In a different part of Boston University’s series of patent infringement suits against LED manufacturers, now consolidated, Judge Saris granted in part and denied in part Kingbright’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Kingbright case was stayed pending the resolution of earlier such cases, and following the invalidation of claim 19 for lack of enablement, Kingbright filed its motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Kingbright, which sells LED packages that utilize LED’s manufactured by Epistar, Cree, and Tekcore, sought judgment no the pleadings as to the products that incorporated Epistar’s LED chips under the Kessler doctrine. This doctrine bars infringement actions against a customer of a seller who had prevailed in an infringement suit because of invalidity or noninfringement. As Epistar was one of the parties that prevailed in the lack of enablement finding, and because in any event claim preclusion would prohibit B.U. from bringing infringement claims based on different claims against Epistar (who had indemnified Kingbright), Judge Saris granted the motion with respect to these products. She denied the motion with respect to the products incorporating Cree and Tekcore chips, as neither the Kessler Doctrine nor claim preclusion would apply.
This patent litigation resulted in the overturning of a jury verdict of infringement and invalidation of the sole asserted claim as not enabled. The claim , which covered semiconductors used in LED’s, recited a substrate consisting of a material selected from a group of six different compositions, with a non-single crystalline buffer layer grown thereon and a growth layer grown on the buffer layer. The term “non-single crystalline buffer layer” was construed to cover polycrystalline, amorphous, or mixed polycrystalline and amorphous materials, and the Federal Circuit determined that the specification did not enable growing a growth layer on an amorphous layer. In June, on return to the District Court, Judge Saris allowed in part Defendants’ request for attorneys’ fees, finding that, while the case itself was not exceptional (while Boston University ultimately did not prevail, their argument initially prevailed at trial and in post-trial briefing at the District Court level, demonstrating that it was not without merit), the conduct of Boston University’s counsel in communications with Defendants’ counsel “crossed the line of civility” and found that Defendants should recover the fees and costs associated with the two contempt motions they brought after Boston University’s counsel continued with the objectionable communications in violation of court orders. Judge Saris has now awarded $30,934 in fees, excluding time entries that did not relate or only partially related to the motions for contempt. She denied Defendants’ request for fees associated with briefing and arguing the fee request, however, finding her earlier fee award covered only the contempt motions and not the subsequent fee motion.
Judge Saris denied Omilia’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Omilia, a Cyprus corporation, sought either dismissal or transfer to the Northern District of Illinois, where it concedes it has sufficient contacts to support personal jurisdiction. Looking into Omilia’s contacts with Massachusetts, Judge Saris determined that Omlilia had the necessary contacts to support personal jurisdiction. She noted that Omilia had identified Boston as its “North American Office” on its website and provided Boston contact information from 2015 to the time it received Nuance’s cease and desist letter in October 2018. Judge Saris further did not credit Omilia’s attempts to identify its Boston contact person as an independent contractor, because Omilia’s website had indicated that he was the company’s “employee number 6” in 2012. She further noted the LinkedIn profile of Omilia’s CEO, which indicated that he worked for Omilia in Boston. Finally Judge Saris pointed to Omilia’s having a physical address in Boston (a WeWork location which served primarily as a mailing address) and Omilia’s presentation at a conference in the state. She found each of these supported purposeful availment. She then looked to the relatedness of these contacts with the asserted patent infringement. Noting that Federal Circuit law on this subject was more permissive towards finding relatedness than many of the other Federal Circuit’s law, she determined that Omilia’s attempts to market and sell accused products to customers in Massachusetts (which occurred at least in part through these contacts) was enough. Finally, Judge Saris determined that hailing Omilia into a Massachusetts court was not unreasonable, because Massachusetts has a strong interest in protecting Nuance, a Massachusetts company, from infringement, that Omilia had not overcome. As a result, this case will proceed in Massachusetts.
