Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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Rumsey, a Department of Justice employee, protested grant-making decisions and ultimately went to the media and members of Congress and filed a complaint with the Inspector General, alleging fraud. Her efforts resulted in corrective action. Rumsey alleged that the agency subsequently gave her improperly low performance ratings, moved some of her job duties to other employees, and canceled her telework agreement. She prevailed in an individual right of action appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board, alleging whistleblower reprisal. Rumsey sought attorney’s fees under 5 U.S.C. 1221(g)(1)(B). At the time of that request, Rumsey and Slavet, one of the three lawyers that represented Rumsey during the Board proceedings, were in fee dispute before the District of Columbia Bar, Attorney/Client Arbitration Board. Rumsey “distanced herself from Slavet,” who had been Rumsey’s principal lawyer before and during the initial hearing before the administrative judge. The AJ had previously awarded sanctions based on Slavet’s failure to respond to discovery requests. The Board affirmed the AJ’s refusal to award attorney’s fees for Slavet’s services. Slavet and Rumsey settled their fee dispute, agreeing that Rumsey would pay $120,000 of the $145,445 sought by Slavet. The Federal Circuit reversed. Rumsey carried her burden of showing entitlement to some award of attorney’s fees. View "Rumsey v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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AdjustaCam’s patent, which issued in 1999, discloses a camera clip that supports a camera both on a flat surface and when attached to a computer monitor. AdjutaCam’s infringement litigation against Newegg included a Markman order, indicating that AdjustaCam's suit was baseless, and extended expert discovery. Just before summary judgment briefing, AdjustaCam voluntarily dismissed its infringement claims against Newegg with prejudice. Newegg then sought attorneys’ fees under 35 U.S.C. 285. Following a remand in light of intervening Supreme Court precedent clarifying what constitutes an exceptional case, the district court again denied Newegg’s motion for fees. The Federal Circuit reversed. Based on the circumstances presented here, the wholesale reliance on the previous judge’s fact-finding was an abuse of discretion. The record points to this case as standing out from others with respect to the substantive strength of AdjustaCam’s litigating position. Where AdjustaCam may have filed a weak infringement lawsuit, accusing Newegg’s products of infringing the patent, AdjustaCam’s suit became baseless after the district court’s Markman order. View "AdjustaCam, LLC v. Newegg, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2001, Dr. Klingemann filed a patent application directed to a method of treating cancer by administering natural killer cells. After years of examination, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected the application on obviousness grounds. The Patent and Trial Appeal Board affirmed that rejection. Nantkwest, as assignee of the application, appealed to the district court under 35 U.S.C. 145, in lieu of an immediate appeal to the Federal Circuit 35 U.S.C. 145. The statute provides that the applicant must pay “[a]ll of the expenses of the proceeding,” “regardless of the outcome.” After prevailing in the district court, the USPTO sought to recover $111,696.39 in fees under section 145. Although the district court granted the USPTO’s expert fees, it denied its requested attorneys’ fees, citing the “American Rule,” under which litigants pay their own attorneys’ fees, win or lose, unless a statute or contract provides otherwise. The district court concluded that the “[a]ll expenses” provision of the statute was neither sufficiently specific nor explicit enough for the authorization of attorneys’ fees. The Federal Circuit reversed. Section 145 entitles the USPTO to compensation for the diversion of its resources in the defense of section 145 appeals. View "Nantkwest, Inc. v. Matal" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics, Patents

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The 555 patent relates to anti-theft tags that are attached to merchandise and deactivated when the goods are purchased. The accused tags are manufactured in Europe and imported into the U.S. Checkpoint brought an infringement suit. A jury found the patent not infringed, invalid, and unenforceable. The court found the case to be “exceptional” under 35 U.S.C. 285 because Checkpoint’s expert witness based his infringement opinion on an examination of tags that were manufactured by All–Tag in Switzerland, although the accused tags were manufactured in Belgium, and awarded the defendants $6.6 million in attorney fees, costs, and interest. On remand from the Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit instructed the district court "that tests or experiments on the actual accused products are not always necessary to prove infringement.” The district court again found the case exceptional, citing the same ground, and found Checkpoint’s pre-suit investigation, based on a European infringement verdict against All–Tag on a 555 patent counterpart and infringement opinions from counsel, inadequate because the opinions “were given years before filing.” The court cited Checkpoint’s “improper motivation.” The Federal Circuit reversed, noting that the tags tested by the expert were produced on the same machines that were transferred to Belgium. The claim of infringement was reasonable and the litigation was not brought in bad faith or with abusive tactics. View "Checkpoint Systems, Inc. v. All-Tag Security S.A." on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics, Patents

