A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


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The Honorable Maryellen Noreika

Form Scheduling Order
The Honorable Maryellen Noreika

Judge Noreika updated her form scheduling order yesterday. Here are the changes:

  • Separate deadlines for fact and expert discovery cut offs. Judge Noreika's old form orders, and several other judges' form scheduling orders, set a cut off date for "all" discovery and a deadline for substantial document production. But parties often also set a separate deadline for fact discovery, so that there is a clear delineation for when fact depositions and any remaining document production need to end before expert reports occur. This resolves that issue.
  • Joint claim chart changes. Intrinsic evidence must now be submitted in an appendix rather than with the joint claim chart. This may help with the common issue that …

Before the Supreme Court held in Markman v. Westview Instruments that claim construction is an issue of law to be decided by the judge, and not the jury, parties would often build alternative theories of infringement and invalidity into their contentions and expert reports to take into account the different claim construction positions being argued. Because they couldn't know which position would be accepted, they were forced to plan for both, and present theories under both at trial.

Markman changed that practice. Now that claim construction is almost always decided before trial (and usually before expert reports), parties can focus on the judge's construction while building their trial presentation. However, it is worth remembering that pretrial claim construction is not set in stone, and that the judge can modify that construction based on any number of inputs, including the evidence at trial and the parties' evolving arguments.

Judge Noreika did exactly that in a ruling issued earlier this week, leading to a non-infringement finding for the defendant, and eliminating the need for a post-trial opinion on the evidence and argument submitted during trial.

Terracotta revetment with a griffin
The Met

Yesterday, Judge Noreika denied an early Section 101 challenge to two patents-in-suit, in light of a factual dispute regarding unconventionality of certain aspects of the claimed invention.

Although plaintiff managed to survive the § 101 motion, it failed to meet the relatively un-demanding standard for pleading direct infringement – a test that would have been satisfied if the plaintiff had simply "identified the . . . accused products and alleged that the accused products met 'each and every element of at least one claim' of the asserted patents, either literally or equivalently." ...

Nearly two years after the first "Section 101 Day" was held before Judge Stark and Judge Burke, Judges in this District continue to hold multi-motion, multi-case, all-day hearings on patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

When Judge Stark launched the hearings in early 2019, he expressed hope that they would make resolving the unending crush of Section 101 motions faster and more efficient. The hope for efficiency seems to have been borne out.

Judge Stark noted in a December 2020 order (see below) that "the Court continues to find that its experimental procedure of addressing multiple Section 101 motions from separate cases in one hearing is an efficient use of judicial resources and a beneficial tool for resolving …

GPS Navigation
Alvaro Reyes, Unsplash

Judge Noreika issued an opinion today denying a § 101 motion on a patent that covers delivering GPS navigation information to a vehicle in a "short burst."

As to Alice step 1, the Court found that the claims were "do it on a computer" claims directed to the abstract idea of sending and receiving navigation data:

[A]t step 1, claim 1 seems focused on using computers to perform a human activity more efficiently.

At step 2, however, the Court found that the patent's bare-bones specification saved it from § 101—it's hard to find that any particular solution was conventional at the § 101 motion-to-dismiss stage when the specification simply does not discuss the prior …

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.

COVID-19
COVID-19, CDC/Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin

Here's something you don't see every day.

After a discovery dispute about bringing a parties' European witnesses to the US for deposition during the pandemic, Judge Noreika ordered that depositions of a defendants' witnesses may initially take place by written questions under FRCP 31:

ORAL ORDER . . . IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that . . . Plaintiff may request a deposition of the witnesses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 31. Any such deposition shall be subject to Local Rule 30.6, with the "commencement" of the written deposition being when Defendants' counsel receives the written questions and the "conclusion" of the deposition being when Defendants' counsel serves the response …

Stop Sign
Luke van Zyl, Unsplash

Late last week, Judge Noreika denied a motion for interlocutory appeal of an denial of a motion to dismiss for lack of standing.

Security Interest Doesn't Prevent Suit After Debt Repaid

In moving to dismiss, defendant argued that the PTO assignment records show that the the patentee had assigned its patents to a lender as collateral and, after the debt was repaid, had never received an assignment back or any release of the security interest.

Plaintiff countered that the security interest was extinguished once the debt was repaid, regardless of any release or assignment specific to the patent. So no separate assignment back was needed.

Judge Noreika sided held that the judgment had been satisfied …

Last week, Judge Noreika denied defendant Shopify Inc.'s motion for attorneys' fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285 ("The court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party."), holding Shopify partly accountable for the amount of fees it incurred during the relatively short pendency of the case. While the opinion is worth reading in its entirety, there are two particularly notable aspects to the decision.

What Shopify won't be getting
Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash

First, Judge Noreika found that Shopify was the "prevailing party," on the basis of the plaintiff's voluntary dismissal of its case with prejudice. While the Court had not issued any merits-based decisions prior to the dismissal, and did not itself effectuate the dismissal (it was self-executing under Rule …