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 [...]