Monday, September 17, 2012

Patent litigations outlasting litigating companies

An entry at autoblog on 17 Dec. 2009 states:

The Detroit News reports that what's left of the old Chrysler LLC (which has been renamed Old Carco), has filed court papers saying that the $4 billion will likely never be repaid. New Chrysler is not legally responsible for that debt and Old Carco doesn't exactly have considerable assets. And the government isn't the only debt-holder that isn't going to get its cash. Many secured and unsecured creditors will be unlikely to see their cash, thought some $21 million in secured debt could be paid. Old Carco contains the bad assets not purchased by the new Chrysler when it exited bankruptcy in the spring. The sale of those bad assets, which includes plants, tooling and miscellaneous items like old company cars, will help pay back some of the money creditors lost.

Lawyers working on the bankruptcy case say it take years before the book is finally closed on Old Carco. One item that could help drag matters out is a $25 billion lawsuit Old Carco filed against former owner, Daimler.

Fast forward to the CAFC to find Bleak House 2012, in the case LASERFACTURING v, Old Carco :

As a preliminary matter, this court examines jurisdiction. After this appeal was instituted, DaimlerChrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This court stayed the appeal pending resolution of the bankruptcy proceedings. During the bankruptcy proceedings, DaimlerChrysler became known as Chrysler LLC, which became known as Old Carco. The Liquidation Trust is Old Carco’s successor-in-interest. Old Carco and Laserfacturing filed a joint stipulation requesting this court to proceed with this appeal.

And the case lives on:

Chrysler Group LLC, who purchased substantially all of the Liquidation Trust’s operating assets, submitted an amicus curiae brief urging this court to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Chrysler contends the appeal is moot because Laserfacturing stipulated that it waived its claim against the estate relating to the current litigation.

The stipulated waiver, however, does not resolve the parties’ infringement dispute. As this court explained in Kimberly-Clark Corp. v. Procter & Gamble Distribution Co., settlements generally render a case moot, unless “the case as a whole remains alive because other issues have not become moot.” 973 F.2d 911, 914 (Fed. Cir. 1992) (citing Local No. 8–6, Oil, Chem. & Atomic Workers Int’l Union v. Missouri, 361 U.S. 363, 368–69 (1960) and quoting Univ. of Texas v. Camenisch, 451 U.S. 390, 394 (1981).) In the present case, the stipulation does not address the issue of infringement, which could have downstream effects on the parties or their successors; accordingly, the issue remains live and in dispute. Be- cause the question of infringement is not moot, this court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295.

Of the disputed claim construction, LaserFacturing wanted a really broad contstruction of the word "sheet":

Laserfacturing argues the specification supports its broad construction of “sheet” as an “element to be welded.” Laserfacturing contends the patent’s welding descriptions are not limited to the court’s construction of a “broad thin piece of material with generally uniform thickness” and references the patent’s description of welding in the prior art for support. ’670 patent at col. 1 ll. 22-26 (“For example, when laser welding metal sheets, the suitable welding speeds that can be achieved are typically a direct function of the penetration depth re- quired. Hence, as sheet thickness increases welding speed typically decreases.”). Laserfacturing argues the art of welding is only concerned with the region being welded and the court’s limitation restricting the word “sheet” to objects having uniform thickness is arbitrary, improperly narrow, and limited to the certain embodi- ments disclosed in the specification.


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