WASHINGTON (CN) – Google cannot recoup $700,000 in fees for the attorneys and expert witnesses who helped it fend off a patent suit over a feature of its Notebook application, the Federal Circuit ruled.
A Kentucky federal judge had originally ruled for the Mountain View, Calif.-based web giant, finding that iLOR knew its patent claim was objectively baseless and that it had acted in bad faith in bringing the suit in the first place. Such a conclusion by a trial court is the only way a prevailing defendant in a patent infringement suit may be awarded attorneys’ fees.
The trial court had relied in part on statements by Steve Mansfield, CEO for the Lexington, Ky.-based iLOR, in a blog entry that noted differences between his company’s product and the Google product in question.
But the federal appeals panel reversed the lower court’s decision on Jan. 11, noting that consideration of independent evidence was improper.
“A finding of objective baselessness is to be determined by the record made in the infringement proceedings,” Judge Timothy Dyk wrote for the court’s three-judge panel.
After rejecting the trial court’s inclusion of Mansfield’s comments, Dyk considered “whether iLOR’s broader claim construction was so unreasonable that no reasonable litigant could believe it would succeed.”
In the underlying suit the trial court found that the feature of Google’s Notebook application, which allowed users to pull up a toolbar over hyperlink by right-clicking, did not infringe on iLOR’s patent for technology that allowed a user to access a toolbar by merely hovering over a hyperlink.
ILOR claimed more broadly, however, that its patent had protected technology that permitted the user to interact with a hyperlink in a variety of ways without necessarily having to open or follow the hyperlink, not just by hovering or by right-clicking.
Dyk found that although iLOR’s claim construction was ultimately incorrect, the language of its claim did not preclude its interpretation.
“Simply being wrong about claim construction should not subject a party to sanctions where the construction is not objectively baseless.” Dyk concluded.
ILOR was represented by David Schmit with Frost Brown Todd of Cincinnati.