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Global Traffic Technologies, LLC v. Emtrac Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 25, 2014

Global Traffic Technologies, LLC, Plaintiff,
Emtrac Systems, Inc., Rodney K. Morgan, STC, Inc., and KM Enterprises, Inc., Defendants.

Chad Drown, Esq., Timothy E. Grimsrud, Esq., Timothy Sullivan, Esq., and Lauren J. Frank, Esq., Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Global Traffic Technologies, LLC.

Jonathan D. Jay, Esq., Hellmuth & Johnson PLLC, Edina, MN; and, Terrance C. Newby, Esq., Leffert Jay & Polglaze, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of KM Enterprises, Inc., STC, Inc., and Rodney K. Morgan.


ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.


Defendants Rodney K. Morgan ("Morgan"), STC, Inc. ("STC"), and KM Enterprises, Inc. ("KME") (collectively, the "Defendants") move for Judgment as a Matter of Law or New Trial [Docket Nos. 411, 369, 372, 375, 378, 381], for a finding of Laches and Equitable Estoppel [Docket No. 395], and for an amended ruling on the claim language of Claim 16 [Docket No. 401]. Plaintiff Global Traffic Technologies, LLC ("GTT") opposes these motions, and moves for Confirmation of Willful Infringement, Enhancement of Damages, and Prejudgment Interest [Docket No. 364]. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motions are denied and GTT's motion is granted in part and denied in part.


On September 20, 2013, a jury found Defendants infringed GTT's Patent No. 5, 539, 398 (the "'398 Patent" or the "Patent"). The jury rejected Defendants' invalidity defenses concerning the '398 Patent and calculated damages in the amount of $5, 052, 118. Finally, the jury found by clear and convincing evidence that Defendants willfully infringed the '398 Patent.


A. Judgment as a Matter of Law ("JMOL") Standard

Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs renewed motions for judgment as a matter of law. Under Rule 50, the court may allow judgment on the verdict, order a new trial, or direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b)(1)-(3). The standard of review for granting a Rule 50(b) motion is whether sufficient evidence exists to support the jury verdict. A motion for judgment as a matter of law should only be granted when "all the evidence points one way and is susceptible of no reasonable inferences sustaining the position of the nonmoving party." Washburn v. Kan. City Life Ins. Co. , 831 F.2d 1404, 1407 (8th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted). In deciding a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party who prevailed before the jury, making all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Id . (citation omitted). It is not the place of the court to substitute its own judgment for that of the trier of fact. Ryther v. KARE 11 , 864 F.Supp. 1510, 1519 (D. Minn. 1994) (citing Nelson v. Boatmen's Bancshares, Inc. , 26 F.3d 796, 803 (8th Cir. 1994)).

B. New Trial Standard

The decision whether to grant a new trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a) is committed to the discretion of the district court. Pulla v. Amoco Oil Co. , 72 F.3d 648, 656 (8th Cir. 1995). "A new trial is required only when necessary to avoid a miscarriage of justice." Gearin v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , 53 F.3d 216, 219 (8th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). "While the standard for granting a new trial is less stringent than for judgment as a matter of law, a new trial shall be granted only to prevent injustice or when the verdict strongly conflicts with the great weight of evidence." Maxwell v. J. Baker, Inc. , 160 F.R.D. 580, 581 (D. Minn. 1995). Similar to the standard for granting judgment as a matter of law, a court reviewing a motion for a new trial is "not free to reweigh the evidence and set aside the jury verdict merely because the jury could have drawn different inferences or conclusions or because judges feel that other results are more reasonable." Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Aalco Wrecking Co. , 466 F.2d 179, 186 (8th Cir. 1972) (quoting Tennant v. Peoria & Pekin Union Ry. , 321 U.S. 29, 35 (1944)).

