Segan LLC v. Zynga Inc., 3-14-cv-01315 (CAND September 10, 2015, Order) (Chhabria, J.)
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Under Rule 11, Counsel May be Jointly and Severally Liable for Entire Section 285 Fee Award
The court granted defendant's motion to sanction plaintiff's counsel under Rule 11, but sanctioned counsel $100,000 rather than finding them jointly and severally liable for the $1.1 million attorney fees award. "This is a close question. Holding [plaintiff's counsel] jointly and severally liable for the fee award would arguably be appropriate given that the sanctionable conduct was the filing of a frivolous complaint, which resulted in [defendant] having to defend itself throughout a lengthy lawsuit. . . . The Court believes that a sanction of $100,000, coupled with the reprimand that a sanctions award represents, is sufficient to deter [counsel] from bringing frivolous patent infringement suits in the future. And the award puts similarly-situated attorneys on notice of the possibility that they could be held jointly and severally liable under Rule 11 for an entire section 285 fee award if they file such an objectively baseless patent infringement suit in the future. . . . [E]ven though [plaintiff's] attorneys devised and put forth objectively baseless claim construction and infringement positions, the record suggests they did not pursue the lawsuit in bad faith or with an improper purpose."