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Devex Corp. v. General Motors Corp.

decided: June 29, 1987.

DEVEX CORPORATION, TECHNOGRAPH, INC., WILLIAM C. MCCOY, THEODORE A. TE GROTENHUIS, FREDERICK K. ZIESENHEIM, MARJORIE TE GROTENHUIS, WILLIAM C. MCCOY, JR., AND KATHERINE M. BASSETT, APPELLANTS
v.
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION



Appeal fron the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, D.C. Civil No. 3058.

Gibbons, Chief Judge, Weis, Circuit Judge, and Pollak,*fn* District Judge.

Author: Weis

Opinion OF THE COURT

WEIS, Circuit Judge.

This court's judgment order of June 29, 1987 affirmed the order of the district court denying the plaintiff's requests for additional postjudgment interest and reopening of the royalties issue in this prolonged patent infringement case. The United States Supreme Court has remanded the case for reconsideration in light of Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 108 S. Ct. 2166, 100 L. Ed. 2d 811 (1988). Based on our study of Christianson and the record before us, we will reaffirm our previous decision.

The Devex*fn1 litigation has proceeded for more than thirty years and has come before this court on several other occasions. The original complaint, alleging infringement on a patented process for cold-forming operations on steel products used in bumper and non-bumper parts for automobiles, was filed in 1956 in Chicago. After the district court found that the patent was invalid, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded for trial. Devex Corp. v. Houdaille Indus., Inc., 382 F.2d 17 (7th Cir. 1967).

The plaintiff then transferred the case to Delaware, where the district court found no infringement. We reversed in 1972. Devex Corp. v. General Motors Corp., 467 F.2d 257 (3d Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 411 U.S. 973, 36 L. Ed. 2d 696, 93 S. Ct. 2145 (1973). A Special Master took up the case for an accounting and assessment of damages. He recommended an award for the infringement attributable to bumper manufacture but denied recovery for non-bumper processing. The finding on the non-bumper aspect was approved by the district court, Devex Corp. v. General Motors Corp., 494 F. Supp. 1369 (D. Del. 1980), and damages of $8.8 million were awarded for the bumper infringement as well as $11 million in prejudgment interest plus postjudgment interest and costs.

In 1981, we affirmed the district court's decision. Devex Corp. v. General Motors Corp., 667 F.2d 347 (3d Cir. 1981). In a petition for certiorari filed in 1982, the plaintiff asserted error in this court's denial of damages for infringement in processing non-bumper parts. The Supreme Court denied this petition, General Motors Corp. v. Devex Corp., 456 U.S. 939, 102 S. Ct. 1999, 72 L. Ed. 2d 460 (1982), although it granted certiorari on the issue of prejudgment interest.

In General Motors Corp. v. Devex Corp., 461 U.S. 648, 76 L. Ed. 2d 211, 103 S. Ct. 2058 (1983), the Court remanded the case to the district court for rulings on postjudgment interest and interest on costs. After the district court had taken appropriate action, we affirmed its rulings in 1984. Devex Corp. v. General Motors Corp., 577 F. Supp. 429, aff'd, 749 F.2d 1020 (3d Cir. 1984) (Gibbons, J., dissenting).

The case came before the Supreme Court again In 1985, when plaintiff argued that our decision on the issue of postjudgment interest was not in harmony with the holdings of other Courts of Appeals, particularly those of the Federal Circuit. Plaintiff also asked the Court once again to review the non-bumper part infringement. The Court denied both requests. Devex Corp. v. General Motors Corp., 474 U.S. 890, 88 L. Ed. 2d 181, 106 S. Ct. 212 (1985); Technograph, Inc. v. General Motors Corp., 474 U.S. 819, 88 L. Ed. 2d 55, 106 S. Ct. 68 (1985).

Most recently, in 1986, plaintiff again appeared in the district court in Delaware where, in addition to the postjudgment interest issue, an argument was made that a conflict exists between our 1981 denial of royalties and later decisions in the Federal Circuit. See Railroad Dynamics, Inc. v. A. Stucki Co., 727 F.2d 1506 (Fed. Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 871, 83 L. Ed. 2d 150, 105 S. Ct. 220 (1984).

Plaintiff filed its 1986 appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. That court transferred the appeal to us pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631 and "in the interests of comity and judicial economy." Plaintiff then moved to transfer the case back to the Federal Circuit on the ground that it had exclusive jurisdiction over the appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1). The Federal Circuit denied plaintiff's motion for rehearing and its request for in banc consideration of the transfer order. Once again, the plaintiff asked for certiorari but the Supreme Court denied the petition. Technograph Liquidating Trust v. General Motors Corp., 480 U.S. 918, 107 S. Ct. 1372, 94 L. Ed. 2d 688 (1986); Technograph Liquidating Trust v. General Motors Corp., 480 U.S. 918, 107 S. Ct. 1374, 94 L. Ed. 2d 689 (1986).

The procedural chronology of the case before us reveals that all phases disputing actual patent issues had been concluded in the district court, this court, and the Supreme Court by 1982 -- before the Federal Circuit came into existence. The Devex patent itself expired in 1969, and only damages were involved in most of the litigation. The remaining issues dealt essentially with postjudgment interest and interest on costs, and did not raise questions of the validity of the patent or of its infringement.

In Christianson the Court emphasized the doctrine of the law of the case, directing that when a court decides upon a rule of law, that rule should continue to govern the same issues in subsequent stages in the litigation. Id. at 2177. Although a court has the power to revisit prior decisions, "as a rule courts ...


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