Entire Market Value vs. Entire Market Base

By Dennis Crouch

A few days ago, I posted an essay entitled Does the Entire Market Value Rule Make Sense when Applied to Apportionment Analyses? In the essay, I discussed contemporary changes in the entire market value rule that apply the rule even in the context of damage apportionment analysis. In relation to that, I'm enjoying Michael Greene's recent student note where he suggests a new naming convention that focuses the entire market value rule to its traditional role in limiting the equitable relief of lost profits. In the apportionment context, Greene would use a different name – the entire market base rule – for the doctrine limiting the use of the entire market as the base for calculating a reasonable royalty. In the second context, any limit on the evidence would be governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 403. See Michael A. Greene, All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Towards an Appropriate Usage and Definition of the 'Entire Market Value' Rule in Reasonable Royalties Calculations, 53 Boston College Law Review 233 (2012). Mark Lemley's 2009 article also provides an excellent introduction to the issue. Mark A. Lemley, Distinguishing Lost Profits from Reasonable Royalties, 51 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 655 (2009). Funny tidbit – the Lemley article criticizes the Federal Circuit Lucent decision and, at the same time, the Lucent decision criticizes the Lemley article. Michael Greene tells the story:

Amusingly, [the] Federal Circuit in Lucent cites to and gently criticizes the very Lemley article which itself criticizes the Lucent opinion as confused. Despite lacking access to a time machine, Chief Judge Paul Michel had in fact obtained access to a draft of Professor Lemley's forthcoming article that then turned around [in the final version] and criticized Judge Michel's opinion criticizing it.

Sounds a bit like some blog comments I've seen.

Limiting Damages: $107 Million Interest Charge Improperly Awarded On-Top of Pre-Agreed Damages

By Dennis Crouch

Sanofi-Aventis v. Apotex (Fed. Cir. 2011)

The case focuses on Sanofi’s patent covering clopidrogrel bisulfate tablets sold under the trade name Plavix. ($4.5 billion in annual sales). In 2001, the generic drug manufacturer Apotex filed an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) with the FDA – requesting that it be allowed to manufacture a generic version on the drug and alleging that Sanofi’s patent was invalid. Sanofi sued for infringement.

Pre-Judgment Agreement to Limit Damages: May 2006, the parties came to a limited agreement that any actual damages for infringement would be limited to “50% of Apotex’s net sales.” The agreement stated that:

If the litigation results in a judgment that the ’265 patent is not invalid or unenforceable, Sanofi agrees that its actual damages for any past infringement by Apotex, up to the date on which Apotex is enjoined, will be 50% of Apotex’s net sales of clopidogrel products . . . . Sanofi further agrees that it will not seek increased damages under 35 U.S.C. § 284.

Apotex subsequently began marking its generic product before being stopped a few weeks later by a preliminary injunction. After Sanofi won the infringement trial, the judge set damages for that infringement at 50% of net sales plus interest. In dollar figures, damages were $442 million and the interest charge was $107 million. The district court had agreed that it should be bound by the prior agreement between the parties, but held that the agreement only limited damages and did not limit interest.

Contract Specification: Of course the contract could have spelled-out whether the limitation applied to interest charges, and the parties most certainly considered that issue during negotiations. But, for whatever, reason, they chose not to specify in the contract whether interest charges should be limited. Thus, the court was forced to consider the proper default rule for this situation.

At the Federal Circuit, Apotex argues that the interest payment should be included as part of the damage award and that the judgment therefore exceeds the agreed upon 50% damage limitation. In a 2-1 decision, the Federal Circuit has sided with Apotex – holding that the phrase “actual damages” as used in the contract “include[s] all damages necessary to compensate Sanofi for Apotex’s infringement.”

Because prejudgment interest is a form of compensatory damages, the district court erred by awarding additional prejudgment interest pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 284.

In the majority opinion, Judge Moore relied both on the contractual language and on the history of compensatory damages that traditionally include both a reasonable royalty calculated at the point of infringement and interests charges for the delay in payment. Both of those elements are part of the “actual damages” calculation necessary to fully compensate the patent holder for past infringement. This follows the view espoused by the Supreme Court in its 1983 case involving General Motors where the court wrote:

An award of interest from the time that the royalty payments would have been received merely serves to make the patent owner whole, since his damages consist not only of the value of the royalty payments but also of the forgone use of the money between the time of infringement and the date of judgment.

Gen. Motors Corp. v. Devex Corp., 461 U.S. 648, 655 (1983).

