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Blank Rome IP Team Successfully Represents Daktronics, Inc., in Obtaining U.S. Supreme Court Denial of Review

A Blank Rome team successfully represented Daktronics, Inc., by convincing the U.S. Supreme Court to deny a request to overturn an appellate court’s determination that Daktronics did not infringe a patent, ending a seven-year patent infringement action.

In 2015, Olaf Sööt Design, LLC (“OSD”) sued Daktronics for patent infringement, claiming that Daktronics’ motorized winch that is used to raise and lower scenery in theaters infringed OSD’s patent. The case was tried in December 2018, with the jury finding that Daktronics infringed OSD’s patent. The trial court denied Daktronics’ motions for judgment as a matter of law, leading Daktronics to appeal the verdict. In January 2021, the Federal Circuit agreed with Daktronics and reversed the jury verdict, finding that the trial court should have thrown out the jury’s infringement finding as it relied on an interpretation of the patent that rendered one part of the claims meaningless in violation of Supreme Court precedent. 

OSD sought certiorari from the Supreme Court, arguing that the Federal Circuit deprived the jury of its fact-finding mission in violation of the Seventh Amendment, and that the Supreme Court’s 1996 Markman v. Westview Instruments case needed to be clarified due to confusion in the lower courts over the scope of review reserved for courts versus the jury. Daktronics argued that interpretation of a patent is a question of law for the court, just as with contractual interpretation, and that lower courts were not having any difficulty applying Markman.

The Supreme Court asked the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to review and make a recommendation as to whether the issue was worthy of Supreme Court review. After meeting with our Blank Rome team, the DOJ agreed with Daktronics that the interpretation of a patent should be resolved by the court as a matter of law. Further, OSD’s argument that courts should only construe terms of art as opposed to ordinary terms was contrary to the Markman decision and would create more confusion than it would alleviate. The DOJ recommended that the Supreme Court deny OSD’s request for cert, leading to the Supreme Court’s denial.

The Blank Rome team included Ken Bressler, Domingo Llagostera, and Russell Wong.