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Chicago IP Litigation Tracking Northern District of Illinois IP Cases

Tag Archives: Attorneys Fees

Rule 11 Sanctions for Failing to Purchase the Accused Product

Posted in Trial

Smart Options, LLC c. Jump Rope, Inc., No. 12 C 2498, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Feb. 11, 2013) (St. Eve, J.).

Judge St. Eve granted defendant Jump Rope’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 motion for sanctions in this patent case.  The Court previously granted Jump Rope summary judgment of noninfringement and plaintiff Smart Options appealed to the Federal Circuit.  As an initial matter, the Court held that while Smart Options’ notice of appeal divested the Court of jurisdiction generally, the Court retained jurisdiction over Jump Rope’s Rule 11 motion.

The Court previously held that Jump Rope did not infringe because it did not sell options to purchase items at a later date.  Instead, Jump Rope sold the immediate ability to go to the front of a line for an event or location.  Smart Options could have ascertained that inexpensively by downloading Jump Rope’s free app and purchasing a jump.  Instead, Smart Options provided generalized descriptions of it investigations, including reviewing Jump Rope’s website Terms of Use.  And Smart Options’ patent claims require paying an “option fee” to acquire an “option” to purchase something.  Furthermore, faced with Jump Rope’s explanation that it did not infringe at the outset of the case via Jump Rope’s Rule 11 motion, Smart Options continued to prosecute its case and still did not buy a “jump.”

Smart Options’ reliance upon Judge Lefkow’s constructions in a similar case did not protect Smart Options.  Lefkow did not construe “option.”  And the construction of “option” Smart Options allegedly used as part of its Rule 11 investigations was inexplicably different than the construction Smart Options advanced before the PTO and before Judge Lefkow.

The Court, therefore, granted Jump Rope’s Rule 11 motion and awarded Jump Rope its reasonable attorney’s fees and costs for defending the case and for the Rule 11 motion giving Jump Rope leave to file a petition setting out and supporting its fees and costs.

 

Fees Awarded for “Egregious” Disqualification Motion

Posted in Local Rules

OpticsPlanet, Inc. v. Opticsale, Inc., No. 09 C 7934, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Oct. 22, 2012) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur granted plaintiff OpticsPlanet’s motion for sanctions based upon defendants’ failed attempt to disqualify OpticsPlanet’s individual counsel and its law firm.  The Court noted that the attempted disqualification was “particularly egregious,” but awarded only fees, not an additional fine to avoid any appearance of a punitive award.  The Court also “urged” the parties to use a less formal process than what is required by Local Rule 54.3 to avoid “fees on fees.”

Exceptional Case Finding Requires Additional Facts

Posted in Discovery, Local Rules, Summary Judgment, Trial

Bone Care Int’l., LLC v. Pentech Pharms., Inc., No. 08 C 1083, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 22, 2012) (Dow, J.).

Judge Dow held that plaintiff’s U.S. Patent No. 6,903,083 (the “’083 patent”) was invalid based upon a sale more than one year before the ‘083 patent’s filing date and denied defendants’ motion to find the case exceptional and award attorney’s fees, in this case related to vitamin D2.  As an initial matter, Judge Dow, although he would have been within his rights to do so, did not deem admitted facts that were not properly contested pursuant to Local Rule 56.1.  The Court did, however, explain that it would not consider improper denials.

The Court held that two sales by plaintiff more than one year before the filing date invalidated the ‘083 patent.  Plaintiffs argued that they were not in fact sales because while money changed hands, pursuant to a Supply Agreement, plaintiffs retained ownership of the goods.  But that argument “fail[ed] to get out of the gate.”  The Supply Agreement was for the manufacture of vitamin D2, for which hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid.

