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There Should Be No Secret about Scope of Trade Secret Injunction

In the context of an interlocutory appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated a portion of a preliminary injunction in a case involving alleged misappropriation of trade secrets for failing to provide sufficient specificity as to what it prohibits. Carl Zeiss Meditec, Inc. v. Topcon Medical Systems, Inc. et al., Case No. 2021-1839 (Fed. Cir. May 16, 2022) (Hughes, Linn and Stoll, JJ.)

Topcon Medical filed an interlocutory appeal, seeking vacatur of a preliminary injunction granted by a district court in the Northern District of California. Topcon asserted that the injunction failed to satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(d) because it did not provide an adequate description of what specific acts are prohibited. Topcon argued that the injunction is ambiguous as to whether it applies to all of its platform or only to a certain module. Topcon further argued that the ambiguities are exacerbated by the district court’s misunderstanding of evidence presented from a declaration and deposition in the case and the court’s use of that evidence to draw conclusions about the misappropriation of trade secrets.

The Federal Circuit agreed with Topcon that the preliminary injunction failed to provide any notice required under Rule 65(d) as to whether—and to what extent—Topcon’s continued use of the platform and modules is outlawed. As to the basis for the injunction, the Court noted that “the district court did not address whether all [the] information [asserted in the complaint] was confidential, or whether it was acquired, used, or disclosed improperly. Second, as Topcon convincingly argues, the scope of the asserted trade secrets captured under CZMI’s argument is staggering, including unspecified software architecture, unnamed user interfaces, generically noted research, and other information simply identified as trade secrets.” The Court explained that Rule 65(d) expressly requires that the injunction order must “describe in reasonable detail—and not by referring to the complaint or other document—the act or acts restrained or required.” The Court further agreed with Topcon that the district court’s reference to declaration evidence related to data that was not the data on which the misappropriation claim was based, which “exacerbate[d] the ambiguity of the injunction and in no way support[ed] extending the injunction to cover [other parts of the accused] platform or …decoder.”

Because the grant of injunction did not identify the specific acts prohibited, the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the injunction to the district court to clarify the scope of the injunction.




Federal Circuit Finds Interlocutory Appeal Untimely

Addressing the time limits for filing an interlocutory appeal in patent cases, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dismissed such an appeal as untimely, finding that the appellant did not file within 30 days of all liability issues except for a determination of damages being resolved. Mondis Technology Ltd. v. LG Electronics Inc., Case No. 20-1812 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 3, 2021) (Hughes, J.)

Mondis Technology sued LG Electronics for infringement of a patent related to display technology. In a consolidated district court case joining other parties to dispute with LG, a jury found that (1) LG infringed certain claims of the patent owned by Mondis, (2) the patent claims were not invalid and (3) LG’s infringement was willful. The jury awarded $45 million in damages. LG filed multiple post-trial motions relating to infringement, invalidity, willfulness and damages. In September 2019, the district court denied LG’s motions regarding infringement, invalidity and willfulness. Then, in April 2020, the district court granted LG’s motion for a new trial on damages.

Within 30 days of the April 2020 order, LG filed a notice of interlocutory appeal with the Federal Circuit, seeking to challenge the denial of its three post-trial motions.

The Federal Circuit first discussed its jurisdiction to hear interlocutory appeals under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(c)(2), which provides the Court with exclusive jurisdiction over “an appeal from a judgment in a civil action for patent infringement which would otherwise be appealable to the . . . Federal Circuit and is final except for an accounting.” The Court explained that appeals under this section are subject to the time limits of § 2107(a), which in this case would give LG 30 days from the date the judgment became “final except for an accounting.” The Court cited to a previous case in which it held that a judgment is “final except for an accounting” under § 1292(c)(2) when all liability issues have been resolved and only a damages determination remains. The Court further supported its position by citing the Supreme Court of the United States’ 1988 decision in Budinich v. Becton Dickinson in which it found that the merits decision was final after the first post-trial order that resolved all issues except for attorneys’ fees. The Court thus found that all such liability issues were resolved as of the district court’s September 2019 order and that the 30-day clock started at that time.

LG also argued that Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure tolled the time to file its appeal. Rule 4(a)(4) provides that “the time to file an appeal runs for all parties from the entry of the order disposing of the last such remaining motion.” The Court disagreed with LG’s characterization, citing a Third Circuit opinion which found that a motion only tolls the time to file interlocutory appeals if the motion relates to the interlocutory judgment. The Court found that Rule 4(a)(4) did toll the time to file the interlocutory appeal but only until motions concerning liability [...]

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