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LANS v. GATEWAY 2000

September 30, 2005.

HAKAN LANS, Plaintiff,
v.
GATEWAY 2000, INC. Defendant. UNIBOARD AKTIEBOLAG Plaintiff, v. ACER AMERICA CORP. et al. Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN PENN, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court pursuant to Gateway 2000, Inc.'s Petition For Attorney's Fees And Supporting Memorandum [#s 131, 118]. Gateway 2000, Inc. is seeking attorneys fees and costs, including pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. As explained more fully below, the Court concludes that Gateway should be awarded a specified amount in attorneys fees, costs, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, with various deductions.

BACKGROUND

  On September 6, 2001, the Court granted Gateway 2000, Inc.'s ("Gateway") Motion for Attorneys Fees against Hakan Lans ("Lans") and Uniboard Aktiebolag ("Uniboard").*fn1 Gateway subsequently filed it's fee petition against Lans and Uniboard ("Plaintiffs") on November 29, 2001. However, on January 14, 2002, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the September 6, 2001 order. The Court denied plaintiffs' motion on June 23, 2005; after which Gateway filed a supplemental petition for fees, costs, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.

  In Gateway's first petition ("Petition I"), Gateway requests $932,376.54 in attorneys fees, $35,661.72 in expenses, plus pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. Gateway's supplemental petition ("Petition II") requests $175,266.98 in attorneys fees, $9,266.21 in expenses, and post-judgment interest.

  DISCUSSION

  I. Standard for Determining Attorney Fee Awards

  When assessing whether an attorney fee request is reasonable, the court must multiply the number of hours expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate. Bolden v. J & R, Inc., 135 F.Supp.2d 177, 179 (D.D.C. 2001), citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 1939 (1983). An attorney's billing rate is presumed reasonable if it is "in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation." Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Hodel, 273 U.S.App.D.C. 78, 80-81, 857 F.2d 1516, 1518-19 (1988).

  The fee applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award, and documenting the appropriate hours expended and the hourly rates. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437, 103 S.Ct. at 1941. The documentation must be sufficient in detail and probative value to allow the court to determine, with a high degree of certainty, that such hours were actually and reasonably expended. Role Models America v. Brownlee, 359 U.S.App.D.C. 237, 353 F.3d 962, 970 (2004). "Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433, 103 S.Ct. at 1939. Hence, counsel for the prevailing party should make a good faith effort to exclude hours that are excessive, redundant, or unnecessary. Id. at 434, 1939.

  II. Gateway's Petitions

  A. Reasonableness of Hourly Rates

  Plaintiffs claim that the hourly rates in Petitions I and II are unreasonable and not properly supported. They argue that the rates of Gateway's counsel are significantly above the rates specified in the American Intellectual Property Law Association ("AIPLA") surveys for the relevant billing years, and therefore the fee petitions should be reduced by at least 35 percent. See Pls.' Opp. at 8-9; See also Pls.' Opp. To Suppl. at 5-7. In support of Petition I, Gateway submitted a declaration from it's lead counsel stating that the rates charged in the Lans/Uniboard litigation are commensurate with the rates charged by the firm in other complex patent litigation. See Cullum Decl. at ¶ 21. Gateway also submitted a declaration from a partner at a Washington, D.C. based law firm stating that the fees charged by Gateway's counsel are reasonable for the Washington, D.C. area. See Berger Decl. Nonetheless, the AIPLA surveys show that the rates of some of Gateway's counsel are well above the 75th percentile for attorneys of comparable experience. See Pls.' Opp. at 9, Ex.1; See also Pls.' Opp. To Suppl. at 5-7, Ex. I. Courts look to the AIPLA survey because it takes into account the practice area and experience of the attorney. See Mathis v. Spears, 857 F.2d 749, 757 (Fed. Cir. 1988). Accordingly, Gateway's attorney fees shall be reduced by 10 percent in both Petitions.

  B. Vague Entries

  Plaintiffs claim that some of the time entries in Petitions I and II contain descriptions that are improperly vague. See Pls.' Opp. at 4; See also Pls.' Opp. To Suppl. at 4. Petition I includes such vague entries as "telephone conference," and "review documents." Id. This circuit has held that such "generic time entries are inadequate to meet a fee applicant's `heavy obligation to present well-documented claims.'" Role Models, 353 F.3d at 971, quoting Kennecott Corp. v. EPA, 256 U.S.App.D.C. 218, 222, 804 F.2d 763, 767 (1986). Accordingly, Petition I shall ...


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