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Fraud on the Court Claims Against Microsoft Are Dismissed

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reiffin v. Microsoft Corp., No. 11-CV-03505, 2011 BL 275803 (N.D. Cal Oct. 26, 2011) In a patent infringement suit against Microsoft, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed plaintiff's motion to file a new suit to vacate a prior judgment under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(d)(3), finding plaintiff's claims had been previously litigated.

Microsoft's Multi-Threading Software Patents

In 1998, Martin Reiffin brought suit against Microsoft Corporation, alleging Microsoft's spelling and grammar checker infringed his U.S. Patent Nos. 5,694,603(the '603 patent) and 5,694,604 (the '604 patent), both relating to multi-threading software. The '603 and '604 patents share a common specification. The court granted Microsoft's motion for partial summary judgment of invalidity, finding the '603 patent, and by extension the '604 patent, lacked adequate written description. Additionally, claims 1-83 of the '604 patent were finally rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office following reexamination. Denying Reiffin's motion for reconsideration of summary judgment, the district court ordered the parties to file a joint proposed form of judgment. The parties entered a stipulated judgment on the merits, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed. The district court denied Reiffin's motion to vacate judgment based on "fraud on the court" under Fed R. Civ. Pro. 60(b), finding the judgment was based on the parties' agreement, and the allegations were time-barred. Reiffin then filed the instant suit to vacate the prior judgment under Rule. 60(d)(3) against Microsoft Corp., William Gates, and Steven Ballmer (collectively, "Microsoft"), alleging the defendants made eight "knowingly false" assertions during the prior litigation.

New Trial Barred by Res Judicata

The district court granted Microsoft's motion to dismiss Reiffin's motion for a new trial, finding the claims were barred by res judicata. Under Rule 60(d)(3), "fraud on the court" is narrowly defined to "embrace only that species of fraud which does or attempts to, defile the court itself, or is a fraud perpetrated by officers of the court so that the judicial machinery can not perform in the usual manner." Reiffin at 4 (quoting Alexander v. Robertson, 882 F.2d 421, 424 (9th Cir. 1989) (internal citations omitted)). Furthermore, the court clarified that res judicata bars parties from re-litigating issues that were or could have been litigated. The court rejected Reiffin's assertions that his prior claims of fraud were erroneously found to be time-barred, finding the Rule 60(d)(3) action was precluded by res judicata, regardless of the prior decision. Moreover, the court emphasized that Reiffin should have challenged the prior order on appeal. The district court found that several of Reiffin's allegations of fraud were based on the construction of the terms "interrupt" and "preemptive." Finding that Reiffin had ample opportunity to construe the claims, the court held that claim preclusion barred Reiffin from making these assertions again. Further, the court found that Reiffin addressed certain representations made by Microsoft regarding interruption and preemption of its checker in the prior litigation. Additionally, the court rejected Reiffin's allegation that Microsoft committed fraud by submitting a declaration from an expert who was not an expert on "multi-threading," finding Reiffin had the opportunity to challenge the validity of the expert's credentials. Finally, the court held that Reiffin failed to establish that Microsoft's "arguably derogatory" statement that Reiffin "stole" multi-threading sufficiently disrupted the judicial process to warrant relief. Id. at 9. DisclaimerThis document and any discussions set forth herein are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice, which has to be addressed to particular facts and circumstances involved in any given situation. Review or use of the document and any discussions does not create an attorney-client relationship with the author or publisher. To the extent that this document may contain suggested provisions, they will require modification to suit a particular transaction, jurisdiction or situation. Please consult with an attorney with the appropriate level of experience if you have any questions. Any tax information contained in the document or discussions is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for purposes of avoiding penalties imposed under the United States Internal Revenue Code. Any opinions expressed are those of the author. The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. and its affiliated entities do not take responsibility for the content in this document or discussions and do not make any representation or warranty as to their completeness or accuracy.©2014 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All rights reserved. Bloomberg Law Reports ® is a registered trademark and service mark of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.

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