Judge Robinson Finds Evidence of Obviousness and Inequitable Conduct Insufficient, Awards Costs

Judge Robinson has considered motions for judgment as a matter of law and the question of inequitable conduct in a patent infringement case involving technology for applying thin film coatings to glass. See Asahi Glass Co., Ltd. v. Guardian Indus. Corp., C.A. No. 09-515-SLR (D. Del. Aug. 20, 2012). After partial grants of summary judgment, a denial of defendant’s motion to amend to assert claims of inequitable conduct, and a jury trial on validity, the defendant renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law and moved for a new trial. Although the jury found that the patents-in-suit were valid, the defendant contended that JMOL or a new trial was appropriate because certain claims were invalid due to obviousness and both patents-in-suit were invalid for failure to list the proper inventorship.

On obviousness, Judge Robinson found that defendant had not “identified clear and convincing evidence of obviousness of the asserted claims of the patents-in-suit. Plaintiffs’ evidence of secondary considerations of nonobviousness . . . provides further rationale for upholding the jury verdict of nonobviousness based on the additional references and combinations of references asserted by defendant. Outside of [one prior art reference], the majority of defendant’s additional obviousness theories were founded primarily on attorney argument.” The court therefore found that “the jury’s verdict of nonobviousness was reasonable and supported by the record.” Id. at 40. Judge Robinson also found that defendants had not proven false inventorship through the improper inclusion of inventors, the improper exclusion of inventors, or a challenge to the jury instructions on inventorship. Id. at 15-22.

Finally, Judge Robinson considered the issue of inequitable conduct. The Court had previously considered defendant’s motion to amend the pleadings to add claims of inequitable conduct. But the defendant’s request to amend came six months after the deadline to amend the pleadings and after the close of fact discovery, so the Court denied it on the basis of unexplained delay. After the jury trial, the defendant again argued that plaintiffs had engaged in inequitable conduct by failing to disclose two of their own patents during prosecution. Judge Robinson found, however, that “defendant’s inequitable conduct argument is based primarily on attorney argument without relevant references in the trial record. The evidence at bar is insufficient to demonstrate either the materiality of [the two patents] or [the inventor’s] intent to deceive the PTO by clear and convincing evidence.” Id. at 44. She awarded plaintiffs their reasonable costs in responding to defendant’s additional inequitable conduct theories raised post-trial: “Insofar as the court agrees with plaintiffs that these theories were procedurally barred, and given that defendant’s inequitable conduct theory with respect to [two other patents] are devoid of merit, the court will order defendant to pay plaintiffs’ reasonable costs associated with preparation of their responsive brief.” Id. at 46.

Asahi Glass Co., Ltd. v. Guardian Indus. Corp., C.A. No. 09-515-SLR (D. Del. Aug. 20, 2012).

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