“[I]nference upon inference” favored finding the case exceptional and awarding defendants their attorney’s fees.  Plaintiffs lacked a plausible explanation for how they were unaware of the invalidating sales.  And instead of disclaiming the ‘083 patent and avoiding a large document production, plaintiffs continued asserting it.  But there remained a question of fact regarding what information plaintiffs’ executives had regarding the sales and when they had it.  The Court, therefore, allowed the parties to take further discovery on those issues before bringing the issue back to the Court. 

Prevailing Party Fees Requires Actually Prevailing

Posted in Trial

Woltmann v. Chicago Gridiron, LLC, No. 11 C 5994, Min. Order. (N.D. Ill. Apr. 11, 2012) (Norgle, J.).

Judge Norgle awarded defendant Chicago Gridiron its costs pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 in this copyright case.  Chicago Gridiron had a right to its costs pursuant to Rule 68 because it made plaintiff a $5,000 offer of judgment and plaintiff’s jury verdict was for $3,700, less than the offer of judgment.  Chicago Gridiron was not entitled to its attorney’s fees because it was not a prevailing party.  Chicago Gridiron was not a prevailing party simply because the jury’s award was less than its offer of judgment.  It acknowledged infringement and the jury’s verdict was for plaintiff.  And Chicago Gridiron was not entitled to its fees as a § 1927 sanction.  While Chicago Gridiron argues that plaintiff’s conduct was unreasonable, based upon the filing of three sanctions motions, it made no claim that plaintiff’s conduct was vexatious.  Both are required for § 1927 sanctions.

Dismissal Without Prejudice Will Allow Both Parties to Reassert Unexhausted Claims

Posted in Federal Rules

ImageCube LLC v. MTS Sys. Corp., No. 04 C 7587, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Apr. 4, 2012) (Dow, J.).

 Judge Dow granted plaintiff ImageCube’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2) motion to dismiss all claims without prejudice in this nearly eight year-old patent litigation involving alloyed and non-alloyed powders.  The Court previously granted summary judgment of non-infringement regarding the alloyed powders and certified its decision for immediate appeal.  After the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision, the parties attempted to settle the case and came close, but were not quite able to resolve their disputes.  As a result of that, ImageCube sought dismissal of all claims without prejudice so that it could reassert its non-alloyed powder claims at a later date, presumably if defendant MTS’s sales became more significant.  MTS opposed dismissal without prejudice, instead asking that all claims be dismissed with prejudice except for MTS’s claim for attorney’s fees pursuant to 35 U.S.C. Section 285. 

 The Court noted that it was in a “less advantageous position” than the parties to predict the future of their claims.  As a result, the Court dismissed all of the claims without prejudice.  That way the parties would be free to assert their claims should conditions warrant it, but the Court also noted that issue and claim preclusion would likely bar relitigation of previously decided claims.

Fees Awarded for Deposition Related to Rule 11 Investigation

Posted in Discovery

Morningware, Inc. v. Hearthware Home Products, Inc., No. 09 C 4348, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Oct. 6, 2011) (St. Eve, J.).

Judge St. Eve granted in part plaintiff/counter-defendant Morningware’s motion to compel the deposition of defendant/counter-plaintiff’s employee that conducted pre-suit, Rule 11 testing in this Lanham Act and patent infringement case involving convection ovens. The Court held that the witness at issue – Kim – was involved in the testing. In fact, Hearthware produced a video showing Kim performing tests. Furthermore, not all of Kim’s actions were privileged. Communications with counsel were privileged, while testing was not. And even as to communications, Morningware was entitled to information regarding the date of the communication, the parties in the communication, their titles and the subject matter of the communications. The Court also granted Morningware its fees related to the motion.

Lucasfilms Strikes Back Getting Attorney’s Fees

Posted in Trial

Lucasfilms Ltd. v. Skywalker Outdoor, Inc., No. 10 C 733, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 22, 2011) (Conlon, J.).

