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Boler Co. v. Tuthill Corp.

June 7, 2006

THE BOLER COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TUTHILL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Gregory L. Frost

Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King

OPINION AND ORDER

This patent infringement action is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff's motion for entry of judgment (Doc. # 81), Defendant's response (Doc. # 83), and a Plaintiff's reply (Doc. # 85). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds the motion well taken.

Previously, the Court entered a Markman decision that construed U.S. Patent No. 6,073,947. (Doc. # 76.) In light of that decision, Plaintiff has conceded "that it cannot succeed at trial on the claims it has asserted against [Defendant]." (Doc. # 81, at 1.) In an effort to conserve time and resources, Plaintiff thus asks this Court to grant a judgment of non-infringement in favor of Defendant and without prejudice to Plaintiff's right to appeal. Plaintiff also asks the Court to dismiss Defendant's counterclaims, without prejudice, as moot. Alternatively, should the Court not dismiss the counterclaims, Plaintiff asks the Court to enter a Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) certification permitting immediate appeal and to stay all further proceedings in this matter pending the outcome of the appeal.

In its response, Defendant concedes that entry of judgment "would make perfect sense if [Plaintiff] had any legitimate issue to appeal." (Doc. # 83, at 1.) Despite this posturing, Defendant nonetheless does not object to entry of judgment against Plaintiff on the infringement claims and issuance of a Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) certification. Defendant does, however, seek to expand the basis for that judgment beyond agreed-upon facts.

Although generally reluctant to enter a Rule 54(b) certification and final judgment--and thereby enable an appeal--this Court recognizes that the Federal Circuit has accepted this procedure as proper, if less than ideal. In Lava Trading, Inc. v. Sonic Trading Management, 445 F.3d 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2006), the court of appeals explained that review of a stipulated judgment of non-infringement was proper, despite the fact that the record was less developed than it might have been and despite the fact that counterclaims remained pending in the district court. Id. at 1350-351. The propriety of the appeal arose from the district court's entry of a Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) certification, which clearly provided jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a).

Having weighed the various considerations involved--including the needs of the parties against the interests of efficient case management--this Court in its discretion finds that the equitable propriety of an immediate entry of judgment outweighs the potential problems on review and the effect on the remaining aspects of this litigation.*fn1 There is no just reason to delay entry of judgment on the resolved claims given that such action best serves the needs of the parties.

For the foregoing reasons, this Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for entry of judgment. (Doc. # 81.) Although Defendant seeks a more expansive basis on which that judgment can rest, the Court need only conclude that there is no infringement based on even the most narrow of grounds, not on every conceivable basis. Accordingly, the Court finds pursuant to its prior decision and the parties' agreement that Defendant's products do not satisfy the limitations of Claims 1, 9, and 22 of the '947 patent insofar as Defendant's products lack a generally u-shaped cradle member (Claims 1 and 9) and a cradle member (Claim 22). There is thus no infringement under Count One and therefore no possible consequent breach of contract under Count Two of Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. # 1, at 3-4.)

Because there is no just reason for delay, the Court DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to enter final judgment as to Plaintiff's claims in favor of Defendant. Entry of judgment is without prejudice to Defendant's application for fees and costs, which Defendant can pursue before this Court following the appeal. Defendant's counterclaims remain pending, but the Court VACATES all remaining case deadlines, STAYS additional proceedings in this action until conclusion of the forthcoming appeal, and ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSES this action. The parties shall file notice with this Court within fourteen days of entry of the court of appeals' mandate, at which time the Court shall proceed to reactivate this case on the docket.

Although, as Defendant notes in its response, this decision precludes informal mediation by the Court, the Court encourages the parties to pursue alternative dispute resolution even while any appeal is pending. As discussed at the May 3, 2006 status conference, such discussions, if fruitful, would yield considerable savings of time and expense to the parties.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

GREGORY L. FROST UNITED STATES ...


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