Exceptional Expenses - Timing of Attorneys Fees in Patent Cases

February 21, 2013, 9:00 AM

In patent cases, a prevailing party may recover attorneys fees only if the court declares the case exceptional under 35 U.S.C. 285. However, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2)(B) requires that a party file a motion for attorney fees no later than 14 days after the entry of judgment. The Federal Circuit has made clear that a motion to declare a patent case exceptional pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 285, must comply with the timing requirements of Rule 54. IPXL Holdings, L.L.C. v. Amazon.com, Inc. Only a showing of excusable neglect pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b) will allow a court to extend the time to file past this 14 day period. The harsh reality of this rule was recently felt by defendants in Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. v. Sunbeam Prods. On July 13, 2012, the Richmond district court judge granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Sunbeam finding no infringement and declaring the patent invalid. Sunbeam filed a motion to declare the case exceptional and to collect over $300,000 in attorneys fees on August 2, 2012, twenty days after the entry of the courts Final Order and six days past the filing deadline. The district court rejected Sunbeams argument that the judgment was not truly final until the Patent Determination Report was transmitted to the PTO. The court explained that the Patent Determination Report was inconsequential to the determination of when judgment was entered and does not itself dispose of the case or have any effect on the parties. Because Sunbeam made no attempt to seek to extend the 14 day filing deadline prior to its filing and because misinterpretation of the Federal Rules does not constitute excusable neglect, the district court denied Sunbeams request for attorneys fees. Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. v. Sunbeam Prods. --Lauren Tallent Rogers