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Server Technology, Inc. v. American Power Conversion Corporation

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 2, 2014

SERVER TECHNOLOGY, INC., Plaintiff and Counterdefendant,


LARRY R. HICKS, District Judge.

Before the court are defendant American Power Conversion Corp.'s ("APC") renewed motion in limine #7 to preclude certain evidence of product infringement (Doc. #509[1]) and motion for clarification of the court's March 31, 2014 order concerning the parties' pretrial motions in limine (Doc. #514). Plaintiff Server Technology, Inc. ("STI") filed oppositions to the motions (Doc. ##515, 519) to which APC replied (Doc. ##516, 521).

Also before the court is STI's motion for leave to file a sur-reply to APC's renewed motion in limine #7. Doc. #518.

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 APC's rack-mounted power distribution products - the AP7900 and AP8900 series of 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 a series of pretrial motions in limine. 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. Doc. #491. On February 26, 2014, the court heard argument on the parties' motions. See Doc. #496. Subsequently, on March 31, 2014, the court issued its order on the parties' pretrial motions in limine. Doc. #505.

On April 9, 2014, the court held a pretrial status conference. See Doc. #510. At the hearing, APC requested leave to file a motion for clarification of the court's order to address a specific piece of prior art, the RPC-7, which APC argued the court excluded from trial in error. APC also requested leave to renew its motion in limine #7 to preclude evidence of APC's AP7900 series of products which had been denied by the court without prejudice. The court granted APC's requests. Thereafter, APC filed the present renewed motion in limine and motion for clarification. Doc. ##509, 514.

II. Legal Standard

A motion in limine is used to preclude prejudicial or objectionable evidence before it is presented to the jury. Stephanie Hoit Lee & David N. Finley, Federal Motions in Limine ยง 1:1 (2012). The decision on a motion in limine is consigned to the district court's discretion - including the decision of whether to address the issues before trial at all. See Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Technologies, Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993) (noting that a court may wait to resolve the evidentiary issues at trial, where the evidence can be viewed in its "proper context"). Motions in limine should not be used to resolve factual disputes or to weigh evidence, and evidence should not be excluded prior to trial unless "the evidence [is] inadmissible on all potential grounds." Indiana Insurance Co. v. General Electric Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004). Even then, rulings on these motions are not binding on the district court, and they may be reviewed in response to developments at trial. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1984).

Generally, all relevant evidence is admissible. FED. R. EVID. 402. Evidence is relevant if it has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." FED. R. EVID. 401. The determination of whether evidence is relevant to an action or issue is expansive and inclusive. See Sprint/United Mgmt. Co. v. Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 384-87 (2008).

III. Renewed Motion in Limine #7 (Doc. #509)

In its renewed motion in limine, APC seeks to preclude any evidence or testimony of its AP7900 series of products along with any argument that these products infringe Claim 15 of the 543 patent. APC argues that because the court previously found as a matter of law that the AP7900 series of products did not infringe a similar STI patent covering rack-mounted power distribution devices, the court should likewise rule as a matter of law that these products do ...

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