This post continues our monthly summary of patent litigation in the District of Minnesota, including short summaries of substantive orders issued in pending cases.

In September 2017, there was one notable decision for pending cases.

Superior Indus., LLC v. Masaba, Inc., No. 10-cv-764 (September 13, 2017) (Frank)

  • 285 Motion for Fees: Denied

Superior brought suit against Masaba, claiming that Masaba infringed upon a series of Superior’s patents through the sale of truck unloaders and telescoping conveyors.  In 2012, the district court construed various terms of Superior’s patents, and Superior conceded it could not prove infringement under the court’s constructions.  Superior appealed the Markman order to the Federal Circuit, and the Federal Circuit remanded the case in 2014 with instructions that the district court further provide a factual context to the disputed constructions so that the Federal Circuit could determine their impact on the infringement analysis.

The district court granted summary judgment of non-infringement, and Superior again appealed but was ultimately unsuccessful as the Federal Circuit affirmed the claim construction and summary judgment findings. Masaba then sought its fees, alleging that Superior’s claim construction and infringement positions were exceptionally weak, that Superior failed to perform adequate pre-suit investigations, and that Superior engaged in litigation misconduct.

As to the claim construction and infringement positions, Judge Frank concluded that even though he and the Federal Circuit ultimately rejected Superior’s positions, they were not “unreasonably” weak so as to merit a fees award.  Further, Judge Frank noted that “fee awards are not to be used as a penalty for failure to win a patent infringement suit.”  Judge Frank similarly found that Masaba’s allegations concerning pre-suit diligence and litigation misconduct were insufficient to establish that the case was “exceptional.”