Scott Daniels | March 23, 2010

The judges of the Northern District of California are commonly expected to stay patent cases pending completion of reexamination proceedings.  It is also expected that a patentee’s request to stay will be granted.

Judge Claudia Wilken confounded both expectations earlier this month by denying a stay in Optimumpath, L.L.C. v. Belkin Int’l, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25480 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 3, 2010).  The patentee had requested that its infringement case be halted until completion of an inter partes reexamination begun in October 2008.

Judge Wilken began her analysis by noting that discovery was still in its early stages.  On the other hand, the reexamination would be unlikely to simplify the issues since the PTO had refused to reexamine three of the claims asserted by the patentee in the law suit.  Moreover, three of the accused infringers were not parties to the reexamination and thus would not be estopped from restating the prior art defenses presented in the reexamination.

With respect to prejudice, Judge Wilken acknowledged the interest of the accused infringers in obtaining speeding resolution of the litigation, to avoid the accumulation of substantial damages that might result from a long stay.  She also found that a stay would increase the likelihood of a loss of evidence.

Judge Wilken therefore concluded that a balancing of factors required denial of the stay, despite the fact that the request had been made by the patentee.

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