Black & Decker Inc. v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp., No. 04 C 7955, 2006 WL 3069544 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 24, 2006) (St. Eve, J.).
After a jury found that defendant willfully infringed certain claims of the patents-in-suit, Judge St. Eve conducted a bench trial to determine whether the patents were unenforceable based upon prosecution counsel’s alleged inequitable conduct in failing to disclose known prior art to the PTO during examination.* A finding of inequitable conduct based upon failure to disclose material information requires that the information was material to patentability and that the failure to disclose was done with intent to mislead the PTO. The Court denied the inequitable conduct claim focusing on the second prong of the inequitable conduct test – intent. In short, prosecution counsel’s failure to disclose the alleged prior art (the “Smith patents”) to the PTO was not inequitable conduct because prosecution counsel believed the invention under examination (the “Dome patents”) was prior art to the Smith patents. Whether or not the Dome patents were in fact prior art to the Smith patents was not relevant to the question of prosecution counsel’s intent.
* Judge St. Eve previously denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on inequitable conduct discussed in this post, along with a longer description of the facts of the case.