- July 29, 2008: Black & Decker Inc. and Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc. v. King Group Canada, King Group USA, and Zhejiang YongKang Haomai Tool Co., Ltd. (d/b/a Heroic Tools and Haomai Tools), Case No. 1:08-cv-02435 (N.D. Ga.) (Martin, J.) - Patent Infringement Suit Involving U.S. Patent Nos. 5,545,080 (Motorized Sander) and 5,690,545 (Motorized Rotary Tool). Plaintiffs are represented by Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers of Atlanta and Niro, Scavone, Haller, & Niro of Chicago.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
- July, 25 2008: Data:)Comm Electronics, Inc. v. Arlington Industries, Inc., Case No. 1:08-cv-02412 (N.D. Ga.) (Thrash, Jr., J.) - Patent Infringement Suit Involving U.S. Patent No. 7,390,964 (Wall Plate with Integral Nose for Electrical Cable). Plaintiff is represented by Thomas Kayden Horstemeyer & Risley of Atlanta.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
(Read Part I discussing Judge Camp’s Order on inequitable conduct and Rule 11 and Part II discussing his Order on the ethical considerations of simultaneously representing a party and a fact witness.)
Sufficient Evidence of Prior Conception: Plaintiff argued that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Defendants’ 102(f) and 102(g) claims. Upon review of the facts, the Court concluded that genuine issues of material fact remained as to each defense. Specifically, the Court found evidence suggesting that one of the named inventors of the patents-in-suit conceived of the entire claimed invention (meaning he should have been named as the sole inventor) and communicated this concept to the Plaintiff prior to the filing of the patents-in-suit. This evidence, which consisted of the inventor’s testimony and various schematics and descriptions that pre-dated the applications for the patents-in-suit, was deemed sufficient for Defendants’ 102(f) and 102(g) defenses to survive summary judgment.
Local Patent Rules Interpreted: In rejecting Plaintiff’s procedural challenge to the Defendants’ 102(f) invalidity contentions, Judge Camp interpreted the requirements of Local Patent Rule 4.3.
- LPR 4.3(a)(1)(ii) provides that a party must identify the prior art relied on under Section 102(f). The Court held that Defendants met this requirement by identifying a potential witness and referring to supporting exhibits that were alleged to “describe the circumstances under which the inventions of the patents-in-suit were derived.”
- LPR 4.3(a)(3) requires a party to identify any combination of prior art references and the motivation to combine the references “[i]f the disclosing party contends that a combination of items of prior art makes a claim obvious.” The Court held that this requirement applies only to claims of obviousness, not to claims of derivation under Section 102(f).
- LPR 4.3(a)(4) requires a party to provide a chart identifying where specifically in each alleged item of prior art each element of each asserted claim is found. The Court held that this requirement did not apply to the Defendants’ derivation claim because the Defendant was relying on the activities of an individual, not on a specific prior art reference. (The implication is that the requirement would apply to a derivation claim based on prior art references.)
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
- July, 18 2008: Simply Orange Juice Co. & The Coca-Cola Co. v. Resilux America, LLC & Silver Springs Citrus, Inc., Case No. 1:08-cv-02333 (N.D. Ga.) (Carnes, J.) - Design Patent Infringement Suit Involving U.S. Patent Nos. D456,272 (Bottle with Closure) and D458,145 (Bottle). Plaintiffs are represented by Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Patterson of Atlanta.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
(Read Part I discussing Judge Camp’s Order on inequitable conduct and Rule 11.)
In an Order that should serve as a warning to similarly-situated lawyers, Judge Camp responded to a request to investigate possible attorney misconduct stemming from Defendant’s counsel’s simultaneous representation of the Defendants and several fact witnesses. The Court ultimately found insufficient evidence to justify further inquiry, but reminded the attorneys that “bare adherence to the minimum requirements of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct is not the hallmark of legal professionalism.”