Judge Conlon entered an award of plaintiff Lucasfilm’s attorney’s fees and costs in this trademark dispute. The Court previously entered a default judgment and permanent injunction against defendant Skywalker Outdoor. Skywalker objected to Lucasfilm’s 21 hours spent drafting its complaint. The Court, however, held that 21 hours was not unreasonable to fashion a complaint, nor was having three attorneys prepare or revise the complaint unreasonable.

Successful Trademark Plaintiff Awarded its Attorney’s Fees Pursuant to a Franchise Agreement

Posted in Trial

OFA Royalties LLC v. Apne, No. 10 C 4237, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 17, 2011) (Dow, J.).

Judge Dow awarded plaintiffs (collectively "Quizno’s") their attorney’s fees of approximately $28k in this franchise and trademark case involving Quizno’s restaurants. The Court held that the parties’ franchise agreement required that a defaulting party pay the attorney’s fees of the other party. Because Quizno’s won its preliminary injunction motion and later won a final judgment against defendants, the agreement required that defendants pay Quizno’s attorney’s fees. And the Court awarded Quizno’s its full fees request because defendants did not contest Quizno’s motion for fees or its specific fees.

Trading Technologies: “Willful and Intentional” Evidence Fabrication Leads to $1M Fine & Default Judgment

Posted in Discovery

Rosenthal Collins Group, LLC v. Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc., No. 05 C 4088, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Feb. 23, 2011) (Coleman, J.).*

Judge Coleman granted defendant/counter-plaintiff Trading Technologies’ ("TT") motion for evidentiary sanctions and default judgment.  Judge Moran previously dismissed plaintiff/counter-defendant Rosenthal Collins Group’s ("RCG") motion for summary judgment regarding the alleged prior art Buist trading program for discovery abuse, ordered RCG to produce additional documents and things related to the Buist program, and ordered RCG to pay certain of TT’s attorney’s — click here for the Blog’s post on that decision.  Initially, the Court the severity of a default judgment as a sanction, calling it "extreme," and noted that the Seventh Circuit required a showing of willfulness, bad faith or fault by a preponderance of the evidence in order to justify dismissing a case.

The Court held that the high standard was met in this case, for at least the following reasons:

  • During his deposition, Buist admitted modifying and overwriting source code in 2006 that he and by extension RCG held out as having been created in 1998 or 1999.  And in the face of clear evidence of these facts, RCG continued to deny them, even calling the claims "libelous," "audacious," and "Oliver Stone-esque."
  • Buist later admitted "wiping" or erasing six of seven zip disks that originally contained the relevant source code and that were later produced by RCG because they allegedly contained the code.  The seventh was also wiped, although there was a dispute regarding whether Buist or others had access to it when it was wiped.  But the Court held that it was "impossible to believe that it is merely coincidence that the seventh disk happened to be wiped on May 2, 2006, which just happened to be the same day that TT was scheduled to inspect it."
  • There was evidence that "virtually every piece of media ordered produced by the Court in May 2007 and July 2008 was wiped, altered, or destroyed after those orders were entered . . . ." (emphasis in original).
  • Even if RCG and its counsel had no knowledge of the destruction of the evidence, the destruction might have been avoided if RCG had timely complied with the Court’s orders to produce the materials.  And regardless, RCG and its counsel should have preserved the evidence by taking custody of it.
  • Buist was RCG’s agent and, therefore, RCG was bound by Buist’s behavior and actions.

Based upon these determinations, the Court found clear and convincing evidence that "RCG, and its counsel, acted in bad faith and with willful disregard for the rules of discovery and this Court’s orders."  And because a monetary sanction alone was not sufficient, the Court entered a default judgment in favor of TT and dismissed RCG’s complaint and struck its defenses to TT’s counterclaim.  The Court also fined RCG $1,000,000 for "egregious conduct before the Court" and ordered RCG’s counsel to pay TT the attorney’s fees and costs related to TT’s motion for default judgment.

