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Comaper Corporation v. Antec

April 2, 2012

COMAPER CORPORATION
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANTEC, INC.
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tucker, J.

MEMORANDUM

April __, 2012

Presently before the Court is Defendant Antec Inc.'s Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law of Invalidity (Doc. 174), Defendant's Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, or, in the Alternative, New Trial (Docs. 187, 188), Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 199), Defendant's Reply (Doc. 201), Plaintiff's Sur-Reply (Doc. 204), and all accompanying briefs and relevant correspondence. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Comaper Corporation ("Comaper"), co-owned by William Corcoran ("Corcoran") and Gary Smith ("Smith"), owns United States Patent No. 5,955,955 ("'955 patent"), which claims a cooling device which mounts within the drive bay region of a computer. The application for the '955 patent was filed by Corcoran and Smith on December 6, 1994. Subsequently, on May 20, 2004, the '955 patent for the drive-bay mounted cooling device was assigned to Corcoran and Smith. The '955 patent, in its Abstract, describes the device as follows:

"A cooling device...for a computer having a drive bay region with at least one drive bay adapted to receive a drive. The device comprises a case configured to mount within the drive bay of the computer having at least a first and at least a second opening. When mounted within the drive bay, the first opening is exposed to ambient air about the computer and the second opening is disposed within the drive bay region of the computer. The device also comprises at least one air movement device mounted within the case. The air movement device is configured in one of two ways. In a first way, it draws cooling air through the first opening and exhausts substantially all of the cooling air though the second opening into the drive bay region. In a second way, the air movement device draws air through the second opening from the drive bay region and exhausts it through the first opening. A mechanism for supplying power to the air movement device is also provided." '955 patent, p. 1, Abstract.

Defendant, Antec, Inc. ("Antec"), manufactures computer accessories sold under the names "Hard Disk Cooling System with Temperature Monitors, "HD Cooler," and "Hard Disk Drive Cooler," (collectively "the Accused Devices"). On March 8, 2005, Comaper filed suit in this Court against Antec, alleging that Antec infringed the '955 patent with its Accused Devices. Antec counterclaimed that the '955 patent was invalid, unenforceable, and was not infringed by Antec. (Doc. 7.)

On July 17, 2006, pursuant to Markman v. Westview, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996), this Court conducted a Markman hearing to determine the meaning of disputed terms in the '955 patent. On September 13, 2006, the Court construed the disputed terms by ordering the following definitions:

1. "Case" shall mean a structure for containing and holding something;

2. "Drive Bay Slot" shall mean the relatively narrow opening in the housing of the computer that leads to the drive bay;

3. "Second Opening" shall mean a separate opening that is exposed to the drive bay region; and

4. "Case occupies substantially the entire drive bay slot" shall mean, when installed, the case occupies almost entirely the slot leading to the drive bay.

After completion of a five day trial, on October 10, 2007, the jury returned a Special Verdict, finding that Antec willfully infringed claims 1, 2, 7, 12, and 13 of the '955 patent. Comaper Corp. v. Antec, Inc., No. 05-CV-1103, 2008 WL 4140384, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 8, 2008) ("JMOL Order"). Additionally, the jury concluded that the prior art devices submitted by Antec "were in public use, offered for sale, or described in publications more than one year prior to the application for the '955 patent." Id. However, on appeal, the Federal Circuit found the Special Verdict to be inconsistent, due to the fact that the jury concluded that the asserted claims of the '955 patent were not anticipated, claims 1 and 12 were not obvious, but that dependent claims 2, 7, and 13, were invalid as obvious.

As a result, the Federal Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the matter to this Court for a new trial on the issue of validity concerning the inconsistent findings of the Special Verdict. Comaper Corp. v. Antec, Inc., 596 F.3d 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2010). Additionally, on appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed all of the Court's Markman hearing definitions.

Upon completion of the retrial, held in this Court from January 10, 2011 through January 21, 2011, the jury found that independent claims 1 and 12 of the '955 patent were valid. During the retrial, Plaintiff withdrew dependent claims 2, 7, and 13 from the charge.

Claim 1 of the patent describes:

A cooling device for a computer, said computer having a drive bay region with at least one drive bay slot adapted to receive, said device comprising:

a case configured to mount within said drive bay slot of said computer such that said case occupies substantially the entire drive bay slot said case having a least a first opening and at least a second opening, when mounted with said drive bay, said first opening being within said drive bay region of said computer; at least one air movement device mounted within said case, said air movement device being configured in one of two ways, a first way in which said air movement device draws cooling air through said first opening and exhausts substantially all of said cooling air from said case through said second opening into said drive bay region, a second way in which said air movement device draws air into said case through said second opening from and drive bay region and exhausts it through said first opening; and power supply means for supplying power to said air movement device. '955 patent col.5; l. 34-56.

