California Court Denies Rule 11 Sanctions For Failure to Comply With Rule 11's Safe-Harbor Provisions

February 7, 2013

In Arrival Star S.A.., et al. -v- Meitek Inc., et al., Defendant Meitek Inc. ("Meitek") moved for Rule 11 sanctions against the Plaintiff Arrival Star S.A. ("Arrival Star") based on Meitek's contentions that "ArrivalStar's counsel (1) failed to prepare any claim construction before filing suit, (2) made a "tactical decision" to sue Meitek instead of its Chinese parent company due to the difficulties of retaining service and recovering judgment against the latter, and (3) improperly relied on the views of a patent practitioner to opine on the issue of infringement." Meitek sought at least three times its attorneys' fees of $110,000 and preferably 5 to 10 times this amount, or $550,000 to $1,100,000 in sanctions.

The Court recited the standard under Rule 11 that sanctions may be imposed "when a filing is frivolous, legally unreasonable, or without factual foundation, or is brought for an improper purpose. The standard governing both the 'improper purpose' and 'frivolous' inquiries is objective." (internal citations omitted). The Court further stated that Local Rule 11-9 further provides that the presentation to the Court of frivolous motions subjects the offender at the discretion of the Court to sanctions.

In opposing the Rule 11 motion, the Plaintiff argued that defendant Meitek's motion was procedurally defective because Meitek did not provide it with the "filing-ready" motion 21 days before filing the motion. Instead, it provided only the two page notice of motion without any supporting memorandum or exhibits.

Agreeing with the Plaintiff, the Court explained that Rule 11 provides a safe-harbor provision that is intended "to give litigants an opportunity to remedy any alleged misconduct before sanctions are imposed." Specifically, Rule 11 requires:

The motion [for sanctions] must be served under Rule 5, but it must not be filed or be presented to the court if the challenged paper, claim, defense, contention, or denial is withdrawn or appropriately corrected within 21 days after service or within another time the court sets.

The Court concluded that the requirement of serving a "filing-ready" motion includes every part of the motion that will be filed with the Court, including the notice of motion, the supporting memorandum, and any exhibits.

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In addition to establishing Rule 11's objective standard for obtaining sanctions, this case illustrates the importance of complying with the procedural requirements of Rule 11 when seeking such sanctions.

Arrival Star S.A., et al. V. Meitek Inc., Case No. 12-cv-1225-JVS (RNBx) (C.D. Cal. January 28, 2013).

The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. The authors represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation in U.S. District Courts and in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, including numerous IPRs currently pending before the PTAB. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Greg Cordrey at 949.623.7236 or GCordrey@jmbm.com.