Vehicle Operation Technologies LLC v. American Honda Motor Co. Inc., et al., C.A. Nos. 13-537 – RGA; 13-538 – RGA; 13-539 – RGA; 13-540 – RGA; 13-541 – RGA; 13-542 – RGA; 13-712 – RGA, September 12, 2014.
Andrews, J. Defendants’ motion for Rule 11 sanctions was granted in part. Oral argument was heard on June 27, 2014.
Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against six automobile manufacturers. BMW obtained leave to file a Rule 11 during the initial scheduling conference based on claim scope disavowal. The court determined that there was a prosecution disclaimer that would read out the accused vehicles’ displays, noting publicly available manuals indicated certain accused displays were not “a dedicated display” as plaintiff contended. The court further ruled that the surrendered subject matter could not be reclaimed under the DOE. Finally the court found that a reasonable objective pre-suit investigation would have indicated that the present lawsuit was without any merit. Plaintiff’s original outside counsel withdrew prior to the Rule 11 motion being filed and new outside counsel appeared. The court noted that the fact that the new outside counsel did not sign the complaint did not prevent the court from sanctioning them for advocating the unreasonable infringement position, however since the motion was not directed to those attorneys, attorneys’ fees were not awarded. The sanction entered was dismissal of plaintiff’s lawsuit. It further noted that Rule 11 prevents the court from awarding monetary damages against the party. Local counsel’s culpability is on par with that of out of town counsel and counsel must be familiar enough with the relevant law to satisfy the requirements of Rule 11.However, since they were not on notice of the claims against them, fees were similarly not awarded against local counsel.