PHILADELPHIA – A California federal court in April ordered the Alzheimer’s Institute of America to pay $8 million in attorneys fees after the court found its patent infringement lawsuit misrepresented the true owner of patents covering Alzheimer’s detection.

In 2010, AI filed a patent lawsuit against Eli Lily & Co. and Elan Pharmaceuticals Inc. alleging that the two defendants had infringed on two patents that involve technology related to the “Swedish mutation,” one of the known genetic causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

A second patent infringement lawsuit was filed by AI in 2010 claimed that the University of Pennsylvania and Eli Lily Subsidiary Avid Radiopharmaceuticals Inc. also infringed the same patents. It was at this time that the issue as to whether AI was the proper owner of the two patents arose with AI claiming it was.

It was later deemed that it was not the sole owner of the patents.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found evidence showed that AI had conspired to misrepresent the true owner of the Swedish mutations and to defraud two universities.

As such, AI was ordered to pay defendants’ attorney fees amounting to $8 million in the California case.

Eric Caligiuri, attorney at Weintraub Tobin, said that while plaintiffs paying for defendants' attorney fees in patent cases were rare in the past, it is now becoming more common.

“After the U.S. Supreme Court’s twin 2014 decisions in Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Management System, Inc. and Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., it has eased the standard, and attorneys fees awards in patent cases have become much more common,” he said.

In fact, the threat of seeking attorneys fees has become a common defense strategy in patent cases, he added.

The general rule in civil litigation is that parties are responsible for their own attorneys fees regardless of whether they are the prevailing party. The exception to this general rule is when attorneys fees are authorized in certain types of cases by statute or contract.

“In some cases, such as employment cases in California for example, attorneys fees are generally automatic for a prevailing plaintiff,” Caligiuri said. “So it is harder to compare attorneys fees awards across practice areas since it is governed by the specific applicable statute.”

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