Judge Andrews Dismisses Request for Attorneys’ Fees Without Prejudice
September 1, 2016
Publication| Intellectual Property
In Sprint Commc’ns Co. L.P. v. Comcast Cable Commc’ns, LLC, et al., C.A. No. 12-1013-RGA (D. Del. Aug. 18, 2016), Judge Andrews dismissed without prejudice the defendants’ motion to declare the case exceptional and extended the deadline for the defendants to file a renewed motion to 30 days from the Federal Circuit’s decision on the pending appeal of the underlying patent infringement suit. Although the jury in the underlying litigation entered a verdict for the plaintiffs, finding that the defendants infringed the patents at issue and awarding the plaintiffs $27.6 million in damages, the Court later granted the defendants’ motion for judgment as a matter of law. The plaintiffs subsequently appealed to the Federal Circuit.
Despite the defendants’ request for a swift resolution of the fee motion, Judge Andrews deferred ruling on the motion pending the appeal. He explained that the Federal Circuit’s decision on appeal was likely to make the resolution of the motion for attorneys’ fees much easier, as the outcome of the appeal may moot the motion if the underlying judgment was reversed. Alternatively, if the Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment but acknowledged that the case was a close one, such an outcome would undermine the defendants’ allegations that the plaintiffs’ argument was objectively unreasonable. Furthermore, Judge Andrews noted that he was “doubtful of the merits” of the motion, categorizing the litigation as “hard fought” and “within the mainstream.” The fact that the defendants were unable to convince the jury that they did not infringe the patents at issue (despite the Court’s decision to ultimately enter judgment on the defendants’ behalf) further suggested that the case was not one that should be deemed exceptional. Accordingly, Judge Andrews dismissed without prejudice the defendants’ motion so that the defendants could file a renewed motion and request fees based on the outcome of the Federal Circuit appeal.
Key Points: The Court will often defer a ruling on fees until after appeal.