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Anglefix, LLC v. Wright Medical Technology, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

July 13, 2017

ANGLEFIX, LLC, and THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA Plaintiffs,
v.
WRIGHT MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER CONCERNING MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OF INFRINGEMENT/NON-INFRINGEMENT AND INVALDITY AND MOTION TO DISMISS

          JON P. McCALLA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This case concerns alleged infringement of United States Patent No. 6, 955, 677 (the “'677 Patent”). Before the Court is Plaintiffs Anglefix, LLC and the University of North Carolina (collectively, “Plaintiffs”)'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment of Infringement on Apparatus claims 11, 12, 33, 34, 47, 48, 65 and 66 of the '677 Patent. Defendant Wright Medical Technology, Inc. opposed. (ECF No. 165.) Also before the Court is Defendant's Motions for Summary Judgment of Invalidity (ECF No. 155) and of Non-Infringement of the ‘677 Patent (ECF No. 157). Plaintiffs filed responses in opposition. (ECF Nos. 197-98.) Defendant replied. (ECF Nos. 208-09.)

         For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Infringement; DENIES Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment of Invalidity; and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment of Non-Infringement. The Court also DENIES Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         This case involves the alleged infringement of the following patent on a “multi-angular plate and screw system, ” developed by Dr. Laurence E. Dahners (Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 5):

U.S. PATENT NUMBER

ISSUED

PATENT

6, 955, 677 (“the '677 Patent”)

October 18, 2005

Multi-angular Fastening Apparatus and

Method for Surgical Bone Screw/Plate Systems

(Id. ¶¶ 5, 8.) Plaintiff Anglefix asserts that it is the exclusive licensee of the '677 Patent. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (“UNC”) asserts that it is the owner by assignment of the '677 Patent. (ECF No. 216 ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendant manufactures and distributes medical products that infringe one or more of the claims of the '677 Patent (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 9, 12, 16). Plaintiffs also allege that Defendant contributorily infringes (id. ¶ 13) and induces others to infringe at least one claim of the '677 Patent (id. ¶ 14). The accused products are:

• CLAW II - Polyaxial Compression Plating System 3DSi
• ORTHOLOC Forefoot Fracture System
• ORTHOLOC Calcaneal Fracture System
• ORTHOLOC 3Di Foot Reconstruction System - Midfoot
• ORTHOLOC 3Di Ankle Fracture System
• ORTHOLOC 3Di Ankle Fusion Plate System
• ORTHOLOC 3Di Foot Reconstruction System

         B. Procedural Background

         The Complaint for this action was filed by Plaintiff Anglefix, LLC on June 11, 2013. (ECF No. 1.) On September 20, 2013, Defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint and Counterclaims. (ECF No. 7.) On April 14, 2014, Defendant filed a petition with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) for inter partes review (“IPR”) before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) seeking review of the '677 Patent. (ECF No. 21-1 at 2.) Defendant's petition was filed one week after the PTO granted IPR for the '677 Patent in the parallel case, AngleFix Tech, LLC. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., No. 2:13-cv-02281-JPM-tmp (W.D. Tenn.). On May 1, 2014, the Court granted the Motion to Stay in the parallel case based on the PTO's decision to grant the petition for IPR. (AngleFix Tech, LLC. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., No. 2:13-cv-02281-JPM-tmp (W.D. Tenn.), ECF No. 53.)

         On June 26, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion to Stay Pending IPR. (AngleFix Tech, LLC v. Wright Med. Tech., Inc., No. 2:13-cv-02407-JPM-tmp (W.D. Tenn.), ECF No. 21.) On July 14, 2014, Plaintiff AngleFix LLC filed its Response to Defendant's Motion to Stay. (ECF No. 22.) Defendant filed a Reply on July 22, 2014. (ECF No. 29.)

         On July 15, 2014, both parties filed opening claim construction briefs. (ECF Nos. 23, 24.) On August 15, 2014, both parties filed responsive claim construction briefs. (ECF Nos. 32, 33.) The parties filed a Joint Claim Construction and Prehearing Statement on August 29, 2014. (ECF No. 34.) On October 7, 2014, the Claim Construction Hearing was reset to November 14, 2014. (ECF No. 39.) On the same day, Plaintiff Anglefix, LLC filed notice with the Court that the PTO had granted Defendant's IPR with regard to twenty-seven of the thirty-nine '677 Patent's claims. (ECF No. 40 at 1.) On October 8, 2014, the Court ordered the parties to file a Joint Status Report in light of the PTO's decision to grant IPR. (ECF No. 41.) The parties filed the Joint Status Report on October 15, 2014. (ECF No. 42.) The Court granted the Motion to Stay Pending IPR on October, 22, 2014. (ECF No. 44.)

         On March 29, 2015, Plaintiff Anglefix, LLC filed a Motion to allow Plaintiff to voluntarily withdraw the twenty-seven claims under IPR and to lift the stay pending IPR on the remaining twelve claims (“Motion to Lift the Stay Pending IPR”). (ECF No. 45.) Defendant filed its Response in Opposition on April 9, 2015. (ECF No. 46.) On May 6, 2015, the Court filed an Order for Clarification as to whether the withdrawal of the twenty-seven claims would be with prejudice. (ECF No. 47.) On May 21, 2015, Plaintiff Anglefix, LLC filed Notice with the Court that the withdrawal of the claims would be with prejudice. (ECF No. 48.) The Court denied the Motion to Lift the Stay Pending IPR on June 12, 2015. (ECF No. 49.) On July 6, 2015, Defendant filed the Judgment and Final Written Decision in the IPR by PTAB. (ECF No. 50.) The decision was based on the patent owner's disclaiming of all the claims under review by PTAB. (See id.)