C. Claim Construction and Sufficiency of the Evidence for Infringement

Defendants argue "the Jury's finding of infringement of Claim 1 is erroneous, unsupportable by the language of the Patent and contrary to the evidence offered at trial regarding how the Emtrac System functions." Defs.' Br. Supp. JMOL [Docket No. 413] at 12. No reasonable jury, Defendants argue, could conclude the Emtrac System infringes Claim 1 of the '398 Patent, which provides:

A system for determining whether a vehicle having an associated vehicle path is within an allowed approach of a location, comprising:
navigation means, associated with the vehicle, for generating vehicle data at periodic intervals along the vehicle path, wherein the vehicle data includes vehicle position data;
means for transmitting the vehicle data;
means, associated with the location, for receiving the vehicle data;
mapping means, associated with the location, for storing a plurality of positions corresponding to allowed approaches to the location and providing therefrom a map of allowed approaches;
evaluation means for comparing the vehicle data to the map of allowed approaches to determine whether the vehicle path is within an allowed approach.

Defendants proceed line by line, making non-infringement arguments based, not on evidence presented at trial, but rather on their view of how claim terms should have been construed. Defs.' Br. Supp. JMOL, at 3-12. Defendants claim the Emtrac System does not generate "vehicle data" as that term is "defined by the Patent;" and does not transmit vehicle data; and does not receive data, "associated with the location;" and does not have "mapping means;" and does not determine if the vehicle is within an allowed approach. Id.

Claim terms are "generally given their ordinary and customary meaning, " which is "the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application." Phillips v. AWH Corp. , 415 F.3d 1303, 1312-13 (Fed. Cir. 2005).

The Court construed the disputed Patent terms in July 2012. See Global Traffic Techs., LLC v. Emtrac Sys., No. 10-4110, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96866 (D. Minn. July 13, 2012).[1] The Court determined all disputed terms in the claims are entitled to their plain and ordinary meaning. Id . Defendants suggested the Patent places location-specific limitations on the terms which would narrow the scope of the patent coverage. See id. The Court determined "that Defendants' proposed construction, with its locational limitation, would unduly limit the broad phrase "associated with the location." Id. at *8.

The Court addressed claim construction again in considering Defendants' summary judgment motion. See Global Traffic Techs., LLC v. Emtrac Sys. , 946 F.Supp.2d 884 (D. Minn. 2013). The Court determined further claim construction was unnecessary before trial. The Markman hearing was sufficient and all terms were to be considered by the jury using their plain meaning.[2]

The course of trial did not change the Court's view of claim construction. The language of the Patent was relatively clear, and no further claim construction was necessary. Defendants are not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on this basis.

In addition to their claim construction arguments, Defendants argue that based on the evidence presented at trial, no reasonable jury could have found that the Emtrac System infringed Claim 1 or Claim 16. In conflict with Defendants' argument, Plaintiff's expert, Dr. Charles Neuhauser, went through every limitation of the asserted claims and explained in detail where each limitation is found in the Emtrac GPS System. Trial Tr. 347-88. The jury evaluates the credibility of the parties' experts and the jury was entitled to credit Dr. Neuhauser's testimony that the Emtrac System includes the features of Claims 1 and 16 of '398 Patent. Energy Transp. Grp., Inc. v. William Demant Holding A/S , 697 F.3d 1342, 1352 (Fed. Cir. 2012). Defendants have not carried their "onerous burden" of showing that, even when the record is viewed most favorably to GTT, there is a "complete absence of probative facts" to support the jury's conclusions. Inacom Corp. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co. , 254 F.3d 683, 688-89 (8th Cir. 2001). Therefore, Defendants are not entitled to a judgment as a matter of law based on sufficiency of the evidence with regards to infringement.

For these same reasons, the Court is convinced there was no miscarriage of justice. The parties were given a fair opportunity to present their case and the jury weighed the evidence of infringement. Defendants are not entitled to a new trial.

