By Jason Rantanen
Lazare Kaplan Int'l. v. Photoscribe Technologies, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2013) Download Lazare Kaplan v Photoscribe
Panel: Lourie (author), Dyk (dissent), Reyna
Deciding which issues to appeal can sometimes be a challenging process. One quirky rule of appealing patent judgments is that when a district court has entered a judgment of invalidity on all asserted claims, it is improper to file a cross-appeal based on either (1) additional claims for invalidity or (2) claims of noninfringement, and doing so can potentially subject the cross-appellant to sanctions. As Lazare Kaplan illustrates, however, when a district court has entered a judgment that the claims are not infringed and not invalid and the patent holder appeals noninfringement, the patent challenger must file a cross-appeal challenging the no invalidity judgment. Failing to do so in this situation terminates the patent challenger's ability to raise invalidity arguments, even on remand following a broadening claim construction by the Federal Circuit.
Background: Lazare Kaplan is the owner of Patent No. 6,476,351. In 2006, Lazare Kaplan sued Photoscribe for infringement of the '351 patent; Photoscribe responded by filing invalidity counterclaims. After the district court construed a key claim term, Photoscribe obtained summary judgment of no literal infringement and prevailed at jury trial on the doctrine of equivalents. The jury also found that the claims were not invalid under the court's construction. The district court entered judgment that the claims were not infringed and not invalid. Lazare Kaplan appealed the judgment of noninfringement but Photoscribe did not appeal the judgment that the claims were not invalid. On appeal, the Federal Circuit broadened the district court's construction and remanded for further proceedings on infringement.
Following remand, the district court agreed with Photoscribe that both infringement and validity should be retried "because the validity decision of the jury in the first trial was on the basis for a claim construction which the Court of Appeals has reversed." Slip Op. at 4 (quoting district court). The district court granted Photoscribe's motion for relief from the prior judgment under Rule 60(b) and its motion for summary judgment of invalidity. Lazare Kaplan appealed.
Rule 60(b) relief: While the majority's analysis technically involves determining whether the district court abused its discretion in granting Photoscribe's Rule 60(b) motion, because the majority concludes that the issue before it is unique to patent law, it reviews that decision without deference to either the district court or the law of the regional circuit in which the district court sits (although it does find Second Circuit decisions to be persuasive). To the majority, the issue is simply "whether, on remand, a district court may reopen a prior final judgment as to patent validity, not appealed by either party, based on a claim construction modified by" the Federal Circuit, a pure question of patent law. Slip Op. at 6. Framed in those terms, the majority concludes that the answer is no.
Judgment of Validity Must Be Appealed: "It is well-settled that a party must file a cross-appeal if, although successful in the overall outcome in the district court, the party seeks, on appeal, to lessen the rights of its adversary or to enlarge its own rights." Slip Op. at 6. An offshoot of this requirement is that "“[A] party will not be permitted to argue before us an issue on which it has lost and on which it has not appealed, where the result of acceptance of its argument would be reversal or modification of the judgment rather than affirmance.” Id., quoting Radio Steel & Manufacturing Co. v. MTD Products, Inc., 731 F.2d 840, 844 (Fed. Cir. 1984). In Odetics, Inc. v. Storage Technology Corp., 185 F.3d 1259 (Fed. Cir. 1999), the Federal Circuit drew on this foundation to affirm a district court's decision that the challenger's invalidity arguments were barred in procedural circumstances similar to here.
Lazare Kaplan goes a step further, holding that a district court cannot address validity on remand where the challenger failed to appeal the judgment that the claims were not invalid, irrespective of the modified claim construction. In reaching this conclusion, the majority expressly rejects the argument that separate appeal of validity and infringement was not necessary because the issues of validity and infringement were closely interrelated. "Whether or not the concepts of invalidity and infringement are “closely interrelated” is irrelevant; the relevant issue is whether a ruling reversing the validity holding would expand Photoscribe’s rights or lessen Lazare Kaplan’s rights." Slip Op. at 9. Ultimately, regardless of the district court's view that it "makes no sense" not to entertain validity challenge on remand following a new claim construction that potentially raises new validity issues, "rules are rules, and the cross-appeal rule is firmly established in our law." Id. at 14.
Judge Dyk: Judge Dyk's dissent criticizes the majority for failing to adhere to the fundamental principle of patent law that “claims must be interpreted and given the same meaning for purposes of both validity and infringement analyses.” Slip Op. at 17, quoting Amazon.com, Inc. v. Barnesandnoble.com, Inc., 239 F.3d 1343, 1351 (Fed. Cir. 2001). Here, the district court attempted to eliminate the inconsistency of allowing the patent holder "to assert infringement on a broad claim construction while permitting it to defend against invalidity using a different and far narrower claim construction" by applying Rule 60(b)(5). Slip Op. at 17-18.
Judge Dyk's argument focuses on the majority's lack of any support for its conclusion that "failure to file a contingent cross-appeal bars Rule 60(b) relief." Id. at 20. This is "not a situation governed by the traditional “cross-appeal rule”—that is, the rule that “a party must file a cross-appeal if . . . [it] seeks, on appeal, to lessen the rights of its adversary or to enlarge its own rights.” Maj. Op. 6 (citing El Paso Natural Gas Co. v. Neztsosie, 526 U.S. 473, 479 (1999)) (emphasis added). Here, Photoscribe sought on appeal not to modify the rights established by the district court judgment but to preserve them." Id.