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Progressive Casualty Litigation Stayed Pending Outcome of Liberty Mutual CBMs

Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. sued different insurance companies for patent infringement of 5 of its patents in 2010-2012 in the Northern District of Ohio.  (Cases 1:10CV01370 and 1:11CV00082 against Safeco; Case 1:12CV01068 against State Farm; and Case 1:12CV01070 against Hartford.)  One of the defendants is Safeco Insurance Company, which has Liberty Mutual as its parent.  In 2012 and 2013 Liberty Mutual filed ten covered business method patent review (CBM) petitions (two CBM petitions were filed per patent).  Eight of these ten petitions were instituted for trial and two petitions were denied, but each of the five patents has at least one CBM where trial was instituted by the PTAB.

Liberty Mutual and the remaining defendants moved to stay the litigation based on the CBMs instituted.  Progressive opposed the motion to stay.  The District Court heard oral arguments on April 11, 2013, and granted the motion stay on April 17, 2013.

The court used a four-factor test set forth in the AIA section pertaining to CBMs (AIA § 18(b)(1), P.L. 112-29, 125 Stat. 284, 331):

  • (1) whether a stay, or the denial thereof, will simplify the issues in question and streamline the trial;
  • (2) whether discovery is complete and whether a trial date has been set;
  • (3) whether a stay, or the denial thereof, would unduly prejudice the nonmoving party or present a clear tactical advantage for the moving party; and
  • (4) whether a stay, or the denial thereof, will reduce the burden of litigation on the parties and on the court.

It is interesting that the Liberty Mutual litigation was previously stayed pending the outcome of ex parte reexaminations, yet the Court found the benefits of inter partes covered business method review compelling enough to order another stay pending the outcome of the PTAB trials.  Some of these benefits observed by the Court include:

  • CBM proceedings are inter partes rather than ex parte, which allows Liberty mutual “a better platform to advocate its interests.”
  • CBM proceedings are “presided over by a panel of three administrative judges whom are required to have ‘competent legal knowledge and scientific ability,’ 35 U.S.C. § 6(a), as opposed to a single patent examiner.”
  • To institute CBM review, the petitioner must show the claims are likely invalid, 35 U.S.C. § 324(a), which is more onerous than meeting the “substantial new question of patentability” standard required to initiate ex parte reexaminations.
  • The Court also found the short timeline of the CBM proceedings (to be completed within 18 months of institution of trial), to be attractive and likely to decide issues before the Court.

For further information the order for stay provides the details of the Court’s findings and has a detailed table attached at the last page showing the different CBMs and their status.

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Timothy Bianchi
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