         On July 17, 2015, Plaintiff Anglefix, LLC filed an Answer to Defendant's counterclaims, denying Defendant's allegations of non-infringement and invalidity. (ECF No. 53.)

         On September 28, 2015, the Court held a Claim Construction Hearing. (ECF No. 67.) On October 5, 2015, Defendant filed a Supplemental Claim Construction Brief on the use of the word “permanent” in Defendant's construction of the terms “tap, ” “tapped, ” or “tapping.” (ECF No. 70.) On October 12, 2015, Plaintiff filed a responsive post-hearing brief. (ECF No. 71.) On December 30, 2015, the Court entered its Order Following Claim Construction Hearing. (ECF No. 93.) The Court construed the following five terms:

CLAIM TERM

COURT'S CONSTRUCTION

Non-threaded

“without a continuous or intermittent helical feature on the inner surface of the hole which has a fixed engagement configuration with a helical feature on the surface of the screw”

Tappable contact region

“untapped region of material structured to engage the threaded head of a fastener to tap the region at a desired, non-predetermined angle”

Tap, tapped, tapping

“create a custom internal thread in a material in response to forceful insertion and rotation of a head section”

Variable insertion angle

Plain and ordinary meaning: “the angle between the screw and the bone plate can vary”

Threading

Plain and ordinary meaning: “forming or engaging a thread”

(Id. at PageIDs 2559-60.)

         On April 25, 2016, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment for lack of standing. (ECF No. 130.) Plaintiff Anglefix responded in opposition on May 11, 2016. (ECF No. 146.) Defendant filed a reply brief on May 31, 2016. (ECF No. 153.) The Court held a motion hearing on June 21, 2016. (Min. Entry, ECF No. 164.)

         Plaintiff Anglefix filed a motion for summary judgment of infringement on May 23, 2016. (ECF No. 150.) Defendant filed a Motion to Strike the Expert Reports of Matthew Davies and Preclude Him from Offering Expert Testimony in this Case on May 31, 2016. (ECF No. 154.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition on June 26, 2016. (ECF No. 170.)

         On June 27, 2016, the Court denied Defendant's motion for summary judgment for lack of constitutional standing, but granted summary judgment for lack of prudential standing. (ECF No. 169.) The Court afforded Plaintiff Anglefix thirty days to join the rightful patent owner, the University of Northern Carolina (“UNC”). (Id. at PageID 6227.) The Court stayed the action until UNC was joined as a co-plaintiff. (Id.)

         On July 25, 2016, AngleFix filed a motion, not to join UNC as a co-plaintiff, but to use a Waiver of Claims (hereinafter “the Waiver” or “UNC's Waiver”) from UNC as a substitute for joinder. (ECF No. 171.) Defendant responded in opposition on July 27, 2016. (ECF No. 172.) On August 2, 2016, the Court denied AngleFix's motion to accept UNC's Waiver in place of the joinder of UNC as a party in the instant litigation. (ECF No. 175.)

         On September 15, 2016, AngleFix filed a motion to join UNC as a co-plaintiff. (ECF No. 176.) Defendant opposed the motion on October 5, 2016. (ECF No. 180.) Anglefix filed a reply on October 14, 2016 (ECF No. 183), and Defendant filed a sur-reply with leave of Court on October 18, 2016 (ECF No. 186). On November 3, 2016, the Court held a telephonic motion hearing. (Min. Entry, ECF No. 189.)

         On November 15, 2016, the Court entered an Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion to Intervene, Denying Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment for Lack of Standing, and Lifting Stay. (ECF No. 191.)

         On November 23, 2016, Defendant sought leave to file a reply in support of its Motion to Strike the Expert Reports of Matthew Davies and Preclude Him from Offering Expert Testimony in this Case (ECF No. 154). (ECF No. 195.) The Court granted leave on December 2, 2016. (ECF No. 201.) On December 5, 2016, Plaintiff, along with newly joined co-plaintiff UNC, moved for leave to file a sur-reply to Defendant's reply concerning Expert Matthew Davies. (ECF No. 203.) Defendant filed a response in opposition to this request, stating that Plaintiffs failed to comport with multiple local rules, e.g., failure to consult prior to filing, and that Plaintiffs' motion failed to cite any authority. (ECF No. 205.)

         On December 15, 2016, Defendant filed its Reply Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment of Non-Infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6, 995, 677 (ECF No. 157). (ECF No. 208.) The same day, Defendant filed its Reply to its Motion For Summary Judgment of Invalidity (ECF No. 155). (ECF No. 209.)

         The Court held a Telephonic Status Conference on December 21, 2016. (Min. Entry, ECF No. 210.) The same day, the Court entered an Order Setting Schedule for Amended Complaint and Pending Motions Hearing. (ECF No. 212.) On January 18, 2017, Plaintiffs Anglefix and UNC filed an Amended Complaint, which brought the same claims as the original Complaint (ECF No. 1), but included UNC as a party. (ECF No. 216.) The Court held a motions hearing on January 31, 2017. (Min. Entry, ECF No. 219.)

         On February 1, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 221.) Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition on February 15, 2017. (ECF No. 226.)[1]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A party is entitled to summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is ‘material' for purposes of summary judgment if proof of that fact would establish or refute an essential element of the cause of action or defense.” Bruederle v. Louisville Metro Gov't, 687 F.3d 771, 776 (6th Cir. 2012).

         “In considering a motion for summary judgment, [the] court construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 614 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). “The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact.” Moshol ...


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