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Reese v. Sprint Nextel Corporation

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 9, 2014

MORRIS REESE, Plaintiff,
v.
SPRINT NEXTEL CORPORATION, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [53]

OTIS D. WRIGHT, II, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Morris Reese notified virtually the entire cellular wireless industry of U.S. Patent No. 6, 868, 150 ("the 150 Patent") in 2005 through letters alleging that providing call-waiting and caller-ID services infringed the 150 Patent. But it was not until May 2013-more than eight years later-that Reese filed patent-infringement suits against the five cellular service providers. Finding this delay unfair, the service providers, including Defendant Sprint Nextel Corporation, all individually filed motions for summary judgment against Reese based on the defense of laches. Faced with dismissal of his current suits because of his prolonged delay, Reese now offers excuses-such as his illness and involvement in other litigation-to justify his delay in bringing suit. Because none of Reese's explanations excuse his delay, the Court GRANTS Sprint's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 53.)

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Reese is the sole named inventor on the 150 Patent, which issued on March 15, 2005. (SUF ¶ 2; Ex. A.) The 150 Patent is a continuation of the 009 Patent which issued July 30, 2002. (Mot. Ex. C.) The 150 Patent expired in 2011, two years prior to Reese's suit against Sprint. (SUF ¶ 5.)

On April 13, 2005, Reese sent a letter to the CEOs of Sprint Corporation and Nextel Communications, Inc. asserting that they infringed the 150 Patent with their call-waiting ID service. (SUF ¶ 1; Mot. Exs. A, B.) The April 13, 2005 letter informed Sprint of the 150 Patent, and directed Sprint in particular to claims 25 and 36-which Reese indicated were "applicable to [Sprint] customers subscribed to Call Waiting ID' service.'" ( Id. ) Reese asserted that for Sprint to continue to provide that service to its customers, Sprint required a license from Reese. ( Id. ) Reese did not inform Sprint that it would be sued if it did not take a license. ( Id. )

Sprint was one of twelve different telecommunications companies who received infringement notices from Reese in 2005-BellSouth, Cingular Wireless, Motorola, Nextel, Nokia, Qwest Communications, Samsung, SBC Communications, Verizon, and T-Mobile also received letters. (Reese Decl. ¶¶ 3-5, 8-10, 14.) Between 2005 and 2013, Reese litigated several other patent-infringement lawsuits across the country.[1] ( Id. ¶ 17-18.) Four of these suits involved the 150 Patent or its immediate parent patent. ( Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Reese was represented by counsel for all of these suits, with the exception of Reese v. Verizon Cal., Inc. et al., Case No. CV-11-01934 SJO (C.D. Cal. Aug. 11, 2011), which he litigated pro se. (Reese Decl. ¶ 33.)

From 2000 to 2008, Reese experienced serious heath problems. Reese began dialysis treatments for renal failure in 2000. ( Id. ¶ 29.) Reese's dialysis treatments were performed three times per week until Reese had a kidney transplant in 2008. ( Id. ¶¶ 30-32.)

On May 29, 2013, Reese filed suit against Sprint-along with Verizon., TracFone Wireless, Inc., United States Cellular Corporation, AT&T Mobility LLC, and T-Mobile USA, Inc. ( Morris Reese v. Sprint Nextel Corporation et al., 2:13-cv-03811-ODW-PLA (C.D. Cal. May 29, 2013) ECF No. 1.) The Court severed the case on July 15, 2013. ( Id. ECF No. 18.)

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify specific facts through admissible evidence that show a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Conclusory or speculative testimony in affidavits and moving papers is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and defeat summary judgment. Thornhill's Publ'g Co. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 738 (9th Cir. 1979).

A genuine issue of material fact must be more than a scintilla of evidence, or evidence that is merely colorable or not significantly probative. Addisu v. Fred Meyer, 198 F.3d 1130, 1134 (9th Cir. 2000). A disputed fact is "material" where the resolution of that fact might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1968). An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. Where the moving and nonmoving parties' versions of events differ, courts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

IV. DISCUSSION

In the interest of fairness, those who are granted a monopoly under the patent system have an obligation to enforce their rights in a timely manner. A defendant in a patent-infringement suit may raise the equitable defense of laches when the plaintiff is dilatory bringing suit and that delay prejudices the defendant. A.C. Aukerman Co. v. R.L. Chaides Const. Co., 960 F.2d 1020, 1030 (Fed. Cir. 1992). In patent cases, laches bars recovery of damages for any infringement that occurs prior to the filing of suit. Id. at 1040. A laches ...


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