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Damage Expert Testimony Excluded for Failure to Disclose Evidence and to Apportion

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision to preclude a damage expert from characterizing license agreements and opining on a reasonable royalty rate where the sponsoring party failed to produce key documents and to apportion for non-patented features. MLC Intellectual Property, LLC v. Micron Technology, Inc., Case No. 20-1413 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 26, 2021) (Stoll, J.)

MLC sued Micron for infringing claims of a patent relating to programing multi-level memory cells. In his expert report, MLC’s damage expert, Michael Milani, attempted to reconstruct the hypothetical negotiation. Milani opined on two separate approaches to determining the royalty base: A comparable license and the smallest saleable patent practicing unit.

Milani considered each of the Georgia-Pacific factors to determine a reasonable royalty rate. He determined that a Hynix Semiconductor license agreement was relevant, notwithstanding that it required a lump sum payment for a non-exclusive license to a patent portfolio containing the asserted patent rather than a royalty rate. Milani relied on a most favored customer provision that contemplated Hynix paying less for the patents if the licensor granted a license at a royalty rate of less than 0.25% to any new licensee to arrive at his royalty rate. Milani applied this rate to another lump sum agreement MLC had with Toshiba Corporation. To support his opinion, Milani relied on extrinsic evidence, including summaries of negotiations involving the asserted patent and another alleged infringer and letters and memorandums with other licensees—all contemplating a 0.25% royalty rate. Micron moved to exclude Milani’s testimony.

Micron filed a motion in limine to preclude Milani from mischaracterizing the license agreements as reflecting a 0.25% royalty rate. Micron moved to strike portions of Milani’s expert report under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 37 as based on facts, evidence and theories that MLC disclosed for the first time in its damage expert report. Micron further filed a Daubert motion, seeking to exclude Milani’s reasonable royalty opinion for failure to apportion out the value of non-patented features. The district court granted all three motions.

The district court rejected Milani’s reliance on the most favored customer provision in the Hynix agreement for the 0.25% royalty rate, finding that the provision did not apply the rate to the lump sum nor did it provide any insight into how the lump sum was calculated. The district court also determined that Milani did not base his testimony on sufficient facts or data, and his opinion was not the product of reliable principles and methods. Finally, the district court found that MLC did not disclose the extrinsic evidence relied on by Milani to reflect the 0.25% rate, and therefore MLC could not rely on that evidence. Lastly, the district court determined that there was no evidence supporting Milani’s opinion that the 0.25% rate apportioned non-patented features of the accused products. MLC filed an interlocutory appeal.

The Federal Circuit found that Milani’s testimony relating to the 0.25% royalty rate rested on an inference from the most favored customer clause that went [...]

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Apportionment Unnecessary When Royalty Is Based on Comparable License

Rejecting a defendant’s request for a new trial on a variety of grounds, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a damages award and explained that apportionment was unnecessary because a sufficiently comparable license was used to determine the appropriate royalty. Vectura Ltd. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC et al., Case No. 20-1054 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 19, 2020) (Prost, C.J.)

Vectura owns a patent directed to the production of composite active particles for use in pulmonary administration, such as in dry-powder inhalers. Vectura filed a lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) alleging infringement of the patent by GSK’s Ellipta-brand inhalers. At trial, a jury found the patent valid and infringed, and awarded $90 million in damages. After GSK’s motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on infringement was denied, GSK appealed.

The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting all of GSK’s arguments. The Court rejected GSK’s argument that, based on a claim construction issue, it was entitled to JMOL of non-infringement. The asserted claims of the patent related to “composite active particles” made up of particulate additive material (magnesium stearate) on the surface of a particle of active material, used to promote the dispersion of these particles (in, e.g., inhalers). GSK argued that there was no substantial evidence of improved dispersion because Vectura’s scientific test was technically defective. The Court concluded that this test “generally supported” Vectura’s view and that, in any event, Vectura had provided other evidence—including GSK’s own documents—that the accused inhalers demonstrated improved dispersion.

The Federal Circuit also rejected GSK’s argument that the district court had erroneously construed the claim term “composite active particles” to mean “[a] single particulate entit[y/ies] made up of a particle of active material to which one or more particles of additive material are fixed such that the active and additive particles do not separate in the airstream.” GSK argued that this term required use of the “high energy milling” process referred to in the specification of the patent, but the Federal Circuit disagreed, stating that “[a]lthough the [asserted] patent contains a few statements suggesting that its high-energy milling is required . . . those statements are outweighed by the numerous statements indicating that high-energy milling is merely a preferred process.”

The Federal Circuit further rejected GSK’s argument that Vectura’s damages theory was deficient. Vectura’s damages theory was based on a 2010 license between the parties relating to highly comparable technology. GSK argued that Vectura’s damages theory simply adopted the royalty rate from this prior license wholesale and failed to “show that the patented . . . mixtures drove consumer demand for the accused inhalers before presenting a damages theory based on the entire market value of the accused inhalers.” The Court noted that the case presented a “rather unusual circumstance” in that, while apportionment is ordinarily required where an entire-market-value royalty base is inappropriate, “when a sufficiently comparable license is used as the basis for determining the appropriate royalty, further apportionment may not necessarily be required.” The Court concluded that this was “one [...]

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