Multiple Defendants, Misjoinder and Severance in District Court News

May 6, 2011

The multitude of multiple defendants in patent infringement suits continue to increase on a daily basis. But some district courts are putting a stop to the practice, at least in certain circumstances, by severing defendants that are misjoined. In a recent case in the Central District of California, the court granted a motion to dismiss for misjoinder when a plaintiff filed a patent infringement action against three unrelated companies for dissimilar products.

The court found that dismissal of all but the first named defendant was appropriate to eliminate the prejudice to the other defendants, i.e., by allowing each defendant to prepare their own defense instead of requiring them to jointly defend an action that involves very different products. The court also found that "dismissal will remedy the burden resulting from one judge presiding over a single action that consists of three separate and distinct cases."

Whether this decision becomes a trend remains to be seen as the products at issue in this case were not similar meaning that the infringement issues would need to be determined separately. Of course, this approach also may ultimately lead to more work for the plaintiff and the courts as it requires multiple claim construction proceedings and validity proceedings with potentially different judges, which could lead to inconsistent rulings. As a result, it will be interesting to see how district courts continue to address multiple defendant cases and ways in which those cases can be streamlined while still allowing defendants the opportunity to present their own defense.

Man Machine Interface Technologies, LLC v. Funai Corporation, Inc., et. al., Case No. 2-10-cv-08629 (C.D. Cal. April 7, 2011) (Walter, J.).

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.