This case involves allegations that Cisco infringed patents related to configuring, deploying and maintaining enterprise and application servers. Earlier in the litigation, the court determined that one of the patents was directed to ineligible subject matter, and Egenera dismissed a second without prejudice following institution of inter partes review. The court held a three day bench trial on the sole issue of whether Peter Schulter, an Egenera employee, should have remained listed as an inventor of the sole remaining patent-in-suit. Schulter was removed as an inventor after Egenera relied on an internal document that predated his being hired to swear behind prior art in the IPR (which, as it turns out, was not instituted with respect to the patent). Judge Stearns found that his removal was improper. He noted that none of the named inventors, including Schulter, reviewed the internal document before signing the declarations that accompanied the change of inventor petition, instead relying on Egenera’s management and counsel that the removal of Schulter was proper.
Later, the court construed the term “logic to modify said receiver to transmit said modified messages to the external communication network and to the external storage network” as a means-plus-function limitation. After reviewing internal documentation, including reviews of Schulter, the court determined that Schulter contributed to the means identified in the specification that were swept into the claim by means of 112(6). Judge Stearns identified passages in the specification that were taken from a state-of-development document authored by Schulter that post-dated Schulter’s employment and to which he contributed. Judge Stearns further considered testimony from one of the other inventors that the last-state-of-development document that pre-dated Schulter’s employment did not include information contained in the patent. Further, Egenera hired Schulter specifically to work on the servers covered by the patent This evidence was sufficient to overcome Schulter’s testimony that he was not an inventor, which was not corroborated by any contemporaneous evidence. As the court had already determined that judicial estoppel prevented Egenera from seeking to re-add Schulter as an inventor, the patent was deemed invalid, closing the case.
The jury returned a verdict in this long-running saga over black silicon technology that SiOnyx disclosed to Hamamtsu under a nondisclosure agreement, finding that Hamamatsu breached the NDA and was unjustly enriched and awarding $1,377,109 in damages for these claims. They rejected Hamamatsu’s statute of limitations and equitable estoppel defenses. They further determined that SiOnyx employee Dr. Carey should be named as a co-inventor on the Hamamatsu patents-in-suit under 35 U.S.C. § 256. Finally, they determined that Hamamatsu willfully infringed SiOnyx’s patent and that the patent is valid, but awarded no damages for the infringement.
Egenera accused Cisco of infringing the ‘430 patent, which names Egenera employee Peter Schulter as one of the inventors. When Cisco sought inter partes review on the basis of a 2000 reference, Egenera sought to swear behind the reference (under the first-to-invent rule, as the invention predates the AIA’s first-to-file system). Egenera relied on a document authored by inventor Max Smith, that Egenera asserts fully described the claimed invention. This document, however, pre-dates Schulter’s employment with Egenera. Egenera successfully petitioned to have Schulter removed as an inventor, and filed a declaration from Schulter stating that he was erroneously named. Cicso contended that Schulter should have been named as an inventor, and that by his removal the patent is invalid.
Judge Stearns agreed with Cisco that, should Schulter be determined to have contributed to the invention, Egenera could not petition to have him restored as an inventor under the doctrine of judicial estoppel, as such a claim would be inconsistent with Egenera’s assertion that he was incorrectly named. Judge Stearns determined, however, that while Schulter authored a pre-critical date document on a virtual LAN proxy that potentially read on a means-plus-function term in the claims, his authorship alone was not enough to determine, as a matter of law, that he conceived of the virtual LAN proxy or that the virtual LAN proxy was claimed via the means-plus-function limitation. Accordingly, he denied the cross motions for summary judgment on inventorship.
SiOnyx alleged that Hamamatsu, following an aborted attempt to form a business partnership involving devices that improve the detection of near-infrared light, had violated a non-disclosure agreement and obtained patents on SiOnyx technology without naming SiOnyx personnel as inventors. Hamamatsu filed twelve motions for partial summary judgment. Judge Saylor granted three of these, denied three, and deferred judgment on the remaining six.
Hamamatsu’s bid to prevail on breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims on statute of limitations grounds was denied. While the relevant events occurred longer ago than the six-year time period provided by the statute of limitations on these types of claims, Massachusetts law follows the discovery rule, by which the cause of action arises not when the events occurred, but when the plaintiff discovers or should reasonably have discovered. Here, there were issues of fact as to when SiOnyx should reasonably have become aware of these claims, brought about by Hamamatsu’s repeated assurances that it had developed the relevant technology on its own, independent from any knowledge acquired under the NDA. Judge Saylor denied summary judgment of breach of contract, finding issues of fact as to the scope of use of confidential information, while granting Hamamatsu’s motion with respect to the unjust enrichment claims of both SiOnyx and co-plaintiff Harvard, because under Massachusetts law, unjust enrichment cannot be found where there is a valid contract defining the rights of the parties. Applying First Circuit law, Judge Saylor denied Hamamatsu’s motion with respect to consequential damages on the grounds that the testimony offered in support of this theory, SiOnyx’s recollection of statements as to why a third-party agreement was terminated made by an executive of the third party, constituted an exception to hearsay under Rule 803(3) as a statement of intent or motive. Finally, he granted Hamamatsu’s motion that a SiOnyx employee was not a co-inventor on Hamamatsu’s patents, as the testimony of the employee was not sufficiently corroborated by documentary evidence.