Thursday, January 11, 2018

Losing on Summary Judgment Doesn't Make a Case "Exceptional" for Purposes of Fee Award

Dennis Crouch has already blogged about this morning's nonprecedential opinion in Honeywell Int'l Inc. v. Fujifilm Corp., and the opinion itself is only five pages long, so I won't take much space discussing it here.  Basically, Honeywell asserted a patent against Fujifilm, but the latter succeeded in proving on a motion for summary judgment that the patent was invalid under the on-sale bar (Patent Act section 102(b)).  The Federal Circuit subsequently affirmed that judgment, and the matter eventually returned to the district court on Fujifilm's motion for attorneys' fees.  The district court applied the Octane Fitness standard for determining "exceptional case" and denied the motion, engaging in what the Federal Circuit refers to as "a detailed and structured analysis."  In this appeal, Fujifilm argues that it was an abuse of discretion for the district court to deny the few award, but the Federal Circuit disagrees:
. . . we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in denying fees. The district court applied the correct legal test under § 285 and Octane. Indeed, it examined the totality of the circumstances—including all of the circumstances raised by appellants on appeal—to determine whether this case stood out from others. . . . The district court’s analysis demonstrated the totality-of-the-circumstances approach, detailing the reasons why Honeywell’s positions on the merits and litigation tactics did not make this case, in its judgment, exceptional. The district court’s fact findings on the issue are not clearly erroneous. Further, we agree with the district court that losing a summary judgment motion should not automatically result in a finding of exceptional conduct. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellants’ motions for attorneys’ fees. We affirm.

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