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B. BRAUN MEDICAL, INC. v. ABBOT LABORATORIES

March 25, 1999

B. BRAUN MEDICAL, INC.
v.
ABBOTT LABORATORIES AND NP MEDICAL, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Braun sued Abbott and NP Medical for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 4,683,916. Defendants denied infringement and alleged that the Braun patent was invalid. In addition, defendants asserted as affirmative defenses, they also filed a counterclaim for declaratory judgment of non-infringement, patent invalidity and non-enforceablilty and for "such other and further relief as [the Court] deems just and proper."

In November, 1994, a jury found that the Braun Patent was valid but not infringed and found for defendants on their patent misuse and equtable estoppel defenses. Braun prevailed on defendants' implied license defense.

Abbott asserted that it was entitled to damages for Braun's patent misuse and, by Memorandum and Order of June 30, 1995, the trial court permitted Abbott to offer evidence of such damages. The court specifically based this decision on the Declaratory Judgment Act, which gives the court discretion to grant necessary or proper relief based upon such a judgment. See B. Braun Med., Inc. v. Abbott Laboratories, 892 F. Supp. 115, 116-17 (E.D.Pa. 1995)

Thereafter, considerable discovery ensued and, after a second jury trial lasting approximately eight days in November-December, 1995, a jury found that Abbott was not entitled to any damages for Braun's patent misuse. The Court denied Abbott's motion for a new trial of the issue.

Braun asserts and Abbott does not deny that the eight-day misuse damages trial involved thousands of documents and dozens of witnesses as well as the filing of numerous pre-trial and post-trial papers. Braun also asserts that it spent approximately $741,000 to defend against the misuse damages claim. Abbott does not challenge this figure but states that it is irrelevant.

Braun appealed from the district court's judgment that it had misused and was equitably estopped from enforcing its patent, and that the accused devices did not infringe the patent. Abbott cross-appealed seeking attorney fees and damages for Braun's patent misuse. Apparently, Abbott did not appeal from the judgment of patent validity or lack of implied license.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit iter alia:

    1. Affirmed the district Court's judgment of
  non-infringement;
    2. Reversed the judgment that Braun was equitably
  estopped from suing defendants;
    3. Affirmed the judgment that Abbott was not
  entitled to damages for patent misuse;
    4. Affirmed the district court's denial of attorney
  fees.*fn1

With respect to patent misuse, the Court held as follows:

    As we have mentioned, the patent misuse doctrine is
  an extension of the equitable doctrine of unclean
  hands, whereby a court of equity will not lend its
  support to enforcement of a patent that has been
  misused . . . Patent misuse arose, as an equitable
  defense available to the accused infringer, from the
  desire "to restrain practices that did not in
  themselves violate any law, but that drew
  anticompetitive strength from the patent right, and
  thus were deemed to be contrary to public policy. . .
  ." When used successfully, this defense results in
  ...

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