A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has awarded attorney fees to the defendant after finding the plaintiff’s case on one of four asserted patents “exceptionally meritless” under Octane Fitness.
The court considered the totality of the circumstances of plaintiff’s infringement case, beginning with the plaintiff’s pre-suit activities. The defendant argued the plaintiff filed had the lawsuit without “purchas[ing] or test[ing] any of the accused products to determine if they infringed the four subject patents.” The plaintiff countered he had conducted a thorough investigation, including “correspond[ing] with and call[ing the defendant], and [analyzing] public materials.” However, the judge found the plaintiff’s pre-suit investigation inadequate, weighing in favor of exceptionality.
The court turned to whether the “plaintiff should have known the case was meritless.” The defendant argued the plaintiff should have known its infringement allegations were “objectively baseless.” The defendant pointed to the plaintiff’s visit to the defendant’s facilities, his receipt of “technical documents, such as schematics,” and education about the defendant’s technology from a tutorial in a related case between the parties. Furthermore, the court in that related case had found the tutorial was the pivotal moment, after which the plaintiff should have known that “he had no admissible evidence to support his [allegations].” Against this background, the court also found that after the tutorial, the plaintiff had been “unreasonable” by “continu[ing] to prosecute his claims [by] relying on conclusory allegations of infringement.” Ultimately, the court found the plaintiff should have known that his case on one of the four patents was “meritless,” making the case exceptional.
Yuka v. TSI Inc., No. 12-cv-1614-FMO (C.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2015) (Olguin, J.).