Loser Pays: US Supreme Court Gives District Courts Greater Discretion to Award Attorney’s Fees in Frivolous Patent Suits

ImageBy Peter Montine

The United States Supreme Court has made it easier for district courts to award attorney’s fees in frivolous patent infringement cases. In two different cases, the Court held that the decision to award attorney’s fees to the prevailing party was within a court’s general discretion, and that a review of such a decision was analyzed under an “abuse of discretion” standard.

In the first case, Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., Octane had been sued by ICON for infringing on ICON’s patent for adjustable elliptical machines. Octane succeeded on a summary judgment motion in district court to dismiss the suit. However, when Octane moved for attorney’s fees, the court denied the motion, following the standard set forth in Brooks Furniture Mfg., Inc. v. Dutailier Int’l, Inc. That standard requires that a court find the claim to be either (1) objectively baseless or (2) brought in subjective bad faith. Finding neither of these things to be true, the court dismissed the motion for attorney’s fees. Octane appealed, but the Federal Circuit, which issued the Brooks standard, upheld the district court’s decision. Continue reading