Cooperation Helps Refine Giant Infringement Case

     TYLER, Texas (CN) – A federal judge praised the 125 parties to a massive patent infringement case for working together so the court could identify common claims and dismiss four-fifths of the defendants led by Southwest Airlines.
     Parallel Networks sued 124 companies in four separate actions, claiming that the companies’ websites infringed on a single patent concerning client-server communications.
     The wide array of defendants included retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, airlines, auto manufacturers like Bentley Motors, movie-rental companies and various businesses that provide services via the Internet.
     U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis met with the parties of the four cases during a March 1 status conference to hash out a plan of action for dealing with the cases and the volume of defendants.
     “Plaintiff has sued over 100 defendants with the goal of early resolution of the disputes through settlement in a range that essentially amounts to litigation costs,” Davis wrote in a nine-page memorandum and order filed March 15, explaining that Parallel Networks’ strategy “makes it unlike the typical patent case.”
     “While the court will not comment on plaintiff’s strategy, when combined with the requirements of the patent rules and the court’s standard docket control order, plaintiff’s strategy presents defendants with a Hobson’s choice: spend more than the settlement range on discovery, or settle for what amounts to cost of defense, regardless of whether a defendant believes it has a legitimate defense,” Davis wrote.
     The judge opted to consolidate the four cases and ordered Parallel Networks to turn in three claim terms that the defendants identified as dispositive. He additionally nixed the various motions to bifurcate liability and damages.
     As the parties gave their takes on the claim construction, 99 defendants filed a May 20 motion for summary judgment of noninfringement. Though sealed, the court notes that the motion was filed by Southwest Airlines.
     Davis partially granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Aug. 12, accepting one of the two elements of the claim construction that the defendants said supported their claim.
     Davis’ order cleared the 99 defendants of literal patent infringement.
     The judge concluded the 17-page memorandum opinion and order with words of praise for the parties involved.
     “The court notes that in many patent cases before it involving multiple defendants, it is frequently faced with motions for severance and transfer to many different districts,” Davis wrote. “Had the court taken that approach in this case, Parallel and defendants would be litigating this patent all over the country in many districts at great additional expense to all parties and the judiciary.”
     “The court commends the parties in this case for working together to identify issues common to nearly all Defendants and moving the case to resolution of these important issues in a timely and economic manner,” Davis said.

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