Walton v. US
Kaiser Found. Health Plan Inc. v. Abbott Labs., Inc.

MA Eye & Ear Infirmary v. QLT Phototherapeutics, Inc.

These appeals require us to grapple with the metes and bounds of Massachusetts unjust enrichment and restitution law. Like many such cases, the present case involves one party's conferral of a valuable benefit during ongoing contract negotiations, followed by an irreparable breach in the bargaining process. What makes this case unusual is that its subject matter -- the development of a blockbuster pharmaceutical -- poses challenges in valuing the benefit conferred, and potentially implicates federal patent law. Defendant QLT Phototherapeutics, Inc. ("QLT") appeals a jury finding that it was unjustly enriched because plaintiff Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary ("MEEI") conferred on QLT several benefits during the course of the development of Visudyne, a successful (and highly profitable) treatment for age-related macular degeneration (“AMD”), a leading cause of adult blindness.

In a prior opinion, we concluded that MEEI was entitled to a trial on two theories supporting its unjust enrichment claim, as well as a misappropriation of trade secrets claim and claims arising under the Massachusetts Unfair Trade Practices statute, Mass. General Laws ch. 93A §§ 2, 11 (“Chapter 93A”). Mass. Eye & Ear Infirm. v. QLT Phototh., Inc., 412 F.3d 215 (1st Cir. 2005)("MEEI-II"). After trial, a jury found that QLT was unjustly enriched, and that it had committed unfair trade practices in violation of Chapter 93A. The jury awarded MEEI a running royalty of 3.01% of global net Visudyne sales as damages. QLT prosecutes its ensuing appeal with great vigor. For the sake of simplicity, we group QLT's assignments of error into five clusters relating to (1) the imposition of unjust enrichment liability, (2) the measure of unjust enrichment damages, (3) the unfair trade practices claim, (4) the conduct of the trial, and (5) the post-trial attorneys' fee award. MEEI has cross-appealed. This cross-appeal is largely protective; in all events, with two exceptions, we need not discuss the cross-appeal.

As to most of the grounds of MEEI's cross-appeal and QLT's appeal, including MEEI's claim that it is entitled to exemplary damages under Chapter 93A, we detect no error or infirmity in the proceedings below. The other issue raised in both the cross-appeal and QLT's appeal that bears discussion is the parties' query about the size of MEEI's attorneys' fee award. We are unable meaningfully to evaluate this claim of error, because the record is incomplete. We therefore affirm the district court judgment except for the fee award, which we vacate and remand to give the district court an opportunity to construct a more complete record.


New business or product-line? A trademark clearance search shouldn't be an afterthought for your branding project. Conflicting trademarks can wipe out months of work and investment.

Please contact us today by visiting Gehrke & Associates, SC.