Claim Preclusion
Subscribe to Claim Preclusion's Posts

Color Me Unsurprised: No Preclusion of Plaintiff’s Claims

The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the lower court’s order determining that the plaintiff’s federal lawsuit was barred under the doctrines of claim and issue preclusion, noting an Illinois law exception on claim preclusion and finding no issue preclusion. Creation Supply, Inc. v. Selective Ins. Co. of the Southeast, Case No. 21-3172 (7th Cir. Oct. 19, 2022) (Rovner, Hamilton, Scudder, JJ.)

Creation Supply is a producer of markers. In 2012 one of its competitors sued it for trademark violations. Creation requested that Selective Insurance provide coverage for the lawsuit, but Selective refused. Creation entered into a settlement agreement with its competitor that prevented Creation from selling one of its primary lines of markers. As a result, Creation lost much of its business and struggled financially.

Selective did not provide coverage for Creation’s legal defense. It also sought a declaration in Illinois state court that it owed Creation no duty to defend. Creation countersued, seeking a declaration that Selective did owe it a duty to defend. Creation also alleged that Selective breached the insurance policy between the parties. The Illinois circuit court entered partial summary judgment for Creation on its duty to defend the claim and finalized an award of incidental relief in October 2017.

In 2014, during the state court litigation, Creation filed a suit against Selective in federal court for breach of contract and a claim under the Illinois Insurance Code for vexatious and unreasonable conduct. In 2016, Creation requested voluntary dismissal of the state court breach of contract claim. The Illinois circuit court granted the motion and expressly reserved Creation’s right to maintain its federal action on its breach of contract claim. After the end of the state court litigation in 2017, the federal court case continued. The district court granted summary judgment for Creation on the insurance coverage question. After a bench trial on the Illinois Insurance Code claim, the court found for Creation and awarded almost $3 million in damages. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded, instructing the district court to resolve the remaining issue of contract damages.

After the remand, Creation sought to amend the complaint to seek punitive damages. The district court denied that request. Selective then moved for judgment on the pleadings, contending that the doctrines of claim and issue preclusion barred Creation’s remaining contract claim. The district court agreed and entered judgment for Selective because the Illinois state courts had resolved the issue of Selective’s duty to defend. Creation appealed.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Creation’s leave to amend, then turned to the issue of claim preclusion, a legal doctrine that prevents a party from repeatedly litigating the same cause of action against the same adverse party. Claim preclusion requires the following:

  • A court with proper jurisdiction must have issued a final judgment on the merits.
  • The claims in the two actions must be the same.
  • The parties in the second action must be the same (or in privity with) those [...]

    Continue Reading



Check Step One: It’s Not Ova until the Court Compares Claims

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a district court’s decision finding a patent directed to a method of sorting particles using flow cytometry technology ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The Federal Circuit also vacated the district court’s conclusion that the patent owner was precluded from asserting certain patents based on claim preclusion. XY, LLC v. Trans Ova Genetics, LC, Case No. 19-1789 (Fed. Cir. July 31, 2020) (Stoll, J.).

XY, Beckman Coulter and Inguran (collectively, XY) sued Trans Ova in 2016 for infringement of seven patents relating to technology for sex selection of non-human mammals. Trans Ova filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the asserted claims of one of the patents are ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Applying the Supreme Court’s two-step Alice framework for determining patent eligibility, the district court determined that the claims are ineligible under § 101. At Alice step one, the district court found that the patent’s sole independent claim was directed to the abstract idea of a “mathematical equation that permits rotating multi-dimensional data.” At Alice step two, the district court found that the asserted claims lacked an inventive concept because XY admitted that each claim element was known in the art.

Trans Ova also filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the district court should hold XY’s infringement allegations barred by claim preclusion. The argument was based on XY’s 2012 lawsuit against Trans Ova on infringement of different patents directed to similar technology (which was pending on appeal when the 2016 case was filed). The district court granted Trans Ova’s motion to dismiss infringement allegations of three patents cited in the 2016 suit, and stayed proceedings on XY’s remaining causes of action pending the outcome of the 2016 suit’s appeal. XY appealed the district court’s dismissal decision.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit found that the district court erred in finding that the claims are directed to a mathematical equation under Alice step one. The Court concluded that the asserted claims are directed to a patent-eligible improvement of a method of sorting particles using flow cytometry technology, not to an abstract idea. XY’s claim described detailed improvements to a physical technique, a step-by-step method for a laboratory process, which is patent eligible.

As to the issue of claim preclusion, the parties’ only dispute was whether the district court properly concluded that XY’s 2012 and 2016 lawsuits present the same cause of action. A cause of action is defined based on the transactional facts from which it arises, which in a patent case include both the asserted patents and the accused activity. Claim preclusion will be triggered by different patents only if the scope of the asserted patent claims in the two suits is essentially the same.

XY argued that the district court erred by failing to compare the currently asserted patent claims to the previously asserted patent claims to determine whether the causes of action in the two lawsuits are essentially the same. The Federal Circuit [...]

Continue Reading




BLOG EDITORS

STAY CONNECTED

TOPICS

ARCHIVES