CAFC Denies Pro Se Intervenor Rights

Motionless Keyboard Co. v. Microsoft Corp., (Fed. Cir. 2006) (non-precedential ruling)

By Tom Loos,

The CAFC upheld a ruling by the Oregon DC denying an individual inventor to intervene in behalf of a corporation. 

Motionless Keyboard Co.(“MKC”) sued Microsoft for patent infringement.  Microsoft prevailed at summary judgment.  Thomas L. Gambaro, inventor of the patents and MKC’s majority share holder, then attempted to intervene under Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 24. Gambaro argued he needed to appear as “Pro Se to continue to represent the Plaintiff” since “counsel has withdrawn.” 

The CAFC cited 28 U.S.C. § 1654 and Rowland v. Calif. Men’s Colony, 506 U.S. 194 (1993) to state that “a corporation may appear in federal court only if represented by licensed counsel.”  Applying 9th Circuit law, the CAFC held “to allow Gambaro…to intervene rather than hire replacement counsel ‘would eviscerate section 1654’” (quote from United States v. High Country Broad. Co., 3. F.3d 1244, 1245 (9th Cir. 1993)).

After losing summary judgment, MKC transferred its patent rights to Gambaro.  The CAFC held that “Gambaro may have an interest allowing him to bring an infringement action in his own name [based on the patents], but he may not participate in the case filed by MKC as the plaintiff.”

This post was written by Tom Loos, PhD.  Tom is a summer associate at MBHB and a law student at the University of Michigan School of Law.  He plans to graduate in 2007.