In yet another multi-defendant case, a district court has severed defendants from a patent infringement suit brought by a plaintiff against many defendants. In this case, the plaintiff brought suit against eleven defendants for infringing the same four patents. The district court granted defendants' motion to sever because the plaintiff did not allege that the defendants were engaged in the same transaction or occurrence.
The court began by noting a number of decisions that granted severance under Ninth Circuit precedent and it sharply distinguished cases from the Eastern District of Texas that denied motions to sever because those cases followed a different rule than what the Ninth Circuit employs. Based on Ninth Circuit law, the court found that the motion to sever should be granted because the defendants had not engaged in the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences. The fact that the defendants were allegedly infringing the patents in a similar way was not sufficient. The court stated: ""Plaintiff has not alleged that the Defendants have engaged in the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences. Rather, Defendants are accused of infringing the patents in similar ways, but not as part of the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences.
The court also noted that the defendants were competitors and that this was an additional reason to grant the motion to sever. "Each Defendant operates differently and offers products that often compete with those of other Defendants. Joinder is thus improper under Rule 20(a)."
Notably, although the court granted the motion to sever, it then consolidated all of the cases for pre-trial proceeding and for trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a) because the cases share many common questions of law and fact even if they do not arise from the same transactions or occurrences.
As a result, the plaintiff is required to pay eleven filing fees instead of one (increasing the cost of filing by $3500). But the practical impact on the plaintiff's decision is likely minimal as a result of the consolidation.
This is yet another case to note, however, as district courts continue to wrestle with the issue of multi-defendant patent cases and how to manage these types of cases.
Interval Licensing LLC v. Apple Inc., Case No. 2-11-cv-00708 (W.D. Wash. April 29, 2011).
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.