On November 4, 2019, Ronald Satish Emrit filed a pro se lawsuit against the NFL, the Washington Redskins, and Daniel Snyder, the Redskins’ majority owner. Emrit claimed to be both Native American and African American, and sought to institute a class action case for trademark infringement for misappropriating the image of a Native American person as the Redskins’ logo, as well as defamation against Native Americans as a class. The case was assigned to Judge Saris, who has now dismissed the complaint as being essentially duplicative of a number of prior-filed suits. Emrit first filed against the NFL on October 10th in the Eastern District of Virginia, the District of Maryland, and the District Court for the District of Columbia. He subsequently filed the same case in the Southern District of Iowa and the Middle District of Florida before filing the Massachusetts case.
Emrit is a frequent pro se plaintiff, and has been deemed a vexatious litigant in multiple district courts. This practice of filing the same claims in multiple courts no doubt contributes to this characterization.
Judge Saris denied defendant NetApp’s motion for leave to amend and supplement its invalidity contentions for failure to demonstrate good cause as required by the local rules. NetApp, who was sued separately from Lenovo and EMC but whose case was joined, failed to connect its proposed amendment to the claim construction ruling, and waited a year between discovering the new prior art and seeking to amend. Given this, and that fact discovery is now complete and expert disclosures are imminently due, Judge Saris determined that the case “is aging and needs resolution.”
JW Reilly, a business run by Judith Reilly to sell her sterling silver products, sued Swiss shoemaker Bally, accusing Bally of infringing a design patent on a shoe buckle. The design, set forth in U.S. D667,212, appears to be a clip-on accessory, as opposed to a true buckle, that has a rectangular face and that clips over the front, toe portion of a shoe. JW Reilly sells buckles asserted to be embodiments of the design patent in which the buckle can be engraved with wording, initials or a design.
Ms. Reilly asserts that she approached the manager of Bally’s Copley Place store in 2013 to discuss hosting a fund-raising event to support the Boston One Fund, a charity to assist families of those killed or injured in the Marathon bombing. In connection with her proposal, she asserts that she provided a description and photograph of her buckles that specifically indicated that they were protected by the ‘212 patent. Bally’s declined to participate in the proposed fund-raiser.
Ms. Reilly indicates that she subsequently became aware that Bally was offering three shoe designs that included buckles that she believes to be infringements of her patent. She asserts that Bally copied her design. The case has been assigned to Judge Saris.
Following invalidation of independent claim 1 (and a number of other claims) of the sole asserted patent in an inter partes review, Lenovo moved for summary judgment of invalidity of the sole asserted claim of the patent. Lenovo asserted both collateral estoppel and that there was no genuine issue of fact that the claim was obvious. Judge Saris ruled that estoppel applied and granted Lenovo’s motion. The asserted patent related to symmetric multiprocessor or shared-memory multiprocessor systems. Claim 1, which was invalidated by the PTAB, recited the system in some detail; claim 11, the sole asserted claim, added that the system further comprised the microprocessors and the memory device of the system, without further limitation. Notably, claim 11 was not challenged during the IPR. Lenovo asserted that collateral estoppel should apply because Intellectual Ventures could not show that the additional limitations of claim 11 “materially alter the question of invalidity.” Noting that the Federal Circuit had determined that issue preclusion applies to an invalidity finding before the PTAB despite the different standards of proof and of claim construction between the PTAB and district court, Judge Saris determined that estoppel applies. She indicated that the claims need not be identical for estoppel to apply, merely that the issues be the same. As claim 1 had been fully adjudicated, the sole question was whether the differences between claim 1 and claim 11 alter the infringement analysis in a meaningful way – Judge Saris determined that it did not. Claim 1 included limitations on the interfaces between microprocessors and memory devices. Claim 11 merely affirmatively claimed the microprocessors and memory devices. The PTAB had determined that the prior art reference relied upon disclosed microprocessors and memory devices, meaning that the claim did not add anything to the invalidity analysis that had not been determined before the PTAB.