Patent Act Damages: As usual, the language of the Patent Act is somewhat ambiguous on the meaning of damages. The first paragraph of Section 284 calls for an award of “damages adequate to compensate for the infringement but in no event less than a reasonable royalty for the use made of the invention by the infringer, together with interest and costs as fixed by the court.” One view of this provision would require damages to be, at a minimum, a combination of a reasonable royalty plus interests and costs. In my view, however, the better plain meaning interpretation of Section 284 is that a court is required to award damages (minimum of reasonable royalty) and in addition must award interest and costs.

The appellate panel rejected the parties’ analysis of the language of the patent act as irrelevant – holding instead that “actual damages” was a contract term and that the interpretation therefore does not depend upon any statutory language.

While interesting, these arguments neither illuminate nor resolve the issue before us – the meaning of “actual damages” in the May 2006 agreement. The agreed upon “actual damages” are a creature of contract and not of the Patent Act. By entering into the May 2006 agreement, the parties decided that the agreement itself – not § 271(e)(4)(C) or § 284 – would govern the appropriate measure of damages from Apotex’s infringement.

Writing in Dissent, Judge Newman would have applied the usual background rule that interest is different from damages as a primary driving factor in interpreting the contract. In that framework, the contractual limitation on damages would not apply to limit interest as well.

My colleagues err in reading the contract’s silence on interest for infringement as meaning that the parties intended and agreed to forgo the interest to which the patentee is entitled by statute and precedent. I must, respectfully, dissent

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Uniloc v. Microsoft: The CAFC Rejects the 25 Percent Rule

By Jason Rantanen

Uniloc USA, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp. (Fed. Cir. 2011)
Panel: Rader, Linn (author), Moore

Uniloc v. Microsoft involves a host of issues, although one stands out as particularly noteworthy.  While  "passively tolerat[ing]" the 25 percent 'rule of thumb' (a method for calculating a reasonable royalty for purposes of infringement damages) in past cases, the CAFC held today that the rule "is a fundamentally flawed tool for determining a baseline royalty rate in a hypothetical negotiation," thus precluding its use for damages calculations.

Uniloc is the owner of Patent No. 5,490,216, an early patent covering a mechanism for combating "casual copying" of software, where users install copies of a software program on multiple computers in violation of applicable software licenses.  In general terms, the patented invention involves the creation of a registration number generated by the software on the user's computer.  The number is sent to the vendor's system, which uses an identical algorithm to create a remote license ID.  If the numbers match when the application boots, the program enters a "use mode;" if they do not, it enters a "demo mode."

In the suit against Microsoft, Uniloc alleged that the Product Activation feature for Microsoft's Word XP, Word 2003, and Windows XP software programs infringed the '216 patent.  A jury agreed, finding that Microsoft not only infringed the patent, but did so willfully.  The jury also rejected Microsoft's invalidity defenses and awarded Uniloc $388 million in damages.  Following the trial, the district court granted Microsoft's motion for JMOL of noninfringement and lack of willfulness (and in the alternative, ordered a new trial on these issues), but denied its request for a JMOL on invalidity.  The court also ordered a new trial on the issue of damages.  On appeal, Uniloc challenged the district court's noninfringement, willfulness, and damages rulings, while Microsoft cross-appealed the denial of its JMOL on invalidity.  The Federal Circuit affirmed the district judge's rulings on willfulness, damages and invalidity, but reversed on the question of infringement, both with respect to JMOL and the grant of a new trial.

Damages
The damages section of the opinion is by far the most significant portion.  At trial, the jury awarded Uniloc $388 million in damages, relying on the testimony of Uniloc's expert, who opined that damages should be $564,946,803 based on a hypothetical negotiation between Uniloc and Microsoft and the Georgia-Pacific factors.  Using an internal Microsoft document relating to the value of product keys, the expert applied the 25 percent "rule of thumb" to the minimum value reported ($10 each), obtaining a value of $2.50 per key.  After applying the Georgia-Pacific factors, which he concluded did not modify the base rate, he multiplied it by the number of new licenses to Office and Windows products, producing the $565 million value.  He confirmed his valuation by "checking" it against the total market value of sales of the Microsoft products (approximately $19 billion, noting that it represented only 2.9% of the gross revenue of the products.   

