UNIV. OF UTAH v. MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT: March 23, 2017. Before O’Malley, Reyna, Wallach.

Takeaway:

  • Octane Fitness does not provide a precise framework for a nding that a case is exceptional and warrants an award of fees, only several suggestions that might guide a district court’s discretionary decision.
  • In ruling on a motion for legal fees, the trial judge need not write an opinion that reveals her assessment of every consideration. 

Procedural Posture:

Defendants-Appellants appealed D. Mass.’s denial of a motion for attorney fees. CAFC affirmed.

Synopsis:

  • Attorney Fees: The CAFC held that the lower court did not abuse its discretion by not considering the factors set out in Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1749 (2014). Octane Fitness does not set out a strict or precise framework, only suggestions that might guide a discretionary decision. Octane Fitness does not require anything more than explaining why the case is (or is not) exceptional, i.e., is “one that ‘stands out from others with respect to the substantive strength of a party’s litigation position.’”
  • Attorney Fees: The CAFC held that the trial judge was in the best position to understand and weigh issues relating to the factual and legal strength of University of Utah’s position. Max Planck presented evidence from the record suggesting that the district court failed to take certain facts into account. The CAFC held that a trial judge has no obligation to write an opinion that reveals her assessment of every consideration. Because the district court provided a thorough explanation for why it did not find this case to be exceptional, the CAFC did not second guess that determination.