Chief Judge Stark Denies Motion to Enter Final Judgment

May 9, 2018

Publication| Intellectual Property

In Fairchild Semiconductor Corp. v. Power Integrations, Inc., C.A. No. 12-540-LPS (D. Del. March 16, 2018), Chief Judge Stark denied Power Integrations, Inc.’s motion for entry of final judgment. After an eight-day jury trial in 2015, in which the parties asserted patents against each other, the jury found that, inter alia, the plaintiffs, Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation and Fairchild (Taiwan) Corp. (together, “Fairchild”), directly and indirectly infringed two claims of an asserted Power Integrations patent. The jury awarded Power Integrations $100,000 in damages. In that trial, the parties had adopted a jury instruction regarding inducement from a related case between the same parties. In an appeal from the related case, the Federal Circuit vacated the jury’s verdict on the basis that the instruction misstated the law on inducement by not requiring that the inducement actually lead to infringement. In addition, the Federal Circuit had also dismissed an appeal filed by Power Integrations in this case because the trial court had not yet entered final judgment.

Power argued that the Court could enter final judgment, even though the jury received the same inducement instruction that caused the Federal Circuit to vacate the related case, because Fairchild failed to preserve an objection to the instruction. In response, Fairchild argued that it had previously lost on the instruction question in the related case and that objecting to its adoption in this case would have thus been futile. The Court agreed, and found that no judicial estoppel prevented Fairchild from opposing the entry of final judgment here on this basis—Fairchild’s decision “not to press a position it had lost under essentially identical circumstances in front of the same judge against the very same party was entirely proper and reasonable.” For this same reason, the Court found that Fairchild had not invited error.

Chief Judge Stark also determined that the induced infringement jury instruction constituted plain error resulting in a miscarriage of justice: the parties were in agreement that the instruction was erroneous, and the instruction was fundamental to the jury’s finding of infringement. Accordingly, the Court ordered a new trial on inducement.

Analysis: In ordering a new trial, Chief Judge Stark rejected the argument that the earlier verdict could be upheld on an admittedly erroneous instruction because of the small size of the verdict relative to the amount at stake and the cost of retrial.

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