D. Admission of Morgan Testimony

"[A] district court has wide discretion in admitting and excluding evidence." Harris v. Chand , 506 F.3d 1135, 1139 (8th Cir. 2007). The Eighth Circuit "will not set aside a jury verdict unless the district court clearly and prejudicially abused its discretion in determining whether or not to admit evidence." Shaw Group, Inc. v. Marcum , 516 F.3d 1061, 1068 (8th Cir. 2008). To warrant a new trial, an evidentiary error must have been so prejudicial that a new trial, absent the error, would be likely to produce a different result. Pointer v. DART , 417 F.3d 819, 822 (8th Cir. 2005); Gill v. Maciejewski , 546 F.3d 557, 562 (8th Cir. 2008).

Defendants argue a new trial is warranted on Claim 16 because the Court permitted at trial "extensive cross examination of Defendant Kris Morgan on this issue of whether the Emtrac System infringed Claim 16." Defs.' Br. Supp. JMOL at 14. Morgan testified he intentionally chose not to read the Patent, read the 3M (which later became GTT) product manual for its GPS traffic preemption system, and designed and developed the Emtrac System. Trial Tr. 609-11. Morgan, as a developer, professed intimate knowledge of the Emtrac System. Pl.'s Trial Ex. 77. Morgan testified that he "encourag[ed] [Brad] Cross to help design it and manufacture" his Emtrac System with GPS. Trial Tr. 637. Morgan repeatedly claimed the Emtrac System did not infringe and the Court allowed GTT to ask Morgan questions on that point. Id . 611-12. The jury weighed the evidence and the testimony of Morgan. Any new trial would also include vigorous cross-examination of Morgan as a named defendant in the case. This ground for a new trial is rejected.

E. JMOL Damages

Defendants' contend Plaintiff's expert, Donald A. Gorowsky, used a fatally flawed methodology to calculate the damages of infringement. In a pretrial order, the Court has addressed Gorowsky's methodology, and found Gorowsky used methodologies approved by the Federal Circuit. Global Traffic , 946 F.Supp.2d at 910-13. The Court held, to the extent Defendants disagreed with the expert's conclusions, Defendants could challenge them at trial. Id . At trial Defendants thoroughly cross-examined Gorowsky. Defendants also presented competing evidence and theories, arguing that there were viable competitors sufficient to justify rejecting Gorowsky's two-supplier market theory. This argument may have been accepted by the jury's decision to ameliorate Plaintiff's requested damages. Gorowsky estimated total damages of $7.1 million, but the jury nevertheless returned a damages calculation of approximately $5 million. The lower verdict implies the jury weighed the evidence and believed GTT proved its case by a greater weight of the evidence on some, but not all of Gorowsky's conclusions and the other evidence presented by GTT. The Court "will not engage in a weighing or evaluation of the evidence, as these are jury functions." Warren v. Prejean , 301 F.3d 893, 903 (8th Cir. 2002). The evidence presented at trial supports a jury finding on damages. See, e.g., Trial Tr. 481, 519, 639, 689, 719, 880, 946-53.

Defendants also argue the Court created prejudicial error by permitting Gorowsky to offer a "rebuttal opinion" using a report from Defendants' damages expert, Dr. Kenneth Serwin, that was never offered at trial. The only testimony that was elicited from Gorowsky about Defendants' unoffered expert report concerned methodology. Gorowsky testified that Serwin's report showed the use of the same methodology Gorowsky used, but came to different conclusions about the amount of damages. Trial Tr. 1666-68. GTT offered this testimony to rebut Defendants' attempts to undermine Gorowsky's methodology. The admission of this limited rebuttal opinion was not error. See id. 1670-71.

F. Jury Instructions

Defendants object to Jury Instruction No. 35 regarding the notice and marking requirements of 35 U.S.C. ยง 287(a). See Final Jury Instr. [Docket No. 311].

"The trial court has a great deal of discretion in framing the jury instructions and the court need not give the exact language desired by the parties." Ryther, 108 F.3d at 847. Instructions do not have to be "technically perfect or even a model of clarity." Gill , 546 F.3d at 563. Rather, the relevant question is "whether the instructions, taken as a whole and viewed in light of the evidence and applicable law, fairly and adequately submitted the issues in the case ...

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