By Memorandum Opinion entered by The Honorable Richard G. Andrews in Vehicle Operation Technologies LLC v. Ford Motor Company, Civil Action No. 13-539-RGA (D.Del., July 1, 2015), the Court granted Defendants’ Motion to Declare The Cases Exceptional Pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 285. In granting Defendants’ Motion, the Court, among other things, rejected Plaintiff’s argument that it would be inequitable and improper to assess fees against a represented party where the underlying Rule 11 violation was premised on a legal argument. Id. at 5. The Court noted that Plaintiff was unable to cite any cases supporting its proposition, the Court had previously ruled that any objectively reasonable pre-suit investigation would have revealed that the entire action was meritless; and, thus, the entire litigation was unreasonable. Id.
The Court further reasoned that Octane Fitness, 134 S.Ct. at 1756 n.6, previously explained that “[o]ne of the factors to consider in deciding whether a case is exceptional is ‘objective unreasonableness (both in the factual and legal components of the case).’” Id. at 6. Thus, the Court found that “an objectively unreasonable legal argument is an appropriate consideration in declaring a case exceptional, even if the party is represented.” Id.
A copy of the Memorandum Opinion is attached.
The take away from the decision is that an objectively unreasonable legal argument can be the basis for the Court’s declaration of a patent infringement action as “exceptional” under 35 U.S.C. § 285.