Just got back from vacation with the herd and in the mad rush to get out didn’t get a post up on this verdict from Tyler in Judge Schroeder’s court which gave both sides something to cheer about.
I’ll be adding other posts during the day (because of course the first day back in the office after vacation is a leisurely one). There’s another verdict and we now have three weeks of filing data post TC Heartland to examine. And no, Collin isn’t possessed, but we are making him sleep with garlic flowers for a few weeks just, you know, in case.
Ever wonder what complete and total happiness looks like? Well, my youngest Parker finally getting to see the completely restored and illuminated starship Enterprise at the Smithsonian last month comes pretty close.
But something else that also comes pretty close is when you file a motion to dismiss a patent case, the plaintiff dismisses the case with prejudice and the Court stops them at the door and asks you if you’d like to get your costs and attorney’s fees back as well.
That was the case in this recent set of decisions by Magistrate Judge Love and Judge Schroeder in this Tyler case which outline some interesting issues with regard to the interplay between motions to dismiss and summary judgment, as well as voluntary dismissals.
Class actions are not the most common form of cat in the Eastern District of Texas, but they are filed from time to time. This case provides an interesting look at the standards applied to motions to certify a class, as well as to the standards applied by district judges reviewing reports and recommendations regarding class certification, as well as a thick block of analysis on the specific requirements of private securities fraud class actions as set forth in Amgen. If you’re addressing similar issues, the two opinions are worth a close study. If you’re not, this is an hour of your life you can keep.
Patent cases often involve production of confidential technical information, which is then reviewed by another party’s experts in preparation for trial. Occasionally, an expert’s work for a competitor causes issues with determining whether the expert can review certain information. That was the case recently in a EDTX case involving electronic products. In that case
Defendants sought a stay pending IPR. Judge Mitchell reviewed the relevant factors and determined that a stay was not warranted. First, there was no showing of any case-specific prejudice. Second, the defendants’ delay in filing their IPR peition weighed against a stay, as the motion wasn’t filed until shortly before claim construction briefing was to begin. Third, and most importantly,
Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under FRCP 12(c) alleging lack of patentable subject matter in this case, and asked the Court to invalidate the asserted claims on the basis that they are directed to the abstract idea of “offering, tracking, and processing discounts”—a concept Defendants contended is a longstanding commercial practice.
Those who have been reading this weblog for a while know that I’ve got a thing for JMOL rulings. They are hands down not just the most useful documents to review for a forensic understanding of what happened in a particular case, but also to learn what the requirements are for claims and defenses.
My interest in JMOLs started before I even started practicing law. In the winter of 1991 I was in my last quarter at Baylor Law School, preparing for my upcoming clerkship with Judge Hall in Marshall by interning for a federal judge in Waco and taking Federal Courts from Prof. Bill Underwood, who had just started at Baylor the prior year. Prof. Underwood emphasized the importance of knowing the FRCPs by pronouncing that if we didn’t know the forthcoming Dec. 1, 1991 amendments to the FRCPs, we wouldn’t pass his class. As a result, I spent the next ten years as (it seemed) the only lawyer east of Dallas that knew what the rules were on subpoena range – because they were in that batch of rule changes.
I have to mention that this was before Prof. Underwood became the Baylor Practice Court professor, a job he held before becoming Baylor’s interim president from 2005-2006, a job he did surprisingly well in. I say “surprisingly” because it’s hard to picture a Baylor PC professor excelling in a job that doesn’t involve torturing law students. It’s like finding out that Genghis Khan took a sabbatical from pillaging to run a successful Habitat for Humanity program. Or a T-rex taking a break from chasing sauropods to set up a child care program for Triceratops eggs. It’s just not expected. I note that Professor Underwood has continued his career outside the fields of torture and despair enhancement as president of Mercer University since 2006, and I wish him well. Again, I didn’t have him for PC, so this is easy for me to say.
Where was I? Oh, yes, JMOLs. Guess what else was in those Dec. 1, 1991 amendments? The motion previously known as a “directed verdict” was renamed “judgment as a matter of law” and given a new scope. And wouldn’t you know it, nine months later I’m minding my own business at the law clerk’s table in the courtroom in Marshall when Judge Hall grants one of these newfangled motions, sends the jury home, and promises a written order.
What came out of that 13 days later was Johnson v. Bekins Van Lines, 808 F.Supp. 545 (E.D. Tex. 1992) – one of the first reported cases using the new name and standard, and a foxhole’s-eye view as to the new rule in the most sensitive of contexts – a court deciding that the evidence was insufficient for the case to go to the jury. I still have the advance sheet on a shelf in my office, and I’ve never stopped appreciating the unique insight that the explanations contained in JMOL rulings can provide into a case.
The most recent JMOL from the EDTX comes from Tyler, in
A few weeks after Judge Gilstrap’s order in September 2015 dismissing the 101 defendant eDekka litigation on 101 grounds, Magistrate Judge Love recommended granting a similar motion in the Rothschild Location Technologies cases on January 4, 2016 – a recommendation that Judge Schroeder adopted several weeks later. That litigation originally involved around three dozen defendants. Judge Schroeder recently denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration in light of the “101 spring” line of cases from the Federal Circuit in 2016 (Enfish et al.) which did not affirm district courts’ decisions to dismiss cases on 101 grounds. In his opinion, Judge Schroeder
I mentioned previously that there’s really no “additur” by which a judge can scratch out the damages number awarded by a jury as insufficient under the evidence and increase it. While a trial court can effectively reduce a verdict via “remittuitur” or via JMOL/MNT practice, the reverse isn’t true. But to use an overused word, patent cases are exceptional in that judges do have the ability to “enhance” damage awards under 35 USC 284 where a jury has made a finding of willful infringement. Such was the case in