The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined that an accused infringer was entitled to a new trial relating to validity issues but still faced sanctions for its continuous disregard of its discovery obligations. ADASA Inc. v. Avery Dennison Corp., Case No. 22-1092 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 16, 2022) (Moore, Hughes, Stark, JJ.)
ADASA owns a patent relating to methods and systems for commissioning radio-frequency identification (RFID) transponders. ADASA sued Avery Dennison for patent infringement, alleging that its manufacture and sale of certain RFID tags infringed ADASA’s patent. Both parties sought summary judgment following discovery. Avery Dennison asserted that the patent was ineligible for patent protection under 35 U.S.C. § 101, and ADASA argued that the asserted claims were not anticipated or obvious based on the book RFID for Dummies. The district court granted ADASA’s motion on validity and denied Avery Dennison’s motion for patent ineligibility. Prior to trial, ADASA moved in limine to exclude Avery Dennison’s damages expert’s testimony related to certain licenses, and the district court granted the motion.
At trial, ADASA entered licenses into evidence as part of its damages case and alleged that they reflected lump-sum agreements to practice the asserted patent. The district court declined to include a jury instruction on lump-sum damages and a lump-sum option on the verdict form, observing that Avery Dennison’s expert had not offered a lump-sum damages opinion and concluding that the licenses alone were insufficient for the jury to award lump-sum damages. The jury returned an infringement verdict and awarded ADASA a running royalty of $0.0045 per infringing RFID tag, which resulted in an award of $26.6 million.
In its post-trial motions, Avery Dennison moved for a new trial, arguing it was reversible error for the district court to exclude its damages expert’s testimony and to decline to provide a jury instruction for a lump-sum damages award. Before the district court ruled on its motion, Avery Dennison revealed to ADASA that it had discovered additional previously undisclosed RFID tags in its databases. A subsequent investigation determined that the number of undisclosed tags was more than two billion. Avery Dennison agreed to pay an additional $9.5 million in damages, which corresponded to the royalty rate determined by the jury. ADASA subsequently moved for sanctions. The district court award $20 million in sanctions after finding that Avery Dennison had engaged in protracted discovery failures and a continuous disregard for the seriousness of the litigation and its expected obligations. The sanctions award corresponded to a $0.0025 per-tag rate applied to both the adjudicated and late-disclosed tags. Avery Dennison appealed.
Avery Dennison challenged the district court’s summary judgment rulings, its denial of a new trial and its imposition of sanctions. The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s patent eligibility determination, finding that the patent “is directed to a specific, hardware-based RFID serial number data structure designed to enable technological improvements to the commissioning process,” which “is not a mere mental process,” and concluded that the claim was directed to patent-eligible subject matter.[...]