The 25 Percent Rule: On appeal, the CAFC first rejected the use of the 25 percent rule to calculate patent damages.  "The 25 percent rule of thumb is a tool that has been used to approximate the reasonable royalty rate that the manufacturer of a patented product would be willing to offer to pay to the patentee during a hypothetical negotiation." Slip Op. at 36, citing Robert Goldscheider, John Jarosz and Carla Mulhern, USE OF THE 25 PER CENT RULE IN VALUING IP, 37 les Nouvelles 123, 123 (Dec. 2002).  Under the rule, "licensees pay a royalty rate equivalent to 25 per cent of its expected profits for the product that incorporates the IP at issue." Id., quoting Goldscheider et al. Included in the court's discussion of the rule is an extensive survey of the relevant literature (covering no less than nine articles), as well as an acknowledgement that the "court has passively tolerated its use where its acceptability has not been the focus of the case." Slip Op. at 39.  However, the court recognized that it  never squarely addressed the use of the rule.

Treating the issue as one of first principles, and after considering the relevant Supreme Court caselaw, the CAFC concluded that, as an abstract theory untied to particular factual circumstances of a given case, the 25 percent rule simply cannot be used for damages calculations: 

This court now holds as a matter of Federal Circuit law that the 25 percent rule of thumb is a fundamentally flawed tool for determining a baseline royalty rate in a hypothetical negotiation. Evidence relying on the 25 percent rule of thumb is thus inadmissible under Daubert and the Federal Rules of Evidence, because it fails to tie a reasonable royalty base to the facts of the case at issue.

Slip Op. at 41.  The court based its reasoning on the Daubert standard for expert testimony, concluding that general theories are only permissible if the expert adequately ties the theory to the specific facts of the case.  Under Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999) and General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 US 136 (1997), "one major determinant of whether an expert should be excluded under Daubert is whether he has justified the application of a general theory to the facts of the case."  Slip Op. at 43.

Applying this principle, the CAFC criticized the application of the 25 percent rule because there was no link between the rule and the specific case:

The meaning of these cases is clear: there must be a basis in fact to associate the royalty rates used in prior licenses to the particular hypothetical negotiation at issue in the case. The 25 percent rule of thumb as an abstract and largely theoretical construct fails to satisfy this fundamental requirement. The rule does not say anything about a particular hypothetical negotiation or reasonable royalty involving any particular technology, industry, or party.

Slip Op. at 45. In addition, the court pointed to the lack of testimony by Uniloc's expert suggesting that the starting point of a 25 percent royalty had any relation to the facts of the case, and thus the use of the rule was "arbitrary, unreliable, and irrelevant," failing to pass muster under Daubert and tainting the jury's damages calculation.  Id. at 47.

Entire Market Value Rule: The CAFC also rejected the expert's application of the entire market value rule, which he used as a check on the total damages.  "The entire market value rule allows a patentee to assess damages based on the entire market value of the accused product only where the patented feature creates the 'basis for customer demand' or 'substantially create[s] the value of the component parts.'"  Slip Op. at 48.  Here, however, there was no evidence that the patented component created the basis for customer demand, as required by the rule: "This case provides a good example of the danger of admitting consideration of the entire market value of the accused where the patented component does not create the basis for customer demand."  Slip Op. at 51.

Infringement
In opposing Uniloc's challenge on the issue of infringement, Microsoft argued that several grounds supported affirmance of the district court's grant of JMOL of noninfringement.  The CAFC rejected each argument in turn, concluding that substantial evidence supported the jury's finding of infringement. 

Standard of Review: One issue that sophisticated parties often dispute is the relevant standard that applies when reviewing jury verdicts. This appeal was no different – Microsoft contended that the jury verdict should be reviewed de novo, while Uniloc argued that it should be reviewed for substantial evidence.  The CAFC responded by distinguishing situations where "the parties conceded that under one claim construction there was infringement and under the other there was none, and were arguing only over which claim construction was appropriate." Slip Op. at 15.  In these cases, de novo review applies.  On the other hand, where "the claim construction itself is not contested, but the application of that claim construction to the accused device is," the court applies the substantial evidence standard. Id.

Comment: This distinction reinforces a basic principle of Federal Circuit appellate practice: Parties challenging a jury verdict on the issue of infringement will likely want to frame the dispute on appeal as a question of claim construction; parties defending the verdict will likely want to frame it as a question of application of an accepted construction to the accused product or method.  Of course, whether a party will be able to frame the question in a particular way depends largely on how the issue was set up in the district court – which itself is ideally part of counsel's long term strategic thinking.

Applying this standard, the Federal Circuit concluded that the jury's verdict of infringement was supported by substantial evidence, rejecting Microsoft's arguments to the contrary.  The court also rejected Microsoft's argument that a critical "means-plus-function" limitation should be read narrowly.  To the contrary, the court held, it should be read broadly, applying language from IMS Tech., Inc. v. Haas Automation, Inc., 206 F.3d 1422, 1436 (Fed. Cir. 2000) stating that "when in a claimed 'means' limitation the disclosed physical structure is of little or no importance to the claimed invention, there may be a broader range of equivalent structures than if the physical characteristics of the structure are critical in performing the claimed function." 

