Dennis Crouch reports that the Federal Circuit has just affirmed a decision in favor of Reebok in a patent infringement lawsuit brought against it by a fellow named Kalman Gyory. Nothing terribly unusual about this disposition on the merits. What is curious is the Court’s denial Reebok’s request for fees.
It seems the patent at issue expired in 1996 and the lawsuit wasn’t even filed until 2003. Under well established law, Mr. Gyory simply had no possible remedy. The district court recognized that fact by dismissing the case, and (in case anyone was still unclear) the Federal Circuit emphasized it by affirming the dismissal. As Dennis reports, “In what appears to be a generous gesture, the court declined to award attorneys fees to Reebok.” Indeed. If Dennis, or I, or any number of other patent lawyers had filed such a case, I’m sure we’d be doing a lot of explaining just about now.
However, all the Federal Circuit had to say was, “We have considered Reebok’s request for attorney fees, and we decline to award them.”
While I agree this is a good example of the type of case that should never have been filed, the failure to award fees piqued my curiosity; enough so that I poked around a bit at the Federal Circuit’s PACER site. From what I gather, Mr. Gyory is a German citizen who apparently represented himself, at least during the appeal. Reebok, not surprisingly, was assisted by a couple of high-powered firms. My guess is that the Federal Circuit did decide to cut him a bit of slack. It’s difficult to imagine a more meritless patent case than one filed on an expired patent after the six-year damages period has run. And what could be a more frivolous appeal than this one? Yet, no fees.
My take is that Mr. Gyory got very lucky on this one. For those of us who generally do not pick winning lottery numbers or find ourselves named in some unknown rich uncle’s will, it’s best to play by the rules and only bring cases with objective merit.