*  I have a few earlier opinions from the Trading Technologies cases, but this one was significant enough that I moved it up.  Click here for more on the case in the Blog’s archives.

Court Stays Attorney’s Fees Determination Pending Appeal

Posted in Local Rules

Callprod, Inc. v. GN Netcome, Inc., No. 06 C 4961, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 1, 2010) (Kendall, J.).

Judge Kendall granted in part plaintiff Callprod’s motion to stay determination regarding attorney’s fees pending appeal of the underlying patent issues and the Court’s determination as to whether the case was exceptional. The Court held that the Court’s and the parties’ resources were best preserved if all proceedings regarding attorney’s fees were stayed until the Federal Circuit ruled on Callprod’s appeal of the Court’s grant of summary judgment of noninfringement. The Court, however, ordered Callprod to respond to defendants’ bill of costs.

Trading Technologies: Court Reconnect Altering Judgment to Reflect Jury Award

Posted in Trial

Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc. v. Speed, Inc., No. 04 C 5312, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 8, 2010) (Schenkier, Mag. J.).

Judge Schenkier recommended denying plaintiff Trading Technologies’ ("TT") motion to enforce the final judgment and for sanctions. The Court also recommended correcting the final judgment to reflect the jury verdict and the remitted damages award. A jury previously awarded TT $3.5M in damages and found defendant’s infringement willful. The Court later overturned the willfulness finding and ordered a remittitur of damages to $2.5M, which TT accepted. The Court then granted a permanent injunction and entered a final judgment, but that judgment did not reflect the damages award.

Defendant argued that, despite the jury award and remittitur, there was no damages award because it was not reflected in the final judgment and after the Federal Circuit had decided to appeal it was too late to revise the final judgment.

The Court agreed that the first judgment should have included the award, but not that it was too late to fix it. The Court noted that the most likely explanation for the omission was "the fallibility of human beings (judges included)." The Court also noted that TT should have sought to correct the final judgment immediately. But despite the imprecise judgment, the Federal Circuit ruled upon several issues related to the jury verdict, although not the award itself. And neither TT nor defendants disputed the fact or the amount of the damages award. Based upon those facts, the Court recommended that revising the final judgment to reflect the award would merely "correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission" pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(a). Finally, the Court recognized TT’s frustration over not having received payment 34 months after the jury verdict and 6 months after the Federal Circuit’s decision. But the Court recommended not awarding TT its fees because TT’s failure to promptly get the judgment corrected was the only reason there was a delay in paying the judgment.

Trading Technologies: Court Awards Rule 37 Discovery Sanctions

Posted in Discovery

Rosenthal Collins Group, LLC v. Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc., No. 95 C 4088, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 29, 2010) (Kim, Mag. J.).

Judge Kim granted declaratory judgment defendant Trading Technologies ("TT") approximately $290,000 of $375,000 requested in fees and costs pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2) in this patent case.* On March 14, 2007, the Court held that declaratory judgment plaintiff Rosenthal Collins Group’s ("RCG") summary judgment motion was "misleading," "disingenuous" and "prematurely filed" – click here to read more about the opinion in the Blog’s archives. The Court, therefore, found RCG’s conduct sanctionable, struck the motion without prejudice, struck the supporting Buist declaration, and ordered RCG to pay costs for TT’s software consultants, and attorney’s fees and costs related to the sanction motion.

On July 17, 2008, the Court denied RCG’s motion to vacate the sanction order and again ordered RCG to pay: 1) TT’s consultant; 2) TT’s deposition of the Buists; and 3) TT’s prosecution of the sanctions motions. The Court also ordered the parties to comply with Local Rule 54.3 by trying to come to agreement on the issues.

Initially, the Court observed that "contentiousness and obvious material distrust" demonstrated by both sides had "leached" into the parties briefing. The Court awarded TT the full amount of its expert fees and costs because those fees and costs were specifically awarded by Judge Moran and because TT showed that all of the expert’s work was impacted by or resulted from the misconduct. Those fees were approximately $52,000.

