Thursday, December 14, 2006

Akzenta Paneele + Profile GmbH v. Unilin Flooring N.C. LLC (Maryland U.S.D.C.)

Decided December 12, 2006--Opinion by Judge William D. Quarles, Jr.

Patent-owner Akzenta filed suit against Unilin for infringing its patent. Akzenta later amended its complaint to allege infringement of a newly-issued continuation of the first patent. In answering the amended complaint, Defendant Unilin asserted unenforcability due to inequitable conduct as to the second patent and, allegedly for the first time, also as to the first patent. In its inequitable conduct defense, Unilin argued that Akzenta prosecuted the patents without disclosing information suggesting prior use, which would bear on patentability to the PTO.

Akzenta submitted both patents at issue to the PTO for reexamination and moved to stay the litigation pending reexamination of the patents. It also moved to strike portions of Unilin's answer to Akzenta's amended complaint.

The Court denied the stay based on a likelihood of prejudice to Unilin, given that no other factors weighed heavily in favor of or against granting a stay and Akzenta failed to demonstrate that it would suffer any hardship without one. Although Unilin should have sought leave of court to amend the answer as it did, the Court declined to strike any part of the amended answer given the close relationship between the two patents at issue and the Court’s broad discretion in granting leave to amend.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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