The Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s holding that a jury’s general verdict of non-infringement had collateral estoppel effect in a later action.  In the first action, the accused infringer offered to two non-infringement grounds: (1) the ADSL technology did not infringe; and (2) the accused ADSL system did not include a “telephone device” as required by all asserted claims.  The jury’s verdict did not indicate what ground it had adopted in finding non-infringement.  The trial court, in response to a JMOL ruled that the verdict could be upheld on either of two theories.  In the present action, the patentee asserted the same patents and claims that it asserted in the first action.  The district court held that the systems at issue in the second action did not differ in any material respect to the systems that were at issue in the first action and therefore held that collateral estoppel applies.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed, because the jury’s general verdict did not establish which of the two possible grounds was the basis for the verdict, and therefore the issue presented in the second case – whether standard ADSL infringes – was not actually decided in the first action.

United Access Technologies, LLC v. Centurytel Broadband Services LLC, Case No. 2014-1347 (February 12, 2015); Opinion by: Bryson, joined by Newman and O’Malley; Appealed From: District Court for the District of Delaware, Stark, J. Read the full opinion here.

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