CAFC Dismisses LG’s Interlocutory Appeal as Untimely

“The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure cannot override federal statute, said the court. If there is a conflict between the two, the statute must prevail.” Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), with Judge Hughes writing for the court, dismissed defendant-appellant LG Electronics Inc. and LG Electronics U.S.A. Inc.’s (collectively, ‘LG’) request for interlocutory review due to lack of jurisdiction; the court said LG had failed to file within 30 days of the date at which the liability issues became final, resulting in an untimely appeal.

In 2014, Mondis Technology, Ltd. (“Limited”) sued defendants for patent infringement over U.S. Patent No. 7,475,180(“the ‘180 patent”), which claims a “display unit configured to receive video signals from an external video source.” The district court granted Limited leave to join other plaintiffs, namely, Hitachi Maxell, LTD., NKA Maxell Holdings, LTD., Maxell, LTD., (collectively ‘Hitachi’) to address LG’s pretrial standing challenge. A jury trial in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey found LG infringed claims 14 and 15 of the ‘180 patent, the claims weren’t invalid, and the infringement was willful. The jury then awarded plaintiffs $45 million in damages.

Following the verdict, LG filed three motions: a motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) or new trial of non-infringement; a motion for JMOL or new trial of invalidity; and a motion for JMOL, new trial, or remittitur regarding the damages award and willfulness finding. On September 24, 2019, the district court denied LG’s motions regarding infringement, invalidity, and willfulness but granted LG’s motion for a new trial on damages after further briefing. This decision followed from LG’s May 8, 2020, interlocutory appeal challenging the district court’s decisions on the motions regarding infringement, invalidity, and willfulness. LG additionally challenged the district court’s allowance of the joinder of Hitachi as a plaintiff and argued that, without the joinder, Limited lacked the authority to bring suit. Limited moved to dismiss the appeal as untimely, arguing that LG missed the 30-day window to appeal.

CAFC Disagrees that Interlocutory Appeal is Timely

The CAFC has jurisdiction in certain interlocutory appeals under 28 U.S.C. §1292(c )(2) where the CAFC would have jurisdiction over an appeal in regards to a civil action for patent infringement. Interlocutory appeals as filed under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(c)(2) are subject to the time limitations of 28 U.S.C. § 2107(a), which requires appeals to be filed within 30 days after the entry of a judgment, order, or decree. Under § 1292(c)(2), “a judgment is final except for an accounting, when all liability issues have been resolved, and only a determination of damages remains.” See Robert Bosch, LLC v. Pylon Mfg. Corp.

LG sought interlocutory review of the liability determination while damages remained outstanding. Because the district court resolved all issues of liability, the case was final except for an accounting at the time of the September order. “Since LG did not file its notice of appeal until May 8, 2020, more than seven months after the September Order, LG’s appeal is untimely, and [the CAFC] lack[s] jurisdiction to consider the matter,” said the CAFC.

Timeliness Determination Favors Limited

LG predicated its timeliness arguments on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) instead of the statutory requirements for jurisdiction. The Federal Rules, however, cannot override federal statute, said the court. If there is a conflict between the two, the statute must prevail. See Bowles v. Russell However, the CAFC did not read any conflict between the two—both bar interlocutory appeal within a seven month timeframe.

The parties further disputed which interlocutory judgment is challenged. Limited argued the September order was being appealed, while LG argued the underlying jury verdict was being appealed as a judgment under Rule 58(c) of the FRCP. The CAFC disagreed with LG, finding that the September Order was the operative date because all liability issues became final at that time.

Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure: Interlocutory Appeal Must Relate to Interlocutory Judgment

The parties finally disputed the date of the “last such remaining motion” which, under Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (‘FRAP’), began the time period for an appeal. LG argued that its timely filed post-trial motions, including liability and damages related motions ruled on in an April order, tolled the start of the 30-day appeal clock under Rule 4. The CAFC disagreed. “When the FRAP 4(a)(4) pertains to interlocutory appeals under § 1292(c)(2), the enumerated motions can only toll the time to appeal if they relate to the interlocutory judgment,” said the court. Rule 4 did toll the time to file an interlocutory appeal, but only until those motions were resolved in the September order. The damage motions that remained after the September order were unrelated and did not toll the timeframe for an interlocutory appeal on the liability portion of the case.

For the purposes of interlocutory appeal, the timeframe has passed, but LG will have the ability to challenge the liability determinations of the district court once the damages determination is finished. The case was therefore dismissed for lack of jurisdiction until the damages are settled and the decision is finalized.

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