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Rothschild alleged that ADS’s home security system infringed its 090 patent. Rothschild has filed numerous lawsuits against others alleging infringement of the 090 patent. ADS filed an answer and counterclaims and sent Rothschild an email alleging that the patent covered patent-ineligible subject matter (35 U.S.C. 1011) and that prior art anticipated claim 1 (35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1)). ADS offered to settle if Rothschild paid ADS $43,330 for attorney fees and costs. Rothschild rejected ADS’s offer. ADS moved for judgment on the pleadings, sending Rothschild an FRCP 11(c)(2) Safe Harbor Notice, with copies of a proposed Rule 11(b) motion for sanctions and prior art that purportedly anticipated the claim. Rothschild voluntarily moved to dismiss. ADS opposed and filed a cross-motion for attorney fees, arguing that Rothschild’s suit was objectively unreasonable because Rothschild knew or should have known that claim 1 covers patent-ineligible subject matter and was anticipated. The Federal Circuit reversed the holding that Rothschild had not engaged in conduct sufficient to make the litigation “exceptional” for purposes of section 285 attorney fees. Whether a party avoids or engages in sanctionable conduct under Rule 11(b) is not the appropriate benchmark; a court may award fees in the rare case in which a party’s unreasonable conduct—while not necessarily independently sanctionable—is so exceptional as to justify an award. View "Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations, LLC v. Guardian Protection Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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District court properly awarded “exceptional case” legal fees. In 2005, Dow filed an infringement action against NOVA, which argued that its product did not infringe and that Dow lacked standing because it had transferred ownership of the patents. In 2010, the district court entered judgment against NOVA for $61 million. The Federal Circuit affirmed. In a separate appeal from an award of supplemental damages, the Federal Circuit found the asserted claims invalid as indefinite under the Supreme Court’s intervening “Nautilus” standard, but did not disturb the 2010 judgment relating to preverdict infringement. NOVA became aware of evidence allegedly showing that Dow had committed fraud in obtaining the 2010 judgment but was time-barred from moving to set aside that judgment. In 2013, NOVA filed a separate action in equity for relief from the 2010 judgment, asserting misrepresentation of Dow’s ownership of the asserted patents, based on the testimony of a former Dow employee in an unrelated tax case and on the testimony of Dow’s expert, about testing on the accused product during separate Canadian litigation. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal. The district court awarded Dow $2.5 million under 35 U.S.C. 285, which allows courts to award “reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party” in “exceptional cases.” The court noted the weakness of NOVA’s litigating position and the manner in which NOVA pursued the case. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Nova Chemicals Corp. v. Dow Chemical Co." on Justia Law

