Inserter Suit Loads Up the Hopper with Legal Papers: Special Master in Patent-Infringement Suit Drowns in an Ocean of Motions

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CALL IT THE BLEAK HOUSE OF post-press equipment. Goss International Americas v. Graphic Management Associates et al. began as a patent-infringement suit over the technology that drives GMA's widely installed SLS series inserters. Nearly six years later, the suit has generated so much paper that the special master appointed to the case could use an inserter himself.

Robert L. Harmon was assigned to find his way through a mire of motions and cross-motions to make recommendations for summary judgments. In his extraordinary report filed last month in federal district court in Chicago, Harmon sounds like a man literally drowning in legal documents.

"The first three rounds of briefing consumed more than 1,500 pages!" he wrote. "And the statements of undisputed fact and responses to those statements totaled, astonishingly, nearly 2,200 pages! And this is to say nothing of the literally hundreds of exhibits, expert reports, deposition transcripts, and other materials, totaling many thousands of pages, that are referred to in the briefs and statements of fact."

He cites both sides for their equal contributions to an unprecedented "mountain of material that the special master was obliged to scale." The briefing, he said, "has been repetitive and filled with irrelevant matter."

A special master helps a trial judge in separating the court's role in interpreting claims from a jury's job of applying properly construed claims to determine if infringement occurred. With Harmon's report, which itself ran to 132 pages, the judge is now closer to decisions on the many motions by both sides, so a jury can be seated to consider what may remain of the case.

The lawsuit concerns the "Variable Speed Signature Collating Apparatus," which Goss patented on July 4, 2000 as part of the shaftless servo-drive technology used in its own packaging equipment. Goss alleges that technology used in the GMA inserter infringes that patent.

Defendants challenge the patent, arguing that the invention was described in a prior patent or publication, in public use, or on sale more than a year before the first application for the "Fourth of July" patent. …