Published on: this patent infringement action, the plaintiff, Whirlpool Properties (“Whirlpool”) noticed several depositions of third-party witnesses near the discovery cut-off.  The defendant, Filters Fast, moved for an order to stop the depositions.

As explained by the district court, “[t]he crux of the pending motion is that the Whirlpool Plaintiffs emailed Defendant on November 28, 2018, the dispositive motions deadline, attaching two third-party deposition subpoenas that noticed depositions for December 6 in Windsor, Va. and December 7 in Simpsonville, S.C.  Defendant contends that Plaintiffs had never identified these potential witnesses, nor even disclosed the possibility of deposing them.  Moreover, Defendant notes that these newly noticed depositions overlapped with already scheduled depositions of Whirlpool witnesses to be held in Chicago, Il. on December 5, 7, and 11. According to Defendant, Whirlpool Plaintiffs then emailed a notice on December 2, regarding a third third-party witness it intended to depose in Texas on December 11 or 12.”

In opposition, Whirlpool asserted that witnesses in question “were disclosed within three days of confirming them for depositions.”  Whirlpool argued that the notice of depositions in dispute here was “reasonable under the circumstances.” ((citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(1)).  Whirlpool further argued that the third-party depositions could have been conducted by the parties’ stipulated extension of the discovery deadline – December 12, 2018. Whirlpool also contended that the depositions address non-complicated issues that would require minimal preparation.

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Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) is proud to announce it has been ranked as an Orange County Metropolitan Tier 1 2019 “Best Law Firm” for Patent Litigation. This distinction was announced by the national publication U.S. News & World Report. The “Best Law Firms” annual announcement of the top rankings of law firms are based upon client input and professional references.

blf-badge-2019-300x300“Achieving this recognition is especially gratifying as it reflects the perspective of our clients and peers,” said Stan Gibson, Chair of JMBM’s Patent Litigation Group. “Our patent litigators are committed to solving problems and achieving clients’ objectives.”

Additionally, Gregory Cordrey, a partner in JMBM’s Patent Litigation Group was designated by Best Lawyers® as Orange County’s Patent Litigator of the Year for 2019.

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In this patent infringement action, Stryker moved to strike the expert report of Karl Storz’ (“KSEA”) infringement expert because the expert did not provide any analysis of infringement of the patent-in-suit. As explained by the district court, Karl Storz’ infringement expert’s, Mr. Gould Bear, report included six sections: (1) introduction, (2) summary of conclusions, (3) background and qualifications, (4) materials reviewed, (5) legal principals and methods, and (6) conclusion.

The expert report did not provide any analysis regarding how “the accused products literally include each element of Claims 1, 2 and 3 of the ’420 Patent.” And the district court explained that “[e]ven Mr. Gould Bear’s description of his process is conclusory: ‘I have analyzed literal infringement with respect to each limitation of the asserted patent claim, comparing the accused products – in their ordinary and intended uses – to the invention described in the patent claim they are alleged to infringe. When analyzing a dependent claim, I determined whether the allegedly infringing products include each and every element of the dependent claim, the independent claim from which it depends and all intermediate dependent claims.’ (Id. at 14-15 ¶ 32.)

The expert report made no effort to explain how the expert determined that the allegedly infringing products include each element of the dependent claim and instead just stated he had made that determination.

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The plaintiff Dodocase VR, Inc. filed a motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction against Defendants MerchSource, LLC (“MerchSource”) and ThreeSixty Brands Group LLC (“ThreeSixty”) (together, “Defendants”) requesting that the court order the Defendants to withdraw certain petitions filed with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB Petitions”).

As explained by the district court, MerchSource designs, sources, and distributes a wide-range of consumer goods, including toys, electronics, and home decor, to large retailers. The plaintiff alleged that MerchSources sells, manufactures, designs, and/or imports certain products under the brand name “Sharper Image” that infringe the Dodocase Patents. In June 2016, MerchSource contacted the plaintiff to obtain a license to the ‘075 Patent, and in October 2016, MerchSource and the plaintiff entered into a Master License Agreement regarding the Dodocase Patents (“MLA”). In June 2017, MerchSource contacted the plaintiff to express dissatisfaction with the MLA and told the plaintiff that MerchSource would “have no choice but to impute a zero percent royalty rate under the [MLA] in order to be similarly advantaged.” MerchSource also later told the plaintiff that it reviewed the claims in the patent application for what would later become the ‘184 Patent and determined that the relevant claims were invalid, so it would not pay any royalties on the products sold under that patent. The plaintiff responded that refusal to pay royalties despite its continued manufacture, use, sale, and/or offer for sale of products using the Dodocase Patents constituted a breach of the MLA.

