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RMH Tech LLC v. PMC Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 19, 2018

RMH TECH LLC, a Colorado limited liability company, and METAL ROOF INNOVATIONS, LTD., a Colorado corporation, Plaintiffs,
v.
PMC INDUSTRIES, INC., a Connecticut corporation, Defendant.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         RMH Tech LLC and Metal Roof Innovations, Ltd. (“Plaintiffs” or “RMH and MRI”) have sued PMC Industries, Inc. (“Defendant” or “PMC”), alleging patent infringement. PMC asserts two counterclaims seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement or invalidity. Before the bench trial beginning on October 29, 2018, both sides have filed motions in limine.

         RMH and MRI move in limine for the Court to sequester all fact witnesses during the trial, under Federal Rule of Evidence 615. Pls.' Motion in Limine to Sequester Witnesses, dated Sept. 14, 2018 (“Pls.' Mot.”), ECF No. 163.

         PMC moves in limine to exclude any reference to U.S. Patent No. U.S. 9, 850, 661 to Kovacs (the “Kovacs Patent”) at trial for the purposes of establishing infringement or non-infringement. Memorandum in Support of Def.'s Motion in Limine to Preclude Any Reference to the Kovacs Patent to Establish Infringement or Non-Infringement, dated Sept. 14, 2018 (“Kovacs Mot.”), ECF No. 160-1.

         PMC also moves in limine to preclude RMH and MRI from presenting evidence or arguments related to the doctrine of equivalents (“DOE”) at trial. Memorandum in Support of Def.'s Motion in Limine to Preclude Evidence of and Argument Regarding Infringement under the Doctrine of Equivalents at Trial, dated Sept. 14, 2018 (“DOE Mot.”), ECF No. 161-1.

         Finally, PMC moves in limine to preclude RMH and MRI from presenting evidence or arguments as to the issue of willful infringement at trial. Memorandum in Support of Def.'s Motion in Limine to Preclude Evidence of and Argument Regarding Willful Infringement at Trial, dated Sept. 14, 2018 (“Willfulness Mot.”), ECF No. 159-1.

         For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motion in limine is GRANTED and PMC's motions in limine regarding the Kovacs Patent and Willful Infringement are DENIED. PMC's motion to preclude evidence related to the doctrine of equivalents is DENIED, but the Court may ultimately exclude any opinions offered at trial by Mr. Haddock that were not sufficiently disclosed to PMC, as detailed below.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         RMH, a Colorado limited liability company, has its principal place of business in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Joint Trial Memorandum, dated Sept. 14, 2018 (“Joint Trial Mem.”), ECF No. 162, ¶ 5(A)(a). MRI is a Colorado corporation with its principal place of business in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Id. ¶ 5(A)(c). PMC is a Connecticut corporation with its principal place of business in Plainville, Connecticut. Id. ¶ 5(A)(d).

         Plaintiffs and Defendant produce mounting adapter devices for metal roofs that operate by securing cross members, thereby allowing easier installation and removal of snow retention systems. RMH and MRI claim that PMC's device, the COLOR Snap system, infringes Claims 15 and 16 of its patent, U.S. Patent No. 6, 470, 629 (the “‘629 Patent”). Id. ¶ 4(A). The ‘629 Patent is entitled “Mounting System and Adaptor Clip” and was issued to Robert M. Haddock on October 29, 2002; Haddock then assigned the patent to RMH. Id. ¶¶ 5(A)(e), 5(A)(b). MRI is the exclusive licensee of the ‘629 Patent. Id. ¶ 5(A)(c). RMH and MRI expect to demonstrate, through trial testimony, that their ColorGard product is based on the ‘629 Patent. Id. ¶ 9(A). PMC offers and sells the Color SNAP System within the United States. Id. ¶ 5(A)(q).

         RMH and MRI allege that the manufacture and sale of the Color SNAP system directly infringes on claims 15 and 16 of the ‘629 Patent. Id. ¶ 6(A). Defendant argues that the Color SNAP system does not literally infringe those claims because it does not contain at least four required elements pursuant to the claim constructions adopted by the Court. Id. ¶ 7.

         B. Procedural Background

         On July 11, 2016, RMH and MRI sued PMC in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, alleging that Defendant is infringing on the design and novel function of the ‘629 Patent through the marketing and sale of the COLOR Snap system, and seeking both monetary damages as well as an injunction. See Complaint, dated July 11, 2016 (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1.

         On September 7, 2016, PMC answered and brought counterclaims against RMH and MRI, seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and of the ‘629 Patent's invalidity. Answer and Counterclaim, dated Sept. 7, 2016, ECF No. 17; see also Amended Answer, dated Feb. 10, 2017, ECF No. 43.

         On May 11, 2017, the Honorable Christine Arguello, United States District Judge for the District of Colorado held a hearing consistent with Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996) (“Markman hearing”) to determine the construction of the patent claims in question. Minute Entry, dated May 11, 2017, ECF No. 52.

         On October 2, 2017, the Court issued an order constructing the disputed claims of the Haddock Patent. ECF No. 66. The Court subsequently denied PMC's motion for reconsideration of the claim construction order. Order Denying Defendant's Motion for Partial Reconsideration of Order on Claim Construction, dated Jan. 8, 2018, ECF No. 74.

         On December 6, 2017, PMC moved to stay the case for ninety days pending settlement discussions, a motion RMH and MRI opposed and that the Court ultimately denied. See Motion to Stay, dated Dec. 6, 2017, ECF No. 78; Brief in Opposition to Motion to Stay, dated Dec. 27, 2017, ECF No. 82; Order Denying Motion to Stay, dated Jan. 10, 2018, ECF No. 87.

         On January 8, 2018, PMC moved to dismiss for improper venue or, in the alternative, for the case to be transferred to this Court, on the basis that venue in a patent action, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), properly lies in those jurisdictions in which the defendant resides or has a regular and established place of business. Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue or, in the Alternative, to Transfer Venue, dated Jan. 8, 2018, ECF No. 86. On March 30, 2018, the Court granted the motion to transfer venue. Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue, dated Mar. 30, 2018, ECF No. 95. That same day, the case was transferred to the District of Connecticut. See Docket Entry, dated Mar. 30, 2018, ECF No. 96. The case was assigned to this Court on April 16, 2018. See Order of Transfer, dated Apr. 16, 2018, ECF No. 110.

         On May 14, 2018, the Court held a telephonic status conference with the parties and set a schedule for proceeding to a bench trial. Minute Entry, dated May 14, 2018, ECF No. 130. The schedule was modified on May 22, ...


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