United States District Court, S.D. New York
February 14, 2005.
ROMAG FASTENERS, INC., Plaintiff,
MITZI INTERNATIONAL HANDBAG AND ACCESSORIES, LTD., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEWIS KAPLAN, District Judge
The jury in this case found on December 2, 2004 that the defendant
willfully infringed plaintiff's '126 patent and awarded damages of $4.5
million. On December 16, plaintiff filed a post-trial memorandum in
support of its application for enhanced damages, attorneys fees,
prejudgment interest and injunctive relief. (Docket item 64) By order
dated January 12, 2005, following the apparent expiration of the time for
defendant to respond to the motion, the Court granted the motion in
part. Judgment was entered on January 14, 2005. Defendant now moves to
withdraw the January 12, 2005 order and the ensuing judgment (docket item
72) and for judgment as a matter of law (docket item 77).
The Motion to Withdraw the Order and Judgment
As defendant has pointed out, the Court granted plaintiff's post-trial
motion for enhanced damages and other relief in the mistaken believe that
defendant had defaulted on the motion. As defendant had not been heard
fully, defendant's motion to withdraw the January 12, 2005 order and the
January 14, 2005 judgment will be granted.
Defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law or, Alternatively,
for a New Trial
At the close of the evidence, the Court invited motions. (Tr. 338-43)
Defendant made none. Having failed to move for judgment as a matter of
law at the close of all the evidence, it may not do so now. E.g., Hilford
Chemical Corp. v. Ricoh Electronics, Inc., 875 F.2d 32, 37 (2d Cir.
1989). Its attempts to bring itself within one of the few exceptions to
this rule are unconvincing. Indeed, the grounds it asserts in an effort
to show manifest injustice are coextensive with the grounds
supporting the merits of its motion for judgment as a matter of law. If
adopted, its argument would excuse all failures to seek judgment as a
matter of law at the close of all the proof whenever such a motion would
have been meritorious. Moreover, it now seeks judgment on two issues
willfulness and damages that it did not even raise by motion at the
close of the plaintiff's case.
While this procedural default does not foreclose so much of the
motion as seeks a new trial, that branch of the motion is without
In determining whether to order a new trial on the ground that
a verdict is against the weight of the evidence:
"The trial judge, exercising a mature judicial
discretion, should view the verdict in the overall
setting of the trial; consider the character of the
evidence and the complexity or simplicity of the legal
principles which the jury was bound to apply to the
facts; and abstain from interfering with the verdict
unless it is quite clear that the jury has reached a
seriously erroneous result. The judge's duty is
essentially to see that there is no miscarriage of
justice. If convinced that there has been then it is
his duty to set the verdict aside; otherwise not."*fn1
As the Court made plain, it probably would have decided the issue of
infringement differently than did the jury had the Court been the trier
of fact. That is not to say, however, that the verdict was unsupported by
evidence or otherwise infirm. As plaintiff's memorandum demonstrates, the
evidence was more than sufficient to support the verdict, and the finding
of infringement reflects no miscarriage of justice. See Pl. Mem. 4-13.
Defendant's argument on wilfulness is far weaker. It presents a highly
selective view of the record, ignoring all evidence that is unfavorable
to its position. There was substantial evidence that Mitzi was well aware
of the '126 patent but failed to obtain advice of counsel before
importing and selling infringing snaps. The jury was free to disregard
Attorney LaLone's testimony concerning the competence of his opinion, and
it was entitled to conclude that defendant did not rely on that opinion
in good faith.
Finally, defendant's plea for a new trial on damages is without
merit, substantially for the reasons set forth at pages 16-19 of
Accordingly, the motion for judgment as a matter of law or,
alternatively, for a new trial will be denied.
Plaintiff's Motion for Enhanced Damages, Attorney's Fees and Other
The withdrawal of the January 12, 2005 order and the ensuing judgment
revives plaintiff's motion. Nevertheless, having considering defendant's
papers, everything that was said in that order remains applicable. The
Court adds only the following additional comments:
The jury, as was its province, resolved the infringement issue in
plaintiff's favor. Although, as noted, the Court might have come out the
other way on that question, it agrees with the jury's finding of
wilfulness. There was persuasive evidence that defendant intended to copy
the plaintiff's invention as closely as possible, and its evidence of
good faith reliance on competent counsel was not compelling. Defendant's
claim of financial hardship is unpersuasive and borders on the
disingenuous for the reasons set forth at pages 4 through 6 of
plaintiff's memorandum. And even if one were to put aside the discovery
misconduct, its frivolous invalidity defense and obstructive refusal to
stipulate to the admission of sales summaries support a conclusion of
litigation misconduct. Considering all pertinent factors together, a 33
percent enhancement of the damage award is well within the bounds of
reason indeed, it arguably is quite lenient.
For the foregoing reasons, as well as those set forth in the January
12, 2005 order, the pending motions are resolved as follows:
1. Defendant's motion to withdraw the January 12 order and January 14
judgment is granted and those papers are vacated.
2. Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law or,
alternatively, a new trial is denied.
3. Plaintiff's motion for enhanced damages and other relief is
granted to the extent that:
a. Plaintiff shall recover of defendant damages in the
amount of $6.0 million together with attorneys' fees
and expenses of $428,920.33 and prejudgment interest
to be computed by the Clerk at the appropriate rate on
the sums listed from the dates indicated below:
April 30, 2000 $1,269,938
April 30, 2001 $1,490,798
April 30, 2002 $1,159,509
October 31, 2002 $ 579,755
The rates applicable from time to time shall be
determined in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1961.
b. Plaintiff shall have an injunction in the form
annexed as Exhibit F to the joint pretrial order.
c. The Clerk shall enter final judgment in accordance
with this order.
The Court has considered all of defendant's other arguments. None
warrants a different result.