The Court also awarded TT’s attorney’s fees and costs of approximately $157,000 related to the depositions of the experts at issue. The only reduction was for a series of identical, cryptic time entries for "preparation of Buist witness kit". The court could not determine whether the fees were justified. The Court awarded TT its actual costs, instead of limiting the costs to the Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d) limits because this sanction award was pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 37 and, therefore, was not limited by Rule 54(d). The Court finally awarded $86,000 in fees and costs related to TT’s sanctions motion. The Court generally found TT’s fees and expenses reasonable, with limited exceptions. The Court limited fees for writing a "simple" two-page motion to two hours. The Court also deleted approximately $11,000 in apparently duplicative time entries.

Attorney’s Fees Petition Must be Tailored to Resolved Claims

Posted in Federal Rules

Nova Design Build, Inc. v. Grace Hotels, LLC, No. 08 C 2855, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 8, 2010) (Der-Yeghiayan, J.).

Judge Der-Yeghiayan granted defendant Grace Hotel’s motion for costs and denied without prejudice Grace Hotel’s motion for attorney’s fees. As an initial matter, the Court held that Grace Hotels was a prevailing party pursuant to both Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d) (costs) and 17 U.S.C. § 505 (attorney’s fees). While the standards were different, Grace Hotels met both standards. Grace Hotels was granted summary judgment on plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim because plaintiffs did not have a valid copyright registration – click here for more on this opinion in the Blog’s archives. While the decision was jurisdictional and not substantive, Grace Hotel was a prevailing party because the Court’s ruling "effectively foreclosed" Plaintiff’s copyright claims. In other words, "Grace [Hotels] obtained more than just a moral victory on a minor jurisdictional point." Because Grace Hotels was a prevailing party, the Court awarded the reasonable costs Grace Hotels requested for court reporter fees pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d) - $2,534.70. 

While Grace Hotels was also a prevailing party for purposes of § 505, the Court denied Grace Hotels attorney’s fees motion without prejudice. The fees did not appear reasonable. They were not limited to fees associated with defending the copyright claim. Grace Hotels was not entitled to fees for defending related state law claims which the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over after resolving the federal copyright claim. Grace Hotels also sought fees for a separate case between the parties. The Court allowed Grace Hotels to file a renewal motion for attorney’s fees tailored to the recoverable fees.

Court Enters Judgment on Trademark Damages and Attorneys Fees in Accordian Case

Posted in Damages

Gabbanelli Accordions & Imports, L.L.C. v. Italo-Am. Accordion Mfg. Co., No. 02 C 4048, Slip. Op. (N.D. Ill. Sept. 21, 2009) (Zagel, J.).

Judge Zagel entered judgment on behalf of plaintiffs in the amount of $151,200 in lost profits after the Seventh Circuit affirmed the Court’s judgment.* The Court also held defendants jointly and severally liable for $147,576.12 in plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees.

* Click here for more on this case in the Blog’s archives.

Court Finds National Rates Reasonable & Awards Attorney’s Fees

Posted in Discovery

UTStarcom, Inc. v. Starent Networks, Corp., No. 07 C 2582, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Apr. 13, 2009) (Bobrick, Ret. J. & Special Master).

Special Master Bobrick, a retired judge, awarded defendant Starent its attorneys fees  related to Starent’s efforts to get complete interrogatory responses from plaintiff UTStarcom.  In an earlier opinion (click here for the Blog’s related post), the Court denied Starent’s request to dismiss plaintiff’s trade secret misappropriation claim as a sanction for UTStarcom’s incomplete responses, but awarded attorneys fees.  Of particular interest, the Special Master held that block billing was not inappropriate and that block billed entries could be recovered.  Additionally, based in part on UTStarcom’s failure to provide its rates as part of a reasonableness analysis, the Special Master held that Starent’s rates were not unreasonable, although they may have been more than standard local rates.  The Court also noted that patent cases required special expertise which often commands a premium.  The Special Master did, however, reduce the rates of Starent’s law students whom the Special Master noted were neither lawyers nor paralegals.  Finally, the Special Master reduced by one-third the bills for certain time that was added to Starent’s Bill of Costs late.

