Avery Dennison Corp. v. Continental Datalabel, Inc., No. 10 C 2744, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 30, 2010) (Kennelly, J.).
Judge Kennelly granted plaintiff Avery Dennision’s ("ADC") Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss defendant Continental Datalabel’s ("CDI") inequitable conduct, Walker Process fraud and sham litigation counterclaims in this patent dispute regarding labels with a tear off liner to expose a portion of a label column for easy removal.
CDI alleged two bases of inequitable conduct. First, ADC allegedly intentionally failed to tell the examiner that certain limitations outlined in a series of bullet points were from a particular prior art reference. That claim filed because ADC had previously disclosed the prior art reference at issue to the examiner – once a reference is before an examiner, it cannot be found to have been withheld from the examiner. Second, ADC allegedly intentionally failed to disclose to the examiner that curling up of labels is an inherent characteristic of adhesive labels. But ADC had disclosed the inherent curling up by disclosing various prior art references regarding adhesive labels that taught the inherent curling up, combined with the examiner’s presumed experience in the art.
Walker Process Fraud Claim
Because CDI’s Walker Process claim was premised upon the alleged inequitable conduct, CDI’s Walker Process claim failed. The Court further noted that because inequitable conduct is a broader concept than Walker Process fraud, a party that fails to make its case for inequitable conduct, cannot make a Walker Process fraud claim.
CDI’s sham litigation claim was based upon allegations that ADC knew the patent was invalid based upon the Brady prior art reference, which was before the examiner, and because had ADC tested CDI’s accused labels, ADC would have realized its suit was baseless. Because the Brady reference was before the examiner, however, the Court could not find that the claim was "objectively baseless" as required for sham litigation. ADC could have reasonably believed that after the examiner considered Brady and granted ADC’s patent, ADC’s patent was in fact valid over Brady.
And ADC’s alleged failure to test the accused CDI product was not sufficient for a sham litigation claim. Sham litigation requires more than an unsuccessful suit. While CDI may eventually prove that it did not infringe, ADC’s failure to perform one test identified by CDI does "not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility" that ADC’s suit was in bad faith.
Neutral Tandem, Inc. v. Peerless Network, LLC, No. 08 C 3402, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Dec. 2, 2010) (Darrah, J.).
Judge Darrah granted plaintiff Neutral Tandem summary judgment as to defendants’ (collectively "Peerless Network") inequitable conduct claim. Peerless offered no clear and convincing evidence that the inventor knew of the allegedly withheld prior art, referred to as the "Phase II Order." The fact that the inventor was involved in the proceeding’s from which the Phase II Order issued was not sufficient. Those proceedings lasted eleven years and resulted in thirteen orders. And the inventor testified that he did not remember the Phase II Order. Furthermore, similarities between a paragraph of the Order and a statement made during prosecution was not sufficient. Finally a petition filed with the FCC by the inventor referencing the Order was not sufficient because he testified it was written by his outside counsel and he had not reviewed the petition.
Bone Care Int’l, LLC v. Pentech Pharms., Inc., No. 08 C 1083, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Apr. 23, 2010) (Dow, Jr.).
Judge Dow granted in part plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s inequitable conduct affirmative defenses and corresponding counterclaim in this patent case related to a treatment for hyperthyroidism. The Court dismissed defendants’ defenses and claims based upon infectious unenforceability. Defendants showed a relationship between the patents-in-suit and the earlier patents. But defendants did not meet the Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b) pleading standards because they did not plead an "immediate and necessary" relationship between the patents-in-suit and the earlier patents in the family.
The Court denied the motion to dismiss as to prior art references that had been disclosed in earlier, related patent prosecutions, but not the prosecutions of the patents-in-suit. Defendants’ allegations were sufficient to allow the Court to infer that the prior art references were intentionally withheld to avoid rejections similar to those from the earlier prosecutions based upon that prior art. It did not matter that defendants did not allege that the prior art references were not cumulative. Rule 9(b) pleading is designed to put the opposing part on notice, not to require the recitation of "certain magic words." The Court dismissed defendants’ allegations regarding allegedly false statements to the PTO because other writings requested the applicant did not believe the statements to be false.
Defendants’ allegations regarding certain of plaintiffs’ undisclosed articles were sufficiently plead. Defendants identified specific articles written by patentee, and plead that they were relevant and that patentee failed to disclose them.
Finally, defendants sufficiently pled that plaintiff’s submitted article made misleading statements about the state of the art. Among other reasons, the Court noted that the truth of the contested statements could not be decided upon a motion to dismiss.