South Bend, Indiana – Indiana patent attorneys for CeraMedic LLC of Plano, Texas filed an intellectual property lawsuit in the Northern District of Indiana alleging that Biomet, Inc. of Warsaw, Indiana infringed “Sintered Al₂O₃ Material, Process for Its Production and Use of the Material“, Patent No. 6,066,584, which has been issued by the United States Patent Office.
This Indiana patent litigation concerns Patent No. 6,066,584 (the “‘584 patent”), which relates to the field of ceramics and concerns sintered Al₂O₃ compositions and methods for the use of such material as medical implants or tool material.
The ‘584 patent was issued in May 2000 to Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung e.V., Germany (“Fraunhofer”), Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization. CeraMedic states that Fraunhofer, the assignee of over 1,500 U.S. patents, assigned ownership of the ‘584 patent to CeraMedic in early 2014.
CeraMedic indicates that non-party CeramTec GmbH (“CeramTec”) developed and manufactures BIOLOX delta, an aluminum oxide matrix composite ceramic consisting of approximately 82% alumina (Al₂O₃), 17% zirconia (ZrO₂), and other trace elements.
CeraMedic then states that Defendant Biomet “designs, develops, manufactures, offers for sale, sells, uses, distributes, and markets hip implants, many of which include” CeramTec’s BIOLOX delta and that such actions constitute infringement of the ‘584 patent. Biomet is accused of infringing the ‘584 patent directly, literally, and/or by equivalents.
The complaint, filed by Indiana patent lawyers, lists a single count: infringement of the ‘584 patent. CeraMedic asks the court for a judgment against Biomet determining that Biomet has infringed and continues to infringe one or more claims of the ‘584 patent; enjoining Biomet and its agents from further infringing the ‘584 patent; ordering Biomet to account for and pay to CeraMedic all damages suffered by CeraMedic as a consequence of Biomet’s alleged infringement of the ‘584 patent, together with interest and costs; trebling or otherwise increasing CeraMedic’s damages under 35 U.S.C. § 284 upon a finding that the asserted infringement by Biomet of the ‘584 patent was deliberate and willful; and declaring that this case is exceptional and awarding to CeraMedic its costs and attorneys’ fees in accordance with 35 U.S.C. § 285.
The Federal Circuit has somewhat tempered the threat of a finding of willfulness in patent infringement in recent years. In 2007, sitting en banc, it established a heightened standard for willfulness that included an inquiry into whether a defendant’s actions were “objectively reckless” in In re Seagate Technology LLC.
In 2012, in Bard Peripheral Vascular Inc. v. W.L. Gore & Associates Inc., the Federal Circuit removed the threat of findings of willfulness by “runaway juries,” including the uncertainties inherent in the fact that such jury findings would be delayed for many years as patent litigation made its way to trial and finally to a jury verdict. In that case, the Federal Court held that the threshold determination for willful infringement is a question of law and, as such, is to be decided by the trial court.
Nonetheless, compensatory damages in patent infringement litigation can reach seven, eight or even nine figures. Given that a finding of willfulness can treble those damages, patent infringement defendants must not take assertions of willfulness lightly.
The case was filed by James E. Lewis and Michael J. Hays of Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP and John M. Desmarais, Paul A. Bondor, Alex Henriques and Dustin F. Guzior of Demarais LLP. The case assigned to District Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr.(pictured) and Magistrate Judge Christopher A. Nuechterlein in the Northern District of Indiana and assigned Case No. 3:14-cv-1689-RLM-CAN.