Plexxikon Inc. v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation

Filing 416

ORDER by Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. GRANTING 179 MOTION TOSTRIKE PORTIONS OF EXPERT REPORT. **REDACTED VERSION** (ndrS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/10/2020)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 PLEXXIKON INC., Plaintiff, 8 v. 9 10 11 NOVARTIS PHARMACEUTICALS CORPORATION, United States District Court Northern District of California Defendant. Case No. 17-cv-04405-HSG ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF EXPERT REPORT REDACTED VERSION Re: Dkt. No. 179 12 Pending before the Court is Defendant Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s motion to strike 13 14 portions of the expert report by Dr. Michael L. Metzker. The Court heard argument on this 15 motion on November 1, 2019. See Dkt. No. 341. As indicated during the hearing and as detailed 16 below, the Court GRANTS the motion. 17 18 I. BACKGROUND Plaintiff Plexxikon, Inc. accuses Defendant’s drug Tafinlar® of infringing two of its 19 patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 9,469,640 (the ’640 Patent) and U.S. Patent No. 9,844,539 (the ’539 20 Patent). Both patents claim priority to a common provisional patent application filed on July 17, 21 2007. However, in its infringement contentions, dated January 2, 2018, Plaintiff contended that 22 both the ’640 Patent and the ’539 Patent are entitled to a priority date “at least as early as March 23 10, 2005” based on “a project meeting held on that date” during which “the inventors conceived of 24 the claimed invention.” See Dkt. No. 179-4, Ex. 2 at 8–9. As required by Patent L.R. 3-2(b), 25 Plaintiff concurrently produced documents in support of its claim to this earlier priority date. See 26 id. On April 25, 2018, Plaintiff served amended infringement contentions. See Dkt. No. 179-6, 27 Ex. 4. However, Plaintiff reiterated that it was “entitled to a priority date at least as early as March 28 10, 2005.” Id. at 8–9. On June 25, 2018, Plaintiff served Defendant with a supplemental interrogatory response, 1 2 which again asserted that “[t]he subject matter of the Asserted Claims was conceived at least as of 3 March 10, 2005, for at least the reason that the inventors conceived of the claimed invention at 4 least as of a project meeting held on that date.” See Dkt. No. 179-7, Ex. 5 at 12. For the first time, 5 Plaintiff also noted that “[t]he inventors’ conception is further shown, along with constructive 6 reduction to practice, by draft patent applications and claims prepared before the dates” of 7 Defendant’s proffered prior art references, including one dated February 16, 2007. See id. at 14. 8 Plaintiff did not, however, amend its infringement contentions to identify another priority date. On March 14, 2019, Plaintiff served Dr. Metzker’s rebuttal report. See Dkt. No. 179-3, Ex. 9 1. The report set forth, inter alia, Dr. Metzker’s opinions regarding the priority date of the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 asserted claims. See id. at ¶ 5(c). Although Dr. Metzker offers support for Plaintiff’s March 2005 12 priority date,1 in the alternative he contends that “the inventors of the ’640 and ’539 patents 13 conceived of the inventions of those claims by no later than February 2, 2007, when a draft patent 14 application delineating virtually all the claimed compounds was drafted . . . .” Id. at ¶ 23 15 (emphasis added); see also id. at ¶¶ 5(c), 57–69, 81. Defendant moves to strike portions of Dr. Metzker’s rebuttal expert report to the extent he 16 17 proffers an alternative priority date of February 2, 2007. See Dkt. No. 179. Defendant contends 18 that Plaintiff failed to disclose this theory and the supporting documentation in its infringement 19 contentions as required under Patent L.R. 3-2(b). See id. at 2. 20 II. LEGAL STANDARD 21 Under Patent L.R. 3-1, Plaintiff is required to serve its infringement contentions on all 22 parties and such contentions must include, inter alia, “the priority date to which each asserted 23 claim allegedly is entitled” and “[a]ll documents evidencing the conception.” See Patent L.R. 3- 24 1(f); 3-2(b). The Court set January 2, 2018, as the deadline for Plaintiff’s infringement 25 26 27 28 1 Dr. Metzker asserts that the “inventions of claim 1 of the ’640 Patent and claim 1 of the ’539 Patent were reduced to practice by March 18, 2005,” and that they were conceived of by March 14, 2005, rather than March 10, 2005. See Dkt. No. 179-3, Ex. 1 at ¶¶ 5(c), 23. However, Defendant does not appear to challenge this slight variation, stating instead that it “is a ‘permissible application’ of Plexxikon’s disclosed March 10, 2005 theory.” See Dkt. Nos. 179 at 7, n.4. 2 1 contentions. See Dkt. No. 57. 2 As this Court has previously noted, “‘[t]he Northern District of California’s Patent Local 3 Rules exist to further the goal of full and timely discovery and provide all parties with adequate 4 notice and information with which to litigate their cases.’” Finjan, Inc. v. Proofpoint, Inc., No. 5 13-cv-05808-HSG, 2015 WL 9460295, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 23, 2015) (quoting Verinata Health 6 Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc., No. C 12-00865 SI, 2014 WL 4100638, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 20, 2014)). 