United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Memorandum and Order dated July 31, 2017, this Court ruled
that Plaintiff was collaterally estopped from asserting
Defendant infringed claims 1-7, 10-15, 19-20, 23-29, 32-37,
39, and 40 of the ‘874 Patent. Dkt. # 230 (Summary
Judgment Order). The Court entered Final Judgement on August
22, 2017 pursuant to Rule 54(b). Dkt. # 233 (Final Judgment
Order). The Final Judgment Order stayed and bifurcated
Defendant's counterclaims against Plaintiff pending
appeal to the Federal Circuit, the parties entered into a
settlement agreement conditioned on this Court (i) vacating
the Summary Judgment and Final Judgment Orders, and (ii)
dismissing the action with prejudice which each party bearing
its own costs. As part of the settlement agreement, the
parties jointly seek an “indicative ruling” that
the Court would so rule if the action were remanded. Dkt. #
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) provides that a “court
may relieve a party or its legal representative form a final
judgment, order, or proceeding” where “the
judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged, ”
where “applying it prospectively is no longer
equitable, ” or for “any other reason that
justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(5)-(6). If a
timely motion is made for relief that the court lacks
authority to grant because an appeal is pending, the court
may (1) defer considering the motion; (2) deny the motion;
(3) or state either that it would grant the motion if the
court of appeals remands for that purpose or that the motion
raises a substantial issue. Fed.R.Civ.P. 62.1(a).
the Supreme Court has stated that exceptional circumstances
could support vacatur of a judgment upon settlement by the
parties, the Ninth Circuit has subsequently ruled that a
district court may vacate its own decision in the absence of
extraordinary circumstances. Am. Games, Inc. v. Trade
Products, Inc., 142 F.3d 1164, 1169 (9th Cir. 1998)
(“According to the post-Bonner Mall Ninth
Circuit decisions, the district court below could have
vacated its own judgment using Ringsby's
equitable balancing test even if [the parties] had mooted
their case by settlement.”).
courts have found that vacatur may be warranted where a
settlement, conditioned upon vacatur, would ultimately serve
the interests of both parties and judicial efficiency in
avoiding further protracted and costly litigation. See,
e.g., In re: TFT-LCD (Flat Panel) Antitrust
Litig., No. M 07-1827 SI, 2012 WL 12369590, at *4 (N.D.
Cal. October 15, 2012). However, it is also true that parties
may use vacatur as a “get-out-of jail free” card,
resulting in a substantial waste of judicial resources.
See U.S. Bancorp Mortg. Co. v. Bonner Mall
P'ship, 513 U.S. 18, 28 (1994) (noting that parties
may wish to roll the dice rather than settle “if, but
only if, an unfavorable outcome can be washed away by a
settlement-related vacatur”); Unigen
Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Walgreen Co., 2009 WL 10677072,
at * 1 (W.D. Wash. Jul. 8, 2009).
case, the Court finds that the strong public interest in the
settlement of this litigation and the conservation of
judicial resources outweigh the benefit of the limited
collateral estoppel effect of the orders entered to date in
this case. Indeed, as the parties note, vacating the Summary
Judgment and Final Judgment Orders will not undo Judge
Robinson's findings regarding the claims under review.
See Dkt. # 241 at 7. And because the Summary
Judgment and Final Judgment Orders remain a matter of public
record, they will retain as much instructive or persuasive
effect as any court or party wishes to accord them. See
Unigen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 2009 WL 10677072 at * 1.
to the Court's consideration of the equities is the fact
that the settlement alleviates the need for further
proceedings on the claims currently stayed. Furthermore, the
public interest would be served by acknowledging the efficacy
of the Federal Circuit's mandatory mediation program in
which the parties participated, thereby encouraging future
dispute resolution by means less costly of private and public
resources than full-blown litigation. See Dana v. E.S.
Originals, Inc., 342 F.3d 1320, 1328-29 (Fed. Cir. 2003)
(Dyk, J., concurring) (discussing the mechanism through which
parties can prevent interim decision in the litigation from
having a collateral estoppel effect in future litigations and
suggesting the parties move the district court to vacate its
earlier decisions as part of a settlement). Accordingly, the
Court indicates that it will grant the motion to vacate the
Summary Judgment and Final Judgment Orders and dismiss the
action, if the Federal Circuit remands for that purpose.
reasons stated above, the Court indicates that it will grant
the motion to vacate the Summary Judgment and Final Judgment
Orders and dismiss the action, ...