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Raniere v. Microsoft Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

April 18, 2018, Decided

2017-1400, 2017-1401

Opinion

 [*1300]  [***1431]   O'Malley, Circuit Judge.

Keith Raniere ("Raniere") appeals from the district court's decisions awarding attorney fees and costs to Microsoft Corporation and AT&T Corporation (together, "Appellees"). Raniere v. Microsoft Corp., Nos. 15-0540 & 15-2298, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118831, 2016 WL 4626584 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 2, 2016) (Fees Decision); Raniere v. Microsoft Corp., Nos. 15-0540 & 15-2298, slip op. (N.D. Tex. Dec. 22, 2016) (J.A. 34-40). Because the district court did not err in finding that [**2]  Appellees are prevailing parties under 35 U.S.C. § 285 (2012), and did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees and costs under that provision, we affirm.

Background

Raniere sued Appellees for patent infringement, asserting five patents against AT&T (U.S. Patent Nos. 6,373,936, 6,819,752, 7,215,752 ("the '5752 patent"), 7,391,856, and 7,844,041 ("the '041 patent")) and two of these five patents against Microsoft (the '5752 patent and the '041 patent). Fees Decision, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118831, 2016 WL 4626584, at *1.

In 1995, Raniere and the other named inventors of the patents at issue assigned all rights in these patents to Global Technologies, Inc. ("GTI"). 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118831, [WL] at *2. Raniere is not listed on GTI's incorporation documents as an officer, director, or shareholder. GTI was administratively dissolved in May 1996. Id.

In December 2014, Raniere executed a document on behalf of GTI, claiming to be its "sole owner," that purportedly transferred the asserted patents from GTI to himself. Id. Raniere's suits against Appellees identified himself as the owner of the patents at issue.

In 2015, Microsoft moved to dismiss Raniere's suit for lack of standing, noting that the PTO's records indicated that Raniere did not own the patents at issue. Raniere's counsel represented to the district court that GTI's ownership passed to Raniere in its [**3]  entirety at some point, and that Raniere properly transferred ownership of the patents from GTI to himself. Id. The court ordered Raniere to produce documentation proving these representations. Id. Raniere produced various documents that, according to the district court, failed to indicate that Raniere had an ownership interest in GTI at any time or that Raniere had the right to assign the patents at issue from GTI to himself. 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118831, [WL] at *3. Given Raniere's failure  [***1432]  to produce evidence to support his standing, the district court permitted Appellees to conduct limited discovery into the standing issue and stayed the cases pending its resolution. Id.

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887 F.3d 1298 *; 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 9775 **; 126 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1430 ***; 2018 WL 1832864

KEITH RANIERE, Plaintiff-Appellant v. MICROSOFT CORPORATION, AT&T CORP., Defendants-Appellees

Prior History:  [**1] Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Nos. 3:15-cv-00540-M, 3:15-cv-02298-M, Chief Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn.

Raniere v. Microsoft Corp., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118831 (N.D. Tex., Sept. 2, 2016)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

district court, prevailing party, merits, costs, attorney's fees, parties, patents, prevail, dismissal with prejudice, lack of standing, legal relationship, alteration, sanctioned, fee-shifting, documents, ownership, court's decision, bad faith, discovery, frivolous, litigated, contends, lawsuit, cure

Civil Procedure, Attorney Fees & Expenses, Basis of Recovery, Statutory Awards, Patent Law, Jurisdiction & Review, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Damages, Collateral Assessments, Attorney Fees, Clearly Erroneous Review, Voluntary Dismissals, Court Order, Dismissal With Prejudice, Dismissal, Involuntary Dismissals, Dismissal Without Prejudice