Strange Bedfellows - Patent Owner's Lengthy Relationship With Accused Infringer Puts Claim To Sleep After 10 Years Of Litigation, Jury Trial

By Matthew D. Murphey

Plaintiffs that included a former employee of an accused infringer who left the company to open his own competitive business, lost a bid for damages against cement manufacturer because of unreasonable delay in bringing the infringement suit. After ten years of litigation, which included an appeal that was granted by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and a four-week jury trial after the case was remanded that resulted in a hung jury, the Central District of California granted the defendant's post-trial motion and found the patent owner's claim was stale. In Ultimax Cement Mfg. Corp. v. CTS Cement Mfg. Corp., Case No. SACV 02-578AG, (C.D. Cal. 2012) [enhanced version available to subscribers], the court ruled that despite the jury's inability to reach a decision, the evidence showed that a lengthy relationship between the companies and their principals was sufficient to put plaintiffs on notice that defendants' competing cement product sold after a patent was granted to the plaintiff could have infringed the plaintiff's patent, compelling the plaintiff to have brought suit well-before the twelve years it waited to do so. Ultimax highlights not only the importance of timely enforcing patent rights against known or suspected infringers, but of the difficulty in presenting complex patent cases to juries. "The jurors' task was very difficult. They were asked to absorb and apply significant amounts of complex evidence, without the background and contextual understanding often taken for granted by experts in the subject matter. Counsel for both sides also struggled to frame important issues and put the voluminous evidence - including weeks of highly technical testimony and more than 150 evidentiary exhibits - in context." Read the full opinion Ultimax Case

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