Timberlake & Spears' Attorney's Fees Award Vacated In Patent Appeal Involving Concert Screen Displays

Large Audience Displays v. Tennman Prods., No. 15-2040 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 20, 2016).

The Federal Circuit vacated an award of attorney's fees to prevailing defendants Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake in a patent case because certain of the factors considered by the District Court were entitled to no weight.  The issue was remanded for reconsideration whether the case was "exceptional" under ยง 285 of the Patent Act.

The patent at issue, previously assigned to the plaintiff, generally related to large-audience, positionable imaging and display systems for the imaging and displaying of visual-media content.  Plaintiff alleged that Timberlake and Spears infringed the patent through their respective uses of a large-audience display screen during certain concert tours.  While the federal action was pending, the PTO issued a final decision in an inter partes proceeding to cancel all claims asserted by the plaintiff in the patent.  That decision then resulted in the district court dismissing the complaint and defendants moving for attorney's fees.

On appeal, the Federal circuit found that the district court based its ruling, to some extent, on both a misunderstanding of what factors are relevant to an exceptionality determination and a clearly erroneous view of the record evidence.  "Because those considerations were part of the totality of the circumstances deemed sufficient to justify a finding of exceptionality, we vacate and remand that finding for reconsideration."