Chief Judge Sleet: Final Honeywell Opinion Deals with Costs

In what looks to be the final opinion in a patent infringement case that has continued since 1999, Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet partially affirmed a decision by the Clerk of Court not to grant costs requested by defendant Hamilton Standard, whose trial victory was affirmed by the Federal Circuit in April. Hamilton sought trial costs of $431,200.47, but the Clerk granted only $2,410. Hamilton appealed that decision to the District Court, which affirmed, except as to bond premiums for a bond Hamilton posted to stay execution of judgment pending post-trial motions (in the amount of $36,540). Chief Judge Sleet affirmed the denial of Hamilton’s other costs, including:

  • Transcripts: Under Local Rule 54.1(b)(2), transcript costs are taxable only “when requested by the Court or prepared pursuant to stipulation,” neither of which was the case here. Id. at 2.
  • Depositions: Under 54.1(b)(3), deposition costs are “taxable only where a substantial portion of the deposition is used in the resolution of a material issue in the case,” which did not occur here: the witnesses testified live, and mere use of the deposition transcript to prepare the witnesses was “scarcely relevant.” Id. at 3. Chief Judge Sleet also found it insufficient that “some portion of” one deposition was “played or read at trial,” and that, for one witness, the Federal Circuit “quoted eight words of the (at least) 278-page deposition in its 21-page opinion affirming [the district] court’s ruling on remand.” Id.
  • Exhibits: The court rejected the $173,855.77 requested for exhibits under 28 U.S.C. § 1920(4), and Local Rules 54.1(b)(5)-(6) for three reasons: (1) lack of specificity in the documentation of costs, which meant that the Clerk and the Court could not adequately apply the law, id. at 6-7; (2) the costs “relate[d] primarily to graphics design and computer animation work,” which is not covered under any of the rules, id. at 7; and (3) “parties may not recover costs for the preparation of animations, graphics design, and other exhibits that serve primarily an argumentative or adversarial function,” id. at 8.

What could Hamilton have done differently to recover these costs? Not much. The law regarding taxable transcripts and depositions is plain, and even if Hamilton had provided more detail about the exhibits in its reports, it could only have been awarded the minor costs of the physical copies submitted to the court, not the development and graphics design cost of the exhibits themselves. Id. at 7-8. Note, however, that Judge Robinson suggested in 2006 that “reasonable” fees for exhibit preparation might be taxable, as we covered here.

Honeywell Intl., Inc. v. Hamilton Sundstrand, No. 99-309 (D. Del. Sept. 30, 2009)


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