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18 December 2018Medtech

Fees appeal dismissed in row over bone-cutting tool

Medical supplies company Wright Medical has lost its appeal for attorneys’ fees despite winning a patent dispute against medical technology provider Spineology.

The precedential decision was issued last Friday, December 14, by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Spineology had sued Wright for patent infringement in 2015, but the US District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled in favour of Wright. Wright appealed against the court’s decision not to award attorneys’ fees.

In the original claim, Spineology accused its rival of infringing its patent for an ‘expandable reamer’ (US number RE42,757), targeting Wright’s surgical bone-cutting tool X-Ream.

After the Minnesota court’s ruling in favour of Wright, Spineology appealed but the Federal Circuit upheld the decision in July.

At the heart of the costs dispute was the construction of the word ‘body’, with Wright arguing that Spineology’s interpretation was meritless to the point of the case being “exceptional” under section 285 of the Patent Act.

Under this rule, a court may award attorneys’ fees in “exceptional cases”. In last week’s decision, the Federal Circuit upheld the district court’s finding that Spineology’s claim “was not so meritless as to render the case exceptional”.

The court also rejected Wright’s claims that Spineology’s inaccurate assessment of damages and its conduct during litigation meant the case was exceptional.

In a rebuke, the appeals court reiterated its position that “fee awards are not to be used ‘as a penalty for failure to win a patent infringement suit” and warned “future litigants to tread carefully in their complaints about district courts not doing enough”.

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