Defendants then filed three separate PTAB Petitions, challenging each of the three Dodocase Patents, on January 15, 2018. Shortly thereafter, the defendants answered the complaint and filed a counterclaim that sought declaratory judgment that the patents-in-suit are invalid for the reasons set forth in the PTAB Petitions.

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During a jury trial, Ericsson asserted that TCL infringed claims 1 and 5 of U.S. Patent No. 7,149,510 (the “‘510 Patent”) by selling phones and devices that included the Google Android operating system. The jury found that TCL infringed claims 1 and 5, that TCL’s infringement was willful, and awarded $75 million as a lump sum royalty. TCL moved for a new trial on infringement and damages. The district court decided the motion for new trial on damages should be granted for the reasons explained below.

The damage theory Ericsson presented at trial was based on the opinions of Dr. William Wecker and Mr. Robert Mills. Dr. Wecker provided analysis of a consumer survey that, according to Ericsson, approximated the apportioned value of the patented invention. Mr. Mills in turn used Dr. Wecker’s survey results to estimate a per phone royalty rate the parties would have agreed to at the hypothetical negotiation. Dr. Wecker’s survey was designed to determine how many consumers that had purchased an Android-based smartphone during the relevant time would have decided against purchasing the phone if the phone lacked the accused security and permissions feature, i.e.: the ability to control whether third-party applications can access native functionality on the phone. Mr. Mills used Dr. Wecker’s survey results to determine a per phone royalty rate. According to Mr. Mills, Dr. Wecker’s survey results indicated that about 28% of consumers who purchased accused TCL phones would not have made those purchases if the phone lacked the allegedly infringing feature.

The district court concluded that there were at least two independent reasons why a new trial on damages was necessary. “The first and most important is that the manner in which Mr. Mills used Dr. Wecker’s survey results is not based on sufficient facts or data, not the product of reliable principles, and not reliably based on the facts of the case. See Fed. R. Evid. 702; Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579(1993). Namely, Mr. Mills directly translated the roughly 28% of survey respondents who allegedly would not have bought a TCL phone without the infringing feature to TCL’s profit in an effort to determine the potential “at-risk” profit. This step in Mr. Mills’ analysis was unreliable.”

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Feit Electric Company and Feit Electric Company, Inc. (collectively, “Feit”) filed a motion to enforce a subpoena for documents to non-parties Amerlux, LLC and Amerlux Exterior, LLC (collectively, “Amerlux”). The complainant in the ITC proceeding, Philips Lighting North America Corp. and Philips Lighting Holding B.V. (collectively, “Philips”) asserted U.S. Patent Nos. 6,586,890; 7,256,554; 8,070,328; 7,038,399 (“the ‘399 patent”); and 7,262,559 (“the ‘559 patent”) against Feit.

Philips had previously asserted two of the patent—the ‘399 and ‘559 patents—against Amerlux in a patent infringement action in the District of Massachusetts (Koninklijke Philips, NV et al. v. Amerlux, LLC et al., Case No. 1-15-cv-13086). This case was dismissed before Amerlux disclosed its invalidity contentions and, therefore, Amerlux never had to disclose the prior art that it had found.

Feit served a subpoena on Amerlux “seek[ing] all prior art to the Asserted Patents known to Amerlux.” Feit subsequently agreed to limit the subpoena to prior art relating to the ‘399 and ‘559 patents. Amerlux contended that the identity of the prior art—other than the references identified in its answer to the complaint—should be protected by the work-product doctrine.

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The plaintiff filed a motion for protective order to prevent the deposition of its litigation counsel. The district court referred the motion for protective order to the special master for resolution.

The special master framed the issue as whether, plaintiff’s litigation counsel, Mr. Chae should be required to provide testimony and information in discovery. “The parties agree that the applicable standard is set forth in Shelton v American Motors Corp., 805 F. 2d 1323, 1327 (8th Cir., 1986). Essentially, the standard to be applied is that the Court must determine that no other means exist to obtain the information other than to depose the attorney; that the information sought is relevant and non-privileged; and that the information sought is crucial to the preparation of the party seeking the discovery.”

The special master noted that Mr. Chae was the prosecuting patent attorney for the utility patent at issue in this case and was also the prosecuting attorney for four design patents, which are the subject of a separate suit that was consolidated. The special master also noted that the district court had already denied the plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike, noting defendants alleged in their affirmative defenses and Counterclaim that the utility patent is invalid under the doctrine of inequitable conduct “because of the actions of [Mr. Chae], who prosecuted the application that matured into the ‘283 patent.” Further, the district court noted that defendants alleged that Mr. Chae failed to disclose prior art to the USPTO during the ‘283 prosecution, “with the specific intent to deceive the USPTO” and also alleged that Mr. Chae never informed the inventor, Mr. Kim, that he had a duty to submit relevant prior art to the USPTO.

