Issue 05/7 | February 17, 2005
Jury Verdict Of $814,000 Affirmed Where Rule 50 JMOL Was Insufficient

A Rule 50 JMOL movant must specifically set forth the factual basis on which judgment should be granted before a case is given to a jury. Failure to present specific facts during trial supporting a judgment, failure to set forth those facts with specificity in a Rule 50 motion, and failure to object to a general jury instruction (that did not distinguish between facts supporting a judgment and those which did not), were all factors that led the federal circuit to affirm the denial of a JMOL motion seeking to avoid an $814,000 jury award.

In Junker v. Eddings et al., Nos. 04-1208, -1271 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2005), the federal circuit affirmed a district court decision holding Junker's design patent not valid and willfully infringed, but vacated an award of attorney's fees as not substantiated by the evidence.

Junker's '839 design patent covered the ornamental features of an introducer sheath useful for the insertion of medical catheters. Junker first disclosed the idea for his sheath to Eddings (in his capacity as president of Galt Medical Corp.), Galt Medical Corp., and Xentek Medical, Inc. in 1988. Thereafter, Galt obtained a utility patent (naming a different inventor) on an introducer sheath based on Junker's design. Junker sued Galt for design patent infringement after Galt began commercializing introducers using Junker's design, and a jury awarded Junker $814,000. The district court also awarded $275,000 in attorneys' fees to Junker.

On appeal, Galt argued the '839 patent was invalid under §102 because Junker was not the first to invent a number of features shown in the claimed design. But the federal circuit rejected Galt's argument for failure to have raised its §102 arguments with sufficient specificity in its JMOL motions. According to the court, Galt's motion for JMOL of invalidity of "the design" claimed in the '839 patent made before the case was submitted to the jury was deficient under Rule 50, particularly where -- in a subsequent post-verdict JMOL motion -- specific features of the design allegedly not made by Junker (e.g., "unswept appearance," "rounded side edges") were added as a basis of invalidity. Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(2) requires a JMOL movant to specify the facts on which he is entitled to judgment, which Galt did not do by general reference to the invalidity of "the design." Nor had Galt offered evidence at trial as to the specific ornamental features of the '839 patent as the basis for invalidation.

The federal circuit reversed the damages award as not sustained by the evidence. There was no factual basis for the district court's award of more than twice the amount of attorney's fees, which were apparently awarded based on arguments of counsel.

Finally, the federal circuit rejected Junker's argument that a constructive trust should be imposed on the Galt's '914 utility patent because there was insufficient evidence of either (1) a confidential relationship between Junker and Galt, or (2) actual fraud, both required under Texas law.

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To discuss these topics further, please feel free to contact the author Michael R. Dzwonczyk, (mdzwonczyk@sughrue.com), at Sughrue Mion, PLLC in Washington DC, USA.

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