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Munchkin, Inc. v. Luv N'Care, Ltd.

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 26, 2015

MUNCHKIN, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
LUV N' CARE, LTD.; ADMAR INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendants.

ORDER RULING ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE [118, 120, 121, 122, 123, 126]

OTIS D. WRIGHT, II, District Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Munchkin, Inc. initiated this infringement action against Defendants Luv N' Care, Ltd. and Admar International, Inc. (collectively, "LNC" or "Defendants") on September 30, 2013. (Compl., ECF No.1.) U.S. Patent No. 6, 292, 962 (the 962 Patent) is directed to an infant blanket with teether/pacifier attached at the corners. On February 24, 2015, the Court held a hearing on several motions in limine. After considering the parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as follows.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion in limine is "a procedural device to obtain an early and preliminary ruling on the admissibility of evidence." Goodman v. Las Vegas Metro. Police Dep't, 963 F.Supp.2d 1036, 1046 (D. Nev. 2013). Trial courts have broad discretion when ruling on such motions. See Jenkins v. Chrysler Motor Corp., 316 F.3d 664, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). Moreover, such rulings are provisional and "not binding on the trial judge" on the court. Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n. 3 (2000). "Denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion will be admitted at trial. Denial merely means that without the context of trial, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence in question should be excluded." Ind. Ins. Co. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's Motions in Limine [120, 121, 123]

1. To Exclude Expert Testimony and Reports by Edward Manzo [120]

Plaintiff argues that Defendants' Expert, Edward Manzo's testimony on invalidity is improper under Fed.R.Evid. 702. Mr. Manzo is a patent attorney and does not have the requisite technical background or experience to have specialized knowledge on the issues of invalidity in this case. Because Mr. Manzo does not qualify as an expert under Rule 702, he cannot provide any testimony as to invalidity of the 962 Patent.

Mr. Manzo has an undergraduate degree in physics and no other technical experience in any field related to the 962 Patent. Plaintiff argues that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have an engineering degree in a field such as Mechanical, Chemical, or Materials Science Engineering and a minimum of three years of experience in the design and/or manufacture of consumer products or a minimum of ten years of active industrial experience in the design and/or manufacture of consumer products. Throughout discovery, Defendants did not take a position on the proper level of skill in the art. Regardless, Mr. Manzo does not possess any technical experience to qualify as an expert under Rule 702.

Defendants argue that Mr. Manzo is an expert on Patent Office procedures and therefore is qualified to testify as to what the Patent Office Examiner would have found if certain prior art references were before him. This type of testimony is just a circuitous way to allow Mr. Manzo to testify about invalidity without being qualified to do so. Further, since Mr. Manzo does not have the requisite technical background, his testimony is purely irrelevant speculation.

Lastly, Mr. Manzo's Second Supplemental Report must be excluded because it was untimely disclosed. The report was not served until January 14, 2015. The initial expert disclosure deadline was October 6, 2014 and December 1, 2014 was the close of discovery. Further, the Supplemental Report refers to late disclosed evidence of the Disney Babies Bibs and Clown Bibs. This late-disclosed evidence was excluded by the Court in a separate Order. ( See ECF No. 148.) Therefore, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion in Limine No. 1. (ECF No. 120.)

2. To Exclude Evidence, Testimony, or Argument Regarding Laches [121]

Plaintiff argues that Defendants have no witnesses to testify on laches. Defendants' laches defense is not based on prior sales of the accused products in this case, but rather two different products previously sold by LNC, the Precious Moment Teething Blanket and Beatrix Potter Teething Blanket. Therefore, in order to pursue the laches defense, Defendants must establish that those two products are "substantially similar" to the accused ...


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