Court Barely Denies Motion to Dismiss for Delayed Interrogatory Answers

Posted in Discovery

UTStarcom, Inc. v. Starent Networks, Corp., No. 07 C 2582, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 22, 2009) (Bobrick, Ret. J. & Special Master).

Special Master Bobrick, a retired judge, denied defendant Starent’s motion to dismiss plaintiff UTSI’s trade secret misappropriation claim for repeatedly deficient interrogatory responses related to the claim.  Over the course of a year, UTSI served six responses to the interrogatories at issue based upon various requests by Starent and orders by the Special Master.  After the sixth set of responses, Starent agreed that the answers were sufficient.  Starent, however, requested dismissal of the claim based upon UTStarcom’s repeated failure to provide a substantive answer.  UTStarcom responded that dismissal was a drastic remedy that was not warranted because had provided substantive answers and because Starent had not been prejudiced by the delay.  UTStarcom even suggested other remedies like exclusion of late produced evidence.  The Special Master held that it was a close case and that either outcome would be defensible.  The Court however, denied Starent’s motion to dismiss but did award attorney’s fees for the filing of Starent’s motion.

Court Warns Parties That Future Fee Motions May be Granted

Posted in Discovery

Rosenthal Collins Group, LLC v. Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc., No. 05 C 4088, Min. Order (N.D. Ill. Feb. 2, 2009) (Moran, Sen. J.).*

In this pair of entries, Judge Moran denied plaintiff Trading Technologies’ motions for fees and costs related to a discovery motion and referred another fees motion to Magistrate Judge Schenkier.  In the first entry, the Court noted that it was time to end "unnecessary [discovery] battles" in the case and that it might not be as forgiving with the next fees motion.  In the other entry, the Court transferred a fees motion to Judge Schenkier, but questioned how "a single discovery dispute could blossom into a claim for over $300,000.

Click here to read much more about this case and the related cases in the Blog’s archives.

Inclusion of Trademark in Business Plan Not a Use in Commerce

Posted in Legal News

Welsh v. Big Ten Conf., Inc., No. 08 C 1342, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 21, 2008) (Gottschall, J.).

Judge Gottschall granted defendant the Big Ten Conference’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint, but denied the Big Ten’s motion for its attorney’s fees. Plaintiff claimed that it presented the Big Ten with a trade secret business plan for a Big Ten television network named the "Big Ten Network." The Big Ten allegedly told plaintiff it was not interested and then several years later started the Big Ten Network using plaintiff’s trade secrets, including the Big Ten Network name. Plaintiff claimed that the Big Ten violated § 38 of the Lanham Act by filing a false declaration with the PTO stating that the Big Ten had the sole right to use the Big Ten Network mark in commerce. Plaintiff argued that the Big Ten should have disclosed plaintiff’s trade secret rights in the mark. But the Court held that even if plaintiff could establish trade secret rights, the Seventh Circuit had held that it was "far from clear" whether trade secret claims fall within the scope of § 38, which is directed to statements about ownership, as opposed to statements about use in commerce. Additionally, the Court held that plaintiff’s alleged development of the name did not necessarily grant plaintiff any rights in the trademark. Trademark rights are granted based upon use, not discovery or invention. And inclusion in a business plan is not a "use in commerce." Having dismissed plaintiff’s federal claim and noting that the parties were not diverse, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims and dismissed the case.

The Court denied the Big Ten’s request for its fees. First, the case was resolved on a motion to dismiss filed two months after the complaint and while plaintiff’s arguments lost, the theory had not been "squarely rejected by the Seventh Circuit." As such, plaintiff’s suit could not be deemed "oppressive" as is required for an award of fees.