In support of a prior use defense, Defendants submitted sworn declarations of several fact witnesses. Plaintiff’s counsel sought to depose the witnesses. Three of the witnesses contacted Plaintiff’s counsel about their scheduled depositions, informed Plaintiff’s counsel that they were not represented by counsel, and consented to participate in ex parte interviews with Plaintiff’s counsel. After Plaintiff’s counsel conducted a second interview with one of the witnesses (who had been hired by Defendants as a non-testifying expert consultant prior to submitting his declaration), Defendants’ counsel sent Plaintiff’s counsel a letter indicating that the three witnesses were now represented by Defendants’ counsel. The letter also requested that Plaintiffs’ counsel refrain from any further ex parte communications with the witnesses.
Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct: Plaintiff contended that the representation was a sham to obstruct Plaintiff’s access to the witnesses, and argued that Defendants’ counsel’s simultaneous representation of Defendants and the three fact witnesses violated Rule 1.7 (prohibits representing client if it will materially and adversely affect the representation of another client), Rule 3.4 (prohibits unlawfully obstructing another party’s access to evidence), and Rule 7.3 (imposes constraints on lawyer solicitation) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.
- Representation of Previously Retained Expert was Proper: The Court quickly disposed of Plaintiff’s allegations with respect to Defendants’ expert consultant. The consultant had been formally retained well before Plaintiff’s counsel attempted to speak ex parte with him. The Court concluded that it was proper for Defendants’ counsel to request Plaintiff’s counsel not to interview Defendants’ consultant outside the environment of a formal deposition.
- There Can Be No Conflict of Interests: With regard to Rule 1.7, the Court noted that it is not facially improper to simultaneously represent a party in a case and also to represent and non-adversarial, fact witness. The Court acknowledged that the “decision to simultaneously represent a third party witness is a strategic method to use privilege to lawfully obstruct some limited discovery.” Such simultaneous representation is improper, however, if a conflict of interest exists. Here, the Court found that “[a]lthough [Defendants’ counsel’s] conduct with respect to these Declarants raises professionalism concerns, no information indicates a conflict of interest existed.” Because there was no showing that the interests of either witness was adverse to the interests of the Defendant, the Court declined to inquire further.
- Tactical Advantage Gained did not Amount to Intentional Obstruction: Looking next to Rule 3.4 (obstruction), the Court found no evidence that Defendants’ counsel intentionally attempted to deprive Plaintiff of access to the witnesses or their evidence. Although Defendant may have gained a tactical advantage from the representation, Plaintiff was not prevented from examining the witnesses under oath. The Court noted, however, that the representation would factor into the witnesses’ credibility.
- Initiating the Question of Representation Would Have Been Unethical: Rule 7.3 prohibits a lawyer from soliciting employment “through direct personal contact or through live telephone contact, with a non-lawyer who has not sought advice regarding employment of a lawyer.” (Emphasis added.) In what the Court described as an “ancient, but telling” Informal Opinion from 1965, the ABA Committee on Professional Ethics held that it is not proper for an attorney to invite an independent witness to engage him to represent the witness during deposition. Here, the record was unclear as to whether Defendant’s counsel initiated the question of representing the witnesses as clients. Because Plaintiff offered no evidence that Defendant’s counsel first raised the issue, the Court deemed the record insufficient to justify further inquiry.
Judge Camp concluded his Order with some advice for attorneys that may face this situation:
A simple way for [Defendants’ counsel] to have avoided any appearance of unethical conduct would have been to refer the Declarants to alternative counsel when the issue of representation for the depositions was raised. Such a referral would have saved the time and resources of the Court and counsel for both parties, and it would have upheld the high ethical standards of the profession.
Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions Granted Based on Finding that Inequitable Conduct Allegations were Frivolous
Judge Camp granted Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the Defendants’ claims of inequitable conduct. Finding “clear evidence” that certain of the Defendants’ inequitable conduct allegations were frivolous, the Court also granted Plaintiff’s Motion for Rule 11 sanctions.
Inequitable Conduct: Defendants’ inequitable conduct claims were based on Plaintiff’s alleged failure to disclose (1) information about an inventorship dispute over the claimed technology, and (2) a number of prior art references.
