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Judge Will Consider Patent Arguments Monday

Will hard disk system patent infringement case remain stayed or continue to trial?

We could hear Monday whether a patent infringement suit against a number of large broadcast groups proceeds to trial or remains on hold.

U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Stark has set a March 25 hearing for arguments from Mission Abstract Data and an associated company, DigiMedia Holding Group LLC, to lift the existing stay in their patent infringement suit against five major radio groups.

A letter from an attorney for the plaintiffs, who claim to hold patents involving hard disk automation systems, moved the judge agree to the hearing. The case has been stayed since November, 2011.

Patents 5,629,867and 5,809,246 lie at the center of the infringement suit that targets CBS Radio, Greater Media, Beasley Broadcasting, Entercom and Cox. Mission Abstract Data (MAD) sued the broadcasters in federal court in March, 2011. Additionally, DigiMedia Holding Group LLC in February filed lawsuits against four radio companies in Texas claiming the broadcasters are engaging in patent infringement.

Oral arguments will begin at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Monday in front of Judge Stark in Wilmington, Del. Each side will have 30 minutes to present their argument.

In the letter asking for the hearing, attorney Brian Farnan wrote that the broadcasters “have used serial reexamination requests to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to enjoy the benefits of a defacto stay” and therefore delaying the proceedings.

A U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examiner in December rejected a number of the patent claims by DigiMedia in a second reexamination. The USPTO ordered the second reexamination last year after “prior art” not previously available was presented. Broadcast Electronics, which is not a defendant in the case, filed the original ex parte reexamination request with the United State Patent and Trademark Office.

A review of the USPTO website indicates a representative of DigiMedia met with the patent examiner this February. The USPTO could reject or allow some of the claims, according to observers contacted by RW for this story.

Judge Stark “has heard stay arguments in many cases, so he is quite likely to rule on the spot with a written decision to follow,” said Scott Daniels, an intellectual property attorney with Westerman, Hattori, Daniels & Adrian, LLP. A lift of the stay seems very unlikely if the claims stand rejected, he added.

A dismissal isn’t likely an option at this hearing, according to Bill Ragland, a patent attorney with Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice. “After having granted a stay in deference to the USPTO’s second reexamination proceeding, Judge Stark would need a really good reason not to let the reexamination process run its course. I would not expect the stay to be lifted now,” Ragland said.