The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded that a party that voluntarily elects to pursue parallel proceedings before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board and the district court is not entitled to recover attorneys’ fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285 (exceptional case doctrine) in connection with the Board proceedings, nor does § 285 entitle a party to hold opposing counsel jointly and severally liable for fees. Dragon Intellectual Property LLC v. Dish Network L.L.C., Case Nos. 2022-1621; -1777; -1622; -1779 (Fed. Cir. May 20, 2024) (Moore, C.J.; Stoll, J.) (Bencivengo, J., dissenting).

Dragon sued DISH Network, Sirius XM Radio (SXM) and eight others for patent infringement. The district court stayed proceedings as to DISH and SXM while they pursued inter partes review (IPR) but proceeded with claim construction for the other defendants. Following claim construction, all parties stipulated to noninfringement, and the district court accordingly entered a noninfringement judgment that was subsequently vacated following appeal to the Federal Circuit. Following the Board’s determination that the asserted claims were unpatentable, DISH and SXM filed a motion for attorneys’ fees in the district court proceeding. The district court granted the motion for time spent litigating the district court case but denied for fees incurred solely during the IPR proceedings and recovery from Dragon’s former counsel. DISH and SXM appealed the denial-in-part, and Dragon cross-appealed the grant-in-part.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant-in-part, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declaring these cases exceptional. The Federal Circuit explained that the vacated noninfringement judgment did not require the district court to ignore its claim construction order in determining exceptionality. The Court further explained that even though Dragon was not entitled to a claim construction “do-over,” the prosecution history disclaimer issue was independently considered during the exceptionality inquiry, and Dragon did not provide any grounds for the conclusion that this constituted an inadequate inquiry.

The Federal Circuit also affirmed the denial of attorneys’ fees with regard to fees incurred during the IPR proceedings and Dragon’s former counsel’s liability for fee awards under § 285.

First, the Federal Circuit rejected DISH and SXM’s argument that § 285 allows recovery of fees incurred during parallel IPR proceedings, principally on the grounds that the IPR proceedings were pursued voluntarily. The Court reasoned that there are many advantages to leveraging IPR proceedings and, therefore, “where a party voluntarily elects to pursue an invalidity challenge through IPR proceedings, we see no basis for awarding IPR fees under § 285.”

Second, the Federal Circuit relied on the statutory text and determined that liability for attorneys’ fees awarded under § 285 does not extend to a party’s counsel. The Court explained that while other statutes explicitly allow parties to recover costs and fees from counsel, § 285 is silent as to who can be liable for a fee award, and therefore it is reasonable to conclude that fees cannot be assessed against counsel.

Sitting by designation, Judge Bencivengo of the US District Court for the Southern District of California dissented [...]

Continue Reading

read more