Judge: Rodney Gilstrap
Holding: JMOL rulings
One of the differences between district judges and appellate judges, I once heard a district judge say, is that appellate judges don't have to deal with JMOLs. As I have previously noted, I find these orders very interesting because they lay out all of the issues that came up during trial, identify the legal standards applicable to them, and then alayze whether there was evidence as to each. While this makes them very useful to practitioners, it is interesting to note that many judges find preparing them to be less than thrilling. The distinction between the bench and the bar on this issue might be analogized to a lawyer reading an autopsy report to look for useful nuggets of information for a case, compared to the doctor that is actually having to dissect a corpse to provide those nuggets. (Yes, these are the thoughts that run through my mind late on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend).
As readers may recall, this case was one of the two plaintiff's infringement verdicts in the Marshall Division last year, out of ten infringement cases that were tried. A Marshall jury in Judge Rodney Gilstrap's court returned a verdict that the defendant infringed the asserted claim directly and indirectly, but not willfully, that the claim was not shown to be invalid, and damages reset in the amount of $2.1 million. Following the jury trial the Court held a bench trial on the defendant's equitable defenses of laches and equitable estoppel and denied those defenses.
In its posttrial motions, the defendant asked the court for judgment as a matter of law and in the alternative for a new trial as to invalidity, literal infringement, indirect ... well, everything. You know where this is going, don't you? I'll be that the Court views the evidence from the trial in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, and the verdict must be affirmed unless the evidence points so strongly and overwhelmingly in favor of one party that the court concludes that reasonable persons could not arrive at a contrary conclusion. There may be some court cases that say the same thing.
Anyway, after reviewing the motion, the Court concluded that ample evidence was presented at trial to support the jury's verdict that the claim was not shown to be invalid, that it was shown to be infringed in oh, so many ways, and that the other grounds asserted to justify either judgment as a matter of law or a new trial were not shown to have merit. But in addition to this routine analysis, there are a couple of sections that are worth a second look.
The defendant argued that the court should grant judgment as a matter of law that the claim was invalid as indefinite. Well, of course this is actually not a motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50 because it wasn't an issue during the trial because indefiniteness is a matter of law, to be decided by the Court. And as the Court noted, the parties had already argued indefiniteness at the claim construction hearing, and the Court had previously determined the disputed claims to be not indefinite.
"This portion of VIA’s motion must be treated, and charitably so, as a motion to reconsider the Court’s Markman Order in light of evidence presented at trial," Judge Gilstrap wrote. But for the reasons set forth in the order, the he found that reconsideration was not appropriate. No new evidence was offered that could not have been presented before he ruled on the issue of indefiniteness, but out of an abundance of caution he did consider the defendants arguments anyway and declined to accept them.
Equivalent Structure Analysis
Another interesting section was in the Court's analysis of the sufficiency of the plaintiffs "way" analysis. (Would this mean that the motion said "no way", I wonder?) Judge Gilstrap concluded that the defendant could not obtain JMOL simply by demanding another and further level of specificity, "much like a young child repeatedly asking apparent "but why" after each successive explanation." The defendant cross-examined the testimony of the plaintiff's expert to expose flaws in his analysis, and put on its own witnesses on this point. "The jury, in its turn, was free to credit each side's testimony or not, and the Court finds no cause here to second-guess the jury's findings or how they weighed this particular evidence. As stated above, weighing competing evidence and selecting which they find most credible is the essence of the jury's function within our legal system. The court will not infringe upon that function."
I believe that the JMOLs are now pending in the other 2013 Marshall plaintiff win, TQP v. Newegg. I know some of the Marshall juries' defense verdicts during the year have already been affirmed - the Alexsams come to mind and a few of Judge Gilstrap's Marshall verdicts as well.
Have a happy and safe Labor Day, everyone. See you Tuesday.