The American Lawyer recently selected Orrick IP partner Chris Ottenweller ‘Litigator of the Week’ for his victory in a patent case for EMC Corp. in the Eastern District of Texas. Following a six day trial, a federal jury in Sherman, Texas, on March 22, 2013, returned a complete defense verdict in favor of EMC in a case filed by plaintiff Oasis Research LLC, finding all patents invalid.
Ottenweller and his team developed an innovative defense that the patents were invalid because the named inventor, Christopher Crawford, failed to list co-inventors when he applied for the patents in the 1990’s. Ottenweller and co-counsel Bas de Blank of Orrick presented evidence that Crawford intentionally left co-workers off the patents and wrongly claimed credit for ideas he never conceived. To prove this defense they called witnesses who worked with Crawford 20 years ago and through rigorous investigation located corroboration documents that one of the witnesses had stored in his attic for decades.
In his opening statement Ottenweller took the original, aged folder of documents, handed it to the jury for its inspection, and explained that they undermined Crawford’s claim that others made “zero contributions” to the patents. Oasis Research was supported by Intellectual Ventures, the massive patent aggregator who had purchased the patents from Crawford. As The American Lawyer noted, Ottenweller likened the case to a criminal “cold case” in which an unsolved crime, long forgotten, is finally uncovered when one clue leads to another. Ottenweller and his team convinced the jury, despite the high burden of clear and convincing evidence, that Crawford eliminated co-inventor Jack Byrd from the patents and pocketed all of the proceeds for himself.
The case, which spanned three years before going to trial, also resulted in new patent law. EMC filed two petitions for writs of mandamus with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which led to important new law involving the proper location for patent litigation.