Following Straight Path IP Group’s, the patent owner’s, unsuccessful appeal, Apple and Cisco moved for reasonable attorney’s fees. Although the district court reaffirmed the exceptionality of the patent owner’s prosecution of the case, the district court found that defendants’ fee requests were too high and directed the parties to submit their billing requests to a special master. The order cautioned the defendants to “take care to submit only for time and expenses that truly deserve compensation and at billing rates that truly deserve to be compensated,” stating that the district court might treble the deductions for requests the special master found unreasonable.
After briefing and a hearing, the special master recommended that Apple should receive nearly all it requested, with some minor deductions taken for “certain ambiguous or duplicative time entries.” On the other hand, the Special Master recommended that Cisco should receive only half because its billing records never conformed to the district court’s direction. As part of the reasoning, the special master explained that Cisco did not pay counsel by the hour, rather it paid a flat-monthly fee. As explained by the district court, “[t]he special master found Cisco’s original billing submission deficient and asked Cisco to resubmit. Cisco did so, but the special master found the records remained deficient for an ordinary lodestar review. To be sure, the special master found this alternative billing method compensable under § 285, but the records did not paint a clear picture of counsel’s billable activities or clearly delineate between this case and other, non-compensable work for Cisco. Thus, the special master concluded a 50% reduction would ensure patent owner did not overpay, yet still compensate Cisco for fees actually paid. Finally, the special master declined to treble the deduction, finding Cisco’s noncompliance a product of the alternate billing arrangement and not of bad faith.”
The patent owner subsequently objected that the special master’s awards of fees was too high. Continue reading