Judge Sleet Rules on Post-Trial Motions and Allows “Legally Unsupportable” Verdict to Stand

April 28, 2016

Publication| Intellectual Property

In EMC Corporation v. Zerto, Inc., C.A. No. 12-956-GMS (D. Del. Mar. 31, 2016), Judge Sleet denied all of the defendant’s post-trial motions, partially granted the plaintiff’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, denied the plaintiff’s motion for a permanent injunction, and partially granted the plaintiff’s motion to amend the judgment. The case involved infringement allegations related to five patents. After a 10-day jury trial, a complicated but unanimous verdict was reached through which the plaintiff was awarded $585,783.00 in damages. The defendant filed three post-trial motions: (1) for a finding that three of the patents were unenforceable due to inequitable conduct; (2) for a new trial and to alter or amend the judgment due to an inconsistent verdict; and (3) a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. The plaintiff also filed three post-trial motions: (1) a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law; (2) a motion for permanent injunction; and (3) a motion to amend the judgment. In short, the Court found that there was no inequitable conduct in front of the PTAB or PTO, certain portions of the jury’s verdict were supported by substantial evidence while other findings showed that the jury did not act reasonably, a permanent injunction was not warranted, and the defendant should pay pre-judgment interest and a royalty for all infringing sales to the plaintiff.

As to the inconsistent verdict, the Court recognized that there was “obvious and irreconcilable inconsistency of some portions of the jury verdict” and portions were “legally unsupportable.” However, because the defendant did not object during trial, it had waived its ability to argue that the verdict form was inconsistent. The Court was then placed “in the uncomfortable position of allowing a logically incomprehensible verdict to stand.” While the Court noted it could normally order a new trial sua sponte, Judge Sleet found he was without jurisdiction to do so because the 28-day window had passed. Judge Sleet noted: “The court recognizes its share in the blame in failing to recognize the inconsistency. Plainly, someone should have noticed and taken timely action to remedy the glaring inconsistencies in the jury verdict.”

Analysis: This case serves as a cautionary tale to adequately preserve issues during trial for post-trial briefing.

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