Plaintiff Sprint Communications Company brought suit against Defendants Comcast Cable Communications, LLC and Comcast IP Phone, LLC alleging infringement of six of its patents related to telecommunications and data networking. After the district court denied summary judgment, Sprint prevailed in a jury trial on some of the patents and Sprint was award $27.6 million in damages. Subsequently, the district court granted Comcast's motion for judgment as a matter of law and Sprint appealed.
Comcast requested attorney's fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285. Sprint argued that the district court should defer ruling on the motion until the appeal was determined and asserted that the Federal Circuit's decision may moot the motion, or may clarify some issues relating to it. Comcast opposed Sprint's request and encouraged a "swift resolution" with the idea that the Federal Circuit may be able to decide both issues at once.
In analyzing the issue, the district court noted that "[u]nfortunately, I have not swiftly resolved this motion, and the Federal Circuit docket reflects that briefing has been completed, and oral argument is likely to be scheduled for the near future."
The district court agreed with Sprint for several reasons.
First, "a Federal Circuit decision on the appeal is likely to make the resolution of this motion easier. It is entirely possible that the Federal Circuit could reverse the judgment in this case, thereby mooting the fees motion. It is possible that the Federal Circuit could affirm, and indicate -- perhaps indirectly through what it writes -- that this is a close case.' It is also possible that the Federal Circuit could issue a Rule 36 affirmance. A Rule 36 affirmance would be unlikely to be of much assistance. Overall, deciding the issue in light of the decision on appeal is likely to make the decision easier and better."
Second, the district court express doubt regarding the merits of the motion. "I get a lot of these motions; most of the time I can see them coming. This one caught me by surprise. I note the sentiment of Chief Judge Stark, who observed that this court 'handles a large number of patent cases and presides over many patent trials.' Ateliers de la Haute-Garonne v. Broetje Automation-USA Inc., 85 F. Supp. 3d 768, 783 (D. Del. 2015). I saw hard fought litigation. My holistic and contemporaneous evaluation of the litigation was that the argument and conduct of both sides was within the mainstream for these sorts of cases."
The district court also noted that even though he had granted Comcast judgment as a matter of law," the jury sided with Sprint [and] Comcast was unable to persuade the jury of the merits of its case."
Accordingly, the district court denied the motion without prejudice pending the outcome of the appeal to the Federal Circuit.
Sprint Communications Company L.P. v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, Case No. 12-1013-RGA (D. Del. Aug. 2016)
The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. For more information about this case, contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.