A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


SRF
The Honorable Sherry R. Fallon

Hawk
Mathew Schwartz, Unsplash

One of the first questions that a patent plaintiff faces in bringing suit is "what do we have to include in the complaint?"

It's common in the District of Delaware for a patent plaintiff to list only a small number of asserted claims from each asserted patent, against a small number of accused products—often just one claim against one product.

Of course, listing more asserted claims may increase the chances that a court finds that the plaintiff stated a plausible claim of infringement in the event of a motion to dismiss. But many plaintiffs are fine with that risk, knowing that they can amend to avoid any motion to dismiss (usually) .

The Court normally permits parties to later add or remove asserted claims or accused products as ...

Pixelated Game Over screen on an oversized PAC-MAN arcade machine
Sigmund, Unsplash

Generally, corporations have to be represented to appear in Federal Court, or they are at risk of default. This is something that comes up surprisingly often, including when corporate defendants try to file their own filings without an attorney (by mailing them to the clerks' office), or when counsel for a corporate defendant seeks to withdraw mid-case.

Judge Fallon issued an opinion today showing the consequences of a corporation failing to retain counsel. Plaintiff brought suit and, requested entry of default after a corporate defendant failed to answer. That corporate defendant then filed an "answer"—which, based on the docket, was not an answer at all, in that it did not respond to plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff then moved …

FRCP 15 governs amendment to pleadings, so it would stand to reason that it would be the operative rule when seeking to amend a complaint. However, when seeking to amend after the deadline in the scheduling order, the movant must satisfy not only the relatively liberal requirements of Rule 15 but also the more exacting "good cause" standard of Rule 16. Unlike Rule 15, which permits amendment in the absence of undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive, Rule 16 requires diligence by the party seeking amendment.

Analog Clock
None, Ocean Ng, Unsplash

A recent ruling by Judge Fallon demonstrates the danger of ignoring Rule 16's requirements when seeking amendment after the deadline. The plaintiff in NRT Tech. Corp. v. Everi Holdings Inc., C.A. No. 19-804-MN-SRF sought to amend its complaint, asserting Walker Process and sham litigation antitrust claims, almost a full year after the expiration of the amendment deadline.

Judge Fallon noted that although plaintiffs "bear the burden of showing that they exercised diligence in seeking the proposed amendment under Rule 16(b)(4)," their motion "does not address the applicable good cause standard for motions to amend filed after the deadline."

Plaintiffs apparently argued that defense counsel should have alerted them of the applicability of Rule 16, but Judge Fallon rejected that ...

Chief Judge Connolly requires that the parties to his cases provide fairly detailed infringement and invalidity contentions early in the schedule, and requires a showing of good cause for any amendments to those contentions.

The question of what constitutes "good cause" is fact-specific, but Judge Connolly's form scheduling order does provide some helpful guidance:

Non-exhaustive examples of circumstances that may, absent undue prejudice to the non-moving party, support a finding of good cause include (a) recent discovery of material prior art despite earlier diligent search and (b) recent discovery of nonpublic information about the Accused Instrumentality which was not discovered, despite diligent efforts, before the service of the Infringement Contentions.

Recently, the plaintiff in Volterra Semiconductor LLC v. Monolithic Power Systems, Inc., C.A. No. 19-2240-CFC-SRF, moved to amend its infringement contentions. The motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Fallon.

The plaintiff (Volterra) had initially accused...

Shades of Coffee

Delaware’s Default Standard for Discovery requires that plaintiff “specifically identify the accused products and the asserted patent(s) they allegedly infringe” within 30 days of the Rule 16 Scheduling Conference. So, if the accused products were not identified in the complaint itself, they must be identified early in discovery. But what is the scope of discovery on products that were not specifically identified in the complaint or accused before the Default Standard deadline?

Can plaintiffs seek information regarding “substantially similar” models? Generally, this question is answered on a case-by-case basis using three factors found in in Invensas Corp. v. Renesas Elecs. Corp., 287 F.R.D. 273, 282 (D. Del. 2012):

(1) [A]s to relevance, the specificity with which the plaintiff has articulated how the unaccused products are relevant to its existing claims of infringement (and how they are thus “reasonably similar” to the accused products at issue in those claims);
(2) [W]hether the plaintiff had the ability to identify such products via publicly available information prior to the request; and
(3) [T]he nature of the burden on defendant(s) to produce the type of discovery sought.

In an order last week, Judge Fallon denied ...

Checklist
Glenn Carstens-Peters, Unsplash

All judges in the District of Delaware have implemented discovery dispute procedures.

Under the procedures, instead of the parties engaging in lengthy briefing and the Court issuing a detailed opinion on a discovery issue—a process can take months—they meet-and-confer and raise it with the Court. The Court then schedules a quick hearing and sets deadlines for short discovery dispute letters from the parties.

After the Court receives the parties' letters, it either issues a short "oral order" on the docket resolving the dispute, or issues an order at the hearing, with the transcript serving as the opinion. This saves time for everyone involved, and is one of the methods that the Court uses to manage its …

A few days ago, Magistrate Judge Fallon denied a request to stay her discovery ruling pending the losing party's objections and review by the District Judge. Defendant SXM in Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., C.A. No. 17-184-JFB-SRF asked Judge Fallon to follow the parties' "agreed-upon practice" to stay discovery rulings pending objections, a practice the parties had apparently followed in two prior instances.

Or not.
Or not. Erik McLean, Unsplash

On October 7, Judge Fallon ordered that the plaintiff's experts should have access to defendant SXM's confidential information. About a week later, the parties submitted a letter setting forth their respective positions on whether the discovery ruling should be stayed.

Judge Fallon declined to stay her ruling. She noted that...

PLEASE STAND BY . . . while we figure out why we only produced 13 e-mails
PLEASE STAND BY . . . while we figure out why we only produced 13 e-mails RCA

Yesterday, Magistrate Judge Fallon granted a motion for sanctions against One World Technologies, Inc., a defendant in a patent action, for failing to produce the bulk of its e-mail until 13 months after the plaintiff's initial request.

Defendant One World initially produced only 13 e-mails in response to plaintiff's requests, served back in April 2020. According to a later declaration of counsel, One World's attorneys had received multiple gigabyte's worth of .pst files containing e-mail from the agreed-upon custodians. But they found those files to be corrupted, and they relied on their clients' determination that all but 134 of the e-mails were unrecoverable. …

This remote definitely can't decode compressed video streams by itself.
This remote definitely can't decode compressed video streams by itself. Glenn Carstens-Peters, Unsplash

Prosecution disclaimer can be tough to prove. Practiced prosecution counsel seem to know how to phrase things in such a way that a patent examiner understands them to be different from the claimed invention, but a later court may still find the opposite.

In an opinion today, Judge Andrews reversed a prosecution disclaimer finding by Magistrate Judge Fallon. The patent claims involves a "tethered digital butler" that can perform smartphone-like functions in a lower-cost way by using cheaper hardware that may be "tethered" to a desktop computer, which takes care of the heavy lifting.

Specifically, the claims discuss a "palm held remote," and the parties disputed …

We've written about the strong presumption of public access in the Third Circuit, which has led the D. Del. judges to push back on sealing requests in recent years. Judges frequently deny requests to seal judicial records (like hearing transcripts and opinions), and some have taken a more active role in monitoring sealed filings on their dockets.

On Tuesday, for example, Magistrate Judge Fallon ordered a party to provide "a factually detailed explanation" for why the exhibits to the redacted version of a sealed letter brief met the Third Circuit standard for sealing:

ORAL ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE re: D.I. 161 : On or before close of business on July 14, 2021, Defendants shall submit a letter …