The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joy Flowers Conti United States District Judge
MDL No. 2354 This Document Relates to:
2:12-CV-1628; 2:12-CV-89; 2:12-CV-860; ) 2:12-CV-862; 2:12-CV-869; 2:12-CV-871; ) 2:12-CV-876; 2:12-CV-877; 2:12-CV-878; ) 2:12-CV-879; 2:12-CV-880; 2:12-CV-881; ) 2:12-CV-882; 2:12-CV-887; 2:12-CV-891; 2:12-CV-1538; 2:12-CV-1604; 2:12-CV-1629; ) 2:12-CV-1639; 2:12-CV-1640; 2:12-CV-1641; ) 2:12-CV-1642
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER CONTI, District Judge
Pending before the court are motions to preclude indirect infringement, representativeness, and doctrine of equivalents contentions under Maxim's Local Patent Rule ("LPR") disclosures, (Misc. No. 12-244, ECF No. 525),*fn1 briefs in support, (ECF No. 526), and voluminous exhibits in support, (ECF Nos. 537-40), filed by certain Opposing Parties (the "Moving Parties") in this multidistrict litigation. Maxim Integrated Products, Inc. ("Maxim") filed responses in opposition, (ECF No. 541), and the Moving Parties filed replies (ECF No. 543). The motions, responses and replies, although filed in separate cases, are identical. The motions being fully briefed are now ripe for disposition. Because as set forth below the motions are premature, the Moving Parties' motions will be DENIED.
Following the initial case management conference on March 20, 2013, Maxim served infringement contentions on all Opposing Parties on March 22, 2013 pursuant to Local Patent Rule ("LPR") 3.2, which governs disclosure of asserted claims and infringement contentions. The thrust of the present motions, filed on March 28, 2013, is that Maxim's infringement contentions are deficient pursuant to LPR 3.2, and prejudice the Moving Parties to the extent that they were not given adequate notice of Maxim's infringement theories. The motions seek to preclude Maxim from relying upon allegedly undisclosed theories of indirect infringement, representativeness, and doctrine of equivalents ("DOE"), and to limit the scope of any future supplementation Maxim may attempt.
The Moving Parties spend a great deal of time addressing the asserted deficiencies in Maxim's infringement contentions. Specifically, the Moving Parties maintain that Maxim's infringement contentions fail to identify or describe each accused instrumentality, as required by LPR 3.2,*fn2 and fail to provide a list of all accused devices. The Moving Parties object to the use of representative sample devices because "[e]ach accused device has different hardware components and runs different operating systems, including different versions thereof." (ECF No. 526 at 7.) The Moving Parties contend that Maxim's claims of representativeness should be limited to those devices for which it provided infringement contentions because Maxim did not make an adequate showing that the examples provided are representative of the large number of allegedly infringing devices. With respect to the DOE, the Moving Parties contend that Maxim cannot rely on a blanket statement that it "believes that any element of the Asserted Claims that is not literally met . . . is likely to be met under the [DOE]." (Id. at 9.) Consequently, they ask that Maxim be precluded from asserting any DOE theory in the present cases. Finally, the Moving Parties seek preclusion of Maxim's contributory or induced infringement claims on the basis that Maxim did not offer specific contentions with respect to indirect infringement claims pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 271(b), (c).*fn3
Maxim, in responses, argues that the Moving Parties' motions are premature, coming only days after it served its infringement contentions on all Opposing Parties, and that the contentions satisfy all requirements of LPR 3.2. Because Maxim did not move to supplement its infringement contentions, it maintains that the Moving Parties seek an advisory opinion with respect to what the court would do in the event Maxim later seeks to supplement its contentions based upon information learned through discovery. With respect to representativeness, Maxim argues that it properly put the Moving Parties on notice of representative devices and structures that it alleges are common to all mobile devices, including memory, a math coprocessor, and a clock, which, when combined with the Moving Parties' software create an allegedly infringing device. With respect to indirect infringement, Maxim notes that this court's local patent rules do not require a party to disclose indirect infringement contentions, and points to differences between LPR 3.2 and the rules in the Northern District of California, which specifically require "a description of the acts of the alleged indirect infringer that contribute to or are inducing that direct infringement." N.D. Cal. Loc. Pat. R. 3-2. With respect to the DOE, Maxim argues that it only alleged literal infringement, but adequately reserved its rights pursuant to LPR 3.7*fn4 to amend if further discovery reveals that a DOE claim is viable.
The purpose of infringement contentions is to require a party to "crystallize its theories of the case early in the litigation." Best Med. Int'l, Inc. v. Accuray, Inc., No. 10-cv-1043, 2011 WL 3652519 at *3-4 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 19, 2011). This court's local patent rules are "designed to create a streamlined process that hastens resolution on the merits by providing structure to discovery which enables the parties to move efficiently toward claim construction and the eventual resolution of their dispute." Id. at *4 (citing Shared Memory Graphics, LLC v. Apple, Inc., 812 F. Supp. 2d 1022, 1024 (N.D. Cal. 2010)).
Courts interpreting their own local patent rules have noted that "[i]nfringement contentions 'are not intended to be a forum for adjudicating the merits of the plaintiffs [sic] contentions.'" VoxPath RS, LLC v. LG Electronics U.S.A., Inc., No. 12-cv-952, 2012 WL 5818143 at *4 (D. N.J. Nov. 14, 2012) (quoting Linex Tech., Inc. v. Belkin Int'l, Inc., 628 F. Supp. 2d 703, 712 (E.D. Tex. 2008)). Courts are hesitant to "pre-try the case at this procedural stage by conducting a highly detailed and rigorous analysis of the preliminary claim infringement contentions." Id. (citing STMicroelectronics, Inc. v. Motorola, Inc., 308 F. Supp. 2d 754, 756 (E.D. Tex. 2004)). Instead, after allowing "reasonable discovery . . . [courts] will entertain the appropriate motions for supplementation or dismissal." Id.
The Moving Parties are not seeking to strike Maxim's infringement contentions. The relevant issue thus is not whether Maxim's infringement contentions are sufficient under this court's local patent rules, but whether Maxim should be precluded from any future amendment or supplementation of its contentions, essentially "locking it in" to only certain theories of infringement. As Maxim indicates, the Moving Parties filed the present motions just days after the court's initial case management conference and entry of a case management order and before the Moving Parties served their own invalidity contentions. Maxim points out that the Opposing Parties proposed February 19, 2014 as the deadline for amending contentions. (ECF No. 443-1 at 6.) Until that deadline passes, the parties will continue to engage in discovery that may provide Maxim with further information, which, if appropriate, it may use to refine its infringement contentions. That action is expressly permitted by LPR 3.7. It is significant that the proposed deadline for amending infringement contentions would fall after the Markman hearing, which is currently scheduled for September 12, 2013. (ECF No. 521 at 3.) LPR 3.7 provides that "[t]he Court's ruling on claim construction may support a timely amendment or modification of the Infringement Contentions." W.D. Pa. Loc. Pat. R. 3.7. Based upon the early timing of the Moving Parties' motion, the lack of substantive discovery at ...