Judge Stark denies request to stay litigation pending Supreme Court decision on patent venue statute

In a recent Memorandum Order, Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark denied defendants’ (“Heartland”) request to stay the litigation pending the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the construction of the patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC v. TC Heartland, LLC, C.A. No. 14-28-LPS (D. Del. Jan. 12, 2017). The Supreme Court granted Heartland’s petition for a writ of certiorari on the issue on December 14, 2016. Id. at 2 (citing _ U.S._, 2016 WL 4944616 (2016)). Defendants specifically requested that the court stay all case-dispositive matters, but not stay non-dispositive matters, which include a pending discovery dispute. Id. at 3-4.

Denying defendants’ requested stay, Judge Stark observed:

By separate orders that will also be entered today, I have decided all pending motions, including motions for summary judgment (which I have denied in almost all respects), motions to exclude expert evidence (one denied and one granted), and a motion to amend Heartland’s inequitable conduct allegations (which I have granted). The parties and the Court did a great deal of work briefing, arguing, and deciding these motions, and the Court could have issued its decisions at any time after the August 30, 2016 hearing, well before Heartland (after the Court’s express inquiry) finally asked for a (partial) stay on December 20. Even if the result of the Supreme Court’s decision is a determination that this case must be transferred to another District, the case will still need to be tried. I have presided over the case since its inception. The directive of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1, that I “administer[]” this case (like all others) with a goal of “secur[ing] [its] just, speedy, and inexpensive determination,” is far better served by me deciding the ripe motions rather than leaving numerous loose threads for (potentially) a judge in another District to have to untangle.

Id. at 4-5. Judge Stark also found that additional reasons supported the court’s denial of Heartland’s requested stay. For example, Judge Stark noted that the parties are competitors. Id. at 5. Further, denying the stay “would enable the parties to complete the remaining discovery being permitted . . . and have this case ready for trial later this year, regardless of the District in which the trial will be held.” Id.

Judge Stark did, however, move the trial date from May to October 2017, noting that “by moving the trial from May to October, we can look forward to receiving the Supreme Court’s decision (which the parties anticipate having before the end of June) and then providing the parties a minimum of three additional months in which to prepare the pretrial order and finalize preparations for trial (if the case remains in this District).” Id. at 5-6.

Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC v. TC Heartland, LLC, C.A. No. 14-28-LPS (D. Del. Jan. 12, 2017)

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