Award of Attorneys' Fees Upheld on Appeal in Dietary Supplement Patent-Infringement Suit

May 20, 2019

In a patent-infringement lawsuit, Miller & Martin successfully upheld on appeal an award of attorneys’ fees for its client Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals. The Federal Circuit determined that Stanford University and ThermoLife International LLC must pay Vital Pharmaceuticals and Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals a total of $1.3 million in attorneys fees for accusing them of infringement without first doing a proper infringement investigation, even though the question of infringement was never addressed in the district court. The Federal Circuit’s opinion clarifies the need for plaintiffs to do reasonable investigation of patent claims before filing suit, and inadequate investigation before filing can render the case exceptional, justifying an attorneys’ fees award against the losing party.

In 2016, the district court had held that the four patents were invalid because they were obvious and anticipated. Hi-Tech and Vital then sought legal fees, saying that plaintiffs Stanford and ThermoLife could have learned there was no infringement had they conducted simple tests on the products before suing. The district court found that ThermoLife and Stanford filed numerous complaints without adequately investigating to extract nuisance-value settlements.

“Hi-Tech believes the Federal Circuit, in affirming the award of attorneys’ fees against ThermoLife and Stanford University, reached the right decision,” said Robert F. Parsley of Miller & Martin. “We expect the Federal Circuit’s well-reasoned opinion to deter the filing of patent-infringement actions without reasonable prefiling investigation.”

Hi-Tech was represented by attorneys Robert F. Parsley of Miller & Martin and David Barnes.

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