Spineology, Inc. v. Wright Medical Technology, Inc., No. 2018-1276 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 14, 2018)

The patentee sued alleging infringement of a patent directed to an expandable reamer for use in orthopedic surgery. During claim construction, the district court declined to adopt either party’s proposed construction of the term “body.” The district court, however, granted summary judgment of non-infringement based on the alleged infringer’s construction of “body.” The accused infringer moved for a finding of an exceptional case and an award of attorney’s fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285. The district court denied the finding of an exceptional case. 

The accused infringer appealed the denial of an exceptional case finding, and the Federal Circuit held the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that the case was not exceptional.

The court was not persuaded that the patentee’s continued pursuit of its proposed claim construction of “body” was meritless because the district court declined to adopt both the patentee’s and the accused infringer’s proposed constructions, until summary judgment. The court also did not agree with the accused infringer’s argument that the district court should have reviewed and assessed the parties’ expert reports on damages as part of the exceptional case determination. The court declined the accused infringer’s request “to basically decide the damages issue mooted by summary judgment in order to determine whether it ought to obtain attorney fees for the entire litigation.” “We will not force the district court, on a motion for attorney fees, to conduct the trial it never had.” The court cautioned that “[w]e see no error in the district court’s determination that, on this record, the case was not exceptional, and we caution future litigants to tread carefully in their complaints about district courts not doing enough.”

A copy of the opinion can be found here