Troutman Sanders LLP: EDVA Judge Grants Partial Summary Judgment and Denies Reconsideration in Long-Running Patent Malpractice Action

Troutman Sanders LLP: EDVA Judge Grants Partial Summary Judgment and Denies Reconsideration in Long-Running Patent Malpractice Action

By Dabney Carr

In the most recent rulings in the long-running suit by Touchcom, Inc. for malpractice against its Canadian patent firm, Bereskin & Parr ("B&P"), Judge Cacheris recently granted partial summary judgment (found here) to B&P that Touchcom, Inc. lacked standing and denied Touchcom's motion to reconsider that ruling (found here). Touchcom, Inc. v. Bereskin & Parr, Case No. 1:07CV114, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72905 (E.D. Va. July 7, 2011).

The relationship between Touchcom and B&P dates back to 1987, when Touchcom retained B&P to obtain patents over its gasoline pump invention in Canada and the U.S. After a 2005 finding that its U.S. patent was invalid because certain software code was missing from the specification, Touchcom sued B&P for malpractice.

Judge Cacheris dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction over B&P, but the Federal Circuit reversed, holding that under Fed .R. Civ. P. 4(k)(2) the act of filing an application for a U.S. patent at the USPTO was sufficient to subject a Canadian filing attorney to personal jurisdiction in a malpractice claim based upon that filing.  Touchcom, Inc. v. Bereskin & Parr, 574 F.3d 1403 (Fed. Cir. 2009).

After remand, B&P moved for summary judgment on several grounds, but the Court granted the motion on only one ground - that Touchcom, Inc. lacked standing on the grounds that it had granted its affiliate, Touchcom Technologies, Inc. ("TTI"), the sole and exclusive right to collect proceeds from litigation enforcing patent rights

On a motion for reconsideration, Judge Cacheris affirmed his decision that a 2003 Amendment to the licensing agreement between Touchcom and TTI granted TTI sole rights in the patent, even though the Amendment had never been signed. Based on deposition testimony of the inventor, the Court held that the terms of the Assignment had been effected by Touchcom's and TTI's Boards of Directors, and so was a binding agreement that deprived Touchcom, Inc. of standing.

 

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