Collateral estoppel bars the relitigation of an issue when "(1) the party against whom the doctrine is asserted was a party to the earlier proceeding; (2) the issue was actually litigated and decided on the merits; (3) the resolution of the particular issue was necessary to the result; and (4) the issues are identical." Scherer v. Balkema, 840 F.2d 437, 442 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1043, 108 S. Ct. 2035, 100 L. Ed. 2d 620 (1988), quoting Kunzelman v. Thompson, 799 F.2d 1172, 1176 (7th Cir. 1986). There is no dispute that the first and third elements are satisfied: the parties are identical in both actions and the issues raised there (and again here) were necessary to Judge Conlon's decision. Nor can it be disputed that the parties had a full opportunity to and actually did litigate those issues. The central concerns here revolve around the identity of issues and the finality of the earlier decision.
Issues actually litigated in a prior action have preclusive effect if the controlling facts remain unchanged in the later action. That some minor, subsidiary facts are different will not bar the application of collateral estoppel. Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 159, 99 S. Ct. 970, 976, 59 L. Ed. 2d 210 (1979); Commissioner of Internal Revenue Service v. Sunnen, 333 U.S. 591, 599-601, 68 S. Ct. 715, 720-21, 92 L. Ed. 898 (1948); American Medical International, Inc. v. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, 219 U.S. App. D.C. 267, 677 F.2d 118, 120-21 (D.C. Cir. 1981). All facts material to Judge Conlon's decision and the contested motions here are identical: the arrangement and function of Bell's and Haines' directories, the basis of Bell's copyright of its directories, Haines' compilation process and the evidence establishing that Haines copied information directly from the Bell directories. Further, all of the legal issues raised in the context of these motions were resolved by Judge Conlon on these identical facts. Haines' briefs in support of its motion and in opposition to Bell's set forth the same arguments, for the most part verbatim, and do not rely on any new facts.
In contending that the issues resolved by Judge Conlon are different from those contested here, Haines focuses on the fact that the directories involved are of different years and cover different geographical areas. These differences are immaterial and do not bar the application of collateral estoppel.
We further find that Judge Conlon's decision was sufficiently final to give it preclusive effect. A decision is final for collateral estoppel purposes if it was not "avowedly tentative" and was appealable or had been appealed, the parties were given an adequate opportunity to set forth their positions and the court supported its decision with a reasoned opinion. Miller Brewing Co. v. Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co., 605 F.2d 990, 996 (7th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1102, 100 S. Ct. 1067, 205 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 96, 62 L. Ed. 2d 787 (1980). That a decision is interlocutory and not immediately appealable does not detract from its preclusive effect. Gilldorn Savings Asso. v. Commerce Savings Asso., 804 F.2d 390, 393-94 (7th Cir. 1986) (giving preclusive effect in an Illinois district court to issues decided in a Texas state court's denial of a motion to dismiss); American Postal Workers Union Columbus Area Local v. United States Postal Service, 736 F.2d 317, 319 (6th Cir. 1984) (recognizing the preclusive effects of the dismissal of some but not all of the claims in the earlier action); In re Cenco Incorporated Securities Litigation, 529 F. Supp. 411 (N.D. Ill. 1982) (holding that certain issues decided in a partial summary judgment have collateral estoppel effect); Aiello v. Wilmington, 470 F. Supp. 414, 420 (1979), aff'd, 623 F.2d 845 (3d Cir. 1980).
Judge Conlon's decision, while interlocutory, satisfies the requirements of finality for collateral estoppel purposes. The parties fully briefed the motions. Judge Conlon's opinion set forth her reasoning in detail and addressed and rejected all of Haines' primary arguments. Her decision fully resolved the issue of liability at the trial level, with only damages remaining to be litigated.
In addition to satisfying each element of collateral estoppel as set forth by the Seventh Circuit, barring Haines from relitigating the issue of liability in this action promotes the goals of the doctrine of collateral estoppel to spare a party the burden of relitigating issues, conserve judicial resources and minimize the risk of inconsistent results. See generally Charter Oak Fire Ins. Co. v. Sumitomo Marine and Fire Ins. Co., Ltd., 750 F.2d 267, 270 (3d Dist. 1984); Southern Pacific Communications Co. v. American Tel. & Tel. Co., 238 U.S. App. D.C. 340, 740 F.2d 1011, 1019 (D.C. Cir. 1984). Haines has had an opportunity to fully present its position before Judge Conlon. There is no equitable reason why Haines should be allowed another bite at the apple here.
Reassessing the merits of Haines' position poses the risk of the following anomaly: that Haines is found liable for its 1983 and 1984 directories but not for later directories that are identical in all material respects. Finally, ample judicial resources have already been devoted to these issues. Indeed, a pronouncement on the merits would amount to no more than a pronouncement on the correctness of Judge Conlon's decisions. Since the Seventh Circuit may ultimately address these precise issues in the context of her decision, there is no sound reason for doing so here.
Judge Conlon decided that a person who compiles a cross-reference directory from information contained in Bell phone directories infringes Bell's copyright and is liable under federal copyright law. Under principles of collateral estoppel, Haines is barred from relitigating the issue here. Accordingly, Haines' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment is denied and Bell's motion for summary judgment as to liability is granted. It is so ordered.