A federal judge in Massachusetts has fined Medtronic Sofamor Danek Inc. and related companies $10 million for the behavior of their lawyers during a trial. The case involved a patent claim brought by DePuy Spine Inc. Senior District Judge Edward F. Harrington also ordered Medtronic Sofamor, which makes spinal implant devices, to pay a part of the fees of the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Judge Harrington ruled that the defendants would have to pay 15% of the fees from the time the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a ruling on the patent claims in November 2006 through the date of the jury verdict. In September 2007, a jury awarded $226.3 million plus interest to DePuy.
Medtronic Sofamor is a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based implantable biomedical device manufacturer Medtronic Inc. Massachusetts-based DePuy makes spinal surgery devices and equipment. DePuy alleged that several Medtronic Sofamor products used during spinal surgery infringed on a patent DePuy licensed from another party. In his February order, Judge Harrington wrote that the defendants “demonstrated a failure to accept the claim construction governing this case” throughout the trial. He also said Medtronic Sofamor’s infringement defense was apparently based “on an attempt to obscure, evade, or minimize” the Federal Circuit’s construction of the patent in question. Judge Harrington also wrote that the defendants “sought to take advantage of the technical and legal complexities inherent in this case,” and that the defendants “prolonged the proceedings unnecessarily (thus unduly imposing upon the jury’s time),” “sought to mislead both the jury and the Court,” and “flouted the governing claim construction as set forth by the Federal Circuit.” That is some pretty strong language from a judge, and one would have to believe it was justified.
Judge Harrington denied the plaintiffs’ requests for enhanced damages because of insufficient evidence of willfulness. Following the verdict, the Judge issued a permanent injunction order barring Medtronic Sofamor from making, using, or selling the infringing devices. The court’s unwillingness to allow a party to openly flout the law and rules of evidence and conduct is quite refreshing. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out given that this case will likely go up on appeal.
Source: National Law Journal
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