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Hyatt v. Lee

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 6, 2016

GILBERT P. HYATT, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHELLE K. LEE, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Defendant.

          GILBERT P. HYATT, Plaintiff, represented by Aaron Martin Panner, KELLOGG, HUBER, HANSEN, TODD, EVANS & FIGEL, PLLC & Thomas Baldrige Bennett, KELLOGG, HUBER, HANSEN, TODD, EVANS & FIGEL, PLLC.

          MICHELLE K. LEE, Defendant, represented by John G. Interrante, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Robert Ernest McBride, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY & Thomas W. Krause, SPECIAL ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY OFFICE.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss the case. Defendant argues plaintiff's delays in both federal courts and before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) justify dismissal on one or both of the following grounds: first, pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to prosecute and second, for prosecution laches. For the following reasons the motion to dismiss will be granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In June 1995, Mr. Hyatt filed Patent Application No. 08/471, 702 ("the 702 application"), "Improved Memory Architecture Having A Multiple Buffer Output Arrangement." The 702 application is in part a continuation of other applications dating back to the 1980s. In 1997, after multiple amendments, the patent examiner rejected the 702 application. Mr. Hyatt appealed this decision to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board[1] in 1998. The Board rejected many of Mr. Hyatt's claims and in 2003 he filed an action against the director of the USPTO pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 145.

         This court granted the USPTO's motion for summary judgment while declining to review evidence Mr. Hyatt had not previously presented to the USPTO. The question of considering new evidence was appealed to the Federal Circuit, reheard en banc, and ultimately appealed to the Supreme Court. In 2012, the Supreme Court held that the district court abused its discretion by excluding Mr. Hyatt's new evidence and remanded the case to the Federal Circuit. Hyatt v. Dudas, No. 03-0901, 2005 WL 5569663 (D.D.C. Sept. 30, 2005), aff'd sub nom., Hyatt v. Doll, 576 F.3d 1246 (Fed. Cir. 2009), rev'd en banc sub nom., Hyatt v. Kappos, 625 F.3d 1320 (Fed. Cir. 2010), aff'd and remanded, 132 S.Ct. 1690 (2012).

         For the next three years there was no action in the case. In 2015, plaintiff filed an unopposed motion in the Federal Circuit to remand to the district court, noting the "docket sheet reflects no activity in this case after May 21, 2012." Appellant's Unopposed Mot. Remand Hyatt v. Kappos, 625 F.3d 1320 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (No. 2007-1066), ECF No. 3. Shortly after the case was remanded to this Court, defendant filed the present motion to dismiss.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Defendant identifies two bases for the motion to dismiss, Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and prosecution laches. The legal standards for these doctrines are addressed below.

         A. FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 41(B)

         D.C. Circuit law regarding Rule 41(b) is applicable in this case. Bd. of Tr.s of Leland Stanford Junior Univ. v. Motorola, Inc., 314 F.Appx. 284, 287 (Fed. Cir. 2008) ("A dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) is a procedural issue not unique to patent law, which we review under regional circuit law." (citing Mitutoyo Corp. v. Cent. Purchasing, LLC, 499 F.3d 1284, 1290 (Fed. Cir. 2007); Bowling v. Hasbro, Inc., 403 F.3d 1373, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2005))).

         The D.C. Circuit has articulated three justifications for dismissal under 41(b): (1) prejudice to the other party; (2) failure of alternative sanctions to mitigate the severe burden that the misconduct has placed on the judicial system; and (3) deterrence of future misconduct. Gardner v. United States,211 F.3d 1305, 1309 (D.C. Cir. 2000). Dismissal under Rule 41(b) is a "harsh sanction" that must be "necessary under the circumstances of th[e] case." English-Speaking Union v. Johnson, 353 F.3d 1013, 1016 (D.C. Cir. 2004). It is "ordinarily limited to cases involving egregious conduct by particularly dilatory plaintiffs, after less dire alternatives' have been tried ...


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