Judge Sleet Notes Challenges in Trying Antitrust and Patent Claims Together

August 18, 2016

Publication| Intellectual Property

In Nespresso USA, Inc. v. Ethical Coffee Company SA, C.A. No. 16-194-GMS (D. Del. July 20, 2016), Judge Sleet, during a scheduling conference, highlighted the challenges involved in trying antitrust claims with patent claims. The defendant, Ethical Coffee Company SA, joined by counterclaim-plaintiff Ethical Coffee Corporation, argued that because the antitrust issues were tied to the patent issues due to overlapping technology and parties, proceeding with the infringement claims and antitrust counterclaims together would be more efficient. Judge Sleet stated that he was reluctant to try the antitrust counterclaims with the patent claims, noting that “[t]he antitrust doctrine is difficult, more inextricably bound up in the fact-finding process, the economic concepts, they are difficult to comprehend . . . even for lawyers sometimes.” The Court further noted that such claims rarely go to trial.

Because a motion to dismiss the antitrust counterclaims was pending, Judge Sleet asked the parties to revisit the scheduling and discovery of the antitrust counterclaims in a meet-and-confer and to submit a status report if the motion to dismiss was denied.

Key Points: Although the Court expressed hesitation in trying the antitrust and infringement claims together, Judge Sleet did not reject the possibility, but rather left it in the first instance to the parties to try to reach a voluntary agreement on how to proceed with the claims.

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