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GemShares LLC filed a patent infringement action against Arthur Lipton and Secured Worldwide, LLC (SWW) on U.S. Patent No. 8,706,513 B2 (the ‘513 patent). The ‘513 patent is entitled “global investment grade for natural and synthetic gems used in financial investments and commercial trading and method of creating standardized baskets of gems to be used in financial and commercial products.”

According to the district court, Lipton became a one-fifth owner of GemShares in 2013, while the patent application was pending. Lipton executed an operating agreement that included a term requiring him (and other GemShares members) to disclose and present to the company opportunities related to or likely to be competitive with GemShares’ business.

In its complaint, GemShares alleged that in the fall of 2013, Lipton secretly started working on a business that GemShares alleged is a competing business (SWW). Lipton allegedly created SWW to commercialize products and services that infringe GemShares’ patents, including the patent-in-suit.

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In this patent infringement case, Plaintiff and Counter-defendant Bal Seal Engineering, Inc. (“Bal Seal”) filed a joint stipulation pursuant to Local 37-2 moving to compel Defendant and Counterclaimant Nelson Products, Inc. (“NPI”) to provide further responses to Bal Seal’s Interrogatories. These included contention interrogatories (the “Contention Interrogatories”) seeking “all facts” supporting allegations in NPI’s Second Amended Answer and Counterclaims (“SACC”).

In the joint stipulation, Bal Seal sought to compel responses to twenty interrogatories asking that NPI “state all facts” supporting allegations in its SACC. (Dkt. 129-1 at 11-22 (quoting Contention Interrogatories Nos. 1-11, 16-19, 24-27, and 30).) Bal Seal served the Contention Interrogatories on October 27, 2016 (Nos. 1-11) and May 3, 2017 (Nos. 16-19, 24­27, and 30), yet had received no substantive response as of the Motion’s December 2017 filing (Dkt. 129-3, ¶¶ 4, 8.).

Rather than respond to the interrogatories, NPI had served objections, which included the following statement: “NPI … objects to this request in that it is premature to answer contention interrogatories at this time and NPI will supplement this response at the close of discovery.” (Dkt. 129-1 at 11-22.)

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After that analysis, the district court determined that it would join the majority of “district courts in the Ninth Circuit in finding that allegations of knowledge alone are not sufficient to state a claim for willful infringement. See XpertUniverse, Inc. v. Cisco Sys., Inc., No. 17-cv-03848-RS, 2017 WL 4551519, at *6 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 11, 2017) (“Although [plaintiff] has alleged knowledge and continued infringement, it needs to do more to show that [defendant] has engaged in ‘egregious cases of misconduct beyond typical infringement’ that could possibly warrant enhanced damages.” (quoting Halo, 136 S. Ct. at 1935)); Cont’l Circuits, 2017 WL 2651709, at *8 (“The Court continues to conclude that willfulness must be pled, and that allegations of knowledge alone are insufficient.”); Finjan, Inc. v. Cisco Sys. Inc., No. 17-cv-00072-BLF, 2017 WL 2462423, at *5 (N.D. Cal. June 7, 2017) (“[E]ven if [plaintiff] had adequately alleged that [defendant] had pre-suit knowledge of the Asserted Patents, dismissal would also be warranted because the FAC does not contain sufficient factual allegations to make it plausible that [defendant] engaged in ‘egregious’ conduct that would warrant enhanced damages under Halo.”).

Following that reasoning, the district court reviewed DSS’ allegations and found that they were insufficient to state a claim for willful infringement. “The Court finds that DSS’s allegations are not sufficient to state a claim for willful infringement of the patents-in-suit. Although, DSS has alleged knowledge and continued infringement, it has failed to allege facts suggesting that Lite-On’s conduct amounts to an “egregious case[] of misconduct beyond typical infringement.” Halo, 136 S. Ct. at 1935. “Disagreement about the existence of continued infringement does not necessarily indicate willful or deliberate misconduct.” XpertUniverse, 2017 WL 4551519, at *6. Thus, without more, the facts as alleged do not support a plausible inference that Lite-On’s conduct warrants enhanced damages under Halo and § 284.”

As a result, the district court granted Lite-On’s motion to dismiss the claims of willful infringement.