Expert Testimony, redux: Also of note is the court's ruling with respect to expert testimony as it pertains to infringment.  Although the district court rejected the testimony of Uniloc's expert as "incomplete, oversimplified and frankly inappropriate," the CAFC concluded that this rejection was improper because the district court had already fulfilled its gatekeeping function under Daubert when it explicitly noted that the expert was "qualified."  Thus, it was up to the jury "to evaluate the weight to be given to the testimony of dueling qualified experts."  This application of Daubert seems to be somewhat in tension with the court's treatment of expert testimony in the damages context, which focused on the content of the testimony, not the qualifications of the person giving it.

Joint Infringement: The CAFC also rejected Microsoft's joint infringement argument.  Rather than implicating joint conduct, the court ruled, Uniloc's claim was structured so as to capture infringement by a single party by focusing on one entity.  "That other parties are necessary to complete the environment in which the claimed element functions does not necessarily divide the infringement between the necessary parties. For example, a claim that reads “An algorithm incorporating means for receiving e-mails” may require two parties to function, but could nevertheless be infringed by the single party who uses an algorithm that receives e-mails."  Slip Op. at 29.

Willful Infringement: On the issue of willfulness, the CAFC continued to apply its objective super-threshold for proving willfulness.  "If the accused infringer's position is susceptible to a reasonable conclusion of no infringement, the first prong of Seagate cannot be met." Slip Op. at 32.  Particularly obtuse is the court's triple-negative articulation of the factual holding: "Uniloc has not presented any evidence at trial or on appeal showing why Microsoft, at the time it began infringement, could not have reasonably determined that [Microsoft's algorithms] did not meet the “licensee unique ID generating means,” “licensee unique ID,” or “registration system”/“mode switching means” limitations."

Presumption of Validity: in addressing Microsoft's cross-appeal of the denial of its motion for JMOL and a new trial on invalidity, the court declined to back away from the "clear and convincing" standard for invalidity.  Rejecting Microsoft's argument that its burden was to show invalidity simply by a preponderance of the evidence – as opposed to clear and convincing evidence – because the prior art reference was not before the PTO, the court continued to apply the higher standard.  "Until changed by the Supreme Court or this court sitting en ban, this is still the law."  Slip Op. at 55.  Applying this standard, the court rejected Microsoft's argument that it was simply practicing the prior art, and thus a finding of infringement necessitated a finding of invalidity. 

Employee and Officer Liability for Inducing Infringement

By Jason Rantanen, Visiting Scholar at UC Hastings School of Law

Wordtech Systems, Inc. v. Integrated Networks Solutions, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2010)

In most patent cases, companies are the ones sued as alleged infringers. But sometimes individuals—particularly corporate officers—are also named as defendants.   While this often occurs when the company accused of infringing appears to be merely the officers’ alter ego, corporate officers can be liable for indirect infringement even when the corporate veil is not pierced.

In Wordtech, the patentholder (Wordtech) sued both a corporation (INSC) and the two principal employees of that corporation. A jury found the claims infringed both directly and indirectly by the corporation’s products, and awarded damages against all three defendants. The jury also returned a verdict of willful infringement of the asserted patents, and the trial judge trebled the jury’s damages award. The two employees appealed the verdict of liability entered against them, and all three defendants appealed the damages determination and district court’s denial of a motion for leave to amend their answer.

Individual Liability

Generally, the “corporate veil” shields officers from liability for tortious conduct occurring in the regular course of their employment, and the employees in Wordtech filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law (“JMOL”) based on this doctrine. The district court denied this motion, allowing the jury to find that the employees infringed the patents.

Individual Liability for Direct Infringement

On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion for JMOL with respect to direct infringement because Wordtech presented substantial evidence during trial that the corporation was nonexistent under Nevada law and, even if it existed, the corporate veil should be pierced. However, the appellate court agreed with defendants that the lack of any instruction on corporate status constituted plain error, and remanded for further proceedings on personal liability for direct infringement.

Individual Liability for Indirect Infringement

The most interesting aspect of the opinion was the Federal Circuit’s ruling on the indirect infringement claims against the employees. Although the court addressed inducement and contributory infringement separately, it applied virtually identical reasoning to both.

