"A failure by counsel for a patent plaintiff to adequately investigate its allegation of infringement led a North Carolina federal judge on July 13 to deem the case exceptional for purposes of an award of attorney fees (Precision Links Inc. v. USA Products Group Inc. and Home Depot Inc., No. 08-576, W.D. N.C.).
According to U.S. Judge Martin Reidinger of the Western District of North Carolina, the claim interpretation offered by plaintiff Precision Links Inc. "found no support either in the plain language of the claims or the intrinsic record of the patent at issue and was therefore frivolous."
What's more, the judge wrote that Precision's bad faith is "further evidenced" by the opinion of counsel it obtained, including an analysis that contained no explanation regarding claim construction or application of the claim limitations to the accused product.
Precision is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,673,464, titled "Cargo Securement System and Tie Down Strap," which relates to a tie-down strap used to restrain cargo during transport. Defendant USA Products Group Inc. sold the accused "Cargo Boss" cargo strap to co-defendant Home Depot USA Inc., leading Precision to file the instant lawsuit asserting infringement. The case was ultimately resolved on summary judgment in the defendants' favor following claim construction by Judge Reidinger of several disputed terms, including "dimensioned for the passage therethrough," a phrase that appears in each of the independent claims to describe the openings of the claimed strap."
Steve M. Levitan and Jason M. Gonder of Haynes and Boone were lead counsel for the defendants, USA Products Group and Home Depot.
Excerpted from Mealey's Litigation Report, August 5, 2011. To view the full article, click here (fee required).