Intellectual Property > IP Newsflash > Prejudicial Statements by Attorney during Closing Warrants New Trial
01 Mar '16

After a jury found infringement and no invalidity in a patent case involving HVAC systems, Judge Robinson of the District of Delaware granted a new trial based on prejudicial and gratuitous statements made by an attorney during closing arguments. The court explained that of the most common reasons for granting a new trial, one is “improper conduct by an attorney or the court [that] unfairly influenced the verdict.” Opinion at 4. Defendant Goodman argued in the post-trial phase that Plaintiff Carrier’s counsel made improper arguments during closing regarding indemnity and copying issues, as well as the burden of proof.

In the first instance, counsel for Carrier likened an indemnity clause Goodman had signed to a motivation to ignore patent rights. The court noted that such statements were “a pretty big stretch” and that there was “no good way to fix” the issue. Opinion at 34. Second, counsel for Carrier—after it was agreed by the parties that there would be no evidence of copying—described Goodman’s knowledge of Carrier’s product in the context of copying, arguing, “Why would [Goodman] have done that [compared products] if they truly didn’t infringe?” Opinion at 36. Third, counsel for Carrier explained the clear and convincing burden in the context of taking away parental rights. Specifically, he argued that invalidating a patent takes away the patent from an inventor like “tak[ing] away someone’s kid.” Id. As to the copying and burden arguments, the court noted that counsel’s “gratuitous argument” was sufficient to tip the balance for the wrong reason. Opinion at 37. The court, thus, concluded that a new trial was warranted based on these statements.

Carrier Corp. v. Goodman Global, Inc., Civ. No. 12-930-SLR (D. Del. Feb. 22, 2016). [J. Robinson]