June 05, 2018
Judge William Walls of the District of New Jersey recently awarded Latham client Zimmer, Inc. (now known as ZimmerBiomet) US$13.3 million in attorneys’ fees following its successful invalidation of four patents held by its competitor Howmedica Osteonics (the orthopedics subsidiary of Stryker, Inc.). This is the latest chapter in patent litigation Howmedica commenced in 2005, that included district court litigation, PTAB (Patent Trial & Appeal Board) proceedings, and multiple Federal Circuit appeals. This is also one of the largest reported awards of attorneys’ fees in a patent case.
The totality of circumstances Judge Walls considered in awarding fees included allegations of inequitable conduct, litigation misconduct, and misconduct during reexamination proceedings before the PTAB.
Howmedica initially filed this case in 2005, asserting four patents it alleged covered a novel polymeric material used in orthopedic hip and knee systems. Because of Zimmer’s ubiquitous use of the accused technology, damages ran into the billions very early on in the case. In 2007, Zimmer won summary judgment of indefiniteness as to three of the four patents at issue, in an opinion affirmed per curiam by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In 2008, Zimmer won summary judgment that it did not infringe a number of claims in the fourth patent, and put that patent in inter partes reexamination at the PTAB. The PTAB sustained the validity of the claims Zimmer had been found not to infringe, and invalidated the remaining claims. Both parties appealed that decision to the Federal Circuit, and in 2016, the Federal Circuit affirmed Zimmer’s win, and overturned Howmedica’s win on the noninfringed patent.
The Latham team representing Zimmer included partners David Callahan and Ann Marie Wahls, who have worked on the matter since its inception.