12 F.3d 1090 (Fed. Cir. 1993), 93-1270, Haworth, Inc. v. Steelcase, Inc.

Docket Nº:93-1270.
Citation:12 F.3d 1090
Party Name:29 U.S.P.Q.2d 1368 HAWORTH, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee, v. STEELCASE, INC., Defendant-Appellee, Herman Miller, Inc., Non-Party Movant/Appellant.
Case Date:December 22, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Page 1090

12 F.3d 1090 (Fed. Cir. 1993)

29 U.S.P.Q.2d 1368

HAWORTH, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee,


STEELCASE, INC., Defendant-Appellee,

Herman Miller, Inc., Non-Party Movant/Appellant.

No. 93-1270.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

December 22, 1993

Page 1091

William K. West, Jr., Cushman, Darby & Cushman, Washington, DC, argued for plaintiff-appellee. With him on the brief were George M. Sirilla, Nancy J. Linck, Susan T. Brown and Barry P. Golob. Of counsel were James Berquist and G. Paul Edgell.

Rudolf E. Hutz, Connolly, Bove, Lodge & Hutz, Wilmington, DE, argued for defendant-appellee. With him on the brief were John D. Fairchild, Richard M. Beck and Harold Pezzner.

Roy E. Hofer, Willian, Brinks, Olds, Hofer, Gilson & Lione, Chicago, IL, argued for non-party movant/appellant. With him on the brief were David A. Anderson, Joel W. Benson, Allan J. Sternstein and Glen P. Belvis. Of counsel were William H. Frankel, Michael E. Milz, Richard A. Cederoth and Kenneth L. Cage.

Before NIES, Chief Judge, RICH, and MICHEL, Circuit Judges.

MICHEL, Circuit Judge.

Appellant, Herman Miller, Inc. (HMI), appeals the decision of the district court denying HMI's motion to intervene. Haworth, Inc. v. Steelcase, Inc., No. 4:85:CV:526, slip op. at 3, 1993 WL 195116 (W.D.Mich. Jan. 21, 1993) (hereinafter "District Court Opinion"). Because we determine that the court did not abuse its discretion in so ruling, we affirm.


In 1985, Haworth, Inc. (Haworth) filed suit against Steelcase, Inc. (Steelcase) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleging that electrified wall panel systems made and sold by Steelcase infringed Haworth's patents. In April 1989, Steelcase sued Haworth in the same court for infringement of certain Steelcase patents. Eventually, the district court ruled in the first lawsuit that Haworth's patents were valid, enforceable and infringed. Before completion of the liability phase of the second suit, the two cases were consolidated, and the

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parties agreed, as incorporated in an Order of Reference, to submit the remaining issues, including damages, to a Special Master for resolution by settlement or mini-trial (hereinafter "the ADR proceeding"). Both parties agreed to relinquish any right to appeal any decision by the Special Master or any judgment entered thereon by the district court pursuant to the Order of Reference. They also agreed that all transcripts, documents, testimony and other information produced in or in connection with the ADR proceeding would be kept confidential, and that neither party could disclose any information concerning the proceeding without the express written permission of the other.

In January 1992, Haworth sued HMI for infringement of the same patents asserted against Steelcase. In that case, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 45, HMI subpoenaed Steelcase, a third party, for the production of all documents relating to the Haworth-Steelcase litigation, including the ADR proceeding. After Steelcase objected to the subpoena, HMI filed a motion to intervene in the Haworth-Steelcase litigation simply for the purpose of obtaining those same documents. HMI argued that it should be permitted to intervene because of, among other things:

(1) HMI's need for access to sworn testimony to prevent Haworth or its witnesses from taking inconsistent positions in the two suits;

(2) the efficiency of not duplicating in the Haworth-HMI suit discovery already taken in the Haworth-Steelcase litigation; and

(3) the judicial economy served by the issue-preclusive effect that may be accorded to the Special Master's findings.

Initially, Steelcase did not oppose HMI's motion. However, after Haworth threatened to withdraw from the ADR proceeding on the ground that HMI's intervention would "chill" the settlement discussions, Steelcase opposed HMI's motion. Magistrate Judge Rowland denied HMI's motion to intervene and issued a thorough, well-reasoned, twenty-two page opinion explaining the reasons for his decision. HMI appealed the Magistrate's decision to the District Court for the Western District of Michigan, and the court upheld the denial. HMI now appeals.


When reviewing a procedural matter not unique to patent law, the Federal Circuit follows the law of the appropriate regional circuit. Heat & Control, Inc. v. Hester Indus., Inc., 785 F.2d 1017, 1022 n. 4, 228 USPQ 926, 929 n. 4 (Fed.Cir.1986). This appeal involves a procedural matter not unique to patent law, namely the denial of a motion to intervene. Therefore, since the Western District of Michigan lies within the Sixth Circuit, Sixth Circuit law controls, and the standard of appellate review for a motion for permissive intervention is an abuse of discretion. Bradley v. Milliken, 828 F.2d 1186, 1193-94 (6th Cir.1987). An abuse of discretion...

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