The most recent batch of bimonthly patent case scheduling conferences was held last week in Marshall, and as usual I have a brief rundown of the results.
Following a jury verdict awarding damages for past infringement, the court and the parties have to work out what the appropriate form of relief for any future infringement will be, taking into account the availability of an injunction and the appropriate rate for any royalties applied to ongoing activity. In a recent opinion an EDTX judge addressed the situation where no injunction was sought, no enhanced damages issue was presented, and the sole issue was what royalty rate should be applied to future activity.
One day a year I have to spell things right, and today was that day. Congratulations to our Marshall Chamber of Commerce team for pulling off the win at the annual Marshall – Harrison County Literacy Council spelling bee. We made it past 12 other teams, and raised some good money for local literacy efforts. As Bryan Partee said at the beginning of the competition, “when you can read, every book is a children’s book.” I like that. (To answer your question, they’re fire ants – Marshall’s Fire Ant Festival is just a few weeks away).
Speaking of spelling, “plausible” can be a pretty hard word, but a recent opinion by Judge Payne uses it in a sentence, and provides some guidance on when a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim because an assertion is not “plausible” should be denied.
Changes in the patent docket locally in the last year and a half or so have meant more trials involving competitors – which means different issues regarding remedies. A “post verdict docket control order” order issued earlier today in such a case provides a look at what sorts of proceedings are normal in such cases after a verdict.
A Marshall jury in Judge Rodney Gilstrap’s court rendered a verdict Friday afternoon in a patent trial involving side scan sonar technology. (Whether it involved this image of the German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin at the bottom of the Baltic Sea I can’t say, but as the plaintiff is a Norwegian company, I like to hope that it did, because as side scan sonar images go, it’s pretty cool). The verdict is interesting because the damages award includes components for a running royalty (as opposed to a lump sum) and lost profits as discussed below.
One of the EDTX cases being handled by Judge William C. Bryson of the Federal Circuit has an upcoming hearing on whether the defendant should be held in contempt for not making ordered royalty payments as to certain products following a jury verdict of trade secret misappropriation (later affirmed on appeal and cert denied). Judge Bryson recently issued a couple of orders in connection with that hearing that readers might find of interest.
Interesting case this week in which Judge Gilstrap granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment of a “fair use” defense in a copyright infringement case in which the defendant alleged various causes of action arising out of an employment termination, and attempted to use a purloined video clip as evidence. The facts look like something off Dr. Phil. In fact, they actually were.
The issue of whether venue is proper in a patent case post-TC Heartland turns most often on the court’s analysis of whether the defendant has a “regular and established place of business” in the district. A recent opinion by Judge Gilstrap, applied his four-factor test set forth in Raytheon v. Cray before considering the defendant’s alternative motion to transfer based on convenience.
But the Court’s analysis in this case underscores something I say a lot, which is that it’s shortsighted to view venue statutes in isolation. The venue statutes enacted by Congress set for a coherent multistep scheme for determining where a case will be tried. The first step involves an initial Congressional decision as to which federal districts a case may be brought in. The second – what I refer to frequently as a “safety valve” – involves a judicial determination whether a case that is brought in an district of proper venue should nonetheless be transferred to another district for convenience reasons. Given that motions to transfer are granted at a very nearly exactly 50% rate in EDTX over the last three years, the interaction between these two inquiries bears more attention than it gets – because just because a case is filed here doesn’t mean it will be heard here.
Earlier today I posted about the situation in which a plaintiff files a patent suit, motions to dismiss (often arguing lack of patentable subject matter under Section 101) are filed, and the cases are dismissed before the motions are resolved. This litigation provides an example of this that later nonetheless resulted in a dismissal on the merits of 101 motions, but also illustrates several other things, including filing trends from 2015-to pre-TCH 2017 as bulk filer cases dropped off, as well as changes in case management locally – against as the bulk filings dropped from 2015 levels.
An interesting trend of late in cases filed in EDTX is that a substantial number are ending with dismissals “without” prejudice as opposed to settlements that result in dismissals with prejudice. I wanted to mention a couple of things I am seeing both statistically and anecdotally, and mention a recent decision that addresses an aspect of this trend, as well as alert readers to some possible upcoming decisions in this area.