March 18, 2009
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As I’ve said so many times in this blog, it’s not the law you need to fear, it’s the judge. In CU Medical v. Alaris Medical System (a patent infringement case involving medical valves) the patent owner/plaintiff argued that the term “spike,” described in the patent as “a pointed instrument,” included non-pointed structures, such as a tube.The California U.S. District Court trial judge didn’t take kindly to this frivolous argument (in the eyes of the judge). The judge also found that the plaintiff had made “multiple, repeated misrepresentations . . . to the Court,” another no-no. The trial court imposed sanctions totalling $4.4 million under 35 U.S.C. Section 285 (“The court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party”) as well as Rule 11 sanctions for good measure. The CAFC affirmed. Here’s is a link to the case: CU Medical v. Alaris Medical System.
October 11, 2008
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In the Medtronic v. BrainLab patent litigation in U.S. District Court in Colorado, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch has sanctioned Medtronic Navigation, Inc. and its lawyers $4.3 million, an amount which represents part of the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by BrainLab in defending this case. This order is a follow-up to his decision last February ordering that Medtronic be sanctioned, but not deciding (at that time) the precise amount of the sanction. Unusual circumstances led to this disaster for Medtronic and its counsel. As many readers of this blog know, the judge, not the jury, determines the scope of the patent claims in patent litigation. This is done by the judge before trial, in what is often referred to as a “Markman hearing.” The name of the hearing is based on the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Markman v. Westview, which held that patent “claim interpretation” is the province of the judge, not the jury. After the judge determines the scope of the patent and the meaning of the claims, he or she instructs the jury accordingly, and the lawyers are expected to honor the judge’s rulings and tailor their case to the judge’s pre-trial claim interpretation. So, what went wrong in the Medtronics case? Apparently, during the jury trial on infringement the lawyers for Medtronic (the plaintiff), argued outside of the scope of claim interpretation…