United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
May 27, 2004.
THE CHAMBERLAIN GROUP, INC, Plaintiff, V. INTERLOGIX, INC., Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUZANNE CONLON, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
The Chamberlain Group, Inc. ("Chamberlain") sued Interlogix, Inc.
("Interlogix") for patent infringement, Interlogix's motion for summary
judgment on non-infringement of Patent No. Re. 35,364 ("the `364 patent")
was granted. Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Interlogix, Inc., 2002 WL 1777280
(N.D. Ill. Aug. 1, 2002). After the parties completed appellate
briefing, a settlement was reached. Chamberlain now moves to vacate the
summary judgment order construing Claim 5 of the `364 patent as limited
to a garage door opener. PI. Mem. at 2. Interlogix does not oppose the
motion. Non-party Microchip Technology, Inc. ("Microchip") moves for
leave to file an amicus brief in order to oppose vacating the order
construing the `364 patent to apply only to a garage door opener.
Microchip is currently litigating the validity of the `364 patent against
Chamberlain in a declaratory judgment action in another federal district
court. Microchip Technology Inc. v. The Chamberlain Group, Inc., No.
Civ. 01 1423 PHX SRB (D. Ariz.). Microchip seeks to use this court's
finding that Claim 5 of the `364 patent is limited to a garage door
opener under the doctrine of issue preclusion or collateral estoppel. As an initial matter, Microchip's motion for leave to file an amicus
curiae brief should be granted. Permitting an amicus curiae brief is
discretionary. National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler, et
al, 223 F.3d 615, 616 (7th Cir. 2000). The Seventh Circuit has cautioned
against amicus briefs that do not "assist the judge . . . by presenting
ideas, arguments, theories, insights, facts, or data that are not to be
found in the parties' briefs." Voices for Choices, et al. v. Illinois
Bell Telephone Co., 339 F.3d 542, 545 (7th Cir. 2003). An amicus brief
should only be permitted in "a case in which a party is inadequately
represented; or in which the would-be amicus has a direct interest in
another case that may be materially affected by a decision in this case;
or in which the amicus has a unique perspective or specific information
that can assist the court beyond what the parties can provide." Id. See
also National Organization for Women, Inc., 223 F.3d at 617; Ryan v.
Commodity Futures Trading Comm., 125 F.3d 1062, 1063 (7th Cir. 1997).
Given this standard, Microchip's amicus brief must be considered.
Chamberlain's own motion identifies Microchip as a directly interested
party that may be materially affected by this court's decision. P1. Mot.
at 2 ("Chamberlain has filed this motion to vacate because a third party
in a declaratory judgment action requested another district court to
grant summary judgment of no infringement of the `364 patent by adopting
this Court's claim construction under the doctrine of issue preclusion or
collateral estoppel"). Chamberlain's attack on Microchip's standing to
bring a declaratory judgment action is belied by Chamberlain's lack of
success in moving to dismiss the action. PL Resp. Ex. 1 at 25 ("th[e
Arizona] Court has denied Chamberlain's motions to dismiss"). Contrary to
Chamberlain's position, Microchip's interest need not be sufficient to
intervene pursuant to Fed, R. Civ. P. 24. Ryan, 125 F.3d at 1063 ("an
amicus brief should normally be allowed when . . . the amicus has an
interest in some other case that may be affected . . . though not enough affected to entitle the amicus to intervene and become a party in
the present case"). Moreover, Microchip's amicus brief identifies
relevant authority that Chamberlain neglected to mention, let alone
analyze, in its motion to vacate.
Vacatur upon settlement is disfavored in this Circuit. In re Memorial
Hosp, of Iowa City, Inc., 862 F.2d 1299 (7th Cir. 1988); Nilssen v.
Motorola, Inc., Nos. 93 C 6333, 96 C 5571, 2002 WL 31369410 (N.D. Ill.
2002); Pivot Point Int'l, Inc. v. Charlene Products, Inc., et al., No. 90
C 6933, 2002 WL 1484488 (N.D. Ill. 2002); Allen-Bradley Co. v. Kollmorgen
Corp., 199 F.R.D. 316 (E.D. Wis. 2001); Krolikowski v. Volanti, No. 95 C
1254, 1996 WL 451307 (N.D.Ill. 1996). A motion to vacate a grant of
summary judgment is not treated differently than judgment after trial or
a Markman hearing. Aqua Marine Supply v. Aim Machining, Inc.,
247 F.3d 1216, 1221 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (vacatur of district court's grant
of summary judgment on patent infringement claims denied); Home Indemnity
Co. v. Farm House Foods Corp., 770 F. Supp. 1348, 1350 (E.D. Wis. 1991)
(joint motion to vacate partial summary judgment denied). Vacatur is
appropriate only under exceptional circumstances. Aqua Marine, 247 at
1221; Nilssen, 2002 WL 31369410 at * 4. The purportedly exceptional
circumstances identified by Chamberlain are nothing more than common
circumstances occasioned by a settlement.
Chamberlain argues it should not be saddled with this court's
reversible error in construing the `364 patent. P1's Opp. Mem. at 11.
However, in lieu of settlement, Chamberlain could have pursued appellate
review of this court's summary judgment order. Chamberlain chose instead
to voluntarily abandon its appeal rights in favor of settlement.*fn1
Under these circumstances, vacatur is unwarranted. U.S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall Partnership,
115 S.Ct. 386, 392 (1994) ("by appeal . . . parties may seek relief from
the legal consequences of judicial judgments. [A] party who steps off the
statutory path to employ the secondary remedy of vacatur as a refined
form of collateral attack on the judgment . . . disturb[s] the orderly
operation of the federal judicial system"). Nor is it relevant that the
Federal Circuit remanded this action. Chamberlain's unopposed motion for
remand was granted "for the purpose of allowing the district court to
consider the parties' motion to vacate its judgment." Fed. Cir. Order,
09/04/03, Doc. No. 221 (emphasis added).
Chamberlain argues that Microchip's potential use of offensive
collateral estoppel warrants vacatur. This argument is meritless. The
preclusive effect of litigation strongly militates against vacating a
judgment. Memorial Hosp., 862 F.2d at 1302; Pivot Point, 2002 WL 1484488
at *1. Chamberlain may challenge the preclusive effect of this court's
construction of 364 patent in the Arizona litigation before the Arizona
court. However, this court may not wrest this determination from the
Arizona court. Pivot Point Int'l, Inc., 2002 WL 1484488 at *1. The
summary judgment order may not be expunged merely to facilitate the
parties' private agreement. Memorial Hosp., 862 F.2d at 1300.
Accordingly, Chamberlain's motion to vacate is denied.