Endobotics filed a complaint in December 2020, accusing Design Standards and Medrobotics of infringing U.S. Patent 7,147,650. In March 2021, Endobotics moved to amend the complaint to add three different patents and remove the claim on the ‘650 patent. Judge Saylor granted the motion in April and dismissed the ‘650 infringement claim with prejudice. Design Standards subsequently moved for sanctions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, saying that Endobotics failed to properly investigate its ‘650 infringement claim prior to filing suit.
Judge Saylor denied Design Standards’ motion for a pair of reasons. First, Design Standards failed to follow Rule 11’s safe harbor provisions. The rule requires a party to serve a copy of a proposed motion for sanctions and allow 21 days for the opposing party to withdraw the challenged filing. Judge Saylor noted that Massachusetts courts may excuse technical non-compliance with this provision if the movant provided the opposing party with timely and sufficiently detailed notice of its intent to file a Rule 11 motion that effectively provides the same information as the proposed motion itself. While Design Standards had provided notice to Endobotics that it believed it had objective evidence that proved it did not infringe the ‘650 patent, it never stated an intention to move for sanctions or cite to Rule 11, and thus did not provide adequate notice to satisfy the rule.
Additionally, Design Standards did not file its Rule 11 motion until after the ‘650 claim had been dismissed. As Rule 11 is designed to allow a respondent to withdraw the objectionable filing and avoid sanctions, it is improper to file a Rule 11 motion at a point when the objectionable filing cannot be withdrawn. As that was the case here, this provided additional grounds for denial of the motion.
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