Friday, December 14, 2018

CAFC declines to "get into the weeds" of SPINEOLOGY, INC. v. WRIGHT MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY

The outcome in 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 35162:

Wright Medical Technology, Inc., appeals the United
States District Court for the District of Minnesota’s denial
of its motion for attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285.
Because we hold that the district court did not abuse its
discretion in denying Wright’s motion, we affirm.

The main issue in the case was what the word "body" meant:

The district court issued a claim construction order in
2016. In the order, it acknowledged that the parties
disputed construction of the term “body,” but it declined to
adopt either party’s construction. Wright and Spineology
then filed cross-motions for summary judgment on infringement.
Recognizing the alleged infringement depended
on how “body” was construed, the district court
construed “body” consistent with Wright’s noninfringement
position and granted Wright’s motion.

Of note was "when" the term was given a meaning:

Prior to the claim construction order, Spineology and
Wright each proposed a construction of “body.” J.A. 18,
21. In the order, the district court “decline[d] to adopt
either party’s proposed construction of ‘body,’” determining
“the claims themselves provide substantial guidance
as to the meaning of the claim.” J.A. 22. It was not until
summary judgment
that the district court construed
“body” consistent with Wright’s, rather than Spineology’s,
proposed construction.

We agree with the district court that, while Spineology’s
proposed construction of “body” was ultimately rejected
at summary judgment, “[t]he attempt was not so
meritless as to render the case exceptional.” J.A. 64. As
we have stressed, “[a] party’s position . . . ultimately need
not be correct for them not to ‘stand[] out’.” SFA Sys.,
LLC v. Newegg Inc., 793 F.3d 1344, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2015).
And Wright cannot fairly criticize Spineology for continuing
to pursue a construction not adopted by the district
court in the claim construction order, since the district
court declined to adopt Wright’s proposed construction as
well. We see no abuse of discretion here.

Also of interest was an attorneys fees request on an issue that was mooted
by the summary judgment:

Wright asks this court to basically decide the damages
issues mooted by summary judgment in order to determine
whether it ought to obtain attorney fees for the
entire litigation. This we will not do. We will not force
the district court, on a motion for attorney fees, to conduct
the trial it never had by requiring it to evaluate Mr.
Nantell’s “but for” calculations or royalty rates, and we—
an appellate court—will certainly not conduct that trial in
the first instance.

A district court need not, as Wright seems to urge, litigate
to resolution every issue mooted by summary judgment
to rule on a motion for attorney fees. And we need
not, as Wright requests, get into the weeds on issues the
district court never reached. We see no abuse of discretion
in the district court’s determination that “the arguments
made by Spineology to support its damages theory
. . . are not so meritless as to render the case exceptional.”
J.A. 65. We see no error in the district court’s determination
that, on this record, the case was not exceptional, and
we caution future litigants to tread carefully in their
complaints about district courts not doing enough.

As to writing opinions:

After reviewing Wright’s arguments regarding Spineology’s
claim construction position, damages theories, and
litigation conduct, the district court concluded “[n]othing
about this case stands out from others with respect to the
substantive strength of Spineology’s litigating position or
the manner in which the case was litigated.” J.A. 65–66.
The district court “had no obligation to write an opinion
that reveals [its] assessment of every consideration,” and
remand is unnecessary to obtain one. Univ. of Utah v.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, 851 F.3d 1317, 1323 (Fed. Cir.

See also
Sarif v. Brainlab, 725 Fed. Appx. 996 (2018)
Raniere v. Microsoft, 887 F.3d 1298 [abuse of discretion; clearly erroneous]
AdjustaCam v. Newegg, 861 F.3d 1353 (Deference, however, is not absolute...clearly erroneous view of the evidence)


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