Who likes contention interrogatories? Anyone? Anyone at all?
Blawgletter agrees. But Once in a Blue Moon they may matter. Ask DeAngelo Marine Exhaust, which lost its Best Defense as a result of paying them not enough mind.
Marine Exhaust Systems sued DeAngelo for infringing two patents. The patents dealt with systems for cooling exhaust that spews from the engine of a marine vessel. DeAngelo alleged the defense of invalidity because, it claimed, someone else disclosed key bits of the inventions before the filing of the patent applications. But, for reasons we may never know, DeAngelo didn't find — and didn't produce to MES — Key Drawings that (DeAngelo asserted) proved its invalidity defense until the day before the deadline for finishing discovery.
So what, right? Right. Except that MES had asked DeAngelo to answer a pesky set of annoying contention interrogatories. And one of the pesky set annoyingly inquired about details around — you guessed it! — DeAngelo's invalidity defense.
DeAngelo urged that an email it sent along with the drawings to MES's lawyers went far enough to meet its duty to supplement its response to the contention interrogatory. Not so, the district court ruled. And the Federal Circuit agreed, writing:
The interrogatory in question did more than require the identification of documents (a requirement that DeAngelo satisfied by the production). It requested that DeAngelo "[s]tate with specificity all prior art that anticipates such claims of one or more of the patents at issue or renders them obvious. In doing so, specify the particular claim being referred to and identify why such prior art anticipates such claims or renders them obvious." Mot. to Strike Drawings at 1-2 (emphasis added). While DeAngelo’s e-mail of February 8, 2010 (in which it disclosed the drawings) stated that the drawings "may anticipate the Woods inventions, or may be relied upon as showing the state of the art in the early 1990’s," DeAngelo did not comply with the empha-sized requirements before the discovery deadline. Such compliance was important. As discussed above, contention interrogatories serve an important purpose in ena-bling a party to discover facts related to its opponent’s contentions. In order for MES to have an opportunity to meaningfully challenge DeAngelo’s reliance on the draw-ings as prior art (including whether the drawings were published or whether devices made from the drawings contained the claimed features and were in fact on sale in the early 1990s), it would have needed to know what features of the drawings DeAngelo contended rendered MES’s patents obvious on a claim-by-claim basis.
Woods v. DeAngelo Marine Exhaust, Inc., No. 10-1478, slip op. at 15-16 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 28, 2012) (footnote omitted).