LLC, C.A. No. 17-1390-RGA (D. Del.), the plaintiff won an infringement jury verdict in a trial last month.

The patents involve mixing gasoline with butane automatically, rather than through a process that involves manual intervention. The accused infringement involves the mixing of gasoline and butane on a pipeline.

Plaintiff immediately moved for a permanent injunction, and sought a hearing on the injunction on December 22 or 23, just before the holidays. The patent relevant to the permanent injunction expires in April …

Stop
Markus Spiske, Unsplash

We've written before about why some parties—especially patentees—like to propose "plain and ordinary meaning" constructions for claim terms, and about the potential hazards of doing so. These include having to submit a new joint chart with proposed constructions or, more significantly, risking cancellation of the Markman hearing and a decision for the other side (as Chief Judge Connolly suggested).

But sometimes parties still decide to risk it. Last week Judge Noreika ordered the parties in two separate cases to articulate specific meanings after they proposed "plain and ordinary meaning" constructions:

ORDER re . . . Joint Claim Construction Chart - IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: (1) The Markman hearing will be narrowed. On or before …

Last Thursday, Judge Burke issued an R&R on SJ in a patent action. The patent involved software for playing back audio, and the claims included means-plus-function claim elements where an action is triggered either by a single "Back" command or by two consecutive "Back" commands.

Defendant argued that the patent failed to disclose corresponding structure showing how to calculate whether the two button presses were "consecutive"—i.e., how to measure the time between clicks. Judge Burke agreed that the patent failed to disclose such a structure:

As an initial matter, the Court disagrees with Plaintiff that these limitations "do not recite any functional requirement to measure time[.]" . . . As Defendant notes, . . . in order to be able …

Delaware Memorial Bridge
Chintan Jani, Unsplash

We didn't post about this Judge Connolly opinion when it came out back in October, but on revisiting it, I thought it was worth noting.

In deciding a transfer motion, Judge Connolly suggested in a footnote that, for Delaware LLCs, venue may not be proper in Delaware unless the individual members of the LLC are citizens of Delaware (which often may not be the case):

It's not clear to me that a Delaware LLC "resides" in Delaware for purposes of § 1400(b). Although residency is not synonymous with citizenship, the terms are related; and an LLC's citizenship for purposes of deciding whether diversity jurisdiction exists "is determined by the citizenship of each of its members," Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412,418 (3d Cir. 2010). In this case, I am unable to determine Den-Mat's state of citizenship because it has not expressly identified the persons and/or corporations who are its members.

The Court held that the analysis proceeds up the chain of ownership to include everyone with an interest in the LLC—so it sounds like simply being a subsidiary of a Delaware corporation may not be sufficient:

Den-Mat certified in its Rule 7.1 disclosure statement that its "parent company" is an LLC. . . . It seems likely to me that the parent LLC is Den-Mat's sole member, but I can't be sure of that. In any event, Den-Mat did not identify the members of its parent LLC, and to determine the citizenship of an LLC, courts proceed up the chain of ownership until they determine the identity and citizenship of every individual and corporation with a direct or indirect interest in the LLC . . . .

It's worth noting that the entity at issue ...

Envelope with Letter
Brando Makes Branding, Unsplash

That is the question Judge Andrews addressed yesterday. He found that yes, a letter listing a patent and accused product is enough to state a claim in a complaint for pre-suit willfulness—the letter need not include things like claim charts or specific descriptions of product features:

I find that the notice letter sufficiently pleads knowledge for the eight patents-in-suit listed in the letter. The letter lists many LG products and states, " These products, and others made, used, sold, offered for sale, or imported into the United States by LG, infringe many of the patents in [Bench Walk's] portfolio." (D.I. 25-1 at 1-2). The letter then enumerates eleven patents, including eight of the ten …

robert-anasch-ZFYg5jTvB4A-unsplash
Robert Anasch, Unsplash

As we've discussed at length, judges in the District of Delaware will usually let parties stipulate to reasonable adjustments to the case schedule, within certain limitations (including that stipulating to change the dispositive motion deadline may in some instances lead to the loss of the parties' trial date).

So it's always interesting to see when a stipulation is denied. In Osteoplastics, LLC v. Conformis, Inc., C.A. No. 20-405-MN-JLH (D. Del.), just before the close of fact discovery, the parties stipulated to a roughly 5 month delay in the remainder of the case. As the parties explain in the stip, the purpose of the delay is to provide the Court time to rule …