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Comments that the Court of Federal Claims made during a hearing, before the government’s corrective action materially altered the relationship between the parties, were not sufficient to qualify the contractor as a “prevailing party” under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(a), (d)(1)(A). The Federal Circuit remanded the case, which involved Dellew’s post-award bid protest, alleging that the Army improperly awarded TSI a contract because TSI did not accept a material term of the request for proposals when it refused to cap its proposed general and administrative rate, and the contract awarded varied materially from TSI’s proposal. During oral argument, the Claims Court provided “hint[s]” about its views favorable to Dellew on the merits, and repeatedly expressed its belief that corrective action would be appropriate. The Army subsequently terminated the TSI contract. The Claims Court dismissed Dellew’s action, determined that it retained jurisdiction despited mootness, and awarded Dellew $79,456.76 in fees and costs, stating that it made “numerous substantive comments during oral argument regarding the merits,” that “carried a sufficient judicial imprimatur to materially alter the relationship between [Dellew] and [the Government] such that [Dellew] qualifies as a prevailing party under the EAJA.” View "Dellew Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Tuschl patents relate to RNA interference, a process for “silencing” genes from expressing the proteins they encode, which may be useful in treating various diseases. In 2000, before the invention was reduced to practice, Dr. Tuschl published an article describing the discoveries. Weeks later, Dr. Bass published a mini-review that focused on Tuschl’s article and included her own hypotheses about enzymatic processes that may be responsible for the RNAi activity reported in Tuschl’s article. Tuschl read Bass’ article and recognized and successfully tested her hypothesis. Bass’ mini-review was cited as prior art during prosecution of the Tuschl patents, each of which issued. Bass sued for correction of ownership, claiming that Bass should be named as either a sole or joint inventor of the patents. During depositions, Bass made admissions undermining allegations that Bass reduced the Tuschl invention to practice and that Bass collaborated with the inventors. On the eve of the deadline for dispositive motions, Bass withdrew the sole inventorship claims, but not the joint inventorship claim. The district court rejected the joint inventorship claims on summary judgment, finding no evidence of collaboration between Bass and the Tuschl inventors. The district court declined a request for eight million dollars in attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. 285, The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that the case was not objectively unreasonable when all reasonable inferences were drawn in Bass's favor. View "University of Utah v. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft" on Justia Law

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The patents-in-suit relate to soybeans genetically engineered to tolerate herbicide, and, particularly, to the Bayer-developed dmmg gene. The parties disagreed over the scope of Bayer’s license of the patents to MS Tech, specifically, whether the license granted MS Tech a broad license to commercialize and sublicense the soybean technology. MS Tech had sublicensed to Dow. When Bayer sued Dow for infringement, Dow raised that sublicense as an affirmative defense. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Dow; the Federal Circuit affirmed. The district court then awarded Dow attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. 285, declaring this an "exceptional case.” The Federal Circuit affirmed, noting Bayer’s weak positions on the merits and litigation conduct. “Bayer’s own witnesses as well as key documents contradicted Bayer’s contorted reading of the contract.” Bayer’s arguments were “fallacious” because they were “implausible” and “made no business sense” in light of the facts surrounding the agreements and their negotiation. View "Bayer Cropscience AG v. Dow Agrosciences LLC" on Justia Law

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Walker filed suit in December 2012, alleging patent infringement. In May 2014, Walker and HSN, both represented by counsel, entered into a Mediated Settlement Agreement, requiring that HSN pay Walker $200,000; Walker was to deliver a release and the parties were to stipulate to dismissal. On May 9, HSN moved to stay deadlines based on the Agreement “that resolves all claims.” Walker opposed the motion, stating that “significant issues” remained. The court denied HSN’s motion. On May 12, HSN sought reconsideration, filing the Agreement and a memorandum arguing that all claims were resolved. During May, Walker moved to file a Third Amended Complaint, moved to set a Markman Hearing, and opposed the filing of the Agreement. On May 29, HSN moved to enforce the Agreement, attaching correspondence from Walker’s counsel acknowledging that the case was settled, but requesting additional discovery. Walker delivered a general release and HSN forwarded the $200,000 payment. Walker filed motions opposing enforcement and attorneys’ fees for HSN. HSN sought sanctions based on Walker’s “meritless filings … on a matter that has been fully resolved.” At a status conference, both parties agreed the case should be dismissed, but disagreed about over what the court retained jurisdiction. The court dismissed and awarded HSN “reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs resulting from Plaintiff’s vexatious actions after the filing of the Notice of Settlement.” Walker unsuccessfully sought reconsideration, then filed an unsuccessful objection to fees. In April 2015, the court entered final judgment awarding HSN $20,511.50 in attorneys’ fees. The Federal Circuit affirmed and, finding Walker’s appeal frivolous, awarded damages and double costs under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38. View "Walker v. Health International Corp." on Justia Law