7 “‘The rules are designed to require parties to crystallize their theories of the case early in the 8 litigation and to adhere to those theories once they have been disclosed.’” Id. (quoting Verinata 9 Health, 2014 WL 4100638, at *1). The Court has wide discretion to manage its cases, including in the application of the Patent Local Rules. SanDisk Corp. v. Memorex Prods., Inc., 415 F.3d 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 1287, 1292 (Fed. Cir. 2005). 12 III. DISCUSSION 13 Plaintiff responds that by listing March 10, 2005, as the earliest priority date to which each 14 asserted claim is allegedly entitled, Plaintiff complied with the Patent Local Rules and the Court’s 15 scheduling order. See Dkt. No. 208 at 1. Plaintiff urges that Dr. Metzker’s rebuttal report 16 maintains the March 2005 priority date, but simply proffers intermediate dates—namely, February 17 2, 2007—in response to Defendant’s prior art references. During the hearing on this motion, 18 Plaintiff also argued that the draft patent applications, on which these intermediate priority dates 19 are premised, are privileged. Plaintiff explained that although it ultimately decided to waive 20 privilege, it would be unreasonable to expect Plaintiff to make such privilege waiver 21 determinations so early in the course of this litigation. See Dkt. No. 341 (“Hearing Tr.”) at 47:24– 22 53:3. The Court addresses each argument in turn. 23 A. 24 As an initial matter, Plaintiff appears to concede—as it must—that it did not explicitly 25 identify February 2, 2007, as an alternative priority date in the infringement contentions that it 26 served on January 2, 2018. See Dkt. No. 208 at 8 (arguing that it was not required to disclose “the 27 possibility that it might rely on a later priority date as an alternative position”). Plaintiff 28 nevertheless raises several arguments that it properly complied with its obligations under Patent Patent Local Rules 3 1 L.R. 3-2(b), and should not be precluded from relying on the February 2, 2007 priority date. First, Plaintiff reads the Patent Local Rules as requiring disclosure of only the earliest of 2 3 all possible priority dates. See Dkt. No. 208 at 6–9. Plaintiff thus contends that it was free to rely 4 on a later priority date in response to Defendant’s invalidity arguments, even one almost two years 5 after the identified March 10, 2005, priority date. Id. Plaintiff suggests that this would not 6 prejudice Defendant or frustrate the purpose of the Patent Local Rules because, armed with the 7 earliest possible priority date, Defendant could identify all prior art relevant to its invalidity 8 contentions. Id. at 8–9. But Plaintiff’s interpretation cannot be squared with the plain language of the Patent Local 9 Rules. Rule 3-1(f) requires a party claiming patent infringement to identify “the priority date to 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 which each asserted claim allegedly is entitled.” See Patent L.R. 3-1(f) (emphasis added). It does 12 not request the “earliest priority date” or even “a priority date.” Similarly, Rule 3-2(b) requires a 13 party claiming patent infringement to produce “[a]ll documents evidencing the conception, 14 reduction to practice, design, and development of each claimed invention, which were created on 15 or before the priority date identified pursuant to Patent L.R. 3-1(f).” Patent L.R. 3-2(b) (emphasis 16 added). The Rules plainly require Plaintiff to identify specific dates, and not simply a range of 17 dates running from the earliest possible priority date through to some unidentified end date. 18 Accord Finjan, Inc. v. Zscaler, Inc., No. 17-cv-06946-JST (KAW), 2019 WL 1528422 (N.D. Cal. 19 April 9, 2019) (“[C]ourts in this district have held that the Patent Local Rules require[] a patent 20 holder to assert a specific date of conception, not a date range.”) (quotations omitted) (collecting 21 cases). 22 Moreover, under Plaintiff’s interpretation, defendant would not have any certainty in 23 Plaintiff’s infringement theories, including the timing of conception or reduction to practice, 24 before it had to formulate its invalidity contentions. Allowing Plaintiff to identify a range of 25 dates, however, would “allow[] it to reverse the order of the procedure contemplated by [the 26 Northern District’s] Patent Local Rules, giving it a preview of [the accused infringer’s] invalidity 27 contentions before offering a concrete conception date.” Harvatek Corp. v. Cree, Inc., No. C 14- 28 05353 WHA, 2015 WL 4396379, at *2 (N.D. Cal. July 17, 2015). Plaintiff’s opposition highlights 4 Second, and relatedly, Plaintiff suggests that Defendant is not prejudiced by this alternative 1 2 February 2, 2007, priority date, because the draft patent applications were produced and 3 referenced in Plaintiff’s supplemental interrogatory response in May and June 2018. See Dkt. No. 4 208 at 7–8. And fact discovery did not close until January 17, 2019. See Dkt. No. 80. Plaintiff 5 suggests that Defendant had ample time to adjust its litigation strategy, to the extent necessary, 6 based on this information. However, Plaintiff did not indicate in its infringement contentions that 7 it intended to rely on different, or intermediate, priority dates. Nor did it do so in its supplemental 8 interrogatory responses, which only noted