Pandemic Grinds Jaguar-Bentley IP Fight To Another Halt

By Andrew Karpan
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Law360 (January 13, 2021, 5:06 PM EST) -- A Virginia federal judge agreed to hold off on setting a trial date for a vehicle control patent fight between Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. and Bentley Motors Ltd. as civil trials remain shuttered in the state.

In a two-page order on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis ruled that the trial date between the dueling automaking giants, which was set initially for Oct. 13, but was postponed early in the pandemic to Feb. 23, would have to be postponed yet again.

All civil jury trials in the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Davis noted, remain continued indefinitely, according to an order that Judge David signed last May.

"A new trial date will be set once civil trials are allowed to resume," Judge Davis wrote.

The court had confirmed the Feb. 23 date on Oct. 5, but courts in the state have yet to reopen. Reported cases of COVID-19 in the state have since spiked, according to the Virginia Department of Health, from fewer than 1,000 daily cases on Oct. 2 to 4,598 on Wednesday. The department's website says that 22,985 people in the state have been fully vaccinated so far.

But while the courts may be closed, the two automakers have been fighting avidly since the close of discovery. In September, Bentley accused Jaguar of pulling a redacted "surprise revelation" on the court by changing its damages theory just months before the original trial date after discovering "the low number of accused vehicles and the typically low royalty rates in this industry."

Judge Davis has yet to rule on those claims.

The patent fight between the carmaking giants dates to June 2018, when Jaguar filed suit, alleging that Bentley's Bentayga SUV's "driver assistance" feature infringes U.S. Patent No. 7,349,776, a vehicle control patent that has since been reissued under U.S. Patent No. RE46,828. Jaguar said it uses the technology in its "terrain response" feature, which tweaks the car's braking, engine, transmission and other systems for off-roading.

The suit came two years after Bentley released the Bentayga, its first SUV.

The Bentayga has a driver assistance feature that can be equipped with various off-road settings, including "Dirt & Gravel," "Mud & Trail" and "Sand." Jaguar, which is based in the U.K., alleged Bentley copied the feature from the terrain response system in Jaguar's Range Rover.

Representatives for the companies did not respond to a Wednesday request for comment on the ruling. 

The patent-at-issue is U.S. Patent No. RE46,828.

Jaguar is represented by Robert A. Angle, Laura Anne Kuykendall and Kathleen M. Knudsen of Troutman Sanders LLP and Bert C. Reiser, Matthew Moore, Diane E. Ghrist, Will Orlady, Adam M. Greenfield, Clement J. Naples, Gabrielle LaHatte and Christopher Henry of Latham & Watkins LLP.

Bentley is represented by Attison L. Barnes III and Krystal B. Swendsboe of Wiley Rein LLP and Edgar H. Haug, Robert E. Colletti, Georg Reitboeck and Nicholas Giove of Haug Partners LLP.

The case is Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. v. Bentley Motors Ltd. et al., case number 18-cv-00320, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

--Additional reporting by Jack Queen and Daniel Siegal. Editing by Jay Jackson Jr.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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