The panel began by affirming the denial of the defendants’ Rule 50(a) and 50(b) motions based on the corporate veil theory, pointing out that “corporate officers who actively assist with their corporation’s infringement may be personally liable for inducing infringement regardless of whether the circumstances are such that a court should disregard the corporate entity and pierce the corporate veil.” Slip Op. at 12.   It applied the same reasoning to contributory infringement, concluding that “a corporation does not shield officers from liability for personally participating in contributory infringement.” Slip Op. at 14. Under these rules, the court rejected the individual defendants’ corporate veil defense as irrelevant to issues of inducement and contributory infringement.

Nevertheless, the panel concluded that the employees were entitled to a new trial due to flawed jury instructions, which asked only whether the accused product induced or contributed to infringement. Because a product cannot possess the necessary mens rea elements of inducement or contributory infringement, and there were no jury instructions that might have mitigated the error, the court vacated the verdict of liability.[1]

Damages

Addressing the issue of excessive damages in the context of its review of a denial of a motion for a new trial, the panel considered the evidence supporting the jury’s damages finding, which was based on a reasonable royalty under a hypothetical negotiation theory.   The panel reviewed the licenses Wordtech relied upon for the hypothetical negotiation and concluded that the verdict was not supported by the evidence and based solely on speculation and guesswork. This portion of the opinion is noteworthy for the court’s detailed discussion of the licenses and its rejection of them on an array of different grounds.

Denial of Motion to Amend

In a curious twist, the trial and subsequent appeal involved no substantive invalidity issues. This was due to defendants’ failure to raise an invalidity defense in their answer, apparently relying on the fact that a previous co-defendant school district had included the defense in its answer. After INSC and its two employees learned that the school district had settled with the patent holder, they moved to amend their answer to add invalidity defenses. The Federal Circuit declined to find that the district court abused its discretion in denying the motion, as it was filed months after the close of discovery despite the defendants’ prior knowledge of the invalidity defenses they intended to raise.

Notes:

 

  • Ultimately, the favorable result for the individual defendants turned not on the legal question of whether officers can be liable for patent infringement, but rather on flawed jury instructions. This suggests two lessons from this case: first, be aware of potential employee liability, especially for indirect infringement, and second, make sure your jury instructions accurately reflect the elements of the issues being presented to the jury.
  • Although the opinion describes the individual defendants as employees, the rules it applies refer to corporate officers. This may be reconciled by the fact that Wordtech presented evidence at trial supporting the conclusion that they were officers.   See Slip Op. at 11. Nevertheless, this opinion arguably could be used to apply indirect infringement claims to employees, provided that the necessary mens rea elements are present.

[1] The panel also noted that Wordtech failed to identify proof of elements required for contributory infringement, including the existence of any direct infringement corresponding to the alleged contributory actions. With respect to inducement, although the opinion is silent on who the officers were inducing to infringe, the patentee’s brief indicates that its theory was that the officers induced the corporation’s direct infringement, similar to the circumstances in Power Lift, Inc. v. Lang Tools, Inc., 774 F.2d 478 (Fed. Cir. 1985).


About Jason: After spending several years in practice as a patent litigator, Jason Rantanen is now looking at law from the academic side and is currently a Visiting Scholar at UC Hastings. His recent research focuses on the concept of mens rea in patent law.

Lucent v. Microsoft: Damages

Lucent v. Gateway & Microsoft (Fed. Cir. 2009)

Lucent’s patent-in-suit claims was filed in 1986 and generally focuses on using an on-screen keyboard to enter information into a computer. In 2002, Lucent sued Microsoft and others for infringement. Since then, the patent has expired, but the litigation continues over past damages. Perhaps most notably, this case may serve as a reminder that a twenty year patent term represents a major span in the worlds of business and technology.

The primary infringing portion of Microsoft’s software appears to be the “date picker” function found in Microsoft calendars. In litigation, the jury sided with Lucent and awarded the patent holder with $350 million in damages. Here, I discuss three aspects of the opinion: damages; obviousness; and inducement.

Damages: Most of the action in the Federal Circuit decision revolves around damages. The parties appear to agree that Microsoft sold 110 million accused units with a total sales value of $8 billion. Based on that figure, Lucent requested $561 million in damages based on an 8% royalty rate of Microsoft’s sales revenue. Microsoft argued that the correct licensing rate should result in only $6 million lump sum in damages. On appeal, the Federal Circuit vacated the $350 million dollar award and remanded for a new trial solely on the issue of damages – finding that the original verdict was not supported by substantial evidence.