Court Awards Injunction, Actual Damages and Costs, Not Attorney’s Fees

Posted in Damages

Hyundai Construc. Equip. U.S.A., Inc. v. Chris Johnson Equip., Inc., No. 06 C 3238, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Oct 21, 2008) (Leinenweber, Sen. J.).

Judge Leinenweber, having previously granted plaintiff summary judgment of Lanham Act unfair competition and deceptive trade practices,* enjoined defendant’s continued sale of gray market goods and use of plaintiffs’ trademarks and awarded plaintiffs damages and costs.  The Court awarded plaintiffs defendant’s profits from sales of gray market construction equipment (equipment made abroad for sale abroad that was imported to the United States without authority for resale), but the Court held that awarding plaintiffs a multiple of defendant’s actual damages would be inappropriately punitive.  Additionally, the Court gave defendant an opportunity to prove its costs before entering a final damages amount. 

The Court also entered a permanent injunction.  The Court, however, denied plaintiffs’ request that defendant have to provide plaintiffs and the Court a report proving defendants’ compliance with the injunction.  Such a requirement was unduly burdensome.

Finally, the Court awarded plaintiffs their costs, but held attorney’s fees were not appropriate because the case was not exceptional.  Among other reasons the case was not exceptional, the Court noted evidence that defendants "apparent pains" to warn customers that defendants’ products lacked a warranty and came from overseas.  And the Court held that no actual confusion had yet been proven.

*  Click here for the prior decision in the Blog’s archives.

Dismissal For Failure To Prosecute: Costs Awarded Not Attorney’s Fees

Posted in Legal News

Vito & Nick’s, Inc. v. Barraco., No. 05 C 2764, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Oct. 10, 2008) (Nolan, Mag. J.)

Judge Nolan granted defendants’ motion for litigation costs, but denied defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees. Plaintiff sued defendants alleging trademark infringement, Lanham Act unfair competition, Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices and related state law claims based upon a dispute over sibling’s competing use of the name of a family business. After initiation of the suit, the parties engaged in extensive settlement negotiations resulting in a framework for settlement. But plaintiff was unable to come up with funds necessary for the settlement and then lost its counsel. Because plaintiff was unable to find replacement counsel, and because corporations cannot appear pro se, plaintiff’s case was eventually dismissed for want of prosecution.

The Court held that plaintiff’s conduct resulting in dismissal did not constitute bad faith warranting an award for attorney’s fees. Plaintiff actively participated in the case and settlement negotiations, until it was unable to come up with the funds required, and lost its counsel. Furthermore, the Court had not had occasion to review the viability of plaintiff’s claim and, therefore, a bad faith finding could not be based upon the viability of the claims.

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Court Uses Plaintiff’s Attorney’s Fees as Measure for Awarding Defendants’ Fees

Posted in Trial

Hyperquest, Inc. v. N’Site Solutions, Inc., No. 08 C 483, 2008 WL 3978310 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 22, 2008) (Shadur, Sen. J.)

Judge Shadur continued defendants’ motion for fees as a prevailing party in this copyright case pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §505, after previously requiring additional briefing as to the reasonableness of defendants’ requested fees – click here to read about that opinion in the Blog’s archives. Defendants collectively requested approximately $260K in fees. The Court dismissed plaintiff’s argument that defendants did not offer proof that defendants had paid their counsels’ fees. But the Court set a hearing to discuss an appropriate award, noting that plaintiff’s counsel’s fees, approximately $110K, were a more appropriate sum, with some adjustment for the fact that there were two defendants.

Trading Technologies: Rule 37 Sanctions Based Upon Fault

Posted in Discovery

Rosenthal Collins Group, LLC v. Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc., No. 05 C 4088, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 17, 2008) (Moran, Sen. J.).

