Monsanto Company et al v. Slusser
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Magistrate Judge David D. Noce on 3/29/13. (KKS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MONSANTO COMPANY and MONSANTO,
No. 4:10 CV 75 DDN
On April 11, 2012, in this patent infringement case, the court found that defendant Kevin
Slusser was in default on the complaint filed by plaintiffs Monsanto Company and Monsanto
Technology, LLC. Defendant had not filed a responsive pleading to the complaint in over two
years of litigation, including discovery and motion practice. (Doc. 58.)
Following the finding of
default, the court held a hearing to determine the amount of damages and other relief to which
plaintiffs are entitled.
Plaintiffs seek to recover royalties damages against defendant in the amount of
$109,374.00, treble damages, prejudgment interest, attorney fees, and costs.
For patent infringement, the relevant statute provides the available remedies:
Upon finding for the claimant the court shall award the claimant damages adequate
to compensate for the infringement, but in no event less than a reasonable royalty
for the use made of the invention by the infringer, together with interest and costs
as fixed by the court.
When the damages are not found by a jury, the court shall assess them. In either
event the court may increase the damages up to three times the amount found or
35 U.S.C. § 284.
After reviewing plaintiffs’ expert witness’s damage per acre calculation and defendant’s
deposition (Docs. 63, 63-1, 63-2), the court agrees with plaintiffs’ calculation of royalty damages
and finds that plaintiffs are entitled to an award of royalty damages in the amount of $109,
Plaintiffs seek a trebling of its royalty damages for defendant's willful infringement of their
patent rights. Section 284 authorizes the court to award up to three times the amount of royalty
damages in cases of willful patent infringement; such an award is a punitive measure. Jurgens v.
CBK, Ltd., 80 F.3d 1566, 1577 (Fed. Cir. 1996). ["W]illful infringement authorizes but does not
mandate an award or increased damages.” Transclean Corp. v. Bridgewood Services, Inc., 290
F.3d 1364, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2002).
First, plaintiffs "must show by clear and convincing evidence that [defendant] acted despite
an objectively high likelihood that [his] actions constituted infringement of a valid patent. . . . The
state of mind of [defendant] is not relevant to this objective inquiry. If this threshold objective
standard is satisfied, the [plaintiffs] must also demonstrate that this objectively-defined risk
(determined by the record developed in the infringement proceeding) was either known or so
obvious that it should have been known to the [defendant]." In re Seagate Technology, LLC, 497
F.;3d 1360, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2007)(internal citation omitted).
Plaintiffs argue that defendant's willfulness is demonstrated by the record before the court.
The court disagrees. Plaintiffs have prevailed by way of a default judgment, not following a trial
on the merits of their allegations. Granted, there were pretrial issues taken up and ruled that
required factual determinations. However, the court is not satisfied that the record is sufficient to
establish by clear and convincing evidence the required willfulness for an award of enhanced
damages. Therefore, enhanced damages are not awarded in this action.
Plaintiffs also seek prejudgment interest.
"[P]rejudgment interest should be awarded
under 35 U.S.C. § 284 absent some justification for withholding such an award.” Gen. Motors
Corp. v. Devex Corp., 461 U.S. 648, 657 (1983); Nickson Indus., Inc. v. Rol Mfg. Co., Ltd., 847
F.2d 795, 800 (Fed. Cir. 1988).
The record provides no justification for not awarding plaintiffs
The court has "wide discretion in the selection of interest rates." Uniroyal, Inc. v. RudkinWiley Corp., 939 F.2d 1540, 1545 (Fed. Cir. 1991); Cyclone USA, Inc. v. LL & C Dealer Services,
LLC, 2010 WL 2132378 at *2 (C.D. Cal. 2010).
Given the national economic and financial
circumstances, the court finds that an award of prejudgment interest to plaintiffs at a rate equal
to the post-judgment interest rate provided by 28 U.S.C. § 1961(a) is appropriate, compounded
annually; it is sufficient that the prejudgment interest extends from the commencement of this
Plaintiffs seek an award of reasonable attorneys' fees. In a case of patent infringement,
"[t]he court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.” 35
U.S.C. § 285. Exceptional cases include cases of willful infringement, inequitable conduct before
the Patent and Trademark Office, misconduct during litigation, vexatious litigation, and frivolous
suit. Amsted Indus. Inc. v. Buckeye Steel Castings Co., 23 F.3d 374, 376 (Fed. Cir. 1994).
court finds that defendant Slusser unreasonably caused delays in the progress of this litigation,
as set forth in prior memorandum opinions of the court. (Docs. 33, 55, 58.) Therefore, the court
awards attorney fees in an amount to be determined by post-judgment submission. See E.D.Mo.
An appropriate Judgment Order is issued herewith.
/S/ David D. Noce
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Signed on March 29, 2013.
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