Reasonable Royalty Calculation: The Patent Act requires that a court award damages at least in the amount of a “reasonable royalty.” The hallmark of that calculation involves a hindsight reconstruction in an attempt to calculate the patentee’s differential “pecuniary condition . . . if the infringement had not occurred.” This is often done through a “hypothetical negotiation” reconstruction based on the Georgia-Pacific factors. See Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. U.S. Plywood Corp., 318 F. Supp. 1116, 1120 (S.D.N.Y. 1970); see also Rite-Hite Corp. v. Kelley Co., 56 F.3d 1538, 1554 n.13 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc).

Entire Market Value: When a patentee proves that the patent related feature serves as the predominant basis for customer demand, courts allow damages to be based upon the “entire market value” of the product (i.e., 8% of the sales revenue of Microsoft Office) rather than focusing on the incremental value of the innovation. Here, the Federal Circuit held that the “only reasonable conclusion” is that the date-picker function is not a substantial driver of Office sales. “There was no evidence that anybody anywhere at any time ever bought Outlook . . . because it had a date picker.”

Patentees typically prefer to invoke the entire market value rule because it seemingly tends to lead to higher total damage payouts. Of course, the market value only sets a base. Interestingly, the Federal Circuit recognized here that the bar on using the entire market value of a product is rather arbitrary.

Although our law states certain mandatory conditions for applying the entire market value rule, courts must nevertheless be cognizant of a fundamental relationship between the entire market value rule and the calculation of a running royalty damages award. Simply put, the base used in a running royalty calculation can always be the value of the entire commercial embodiment, as long as the magnitude of the rate is within an acceptable range (as determined by the evidence). . . . Microsoft surely would have little reason to complain about the supposed application of the entire market value rule had the jury applied a royalty rate of 0.1% (instead of 8%) to the market price of the infringing programs. Such a rate would have likely yielded a damages award of less than Microsoft’s proposed $6.5 million.

The Court goes on to suggest that the entire market value rule has a place in cases where the invention is only a small portion of the product.

Some commentators suggest that the entire market value rule should have little role in reasonable royalty law. See, e.g., Mark A. Lemley, Distinguishing Lost Profits From Reasonable Royalties, 51 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. (forthcoming 2009) … Amy Landers, Let the Games Begin: Incentives to Innovation in the New Economy of Intellectual Property Law, 46 Santa Clara L. Rev. 307, 362 (2006) … But such general propositions ignore the realities of patent licensing and the flexibility needed in transferring intellectual property rights. The evidence of record in the present dispute illustrates the importance the entire market value may have in reasonable royalty cases.

Georgia Pacific Factors: In its opinion, the Federal Circuit emphasized the flexibility of its jurisprudence in deciding damages with an understanding that actual licensing (much less a hypothetical negotiation) is “complicated” and “inexact.” Ultimately, the case is being sent back for a new trial because the jury’s award was not logically tied to the evidence. (“[T] damages evidence of record was neither very powerful, nor presented very well by either party.”) Most notably lacking are comparable licensing agreements.

First, some of the license agreements are radically different from the hypothetical agreement under consideration for the Day patent. Second, with the other agreements, we are simply unable to ascertain from the evidence presented the subject matter of the agreements, and we therefore cannot understand how the jury could have adequately evaluated the probative value of those agreements.

Damages award vacated

Power Behind the Black Box of Obviousness: In a string of recent cases, the Federal Circuit has reinvigorated the notion that jury verdicts on the question of obviousness will likely be upheld on appeal. Here, Microsoft argued for a particular interpretation of the prior art that it presented. While being sympathetic to Microsoft’s argument, the court held that the defendant’s arguments did not meet the necessary burden.

When the underlying facts are taken in the light most favorable to Lucent, the non-moving party, the evidence reasonably permitted the jury to have decided that Microsoft did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that claim 19 would have been obvious.

Nonobviousness affirmed.

Inducement: Lucent’s case was built on the notion of contributory infringement. Microsoft’s software does not – just by itself – directly infringe Lucent’s asserted method claims. Rather, by selling the software, Microsoft leads its customers to directly infringe. Contributory infringement and inducement both require proof of underlying direct infringement. At trial, Lucent was unable to point to any actual instance where a Microsoft customer used Microsoft products to perform the claimed method. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the infringement finding by holding that circumstantial evidence was sufficient to support a conclusion that at least one person (other than the experts in the case) used the products in an infringing manner.

As in Moleculon, the jury in the present case could have reasonably concluded that, sometime during the relevant period from 2003 to 2006, more likely than not one person somewhere in the United States had performed the claimed method using the Microsoft products.

Infringement affirmed.

