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Johnson Safety Inc. v. Voxx International Corp.

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 17, 2017

JOHNSON SAFETY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
VOXX INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION; VOXX ELECTRONICS CORPORATION; and INVISION AUTOMOTIVE SYSTEMS INC., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE [122]; GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [134]; DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [119]; AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STAY [117]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This suit involves cross-claims for patent infringement, with both Plaintiff-Coutnerdefendant Johnson Safety, Inc. (“JSI”) and Defendant-Counterclaimants Voxx International Corporation, Voxx Electronics Corporation, and Invision Automotive Ssytems Inc. (collectively, “Voxx”) owning patent portfolios. There are four motions currently pending before the Court. JSI moves for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 134) and a stay of Voxx's counterclaims (ECF No. 117), while Voxx moves to dismiss one of JSI's claims (ECF No. 119) and to consolidate this case with a related one (ECF No. 122). All four motions are fully briefed and ready for decision.[1]

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The patents in this case describe video systems and monitors that can be affixed to or temporarily placed inside the interior of a passenger vehicle. (See Compl. ¶¶ 7- 23, ECF No. 1; Countercompl. ¶¶ 17-36, ECF No. 42.) For brevity's sake, a more thorough discussion of each patent and the relevant claims of infringement will be discussed will be reserved for the analysis of each respective motion.

         On October 28, 2016, the Court held a claim construction hearing on fifteen total terms, with five of the terms coming from JSI's patents and ten coming from Voxx's. (See ECF No. 90.) On November 16, 2016, the Court issued its Order construing the terms. (ECF No. 95.)

         III. VOXX'S MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE

         As a preliminary matter, the Court disagrees with Voxx's argument that this case should be consolidated with related case Voxx International Corporation et al. v. Johnson Safety Inc., styled as 2:17-cv-00358-ODW-DTB (“the Transferred Case”).

         Voxx contends that the Transferred Case, originally filed in the Southern District of Indiana and transferred to this Court, is sufficiently related to the instant action to warrant consolidation. (See Mot. to Consolidate.) In the Transferred Case, Voxx asserts infringement of five of its patents against JSI. (See Id. at 1.) None of the patents at issue in the Transferred Case are the same as the patents at issue in this case, but Voxx says that the patents are related because they are “in the same family” as the patents in this suit and/or that they “share similar claim language” with a patent asserted as invalidating art in the instant action. (Id. at 2-3.) Voxx does not dispute that consolidating the two cases would delay trial, now less than 50 days away, but it suggests that the overall efficiencies gained through consolidation outweigh any such delay. (See Reply to Mot. to Consolidate 1, ECF No. 133.)

         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42, a district court may consolidate cases that involve common questions of law or fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a)(2); Inv'rs Research Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for the Cent. Dist. of Cal., 877 F.2d 777, 777 (9th Cir. 1989). “To determine whether to consolidate, a court weighs the interest of judicial convenience against the potential for delay, confusion, and prejudice caused by consolidation.” Id.

         B. Analysis

         The benefits of consolidation do not outweigh the potential for delay in this instance. The present action was filed years before the Transferred Case, and extensive discovery, a claim construction hearing, and motion practice have already taken place. The Transferred Case, on the other hand, is still in its infancy, with little discovery and no claim construction to speak of. To make matters worse, none of the patents in the Transferred Case overlap directly with the patents at issue here; in essence the Court would be left to start entirely from scratch. As such, the benefits of consolidation would be minimal. In contrast, the burden and delay would be great: the case at bar is on the eve of trial, and the parties have not alerted the Court to any reason they will not be ready for trial next month on May 30, 2017. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Voxx's Motion to Consolidate.

         IV. JSI'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         JSI asks the Court to find that it is not liable for infringement of Voxx's asserted patents as a matter of law, either because the patents are invalid or because JSI's products are not infringing. (Mot. for Partial Summ. J. (“MPSJ”) 3.) The Court finds that JSI is entitled to summary judgment on some, but not all, of Voxx's patent infringement claims.

         A. Legal Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(a). A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. See Id. On an issue as to which the nonmoving party will have the burden of proof, however, the movant can prevail merely by pointing out that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. See Id. If the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving party must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

         In evaluating the evidence presented in support of or in opposition to summary judgment, the court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence. Rather, it draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630- 31 (9th Cir. 1987). However, conclusory or speculative testimony is insufficient to meet this burden or to raise genuine issues of fact defeating summary judgment. See Nelson v. Pima Cmty. Coll., 83 F.3d 1075, 1081-82 (9th Cir. 1996).

         For a patent infringement summary judgment motion, there are two major standards by which the moving party may argue they are entitled to summary judgment: either non-infringement or invalidity of the nonmoving party's patents. See Absolute Software, Inc. v. Stealth Signal, Inc., 659 F.3d 1121, 1129-30 (Fed. Cir. 2011); Schering Corp. v. Geneva Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 339 F.3d 1373, 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2003). Infringement is a question of fact; in order to enter summary judgment against the patentee on the issue, a court must resolve factual inferences in favor of the patentee and determine that no reasonable jury could find that the moving party infringed. Absolute Software, Inc., 659 F.3d at 1129-30. Infringement is determined where the claim has been properly construed and then compared to the accused device or process. Id. at 1129. Invalidity forecloses the infringement question because the underlying patent is unenforceable, due to either anticipation by prior art or a deficiency with the application. Schering Corp., 339 F.3d at 1377.

         B. Discussion

         Voxx asserts five patents in this suit: No. 5, 775, 762 (“the '762 Patent”); No. 7, 245, 274 (“the '274 Patent”); No. 7, 839, 355 (“the '355 Patent”); No. 7, 050, 124 (“the '124 Patent”); and No. 6, 678, 892 (“the '892 Patent”). JSI argues that it is not liable for infringement of any of them.

         1. The '762 Patent

         The Court finds that JSI is not entitled to summary judgment as to the '762 Patent.

         i. ...


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