Claim 12 states:

In a computer having a drive bay region with at least one drive bay slot adapted to receive a drive, an improvement comprising: a case mounted within said drive bay slot of said computer such that said case occupies substantially the entire drive bay slot, said case hav[ing] at least a first opening and at least a second opening, said first opening being exposed to ambient air and said second opening being within said drive bay region of said computer; at least one air movement device mounted within said case, said air movement device being configured in one of two ways, a first way in which said air movement device draws cooling air from said first opening and exhausts substantially all of said cooling air though said case though said second opening into said drive bay region, a second way in which said air movement device draws air into said case through said second opening from said drive bay region and exhausts it through said first opening; and power supply means for supplying power to said air movement device '955 Patent col.6; l. 33-54.

During the second jury trial, both Plaintiff and Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a), with such motions being denied by this Court. Subsequently, on January 20, 2011, Defendant filed its Memorandum of Law in support of its Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law of Invalidity due to Obviousness (Doc. 174), and further briefed its position with its present Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Rule 50(b), or, in the Alternative, New Trial (Docs. 187, 188.)

LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Judgment as a Matter of Law

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 provides on opportunity for a party to challenge, post-trial, the sufficiency of evidence evaluated by the jury. In the Third Circuit, a grant of judgment as a matter of law ("JMOL") is appropriate where a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the Court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on an issue. Gagliardo v. Connaught Labs, 311 F.3d 565, 568 (3d Cir. 2002).

In determining a Rule 50 motion "[t]he question is not whether there is literally no evidence supporting the party against whom the motion is directed but whether there is evidence upon which the jury could properly find a verdict for that party." Foster v. Nat'l Fuel Gas Co., 316 F.3d 424, 428 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting Patzig v. O'Neil, 577 F.2d 841, 846 (3d Cir. 1978)). In viewing all the evidence which has been tendered and should have beenadmitted, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh evidence. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51, 120 S. Ct. 2097, 147 L. Ed. 2d 105 (2000). Although JMOLs should be granted sparingly, federal courts do not follow the rule that a scintilla of evidence is enough for the Court to deny the motion. Id.

The standard under Fed. R. Civ. P 50(b) is unambiguous and well-known. In order for a party to preserve the right to renew a motion for JMOL after the jury has rendered its verdict, a party must move for JMOL at the close of all evidence. Bradford Co. v. Jefferson Smurfit Co., No. 05-1511, 2001 U.S. App LEXIS *25205 (Fed. Cir. 2001). Third Circuit precedent maintains this standard. See Chemical Leaman Tank Lines v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co, 89 F.3d 976, 992 (3d Cir. 1996) (stating "[m]otions for judgment as a matter of law must be made before submission of the case to the jury and must 'specify the judgment sought and the law and facts on which the moving party is entitled to judgment' under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(2)"); Lightning Lube v. Witco Corp., 4 F.3d 1153, 1173 (3d Cir. 1993) (stating "[a] motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50(b) must be preceded by a Rule 50(a) motion sufficiently specific to afford the party against whom the motion is directed with an opportunity to cure possible defects in proof which otherwise might make its case legally insufficient.") Defendant Antec, through its motion at the close of evidence (Doc. 174), has properly preserved its right to have its post-trial JMOL motion (Docs. 187, 188) reviewed by this Court.

To succeed on a renewed motion for JMOL following a jury trial and verdict, the movant "'must show that the jury's findings, presumed or express, are not supported by substantial evidence or, if they were, that the legal conclusion(s) implied [by] the jury's verdict cannot in law be supported by those findings.'" Pannu v. Iolab Corp., 155 F.3d 1344, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (quoting Perkin-Elmer Corp. v. Computervision Corp., 732 F.2d 888, 893 (Fed. Cir. 1984)). "Substantial evidence" is defined as "such relevant evidence from the record taken as a whole as might be accepted by a reasonable mind as adequate to support the finding under review." Perkin-Elmer Corp., 732 F.2d at 893.

B. New Trials

A court may grant a new trial "for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." F ED. R. C IV. P. 59(a)(1)(A). Generally, a court will order a new trial: (1) when the jury's verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence, and a new trial must be granted to prevent a miscarriage of justice; (2) when improper conduct by an attorney or the court unfairly influenced the verdict; (3) when the jury verdict was facially inconsistent; or (4) where a verdict is so grossly excessive or inadequate "as to shock the conscience." Suarez v. Mattingly, 212 ...


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