WedgeTail v. Huddleston Deluxe (Fed. Cir. 2009) 09-1045.pdf
After claim construction, WedgeTail - the patentee - filed a motion to dismiss its claims and granted Huddleston a covenant not to sue. Judge Folsom (E.D.Tex.) agreed and dismissed the case. Huddleston challenged the dismissal because it also wanted to collect attorney fees. Judge Folsom denied Huddleston's request for a hearing on attorney fees without providing any reasoning.
The Patent Act provides for recovery of "reasonable attorney fees," but only in "exceptional cases." Ordinarily, such exceptional cases are only found in situations involving “inequitable conduct before the PTO; litigation misconduct; vexatious, unjustified, and otherwise bad faith litigation; a frivolous suit or willful infringement.”
District courts are also given a "high level of deference" on this issue -- especially when a request for fees is denied.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed - holding that the district court was not required to explain its denial (and that Huddleston had not shown sufficient evidence of an exceptional case).
Simply put, Huddleston has failed to demonstrate either that the district court clearly erred in failing to find this case exceptional or that Huddleston was harmed by the district court’s failure to entertain a motion for attorney fees. A remand is, therefore, unwarranted. . . .
Though findings on ‘exceptional case’ and reasons underlying the discretionary action on fees are helpful to an appellate court, remand should not be a matter of rote in every case in which findings and reason are not expressly set forth. (quoting Consol. Aluminum v. Foseco, 910 F.2d 804 (Fed. Cir. 1990)).
Notes: "The court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party." 35 U.S.C. 285.