Judge Moran denied declaratory judgment plaintiff Rosenthal Collins Group’s ("RCG") motion to vacate the Court’s March 14, 2007 order awarding declaratory judgment defendant Trading Technologies’ ("TT") Fed. R. Civ. P. 37 sanctions – click here to read the Blog’s post about that opinion and click here to read much more about this case and the related cases. In that earlier order, the Court held that RCG’s motion for summary judgment of invalidity was "somewhat misleading" and possibly "disingenuous." Instead of dismissing the case as TT requested, the Court struck the declaration underlying RCG’s motion, denied RCG’s summary judgment motion with leave to refile a motion "supported by proper evidence" and awarded TT its costs and attorneys fees associated with the Rule 37 motion, as well as its software expert’s fees.

In this motion, RCG argued that the Court should vacate that sanctions order because the Court held that TT had not proved by clear and convincing evidence that RCG acted willfully or with bad faith. But the Court held that Rule 37 sanctions could be based upon willfulness, bad faith or fault. Fault went to the reasonableness of the party’s content, not necessarily intent. And the Court held that RCG’s actions met the standard for fault. Furthermore, while clear and convincing was the burden of proof for dismissal, clear and convincing proof is not required for lesser sanctions.

Finally, the Court held that the categories of fees and costs sought by TT were within the scope of the Court’s order, but ordered the parties to brief the reasonableness of the specific fees sought by TT, using the Local Rule 54.3 requirements (a rule usually used for post-judgment fees and costs).

Attorney’s Fees Awarded After Dismissal for Lack of Standing

Posted in Jurisdiction

Hyperquest, Inc. v. N’Site Solutions, Inc., et al., No. 08 C 483, –F. Supp. 2d–, 2008 WL 2446206 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 18, 2008) (Shadur, Sen. J.)

Judge Shadur granted defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505, after previously dismissing plaintiffs’ copyright claims for lack of standing – click here for the Blog’s post about that opinion. Plaintiff agreed that defendants were not § 505 “prevailing parties” because the case was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. But the Court explained that its opinion and the parties’ underlying briefs used imprecise language, citing an Abraham Lincoln pearl of wisdom:

If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? Five? No, calling a tail a let don’t make it a leg.

The case was not dismissed for lack of a properly registered copyright (subject matter jurisdiction), but because plaintiff lacked sufficient right to assert the copyright (standing). Because the case was dismissed with prejudice for lack of standing, defendants were prevailing parties and an attorney’s fee award was warranted.

Federal Circuit Upholds Northern District’s Attorney’s Fees Award

Posted in Legal News

Nilssen v. Osram Sylvania, Inc., No. 2007-1998, -1348 Slip. Op. (Fed. Cir. June 17, 2008).

The Federal Circuit affirmed Judge Darrah’s award of defendant’s/appellee’s attorney’s fees – click here to read the Blog’s post about the inequitable conduct opinion. Judge Darrah previously held and the Federal Circuit previously affirmed that plaintiffs committed inequitable conduct by, among other things: (1) falsely claiming small entity status; (2) failing to disclose material prior art to the PTO; and (3) failing to disclose related litigation to the PTO. Judge Darrah then held that the case was exceptional based upon plaintiff’s inequitable conduct, filing of a frivolous suit, and litigation misconduct. Because the case was exceptional, Judge Darrah awarded defendants their attorney’s fees.

The Federal Circuit agreed with plaintiffs, holding that an inequitable conduct finding did not require a case be deemed exceptional. But the Court held that Judge Darrah’s findings were supported by evidence and, therefore, were within his discretion.

Judge Newman dissented, stating:

The court today promotes unexceptional trial procedures and non-culpable prosecution errors into an "exceptional case" of such severity as to warrant the award of attorney fees. That is not what the status, or precedent, or policy contemplates. I respectfully dissent.

Check the following blogs for more on this opinion: