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Ascion, LLC v. Tempur Sealy International, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 13, 2017

ASCION, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
TEMPUR SEALY INTERNATIONAL, INC. and TEMPUR-PEDIC MANAGEMENT, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO LIMIT CLAIM TERMS [#47] and MOTION TO EXCLUDE [#55]

          DENISE PAGE HOOD CHIEF JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff filed a Motion to Limit Claim Terms for Construction on May 26, 2017 (“Motion to Limit Claim Terms”). (Doc. No. 47) The Motion to Limit Claim terms is fully briefed. On June 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Exclude Defendants' Purported “Technology Tutorial” (“Motion to Exclude”). (Doc. No. 55) Defendants filed a response to the Motion to Exclude on July 5, 2017. A hearing on both Motions was held on July 7, 2017. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies the Motion to Limit Claim Terms and denies the Motion to Exclude.

         II. BACKGROUND

         For purposes of this Order, it is relevant that Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that Defendants infringed seven of Plaintiff's patents and asserted 31 claims across those seven patents. The parties had the option of submitting to the Court a “technology tutorial.” Plaintiff did not submit a technology tutorial because it believes that the patented technology (adjustable beds) is relatively simple to understand. Defendants submitted a 30-minute technology tutorial DVD on May 19, 2017. The parties' opening claim construction briefs were due on June 2, 2017. Each party filed its opening claim construction brief on June 2, 2017, each of which was limited to 25 pages, pursuant to the Local Rule 7.1(d)(3) and the Court's Order dated October 26, 2016. (Doc. No. 35) Plaintiff's brief addressed the four claim terms it wanted to the Court to decide. Defendants' brief addressed the four claim terms identified by Plaintiff (which Defendants also sought to have determined) and an additional 17 claim terms for construction.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Motion to Limit Claim Terms

         Both parties excessively and redundantly briefed the Motion to Limit Claim Terms.

         Plaintiff maintains that Defendants' proposed 17 claim terms for construction are unreasonable. Plaintiff cites the fact that Defendants originally proposed 174 terms, then reduced that list to 139 terms, despite Defendant having previously argued to the Court that 168 terms for construction would be unreasonable. Plaintiff also represents that Defendants indicated that they would limit the number of claim terms for construction to “approximately 10 terms.” Plaintiff contends that Defendant's ultimate determination to have 21 claim terms constructed means that it is not possible for the parties to adequately brief the terms in 25 pages and would be overly burdensome for the Court.

         Plaintiff argues that courts have, and have exercised, an inherent power to manage their caseloads by limiting the number of claim terms to be construed or briefed for construction. See, e.g., Eon CorpIP Holdings LLC v. Aruba Networks Inc., 62 F.Supp.3d 942, 953 (N.D. Cal. 2014) (“as a matter of case management and pretrial procedure, it is well established that district courts have the authority only to construe those terms they deem likely to lead to a dispositive outcome”); Norgren Automation Sols., LLC v. PHD, Inc., No. 14-cv-13400, 2015 WL 5693038, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 28, 2015) (magistrate judge instructed each party not to submit more than five claim terms); Zamperla, Inc. v. I.E. Park SRL, No. 6:13-CV-1807-ORL-37, 2014 WL 6473728, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 18, 2014) (limiting parties' joint claim construction statement to five terms); IP Cleaning S.p.A v. Annovi Reverberi, S.p.A, No. 08-CV-147-BBC, 2006 WL 5925609, at *1 (W.D. Wis. Oct. 27, 2006) (ordering that no more than sixteen terms will be construed regardless of number of patents or claims at issue); SFA Systems, LLC v. Drugstore.com, Inc., Civ. No. 6:11-635 LED (E.D. Tex. Mar. 14, 2013) (ordering parties to reduce 17 identified terms to a “reasonable number”); PersonalWeb Techs., LLC v. NEC Corp. of Am., Inc., No. 6:11-655 (ED. Tex. May 7, 2013) (ordering parties to reduce forty-five identified terms to a “reasonable number”). Finally, Plaintiff suggests a multi-day claim construction hearing will be necessary to adequately address 21 terms.

         Defendants argue that the Motion to Limit Claim Terms is moot because both parties filed their opening claim construction briefs on June 2, 2017 and their responses on June 23, 2017, with reply briefs due on July 10, 2017 (four days after the hearing date). Defendants state that they briefed all 21 claim terms in the 25 pages permitted, and Plaintiff filed a 24-page brief. Defendants acknowledge, but give no credence to, the fact that Plaintiff only argued its four claim terms in its 24-page brief. But, Defendants contend, the Court addressed the issue of limiting claim terms in its October 26, 2016 Order, concluding that “[a] parties' brief is limited by the Local Rules of the Eastern District of Michigan, specifically Rule 7.1(d)(3). The Court is not persuaded that it should impose any other limitations on the parties with respect to briefing.” (Doc. No. 35, PgID 821)

         Defendants contend that Plaintiff's motive is delay. Defendants state that Plaintiff had Defendants' final list of terms and constructions since May 5, 2017, but did not file a (now-withdrawn) emergency motion to stay filing its opening claim construction brief until the Motion to Limit Claim Terms was heard until three weeks later, only a week before the opening claim construction brief was due. Defendants state that Plaintiff also sought an extension of time to file a technology tutorial but then did not file one at all.

         Defendant counters, and the Court agrees, that 17 claim terms for construction is reasonable in light of the fact that Plaintiff has asserted seven patents and 31 claims across those patents. Defendants note that, with respect to claim construction briefs, Plaintiff had proposed that the parties could assert “three terms per asserted patent, ” which meant would have meant 19 (or 21?) terms for construction. (Doc. No. 24, PgID 682 (“Absent leave of court, preliminary claim construction briefs shall be limited to three terms per asserted patent.”); Doc. No. 34, PgID 811) Defendants accurately observe that Plaintiff has not explained why its position regarding the appropriate number of claim terms for construction is considerably less now than it was before.

         Defendants persuasively address Plaintiff's contention that courts can limit the number of claim terms for construction. As Defendants argue, the cases relied upon by Plaintiff overwhelmingly considered actions involving one or two patents, not an action involving seven patents. See EON Corp. IP Holdings LLC v. Aruba Networks Inc., 62 F.Supp.3d 942, 953 (N.D. Cal. 2014) (one patent); Norgren Automation Sols., LLC v. PHD, Inc., No. 14-cv-13400, 2015 WL 5693038, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 28, 2015) (two patents); IP Cleaning S.p.A v. Annovi Reverberi, S.p.A, No. 08-cv-147-bbc-slc, 2006 WL 5925609, at *1 (W.D. Wis. Oct. 27, 2006) (one patent); SFA Sys., LLC v. ...


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