After several years of litigation, the patentee-plaintiff Revolution delivered a covenant not to sue to Aspex. The covenant was limited to the asserted patent and to activities prior to dismissal of the action. The district court dismissed the case, but Aspex did not let go. The accused infringer wanted assurances that it could continue selling the accused version of its eyeglass design without worrying about future charges of infringement.
In the appeal, Judge Newman agreed that a case or controversy continues to exist and that under MedImmune, the district court still retains jurisdiction. In the backdrop, the Newman was careful to differentiate this case from those where an accused defendant may be hoping to seek a speculative judicial opinion on future product lines:
This case is of larger substance than merely a would-be competitor seeking to test the waters by way of an advisory judicial opinion on an adverse patent….These parties are already in infringement litigation initiated by the patentee, the case has been pending since 2003, and already has produced a summary judgment of invalidity (which was later vacated by this court, 175 Fed. Appx. 350); the patentee filed its covenant in 2007, after four years of litigation, on the eve of trial of the question of enforceability. Throughout this period the accused eyewear were removed from the market by Aspex, and would not be shielded by the covenant should it be returned to the market, as Aspex states is its intention. Aspex states, and Revolution agreed at the argument of this appeal, that it is reasonable to believe that Revolution will again file suit should Aspex return to this market with the same product as it previously sold. By now barring the counterclaims that have been pending since 2003, Aspex states that this court would enable the “scare-the-customer-and-run” tactics that were deplored in Arrowhead.
Dismissal Reversed. On remand, the lower court retains subject matter jurisdiction over the declaratory judgment counterclaims.