SunEarth, Inc. v. Sun Earth Solar Power Co., Ltd.

In ruling on a motion for attorney fees under the Lanham Act, the district court is free to exercise its discretion in examining the totality of the circumstances to decide if the case is exceptional, including whether the suit or prelitigation conduct was frivolous, ill-motivated or objectively unreasonable.  Like the Patent Act, the Lanham Act provides that in exceptional cases, the court may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.  This case holds that Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. (2014) 134 S.Ct. 1749 and Highmark, Inc. v. Alcare Health Mgmt. Sys., Inc. (2014) 134 S.Ct. 1744, interpreting the Patent Act provision also apply to the identical language in the Lanham Act.  Thus, the district court looks to the totality of the circumstances to decide if the case is exceptional including whether the suit or prelitigation conduct was frivolous, ill-motivated or objectively unreasonable.  An appellate court reviews the district court’s decision on the fee motion under the abuse of discretion standard.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (en banc) (per curiam); October 24, 2016; 2016 WL 6156039

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