Judge Andrews Grants Summary Judgment of No Willful Infringement and No Enhanced Damages

April 3, 2018

Publication| Intellectual Property

In Ansell Healthcare Products LLC v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, No. 15-915-RGA (D. Del. Jan. 30, 2018), Judge Andrews granted Reckitt Benckiser LLC’s motion for summary judgment of no willful infringement and no enhanced damages.

The plaintiff, Ansell Healthcare Products LLC, argued that Reckitt’s alleged infringement was willful because it sold the accused products even though it was aware of the asserted patents through litigation of an Australian counterpart patent against Reckitt affiliates. Ansell further alleged that Reckitt should have known of alleged admissions made by an affiliate in that litigation that the accused products practiced certain limitations of the asserted patents. Looking to the Supreme Court’s decision in Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., 563 U.S. 754 (2011), Judge Andrews stated that “willful blindness” could satisfy the requirement of actual knowledge for willful infringement just as it does for the actual knowledge requirement of inducement of infringement.

But the Court concluded that even if Ansell’s allegations were true, this would at most establish knowledge, not egregious conduct. Although Ansell argued that willfulness can also be based on conduct that takes place after the filing of a lawsuit, Judge Andrews found that Ansell made no allegation of any such egregious post-complaint conduct. Ansell further alleged that Reckitt, contrary to its own policies, failed to do a patent clearance before launching the accused products. But the Court stated that this allegedly egregious conduct took place before Ansell alleged that Reckitt had knowledge, constructive or actual, of the asserted patents. For these reasons, Judge Andrews granted Reckitt’s motion for summary judgment of no willfulness or enhanced damages.

The Court found that disputed issues of fact required the denial of the parties’ remaining motions for summary judgment, which addressed invalidity and infringement.

Key Point: Judge Andrews suggested that “willful blindness” could satisfy the knowledge requirement for willful infringement as it does for induced infringement, but in a more limited manner. For instance, the Court suggested that willful blindness to “all of the patents in an entire field” might not establish the knowledge necessary for willful infringement.

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