Medinol Ltd. v. Cordis Corp. (Fed. Cir. 2020) (nonprecedential)
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60 is entitled “Relief from a Judgment or Order” and allows a party to request that a district court reconsider a prior order. R. 60(b) provides a list of specific reasons for granting relief but concludes with a catch-all “any other reason that justifies relief.” R. 60(b)(6). At times, 60(b)(6) motions can be quite powerful — especially because the rule does not set a firm deadline other than recognizing that the request “must be made within a reasonable time.” That said, courts only allow relief in “extraordinary circumstances.”
Back in 2014, the district court dismissed Medinol’s patent infringement claims as bared by laches. Three years later, the U.S. Supreme Court held in SCA Hygiene that laches is not a proper defense in this situation. SCA Hygiene Prods. Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Prods., LLC, 137 S. Ct. 954 (2017).
Case History: Medinol actually filed its R. 60(b)(6) motion in 2014. A few months after its case had been dismissed, the Supreme Court decided Petrella, a copyright case also holding laches was not a proper defense. Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1962 (2014). The district court & Federal Circuit refused to grant relief at that time — distinguishing copyright from patent law. Subsequently the Supreme Court decided SCA Hygeine and ordered the Federal Circuit to reconsider Medinol’s case in light of the new law. Medinol Ltd. v. Cordis Corp., 137 S.Ct. 1372 (2017). On remand, the Federal Circuit then sent the case back to the district court to consider any extraordinary circumstances. The district court again denied the motion for relief — holding that Medinol should have appealed the issue rather than asking for relief of judgment. Further, although equitable defense (laches) is not effective, its underlying holding–that Medinol unreasonably delayed in bringing the lawsuit–suggests that the court should not bend-over-backwards to provide relief. R. 60(b) relief expresses a “grand reservoir of equitable power to do justice,” but that power must be limited to only extraordinary cases.
On appeal again, the Federal Circuit has — holding that a change in the law is not sufficient alone to trigger R.60(b) relief and that relief cannot serve as a substitute for failure-to-appeal.
Of course, we do not expect parties to foresee the future when deciding whether to appeal an adverse judgment. We simply conclude that there were enough reasons supporting an appeal in this case for the district court to properly hold Medinol’s failure to appeal against it in the Rule 60(b)(6) analysis.