In an exemplary ruling, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has ordered the so-called patent troll, Lumen View Technology, LLC (“Lumen”), to pay opposing party FindTheBest.com’s legal fees and other expenses under the fee-shifting provision of 35 U.S.C. § 285. See Lumen View Technology, LLC v. FindTheBest.com, Inc., 1:13-cv-3599 (DLC) (SDNY 2014).
Lumen filed suit against FindTheBest in May 2013 alleging FindTheBest infringed on a computer-implemented method patent that facilitated bilateral and multilateral decision-making. Lumen also filed more than twenty other similar patent infringement claims against various other technology companies during 2012 and 2013. FindTheBest quickly noticed the Lumen claim was a sham due to the fact that FindTheBest technology did not use a bilateral or multilateral decision-making process. The Southern District found Lumen’s suit to be without merit and dismissed the case in November 2013.
After the dismissal, FindTheBest petitioned the court to find Lumen’s suit one of an “exceptional case” under Section 285 and the recent Supreme Court ruling in Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1749 (2014).
In the April 2014 unanimous decision penned by Justice Sotomayor, the Supreme Court ruled that an “exceptional case” under § 285 is one that stands out from others with respect to a party’s litigating position, considering the law and the facts of the case, or the unreasonable manner in which the case was litigated. See Octane Fitness, LLC, 134 S. Ct. at 1756.
The Court found the previous standard in Brooks Furniture Manufactuirng, Inc. v. Dutailier Int’l, Inc., 393 F. 3d 1378 (2005), to be overly restrictive and one that hampered the statutory grant of discretion given to the courts under Section 285. Section 285 imposes only one constraint on a district court’s discretion to award fees, one of “exceptional” cases. In Brooks, a case could only be deemed exceptional when there was material inappropriate conduct, or when parties brought cases in subjective bad faith and were objectively baseless. The Court found this framework to be inconsistent with the text of Section 285.
In step with the Supreme Court’s Octane decision, the Southern District found Lumen’s patent infringement suit to fall under the “exceptional case” standard. As such, the Southern District of New York granted FindTheBest’s motion and found the suit to be a “prototypical exceptional case” shifting payment of FindTheBest’s case fees to Lumen.