Sanctions for Frivolous Lawsuit: Fraser v. High Liner Foods

PatentLawPic738Fraser v. High Liner Foods, et. al. (Fed. Cir. 2009)(non-precedential)

Acting pro-se, Alfred and Paul Fraser sued a handful of fish-stick makers for patent infringement. The Frasers apparently run

The Fraser Patent No. 4,781,930 covers a method of soaking fish in oil before freezing the fillets. The only claim reads as follows:

A method of preparing a fish product comprising filleting a fish to appropriate thickness, immediately immersing the filleted fish in a vegetable oil for a period of 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature to effect absorption of the oil to a depth such as to inhibit excretion of the natural fluids from the fillet and prevent incursion of air and moisture, draining the excess oil from the surface, covering the surface with crumbs and then freezing the fillet.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants:

  1. Defendant Midship could not be liable because that company was dissolved more than six years before Frasier filed suit. 35 U.S.C. § 286.
  2. Defendant Good Harbor was dissolved bankruptcy in 2006. It cannot be held liable.
  3. Defendants UNFI and National Fish were never properly served and thus cannot be required to appear in court. The court noted that “A return of service merely noting delivery to ‘girl at front disk’ does not comply with the strictures of Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(h) or Mass. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(2) with respect to service on a corporation.”
  4. Defendants Gorton’s, Roche Bros., ConAgra, High Liner, and Pinnacle did not infringe, literally or by equivalents. “None of the five appellees immerse their frozen fish products in a vegetable oil for a period of 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature. Further, none of these appellees begin preparing frozen fish fillets using fresh fillets.”

The Federal Circuit affirmed each of these decisions and then turned to the issue of sanctions:

“The district court noted that Appellants did not provide any of the defendants with any notice of their patent, that they did not question any defendant concerning the manner of fish processing, and in the case of Midship and Good Harbor, that they did not even inquire as to the existence of these defendants prior to bringing suit. The record shows that Appellants proceeded to file suit without ascertaining correct names of some defendants. Despite detailed letters from counsel for various defendants explaining their clients’ processes and pointing out the differences between those processes and the patented process, Appellants continued to press forth the litigation. Appellants continued despite the district court’s clear explanation at a hearing that they could not prove infringement merely by proving the presence of oil as an ingredient on the list of the products at issue.”

In the end, the court affirmed the minimal sanction of only $500 per defendant.

Court Costs: $1,000,000 in Translation Costs Awarded to Prevailing Party

Ortho-McNeil Pharm., Inc. v. Mylan Labs., Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2009)(Dyk, J.),

In 2005, the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court ruling in this case supporting the validity of Daiichi’s Levofloxacin’s patent.

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (R. 54(d)), non-attorney-fee costs are presumptively awarded to the prevailing party. These usually include costs associated with court fees, subpoena fees, transcripts, copying, and translations.

Daiichi calculated its costs as $2.2 million, but the district court reduced those costs to $1.3 million (including $1 million in translation costs). On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed these costs.

The one exception to the affirmance involves a parallel case against Teva. Although there was no joint discovery agreement, some depositions were taken jointly by Mylan and Teva for the convenience of Daiichi. Because the Teva case settled, the court in that case did not award any costs. However, Mylan argued that Teva’s portion of the costs was implicit in the settlement payment. The Federal Circuit agreed – holding that Mylan should not be required to pay more than 50% of the costs for the joint depositions.

Here it is apparent that Daiichi has in effect already recovered some amount of costs through its settlement agreement with Teva. Although Teva did not actually pay costs to Daiichi in cash, the taxable costs in the New Jersey action (including deposition costs) were unquestionably taken into account by the parties’ settlement, in which Daiichi agreed not to seek actual payment of costs as consideration for Teva foregoing its appeal. Having recovered the value of those costs in the form of the foregone appeal, Daiichi cannot now recover more than its total entitlement by obtaining those same costs again from Mylan. . . . Because the district court here did not apportion costs between the two actions, we vacate the award of costs in this one respect and remand for further proceedings.

