Judge Kelly Denies Motion to Stay Defendants' Patent Counterclaims Pending Re-examination of Patents At Issue By USPTO
In Life Technologies Corporation, et al. v. Illumina, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 09-706-RK (D.Del., June 7, 2010), the Court , by opinion entered by Senior Judge Robert F. Kelly, denied plaintiff Life Tech's motion to stay defendants' patent counterclaims pending re-examination of defendants' patents-in-suit by the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). In support of their motion, plaintiffs asserted that the re-examinations by the USPTO would likely to result in cancellation or changes of the asserted patent claims, that a stay would streamline issues in the action and promote judicial economy, and proceeding with Life Tech's invalidity case against defendant Illumina's patents in this action could be contradictory to the result of the re-examination of those patents by the USPTO. Id. at 2-4. Defendants countered by asserting that the delay in the re-examination process will be much longer than plaintiff suggests, the subject matter underlying plaintiffs and defendants infringement and invalidity claims are related, plaintiffs and defendants are direct competitors in the technology, and that it would be highly unlikely that proceeding in this action could produce a contradictory result in the re-examination proceeding before the USPTO because of the mandates of 35 U.S.C. § 317(b). Id.
In denying plaintiffs' motion to stay, the Court reasoned that, although the re-examinations before the USPTO have the potential for simplifying the issues pertaining to the counterclaim patents in the case, the potential benefit would be at the expense of placing the counterclaim on hold for years while the plaintiffs' case continues. Id. at 5. Also, the patents in plaintiffs' case and the patents in defendants' counterclaim overlap at least to a certain extent and ,when one further considers that the claims at issue involve parties who are in direct competition, the potential for irreparable harm caused by a stay of the counterclaim far outweighs the possibility of simplifying some of the claims at issue. Id. at 5-6. Further, it is highly unlikely that a contradictory result could be reached in this Court and the USPTO in its re-examination proceeding because 35 U.S.C. § 317(b), which is applicable to inter-partes re-examinations, mandates that, if the Court proceeds in this action and Life Tech fails to prove that Illumina's patent claims are invalid, that result would be binding in the re-examinations. Id. at 4. Thus, the Court denied plaintiffs' motion to stay the counterclaim action.
A complete copy of the opinion is attached.