September 22, 2023

by Dennis Crouch

United Cannabis Corp (UCANN) vs. Pure Hemp Collective, — F.4th — (Fed. Cir. 2023)

The UCANN vs. Pure Hemp patent case has come to a detailed with the Federal Circuit affirming the district court docket’s resolution to disclaim legal professional charges to Pure Hemp. The unique infringement lawsuit was filed in 2018, with UCANN suing Pure Hemp for infringing US Patent No. 9,730,911, overlaying varied excessive focus hashish and CBD extract formulations. Throughout the litigation, UCANN filed for chapter, inflicting the case to be stayed, and ultimately, the events stipulated to a dismissal of the infringement claims with prejudice. Nonetheless, the stipulated dismissal didn’t embrace any dialogue of legal professional charges — resulting in the present enchantment.

Following the dismissal, Pure Hemp moved for legal professional charges and sanctions, arguing that UCANN’s counsel dedicated inequitable conduct throughout patent prosecution and that UCANN’s litigation counsel had a battle of curiosity. The district court docket sided with UCANN and denied legal professional charges, stating (1) that Pure Hemp was not the prevailing occasion and (2) that Pure Hemp didn’t show that the case was distinctive. The Federal Circuit has now affirmed the choice, discovering that the district court docket didn’t abuse its discretion find the case unexceptional. Though district court docket the district court docket erred in not discovering Pure Hemp to be the prevailing occasion, the error was innocent.

The standard rule in American litigation is that every occasion pays their very own legal professional charges – win or lose.  However, the legislation typically permits for payment shifting in egregious instances.  The patent act offers a statute on level that enables an award of cheap legal professional charges in distinctive instances. “The court docket in distinctive instances could award cheap legal professional charges to the prevailing occasion.”  35 U.S.C. 285.  The statute right here has two stipulations, a permissive, and a restrict on the outcomes.

  • Distinctive instances: In Octane Health, the Supreme Courtroom outlined an distinctive case as one which “stands out from others with respect to the substantive power of a celebration’s place or the unreasonable method through which the case was litigated. Octane Health, LLC v. ICON Well being & Health, Inc., 572 U.S. 545 (2014).
  • Prevailing occasion: The award can solely go to the “prevailing occasion” within the litigation.  This challenge is usually difficult as a result of usually neither occasion wins on all grounds raised or receives the entire outcomes requested.
  • The court docket … could award: This provides the district court docket permissive authority to award or deny charges, even in distinctive instances.  As well as, in Highmark, the Supreme Courtroom held that the dedication of whether or not a case is “distinctive” can be given to the sound discretion of the district court docket. Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Well being Mgmt. Sys., Inc., 572 U.S. 559 (2014).  Actually, in Highmark, the court docket ultimately concluded that “an appellate court docket ought to apply an abuse-of-discretion customary in reviewing all elements of a district court docket’s §285 dedication.” Id.
  • Affordable legal professional charges: There is no such thing as a single system for calculating “cheap legal professional charges.” Usually, the district court docket will contemplate plenty of elements in figuring out what constitutes an affordable payment, such because the period of time spent on the case, the complexity of the case, the charges charged by comparable attorneys within the space, and the outcomes achieved. In the end, the district court docket has broad discretion in figuring out what constitutes an affordable legal professional payment beneath this statute. Gaymar Indus., Inc. v. Cincinnati Sub-Zero Prods., Inc., 790 F.3d 1369 (Fed. Cir. 2015) and SFA Sys., LLC v. Newegg Inc., 793 F.3d 1344 (Fed. Cir. 2015).

Prevailing occasion: The district court docket held that Pure Hemp was not the prevailing occasion. On enchantment, the Federal Circuit discovered that to be clear error. Pure Hemp achieved the profitable results of having the infringement case dismissed with prejudice – and thus prevailed.  It doesn’t matter that the strategy was via an agreed-upon dismissal quite than court docket motion.

Distinctive Case – Inequitable Conduct: Pure Hemp raised the problems of inequitable conduct earlier than the district court docket, however the court docket didn’t conduct an evidentiary listening to and ultimately determined that the proof introduced was missing.  Pure Hemp appealed and argued “the district court docket abuse its discretion by failing to conduct an ample [factual] inquiry.”  Decide Stark rebuked the legal professional right here — stating that Pure Hemp ought to have requested an evidentiary listening to quite than merely interesting. As a substitute, Pure Hemp had informed the district court docket that it didn’t want such a listening to.

It’s self-evident {that a} district court docket doesn’t abuse its discretion by not conducting a post-dismissal inequitable conduct continuing, in assist of decision of a § 285 movement, when the shifting occasion explicitly disclaims any want for such a continuing.

Slip Op. Right here, the alleged inequitable conduct includes the next:

The legal professional who prosecuted the patent-in-suit admitted to copying and pasting textual content from the prior artwork into the patent specification and never disclosing that prior artwork to the USPTO.

Pure Hemp Temporary. The briefing argued that “Cooley attorneys even have a coverage of withholding references till after the primary workplace motion, in direct contravention of patent workplace steerage.”  Nonetheless, on this case, the references had been by no means submitted previous to issuance.  The transient goes-on to comment that “in educational circles, it’s known as plagiarism.”

In conclusion, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court docket’s resolution to disclaim legal professional charges to Pure Hemp within the UCANN vs. Pure Hemp Collective patent case.  The appellate court docket’s resolution although didn’t attain the substance of whether or not the patentee’s actions constituted inequitable conduct or litigation misconduct. We’ll have to order these for one more day.

Is the Federal Circuit dealing with a Continual Drawback of Inequitable Conduct?