Appellate Traffic Control

Arlington Industries, Inc. v. Bridgeport Fittings, Inc., Nos. 2010-1377, -1400, -1408 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 4, 2011) (Judges Bryson, Schall, and Prost) (nonprecedential order)

This order is a great example of why parties should consolidate cases that involve the same parties, patents, and claims. When you have two cases running on different tracks, both appellate and district courts have to do a lot of maneuvering to ensure both cases reach the right destination—or to avoid a train wreck.

In one of our first ever blog posts, we told you about the overlapping patent litigations between Arlington Industries and Bridgeport Fittings. The court had to resolve a situation where two judges interpreted the same claim term two different ways. The Federal Circuit put this appeal—we’ll call it Arlington I—on hold while the other one—which we’ll call Arlington II—moved forward. In Arlington II, the Federal Circuit determined the correct claim construction and sent the case back to the district court. The Federal Circuit then asked Arlington and Bridgeport how they wanted to proceed with Arlington I. The parties agreed to lift the stay and file their appeal briefs for Arlington I.

Back at the district court, Arlington asked the Arlington I court to vacate (cancel) the part of its earlier judgment that certain Bridgeport products, Duplex Connectors, didn’t infringe Arlington’s patent. Even though the Arlington I case is in the middle of appeal proceedings, rule 62.1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a trial court to say what it would do about Arlington Industries’ motion if the Federal Circuit sent the case back to the trial court—whether it will (1) wait and decide the motion later, (2) deny the motion, or (3) grant the motion. The district court said that it would grant the motion. Arlington and Bridgeport agreed that, if the district court granted Arlington’s motion, the parties would dismiss the Duplex Connectors part of the Arlington I case.

Next, based on the outcome of the district court activity, Arlington asked the Federal Circuit to remand (send back) that part of the Arlington I case to the district court. The Federal Circuit, in its November 4, 2011 order, granted Arlington’s remand request.

So, now that this order has issued, the status of the Arlington cases is:

The Arlington I case will go back to the district court. The district court will vacate its judgment about Duplex Connectors. The parties will dismiss the Duplex Connectors claims without prejudice (which means Arlington can bring them again later).

The Arlington II case is moving forward at the district court with the correct claim constructions from the Federal Circuit’s opinion in January.

As you can see, that’s a lot of court involvement just to make sure both cases are on the right track.

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