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Dismissal With Prejudice and Patent Law

On Behalf of | Oct 29, 2021 | Patent Law

When an inventor obtains a patent, they secure the exclusive right to the patented process, design, or invention for a specific period. In exchange, the inventor must give a comprehensive disclosure of the invention. There are three main types of patents recognized under federal law — utility patents, design patterns, and plant patents. 

Obtaining a patent through the US Trademark and Patent Office is only the first step in protecting your intellectual property. You may need to enforce your patent by bringing a lawsuit against the person or company infringing upon your patent. Doing so can result in patent litigation in court. In some cases, a court will dismiss with prejudice a patent claim. Judges have a right to dismiss a case with prejudice, meaning that it has been permanently dismissed. Once a judge dismisses a case with prejudice, it is over and done once and for all. The losing party cannot bring the case back to court.

The Patent Litigation Process

First, we will describe the patent litigation process. The first step in patent litigation is typically the demand letter. The demand letter notifies another business or person that the patent owner believes the business has infringed on one or more patents. The demand letter typically identifies the patents and describes why the patent owner believes that the business is infringing upon the patent rights.

Next, the plaintiff will file a complaint. A complaint is a legal document that the plaintiff filed with the appropriate court to start the lawsuit. The complaint should provide the defendant with notice of the plaintiff’s claims. The complaint contains enough information for the defendant to be able to understand the arguments and respond. Providing enough information is a low bar in patent cases.

The plaintiff needs to name the patent in question and provide a vague description of what the defendant is allegedly doing to infringe upon that patent. The defendant must answer the complaint. If the defendant does not answer the complaint here, she could risk a default judgment. In this case, the plaintiff would automatically win. The defendant can also move for a judgment on the pleadings.

Dismissal in a Judgment on the Pleadings

The judge can dismiss the case after the complaint has been filed. The defendant needs to convince the judge that even if everything the plaintiff alleges in the complaint is true, the plaintiff still does not have a valid claim. In patent litigation, one of the most common ways to obtain a dismissal at this point is to argue that the patent is a non-patentable subject matter. The defendant can request that the court dismiss the case on the pleadings at this point. This is a long shot, however.

Discovery and Claim Construction

If the judge does not dismiss the case, the defendant will file an answer addressing all of the legal arguments brought forth in the complaint. The judge will set a length of time for the discovery process and a target date for the trial. The case will move on to the discovery phase. During the discovery process, the parties will request information from each other, take depositions, exchange documents, and answer questions called interrogatories. The discovery process also includes experts who are critical in patent cases. Experts will argue whether the defendant infringed on the patent and whether the patents are legally valid.

During the discovery process, the parties will focus on claim construction. All parties will go through the claims process and propose their definitions to each other. They usually end up agreeing on many of the terms so that the judge only has to decide on a few claims. They will write their legal briefs and argue at a hearing to advocate for their meanings. The judge has the right to adopt either party’s definition or adopt neither of their definitions.

Summary Judgment

At this stage, one party may motion for summary judgment. If both parties and the judge agree that a product uses a particular standard, the only legal issue left in the case may be whether the patent in suit covers the standard. When the judge decides that no reasonable jury could find that the patent covers this standard, the judge may grant summary judgment on non-infringement. In other words, the judge would decide that no one infringement has occurred. Some judges do not like summary judgment motions because they think litigation always comes down to dueling experts. If the judge does allow one party to file for summary judgment, they may delay the trial until their ruling.

Dismissal With or Without Prejudice

If the case makes it to the trial, the judge will hear evidence from both sides. Trials are expensive and risky, so both parties may try to settle the matter before it is subjected to trial. At the end of the trial, the judge will issue a verdict or ruling. One party may win completely, or there may be a mixed result. The parties may ask the judge for a new trial and/or to issue their judgment as a matter of law on some or all of the legal issues.

The judge can dismiss the case with prejudice or without prejudice. When a case is dismissed with prejudice, it means that it is dismissed permanently. After a judge dismisses a case with prejudice, the losing party cannot bring the case back to court. A case dismissed without prejudice means the opposite. It is not dismissed forever. The plaintiff can try again in court. When cases are dismissed by a judge involuntarily, it is against the person’s wishes who brought the case. In most cases, voluntary dismissal occurs when the judge decides the case cannot go forward because of a legal issue.

Contact a Skilled Patent Lawyer Today

Do you have questions about patent litigation, including dismissals with and without prejudice? If so, the skilled patent lawyers atAU LLC, are here to help. We have successfully represented clients in Chicago and throughout the US. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.