Judge Burke Denies Defendant’s Motion to Bifurcate Liability From Damages and Willfulness

Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke recently denied defendant’s motion to “bifurcate the issue of liability for patent infringement from issues relating to damages and to whether any infringement was willful, such that damages and willfulness would be tried, if necessary, separate from and after the liability trial in the case.” SenoRx, Inc. v. Hologic Inc., C.A. No. 12-173-LPS-CJB, at 2 (D. Del. Jan. 30, 2013). Addressing the parties’ disagreement with regard to how common bifurcations are in patent cases, Judge Burke noted that “[t]he Court will approach an analysis of whether bifurcation is appropriate on a case-by-case basis, without resort to a general presumption.” Id. at 3.

Turning to whether bifurcation would prevent or cause “prejudice” to either party, Judge Burke found that defendant did not demonstrate that any prejudice it might face in producing sensitive documents to plaintiff, an alleged “hard-fought competitor[],” would outweigh “the harm [plaintiff] would face in seeing its case split in two.” Id. at 5-6.

Addressing the efficiency of bifurcation, Judge Burke found that defendant failed to demonstrate that “judicial resources would be best conserved by two separate trials.” Id. at 8. Defendant argued that “substantial overlap” would not exist between the evidence presented at the two trials. Id. at 6. Judge Burke, however, explained that “some real overlap” would be “inevitable,” as it would likely be “necessary to set out certain core testimony about the relevant products and industry in both the liability and damages trials.” Id. at 6-7. Furthermore, “at least some evidence regarding the commercial success of the products-at-issue, relevant to a determination of obviousness under 35 U.S.C. § 103, [would] overlap with evidence necessary to assess damages.” Id. at 7. Judge Burke further noted that “the evidentiary overlap regarding liability and willfulness issues” would be “[e]ven more significant.” Id. Defendant additionally argued that the outcome of the earlier, separate infringement suit could render the second suit unnecessary or facilitate a settlement. Id. Judge Burke, however, found that “these outcomes, while possible, are entirely speculative at this stage.” Id.

Next, Judge Burke considered “whether bifurcation would enhance juror comprehension” of the issues to be presented at trial, which would involve technologies addressing “medical device engineering, brachytherapy and radiation therapy.” Id. at 8. Judge Burke agreed with defendant that the suit’s “subject matter is complex” and would “pose a challenge for a jury.” Id. at 9. Judge Burke explained, however, that “patent cases often implicate difficult subject matter that may be unfamiliar to most jurors,” and “[t]he subject matter relating to the patents-in-suit [did] not strike the Court as significantly more complex than that confronted by juries in this District in many patent cases.” Id. Judge Burke further found that “other factors that might exacerbate the level of complexity involved in a patent case are not present.” Id. at 9-10. Specifically, the suit involved only two patents, only 20 claims were being asserted, the discovery produced to date had not been significant, and only one plaintiff and defendant were involved. Id. at 10.

SenoRx, Inc. v. Hologic Inc., C.A. No. 12-173-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Jan. 30, 2013) by

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