SiOnyx, LLC et al. v. Hamamatsu Photonics K.K., et al. (15-cv-13488).

Following trial, Judge Saylor dealt with a number of post-trial motions. He granted SiOnyx’s motion for equitable relief, awarding ownership of the nine patents in dispute to SiOnyx and ordering Hamamatsu to take all necessary steps to correct ownership of the patents. This was based on the non-disclosure agreement that a jury found to have been violated, that provided for ownership of all patent rights arising from the confidential information SiOnyx disclosed to Hamamatsu when exploring a possible business relationship. While the SiOnyx employee who took part in the disclosure was found to be only a con-inventor (along with Hamamatsu personnel), Judge Saylor noted that the non-disclosure agreement expressly provided ownership in the resulting ideas to SiOnyx. Judge Saylor further granted an injunction prohibiting Hamamatsu from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing accused products based on language in the NDA that explicitly provided for injunctive relief in the event of breach as well as on SiOnyx’s ownership of the patents, one of which the jury found to be infringed.

Judge Saylor denied Hamamatsu’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, finding that the statute of limitations did not bar suit on the NDA. He noted that this is generally a jury decision, and that there was no reason to overturn the jury’s verdict on this issue. He further refused to modify the unjust enrichment award to stop damages from accruing after the NDA expired, finding that the jury reasonably concluded that post-expiration damages flowed from pre-expiration conduct in designing the accused products.

The rulings were not all bad for Hamamatsu. Judge Saylor treated SiOnyx’s motion to amend the judgement to have their employee deemed the sole inventor on the patents in suit (filed prematurely) as a motion for judgment as a matter of law and denied it. SiOnyx contended that a jury instruction erroneously stated that the method of forming a claimed aspect of the invention was irrelevant, but Judge Saylor determined that, having failed to object to the instruction prior to the jury retiring under Fed. R. Civ. P. 51, SiOnyx had waived the argument, and further that SiOnyx could not raise the issue because it was not argued in SiOnyx’s motion for a directed verdict. Accordingly, Hamamatsu employees remain co-inventors.

Judge Saylor also denied SiOnyx’s motion for fees for an exceptional case. He noted that, while SiOnyx alleged Hamamatsu’s invalidity and non-infringement defenses to be substantively too weak to merit litigating, SiOnyx did not seek summary judgment on either issue. He further found no evidence that Hamamatsu deliberately sought to increase the cost and complexity of the litigation for an improper purpose.

Finally, Judge Saylor denied SiOnyx’s motion for enhanced damages pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 284, which allows the court to assess damages when not found by the jury. Here, the jury awarded damages for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, but awarded $0 in patent damages despite finding willful infringement. SiOnyx contended that the $0 award was, in effect, the jury not “finding” damages pursuant to the statute, permitting the judge to do so. Judge Saylor disagreed, noting that SiOnyx’s damages expert told the jury that there may be overlap between the breach of contract damages and infringement damages, and that the jury might need to choose between the two. Given this, and given the fact that the jury was told not to award duplicative damages, it is reasonable to interpret the $0 infringement award to mean that the infringement damages were covered by the breach of contract damage award. Judge Saylor further refused to treble the damages, since there was no way to accurately determine the level of damages attributable to infringement.

If anyone is wondering why patent litigation is so expensive, note that this case was filed in November 2015, and included significant motion practice and discovery disputes to get to this point, including 70 docket entries just to get to the filing of an answer to the complaint (with motions to dismiss, contesting adequacy of service, and for a preliminary injunction intervening). The case took almost two years to get to a claim construction order, and almost another two years to get to trial, and the matter is just now coming due for appeal. While this case involved additional issues beyond mere patent claims, this is not an unusual time-frame for patent litigation, and helps explain the costs involved.