Black & Decker, Inc. v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp., No. 06 C 4440, Min. Order (N.D. Ill. Jul. 13, 2007) (Manning, J.).*
In the first Northern District opinion to address the Supreme Court’s MedImmune declaratory judgment standard, Judge Manning denied plaintiff Black & Decker’s (“B&D”) motion to dismiss defendant Robert Bosch Tool Corp.’s ("Bosch") declaratory judgment counterclaims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In a prior case between the parties before Judge St. Eve (numerous prior opinions are discussed in the Blog’s archives), B&D asserted that two models of Bosch’s Power Box radio (the "Old Power Box") infringed B&D’s two patents (the "Old Patents"). Shortly before Judge St. Eve held trial in the previous case, B&D brought this suit against Bosch asserting that Bosch’s new model of its Power Box radio (the "New Power Box") infringed a third patent (the "New Patent"). At about the same time, B&D sought leave to present evidence at trial before Judge St. Eve that the New Power Box infringed the Old Patents. Judge St. Eve, however, held that B&D had not disclosed the New Power Box as an accused product and that Bosch would be prejudiced by adding it immediately before trial. After the trial before Judge St. Eve, the jury returned a verdict that the Old Power Boxes willfully infringed certain claims of the Old Patents.
Shortly after Judge St. Eve excluded the New Power Box from her trial, B&D amended the complaint in this case to allege infringement of the Old Patents. In response, Bosch added declaratory judgment counterclaims regarding a third set of B&D patents (the “Smith patents”) which B&D had never asserted against Bosch. Bosch argued that an actual controversy existed because of the history of litigation between the parties and B&D’s prior testimony that it placed a high value on the exclusivity its patents provided in the workplace radio marketspace. B&D countered that, despite filing two suits against Bosch, B&D had never asserted the Smith patents against Bosch, or any other party. B&D also argued that St. Eve had already dismissed similar counterclaims in the last case for lack of actual controversy. But St. Eve’s decision was based upon the Federal Circuit’s old reasonable apprehension test, which the Supreme Court’s MedImmune decision overruled. Looking at “all of the circumstances,” as required by MedImmune, the Court held that an actual controversy existed. Among other reasons, the Court noted that the wide-ranging dispute between the parties regarding the workplace radios, suggested that it was in the parties’ best interests to resolve any dispute regarding the Smith patents.
* You can read a copy of the Minute Order here.