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Server Technology, Inc. v. American Power Conversion Corporation

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 31, 2014

SERVER TECHNOLOGY, INC., Plaintiff and Counterdefendant,
v.
AMERICAN POWER CONVERSION CORPORATION, Defendant and Counterclaimant

ORDER

LARRY R. HICKS, District Judge.

Before the court are plaintiff Server Technology, Inc.'s ("STI") pretrial motions including: motion to bifurcate trial (Doc. #430[1]); motion in limine #1 to exclude reference to ongoing patent reexamination proceedings (Doc. #431); motion in limine #2 to exclude reference to false marking (Doc. #432); motion in limine #3 to exclude evidence not disclosed in the final invalidity contentions (Doc. #433); and motion in limine #4 to exclude the expert testimony of Nicholas Godici (Doc. #434).

Also before the court are defendant American Power Conversion Corp.'s ("APC") pretrial motions including: motion in limine #1 to exclude certain rebuttal evidence (Doc. #436); motion in limine #2 to preclude opinion and argument contrary to law (Doc. #438); motion in limine #3 to preclude expert testimony on legal principles (Doc. #440); motion in limine #4 to limit the scope of expert testimony (Doc. #441); motion in limine #5 to preclude contradictory testimony (Doc. #442); motion in limine #6 to preclude evidence of secondary considerations of non-obviousness (Doc. #443); motion in limine #7 to preclude evidence of infringement (Doc. #445); motion in limine #8 to bifurcate the trial (Doc. #446); and motion in limine #9 to preclude evidence concerning certain counterclaims (Doc. #447).

I. Facts and Procedural History[2]

Plaintiff STI manufactures intelligent power distribution devices. Like STI, defendant APC manufacturers intelligent power distribution devices. Both STI and APC are direct competitors in the rack-mounted power distribution market.

In December 2006, STI brought the underlying patent infringement action alleging that ACP's rack-mounted power distribution products infringe two of STI's patents: United States Patent numbers 7, 043, 543 ("the 543 patent"), and 7, 702, 771 ("the 771 patent). Doc. #1. APC denies that its products infringe STI's patents and counterclaims that STI's patents are invalid as a matter of law.

In December 2013, the parties filed the aforementioned pretrial motions. On January 8, 2014, the court held a status conference to set a firm trial date.[3] See Doc. #487. At the status conference, the parties indicated a desire to argue several of the pre-trial motions before the court. The court then set a motions hearing for February 26, 2014, and ordered the parties to file a joint status report identifying any motions to be addressed at the hearing.

On February 14, 2014, the parties filed their joint status report and identified eight motions to be addressed at the hearing: (1) STI's motion to bifurcate the trial (Doc. #430); (2) STI's motion in limine #1 to exclude reference to ongoing patent reexamination proceedings (Doc. #431); (3) STI's motion in limine #3 to exclude evidence not disclosed in the final invalidity contentions (Doc. #433); (4) APC's motion in limine #2 to preclude opinion and argument contrary to law (Doc. #438); (5) APC's motion in limine #3 to preclude expert testimony on legal issues (Doc. #440); (6) APC's motion in limine #4 to limit the scope of expert testimony (Doc. #441); (7) APC's motion in limine #6 to preclude evidence of secondary considerations of non-obviousness (Doc. #443); and (8) APC's motion in limine #8 to bifurcate the trial (Doc. #446). Doc. #491. In the report, the parties also agreed that the remaining pretrial motions should be reserved until trial.[4] Id .

On February 26, 2014, the court heard argument on the eight identified motions. This order follows that hearing.

II. Motions To Bifurcate

A. STI's Motion to Bifurcate (Doc. #430)

In its motion, STI seeks to bifurcate the upcoming trial into two separate parts: a jury trial on the issues of invalidity and infringement followed by a bench trial on the issue of inequitable conduct.

Under Rule 42 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court may bifurcate a trial for the convenience of the court and the parties, to avoid prejudice, and to expedite and economize the trial process. FED. R. CIV. P. 42(b). Under Rule 42(b), a district court has broad discretion to bifurcate as part of its trial management. Gardco Mfg., Inc. v. Herst Lighting, 820 F.2d 1209, 1212 (Fed. Cir. 1987).

Here, the court finds that bifurcating the issue of inequitable conduct is appropriate. First, inequitable conduct is an issue for the court to decide. See Paragon Podiatry Lab v. KLM Lab., 984 F.2d 1182, 1190 (Fed. Cir. 1993) ("[t]he defense of inequitable conduct in a patent suit, being entirely equitable in nature, is not an issue for a jury to decide."); American Calcar, Inc. v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 651 F.3d 1318, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2011) ("Inequitable conduct is equitable in ...


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