IN Southern District awards $15M in attorney fees, expenses in MDL patent case

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Defendants in a multidistrict patent case that involved more than 200 attorneys and staff across 15 law firms, including an Indianapolis law firm, have been awarded a combined $15 million in attorney fees and expenses.

On Tuesday, Senior Judge Robert L. Miller Jr., presiding in the Indiana Southern District Court, granted the motion for attorney fees in  In Re: Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems (‘858) patent litigation, 1:10-ML-2181.

Woodard Emhardt Henry Reeves & Wagner attorneys Spiro Bereveskos, Dan Lueders and Lisa Hiday represented defendant Iroquois Bio-Energy Company LLC in the lawsuit. Of the total award, Iroquois was awarded almost its entire request of $1.4 million in legal fees, expert fees and expenses.

Bereveskos played a “major role in leading the MDL group and trying the case,” according to the Indianapolis intellectual property law firm.

The case started more than a decade ago when GS CleanTech filed multiple lawsuits in several states alleging businesses had infringed upon its family of patents related to extracting corn oil from ethanol byproducts.

In 2010, the judicial panel on MDL consolidated the cases in the Indiana Southern District Court for pretrial proceedings. The eventual result was an “overwhelming victory for the defendants, who prevailed on summary judgement when Judge McKinney invalidated CleanTech’s patents and ruled them unenforceable,” Miller wrote, referencing the Late Judge Larry McKinney.

In a related case in the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer found that, “GS CleanTech made affirmative, false representation to the (United States Patent and Trademark Office) about the date on which its process was patentable and about the date in which it had offered the patented invention to a potential customer.

“Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals found that CleanTech’s agents knew the statements were false when they were made,” Pallmeyer continued. “(CleanTech) failed to correct the false statements with the PTO, and after obtaining the patents at issue, proceeded to sue more than two dozen purported infringers, seeking enforcement of patents obtained on the strength of representations that CleanTech principles and their lawyer knew to be false.”

In the award order, Miller noted the defendants shouldn’t have to pay for all the experts that were needed for the case.

“Accordingly, CleanTech’s objection to an award of expert fees is overruled,” he wrote.

CleanTech also argued there was no evidence that “it engaged in improper tactics or acted in bad faith,” but the court stated in a footnote, “The record demonstrates otherwise.”

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