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Feit Electric Company, Inc. v. CFL Technologies LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 20, 2019

FEIT ELECTRIC COMPANY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CFL TECHNOLOGIES LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiff and counter defendant Feit Electric Company, Inc.'s motion for leave to file an interlocutory appeal (Dkt. 179) is granted.

         Background

         Plaintiff Feit Electric Company, Inc. (“Feit”) initiated these proceedings on December 31, 2013, when it filed a Declaratory Judgment Complaint alleging that the U.S. Patent Nos. 6, 172, 464 (“the '464 Patent”) and 5, 757, 140 are unenforceable based on issue preclusion. Beacon Point Capital, LLC filed their counterclaim on June 9, 2014. The Court granted partial summary judgment to Feit on September 30, 2015, holding that the '464 Patent is unenforceable based on the issue preclusion effect of the prior inequitable conduct determinations. (Dkt. 65.) The Court denied Beacon's motion for reconsideration on November 23, 2015. (Dkt. 71.)

         Beacon assigned to CFL Technologies LLC (“CFLT”) a set of patents that includes the '464 Patent on June 15, 2018. The Court granted Beacon's motion to substitute CFLT as defendant and counter claimant and dismissed Beacon from the litigation on December 19, 2018. (Dkt. 152.) CFLT moved the Court for reconsideration of its September 30, 2015 order in light of the Federal Circuit's decision in Voter Verified, Inc. v. Election Systems & Software LLC, 887 F.3d 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2018), cert. denied, 139 S.Ct. 813, 202 L.Ed.2d 577 (2019), which was issued after the Court's last ruling on the matter. (Dkt. 157.) The Court granted CFLT's motion for reconsideration on August 8, 2019. (Dkt. 171.) Feit now moves for leave to file an interlocutory appeal of that order. (Dkt. 179.) Feit seeks appellate resolution of the following question:

Whether, as this Court found based on Voter Verified, the change in law exception applies in a case involving the very same conduct and issue litigated in a prior final, non-appealable judgment.

         Legal Standard

         A district court may grant a party leave to file an interlocutory appeal of an order when the question for certification is (1) a question of law, (2) which is controlling (3) and contestable, and (4) its resolution will speed up the litigation. See Ahrenholz v. Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ill., 219 F.3d 674, 675-76 (7th Cir. 2000); 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). Each condition is necessary. See Ahrenholz, 219 F.3d at 676. Additionally, the motion for leave to appeal must be filed with the district court within a reasonable time after the order at issue is entered. Id. at 675.

         The decision of whether to permit an interlocutory appeal is within this Court's discretion. See Janusz v. City of Chicago, No. 03 C 4402, 2013 WL 12331279, at *1 (N.D. Ill. June 21, 2013) (Gottschall, J.). Because these appeals are a drain on judicial resources and tend to cause delay in the lower court's proceedings, they should be granted sparingly. See S.E.C. v. Buntrock, No. 02 C 2180, 2003 WL 260711, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 3, 2003) (Andersen, J.).

         Analysis

         Controlling Question of Law

         A question of law in this context means an abstract, “purely” legal issue, “something the court of appeals could decide quickly and cleanly without having to study the record.” Ahrenholz, 219 F.3d at 676-77. That requirement is met in this case, as the issue is purely legal and does not require an extensive review of the record.

         “A question of law may be deemed ‘controlling' if its resolution is quite likely to affect the further course of the litigation, even if not certain to do so.” Sokaogon Gaming Enter. Corp. v. Tushie-Montgomery Assocs., Inc., 86 F.3d 656, 659 (7th Cir. 1996). The Seventh Circuit has further explained that the term “controlling” connotes that an issue must be serious to the conduct of the litigation, either in a practical or legal sense. See Johnson v. Burken, 930 F.2d 1202, 1206 (7th Cir. 1991). Importantly, a question may be controlling “even though its decision might not lead to reversal on appeal, if interlocutory reversal might save time for the district court, and time and expense for the litigants.” Id. The question of whether CFLT is precluded from enforcing the ‘464 Patent is serious to the litigation, as almost half of the claims brought by Plaintiff turn on that determination. Thus, it is controlling. CFLT does not dispute this factor.

         Cont ...


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