- PTO was Aware of Inventorship Dispute: The dispute arose when one of the inventors named in a parent application refused to sign his declaration because he believed he was the sole inventor. At that time, Plaintiff filed a petition, which was granted by the PTO, to prosecute the parent application on behalf of the refusing inventor. During prosecution of the patents-in-suit, the refusing inventor participated in litigation over the rights to the claimed technology and filed his own patent application for the purpose of provoking an interference. The Court found no evidence that the Plaintiff intentionally withheld any relevant information, and no basis to infer an intent to deceive because there was evidence that the PTO was aware of the refusing inventor’s refusal to sign.
- PTO was Asked to Consider Prior Art: The Defendants also asserted that Plaintiff’s predecessor-in-interest failed to disclose 20 references during prosecution of one of the patents-in-suit (“the ‘226 patent”), which issued from a series of continuation applications. The predecessor did, however, disclose 15 of the references during prosecution of the priority applications and filed an information disclosure statement during prosecution of the ‘226 patent asking the PTO to consider all art of record in the prior applications. The Court held that the predecessor’s attempt to incorporate the prior art by reference negated an inference of intent to deceive.
- Prior Art was Admittedly Cumulative: In addition, the Defendants asserted that Plaintiff failed to disclose a particular foreign patent reference during prosecution of one of the patent-in-suit (“the ‘125 patent”). The Plaintiff did, however, disclose a related foreign patent reference during prosecution of each of the patents-in-suit. Further, the Defendant had admitted that the related foreign reference was cumulative of the allegedly withheld reference. On this basis, the Court held that the Defendants could not show an intent to deceive or the requisite materiality.
Rule 11: Plaintiff argued that the Defendants allegations of inequitable conduct were frivolous and warranted Rule 11 sanctions. The Court agreed with respect to several of the claims. Specifically, the Court concluded that no reasonable attorney, after learning that Plaintiff’s predecessor-in-interest attempted to incorporate the 15 references by reference during prosecution of the ‘226 patent, would continue to assert claims of inequitable conduct based on those 15 references. Further, the Court deemed it unreasonable to assert inequitable conduct based on the foreign reference known to Defendants’ counsel to be cumulative of prior art already cited to the PTO.
As a result, the Court directed Defendants’ counsel to pay (1) Plaintiff’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in defending against the claims of inequitable conduct based on the 15 references and the foreign reference and (2) a penalty of $3,000 into the registry of the Court.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
- July, 8, 2008: Steven B. Studdard v. Nautilus, Inc., Case No. 1:08-cv-2207 (N.D. Ga.) (Camp, J.) - Patent Infringement Suit Involving U.S. Patent No. 7,276,018 (Exercise Equipment). Plaintiff Studdard is represented by Manning Lilenfeld LLP of Atlanta.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
- June 24, 2008: Todd Muirhead v. Bargain Crusader, Inc. & Randy Coppernoll, Case No. 1:08-cv-02102 (N.D. Ga) (Duffey, J.) - Patent Infringement Suit Involving U.S. Patent Nos. 6,500,214 and 6,699,803 (Camouflage Covering and Method of Manufacture). Plaintiff Muirhead is represented by Myers & Kaplan of Atlanta.
- June 24, 2008: Dynamic Depth, Inc. v. Fileworks, Inc., Case No. 1:08-cv-2108 (N.D. Ga.) (Pannell, J.) - Patent Infringement Suit Involving U.S. Patent No. 5,461,488 (Computerized Facsimile System and Method). Plaintiff Dynamic Depth, Inc. is represented by Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley, LLP of Atlanta.
- June 26, 2008: CCH Associates, LLC, Cardiovascular Ventures, Inc., & Dr. Christopher U. Cates v. Datascope Corp., Case No. 1:08-cv-02126 (N.D. Ga.) (Duffey, J.) - Patent Infringement Suit Involving U.S. Patent Nos. 6,056,768; 6,162,240; and 6,699,261 (Blood Vessel Sealing System). Plaintiffs are represented by King & Spalding of Atlanta.
- June 30, 2008: Water Visions Int’l v. Kenneth Hughes, Case No. 1:08-cv-2169 (N.D. Ga.) (Evans, J.) - Patent Infringement Suit Involving U.S. Patent No. 7,201,841 (Composite Materials for Fluid Treatment). Plaintiff Water Visions is represented by RobinsLaw LLC of Atlanta.