Rule 60(b) cannot be used to circumvent the purpose of the cross-appeal rule.

Lazare Kaplan Int’l, Inc. v. Photoscribe Techs., Inc., et al., No. 2012-1247 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 19, 2013).

The patentee brought suit for infringement against the alleged infringer, and the alleged infringer counterclaimed seeking declarations of invalidity. The district court held that the patents did not infringe, but also ruled that the patents were not invalid. The patentee appealed the judgment of non-infringement, and the alleged infringer failed to file a notice of appeal from the judgment that the patent was not invalid. On appeal the Federal Circuit vacated the judgment of non-infringement and remanded. On remand, the district court held that both infringement and validity were at issue because of the broadened claim construction, and granted the alleged infringer’s motion for summary judgment as to validity and denied patentee’s motion as to infringement as moot. The district court also granted the alleged infringer’s motion under Rule 60(b) for relief from the district court’s prior judgment finding the patent not invalid. The patentee appealed.

On appeal, the court explained that the issue on remand was whether the district court, in granting the alleged infringer’s Rule 60(b) motion, could reopen a prior final judgment as to patent validity which was not appealed by either party. The Federal Circuit held that it could not. The court noted that a party must file a cross-appeal if it wishes to modify the rights of a party on appeal. The district court cited the fact that the issues of validity and infringement were necessarily intertwined as the reason for ruling on the issue of validity, despite the alleged infringer’s failure to file a notice of appeal on that issue. The Federal Circuit disagreed and held that such a distinction was irrelevant. Instead, the relevant inquiry was whether reversing the validity holding would expand or contract the patentee’s rights. Because issuing a ruling on validity necessarily impacted the patentee, a cross-appeal was required.

The court noted that the cross-appeal rule and Rule 60(b), which is discretionary, share the common purpose of promoting the orderly functioning of the appellate courts by providing notice of issues to be litigated and “encouraging repose” of those that are not. The district court thus erred in relying on Rule 60(b) as a substitute to grant relief that required a cross-appeal. Therefore, the Federal Circuit reversed that ruling and vacated the finding of invalidity, and remanded with instructions to reinstate the original judgment of validity and assess infringement under the broadened construction set forth by the Federal Circuit’s first opinion in the case.

A copy of the opinion can be found here.