On May 2, 2016, the District Court for the District of Delaware denied defendant’s motion for attorneys’ fees under § 285. Plaintiff had originally filed suit against defendant, arguing that it infringed two patents generally directed to computer-based messaging systems. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the claims were directed to the abstract idea of “collecting and saving information relating to a business process,” and thus were invalid under § 101. The court ultimately granted defendant’s motion.
Pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 285, a court, “in exceptional cases, may award attorney fees to the prevailing party.” A case is “exceptional” when it “stands out from others with respect to the substantive strength of a party’s litigating position (considering both the governing law and the facts of the case) or the unreasonable manner in which the case was litigated.” Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1749, 1756 (2014).
On April 7, 2016, Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn of the Northern District of Texas denied defendant Maxmind, Inc.’s Motion for Exceptional Case Determination and Attorneys’ Fees and Costs. In doing so, the court found that “Plaintiff’s litigation position was not frivolous or objectively unreasonable” because the “substantive law of Section 101 patent-eligibility has evolved since Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit.”
A district court in Delaware granted defendant Jack Henry & Associates’ motion for attorneys’ fees and ordered plaintiff Joao Bock Transaction Systems to pay $1 million in attorney’s fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285. The order came following the Federal Circuit’s affirmance of the district court’s order invalidating plaintiff’s online-transaction security patent as claiming only an abstract idea. In awarding the fees to Defendant, Judge Robinson stated that “[t]aking into account that patent cases are complex and patent litigation is an expensive proposition, nevertheless, the court will award attorney fees of $1,000,000 to account for the fact that plaintiff's ever changing litigation strategies (including its claim construction positions) created a tortuous path to resolution.”
In a decision that rejects a recent trend of district courts’ willingness to award attorneys’ fees since the Supreme Court’s 2014 Octane Fitness decision, the Federal Circuit has held that a district court judge did not properly justify an enhanced award of attorneys’ fees. After granting a Rule 12(c) motion early in the case, the district court found that the lodestar amount of attorneys’ fees was uncharacteristically low because of the court’s expeditious treatment of the case, and therefore was not substantial enough to properly deter the plaintiff’s future predatory conduct. Under this reasoning, the district court doubled the lodestar to deter the plaintiff’s conduct.