that “[t]he inventors’ conception is further shown, along 9 with constructive reduction to practice, by draft patent applications and claims prepared before the dates” of Defendant’s proffered prior art references. See id. at 14. Defendant should not have to 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 surmise Plaintiff’s shifting priority date(s) and infringement theories based on an oblique reference 12 made in discovery or by piecing together documents that Plaintiff produced. Absent an 13 amendment, Defendant was within its right to rely on the March 10, 2005, priority date that 14 Plaintiff disclosed in its infringement contentions. Having failed to amend its infringement contentions, Plaintiff cannot use Dr. Metzker’s 15 16 expert report—served several months after the close of fact discovery—to introduce a new priority 17 date for the asserted claims. See, e.g., Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., No. 5:12-cv-630-LHK- 18 PSG, 2014 WL 173409, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 9, 2014) (“Expert reports may not introduce theories 19 not set forth in contentions.”). The resulting prejudice is apparent, as Defendant “selected 20 particular intervening prior art based on the March 10, 2005 priority date” and “did not pursue 21 evidence in discovery to challenge that the inventors conceived of the invention as of the February 22 2, 2007 date.” See Dkt. No. 230 at 8–9; see also Adobe Sys. Inc. v. Wowza Media Sys., No. 11– 23 cv–02243–JST, 2014 WL 709865, at *15, n.7 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 23, 2014) (declining to require a 24 showing of prejudice “because prejudice is inherent in the assertion of a new theory after 25 discovery has closed, and because to impose such a burden would create an incentive for late 26 disclosure”).2 27 28 2 To the extent Plaintiff also argues that Defendant’s motion to strike is an improper second motion for summary judgment, see Dkt. No. 208 at 2, 14, the Court is not persuaded. This is not a 6 1 B. Attorney-Client Privilege Exception 2 During the hearing Plaintiff raised a new argument in opposition to Defendant’s motion to 3 strike, suggesting that there should be some exception to the requirements of Patent Local Rule 3- 4 1 based on attorney-client privilege. See Hearing Tr. at 47:24–53:3. Plaintiff argued that it should 5 not be required “to make decisions with respect to privilege waiver up front at that initial stage 6 before seeing the prior art at issue and what priority dates may be in play.” Id. at 48:6–10, 14–22. 7 Although Plaintiff noted in passing in its opposition that it decided to waive privilege over the draft patent applications after receiving Defendant’s invalidity contentions, see Dkt. No. 208 at 9 9, it did not argue that this was a distinct basis for denying Defendant’s motion to strike. By 10 raising this argument for the first time at oral argument, Plaintiff deprived Defendant of the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 8 opportunity to respond. The Court finds that it would be improper to address this belated 12 argument as a basis for denying Defendant’s motion. See Civil L.R. 7-3(d) (limiting the 13 circumstances in which supplemental material may be proffered after the date the opposition or 14 reply brief was filed); cf. Cedano–Viera v. Ashcroft, 324 F.3d 1062, 1066, n.5 (9th Cir. 2003) 15 (“[W]e decline to consider new issues raised for the first time in a reply brief.”). Nevertheless, even if the Court were to consider it, the Court has already explained at 16 17 length that the Patent Local Rules are designed so that the patent holders must “crystallize” their 18 theories of the case early in the course of litigation. See, e.g., Bender, 2010 WL 363341, at *1; 19 OpenTV, Inc., 2016 WL 3196643, at *3. The Court sees no reason why such early determinations 20 should not include issues of privilege waiver, to the extent they are implicated. Plaintiff as the 21 patent holder should already know the conception date of the patented inventions, even before 22 filing the action, and it should not be an onerous burden to disclose this as required under the 23 Patent Local Rules. The Court declines to adopt an exception to the Patent Local Rules that would 24 encourage patent holders to evade their disclosure requirements by claiming privilege until they 25 are certain of the other parties’ litigation strategy. 26 // 27 28 factual dispute about the priority date of the ’640 and ’539 Patents, but rather a procedural question about Plaintiff’s compliance with the Patent Local Rules. 7 1 2 IV. CONCLUSION Plaintiff did not disclose the February 2, 2007, priority date in its infringement contentions. 3 Plaintiff could not amend this deficiency through Dr. Metzker’s rebuttal report. Accordingly, the 4 Court GRANTS the motion and STRIKES the portions of Dr. Metzker’s rebuttal report that 5 contain or refer to a February 2, 2007, priority date. Plaintiff is further precluded from arguing 6 that the asserted claims are entitled to a priority date earlier than July 17, 2007, other than its 7 properly disclosed March 10, 2005, date. 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: 4/10/2020 ______________________________________ HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

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