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Laches

Laches

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Published by: PTSD_Trader on Nov 21, 2012
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02/16/2013

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IN
THE
UNITED
STATES
DISTRICTCOURTFOR
THE
EASTERN
DISTRICT
OFVIRGINIA
Norfolk
Division
I/P
ENGINE,
INC.,
Plaintiff,
FILED
NOV
20
2012
CLERK,
USDISTRICT
COURT
NORFOLK.VA
V.
CIVIL
ACTION
NO.
2:llcv512
AOL
INC.,
et
a/.,
Defendants.
MEMORANDUMOPINION
AND
ORDER
BeforetheCourtistheissueofwhethertheequitabledefenseoflachesshouldapplyin
this
case.TheCourt
initially
styled
its
ruling
fromthe
bench
asa
response
toa
renewedmotion
for
a
Judgment
as
a
Matter
of
Law
on
Laches
fromthe
Defendants.
However,
in
reviewing
thetrial
transcript,
the
Court
notes
thatDefendants
made
no
suchRule
50(a)motionregarding
laches.The
Plaintiff,
however,didmake
a
Rule
50(a)motion
regarding
laches
and
provided
argument
onthe
matter.
Furthermore,Defendantsresponded
to
thismotion
and
proffered
additionalevidencefortheCourt'sconsideration,whichPlaintiffreceivedandhadan
opportunity
to
respondto,
but
didnot.
Creatingadditionalconfusions
is
thefact
that
because
laches
isan
equitable
defense
tobe
resolved
as
to
bothfact
and
law
by
the
Court,
a
Rule50(a)motion
is
inappropriate
from
either
party.
In
theend,however,the
Court
willnotplace
form
oversubstance,
particularly
when
all
parties
havebeen
given
a
fair
opportunity
to
litigate
onthe
issue.
Accordingly,
the
Court
construes
Plaintiffs
Rule
50(a)Motion
for
Judgment
asa
Matter
of
LawonLachesasaMotionforPartialFindingspursuanttoRule52(c).Bymakingtheir
inappropriate
Rule
50(a)Motion,theCourtdetermined
that
Plaintiff
had
placed
into
evidence
all
Case 2:11-cv-00512-RAJ-TEM Document 800 Filed 11/20/12 Page 1 of 16 PageID# 20847
 
relevant
materials
regardinglaches,adeterminationthatwasonlyquestionedbyPlaintiffafterthe
Courtprovided
itsinitialrulingagainstthemon
lachesfrom
thebenchon
October
31,2012.
EvenwhengivenanopportunitytoprofferadditionalevidencewiththebenefitofconsiderationoftheCourt'srulingonthematter,thePlaintiffput
forward
aprofferthatcontainsinformation
alreadyintherecordorthatisirrelevantinlight
of
relevantcaselaw.
Therefore,havingtakingevidenceonlachesconcurrentlywiththejurytrialoninfringement,invalidity,anddamagesandafterthoroughlyreviewingtheevidence,arguments(includingthosemadeonsummaryjudgment),andrecordinthiscase,aswellasconsideringRule52'sadvisorycommittee'snotes,which"authorizesthecourttoenterjudgmentatanytime
thatitcan
appropriately
make
a
dispositive
finding
of
fact
ontheevidence,"the
Court
found
that
thiscasewasripefordecisionandruledfromthebenchontheissueoflaches.AstheCourt
indicatedwhenitruledonlaches,itreservedtherighttofurtherelaborateonitsdecisionina
written
opinion.Forthereasons
statedherein
and
on
the
record,
the
Court
finds
that
thedoctrine
of
lachesshouldapplytoalldefendantsinthiscase.
I.
The
Equitable
Doctrine
of
Laches
ThePatentActdoesnotprovideastatuteoflimitationsforinfringementclaims.
However,itiswell-establishedlawthattheequitabledoctrine
of
lachesmaybarapatentee'srecovery
of
pre-filingdamageswhere(1)thepatenteeknew
of
hisclaim,butunreasonablydelayedinfilingsuitand(2)thatdelaycausedmaterialprejudicetotheallegedinfringer.
See
Hair
v.
UnitedStates,
350F.3d1253,1257(Fed.Cir.2003)("Evenwithoutaspecificstatutory
bartocallintoplay,courtswillimposeaparallelbar—undertherubric
of
laches—incasesinwhichtheplaintiffhasfailedtoactinareasonablyprudentmannertoprotectandenforcerights,
Case 2:11-cv-00512-RAJ-TEM Document 800 Filed 11/20/12 Page 2 of 16 PageID# 20848
 
andwhen
a
perceived
injustice
to
the
defendant
exists.").
With
respect
to
the
first
requirement
-
knowledge
of
infringement
coupledwithunreasonable
delay
in
pursingclaims
againstsaidinfringement
-
The
FederalCircuit
hasheld
that
"[t]he
length
of
timewhich
maybe
deemed
unreasonable
has
no
fixed
boundariesbutratherdepends
on
the
circumstances."
A.
C
Aukerman
Co.
v.
R.
L.
Chaides
Constr.Co.,
960
F.2d
1020,1032
(Fed.
Cir.
1992).
Furthermore,
"[t]he
period
of
delay
is
measured
fromthetime
the
plaintiff
knew
orreasonably
should
haveknown
of
the
defendant'salleged
infringingactivities
tothedate
of
suit.
However,the
period
does
not
begin
prior
to
issuance
of
the
patent."
Id.
(citations
omitted).
Put
another
way,
"[t]he
period
of
delay
begins
at
thetimethe
patentee
has
actual
or
constructiveknowledge
of
the
defendant'spotentiallyinfringing
activities."
Wanlass
v.
GE,
148
F.3d
1334,1337
(Fed.
Cir.
1998)
(emphasisadded).
With
respect
to
constructive
knowledge,
the
Federal
Circuit
charges
a
patentee
"with
makingtheinquiry
that
a
diligent
and
reasonablyprudent
patentee
would
make
to
determine
whetheranother
device
infringes
his
patent."
Odetics,
Inc.
v.
Storage
Tech.
Corp.,
919
F.
Supp.
911,917
(E.D.
Va.
1996)
(citing
Jamesbury
v.
Litton
IndustrialProducts,
Inc.,
839
F.2d
1544,
1552
(Fed.
Cir.),cert,denied,
488
U.S.
828
(1988)).Moreover,theSupremeCourtholds
that
"the
plaintiff
is
chargeable
withsuchknowledge
ashe
mighthave
obtained
upon
inquiry,
provided
thefacts
already
known
by
him
were
such
as
toput
upon
a
man
of
ordinaryintelligence
theduty
of
inquiry."
Johnston
v.
StandardMining
Co.,
148U.S.
360,370
(U.S.
1893).With
respect
to
the
question
of
when
a
patentee
has
a
duty
to
make
inquiries
as
to
whether
itspatents
are
beinginfringed,
the
Court
findsthe
standardlaidoutin
Odetics
to
be
persuasive
and
applicableinthiscase:
Case 2:11-cv-00512-RAJ-TEM Document 800 Filed 11/20/12 Page 3 of 16 PageID# 20849

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