Affirmed in part

Read the Decisions:.08-1600.pdf

Bits and Bytes No. 116

  • Comments on Patently-O: I have updated the commenting software. Now there are threaded comments, so it is easier to reply directly to a prior comment. If you sign-up for a free Typepad account then you can personalize the image associated with your moniker.
  • Law Firms as Patent Owners: Photo site SmugMug recently filed a declaratory judgment action against the patent holding entity VPS, LLC. VPS previously settled with Pictage earning a "multi-million dollar fee" as well as with Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly. VPS's ownership is interesting. Its managing partners are all patent attorneys: Carl Moore (patent attorney at Marshall Gerstein); Timothy Vezeau (patent attorney at Katten Muchin); and Nate Sarpelli. The VPS patents were originally assigned to Monet, Inc. but subsequently assigned to the Marshall Gerstein firm. In 2002, the law firm assigned the rights to VPS. (See Pat. No. 6,321,231). SmugMug Complaint for Declaratory Judgment.pdf
  • Design Patent Customs Registration: The IPO has voted to support a statutory change that would create a design patent registry within the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bureau of the Department of Homeland Security. The CBP already keeps a registry of trademarks and copyrights to assist customs agents in preventing infringing importation through any of the 317 official ports of entry into the US. [CBP E-Recordation System] (No bill has been proposed.)
  • Tivo v. DISH and EchoStar: $190 million.
  • Update Your PTO Registration Data Online: Link. Before you can use the system, the OED will first send a letter to you with a User ID. After you respond, you will be sent a password.

Bits and Bytes No. 116

  • Comments on Patently-O: I have updated the commenting software. Now there are threaded comments, so it is easier to reply directly to a prior comment. If you sign-up for a free Typepad account then you can personalize the image associated with your moniker.
  • Law Firms as Patent Owners: Photo site SmugMug recently filed a declaratory judgment action against the patent holding entity VPS, LLC. VPS previously settled with Pictage earning a “multi-million dollar fee” as well as with Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly. VPS’s ownership is interesting. Its managing partners are all patent attorneys: Carl Moore (patent attorney at Marshall Gerstein); Timothy Vezeau (patent attorney at Katten Muchin); and Nate Sarpelli. The VPS patents were originally assigned to Monet, Inc. but subsequently assigned to the Marshall Gerstein firm. In 2002, the law firm assigned the rights to VPS. (See Pat. No. 6,321,231). SmugMug Complaint for Declaratory Judgment.pdf
  • Design Patent Customs Registration: The IPO has voted to support a statutory change that would create a design patent registry within the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bureau of the Department of Homeland Security. The CBP already keeps a registry of trademarks and copyrights to assist customs agents in preventing infringing importation through any of the 317 official ports of entry into the US. [CBP E-Recordation System] (No bill has been proposed.)
  • Tivo v. DISH and EchoStar: $190 million.
  • Update Your PTO Registration Data Online: Link. Before you can use the system, the OED will first send a letter to you with a User ID. After you respond, you will be sent a password.

Bits and Bytes No. 116

  • Comments on Patently-O: I have updated the commenting software. Now there are threaded comments, so it is easier to reply directly to a prior comment. If you sign-up for a free Typepad account then you can personalize the image associated with your moniker.
  • Law Firms as Patent Owners: Photo site SmugMug recently filed a declaratory judgment action against the patent holding entity VPS, LLC. VPS previously settled with Pictage earning a "multi-million dollar fee" as well as with Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly. VPS's ownership is interesting. Its managing partners are all patent attorneys: Carl Moore (patent attorney at Marshall Gerstein); Timothy Vezeau (patent attorney at Katten Muchin); and Nate Sarpelli. The VPS patents were originally assigned to Monet, Inc. but subsequently assigned to the Marshall Gerstein firm. In 2002, the law firm assigned the rights to VPS. (See Pat. No. 6,321,231). SmugMug Complaint for Declaratory Judgment.pdf
  • Design Patent Customs Registration: The IPO has voted to support a statutory change that would create a design patent registry within the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bureau of the Department of Homeland Security. The CBP already keeps a registry of trademarks and copyrights to assist customs agents in preventing infringing importation through any of the 317 official ports of entry into the US. [CBP E-Recordation System] (No bill has been proposed.)
  • Tivo v. DISH and EchoStar: $190 million.
  • Update Your PTO Registration Data Online: Link. Before you can use the system, the OED will first send a letter to you with a User ID. After you respond, you will be sent a password.

Improper Summary Judgment on Doctrine of Equivalents; Marking Products that Perform Method Claims

Crown Packaging v. Rexam Beverage Can (Fed. Cir. 2009)

On summary judgment, the district court held that Rexam did not infringe Crown’s patent beverage can-top patent. The lower court also found that that Crown did not infringe Rexam’s beverage can “necking” patent. On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed both rulings.

The Doctrine of Equivalents: Over the past two decades, the doctrine of equivalents been pushed out of the usual infringement discussion. Part of the doctrine’s downgrade is due to restricted application due to prosecution history estoppel (Festo) and tighter doctrine (Warner-Jenkinson). Perhaps equally important in the decline of the DOE has been the rise of claim construction as the primary variable of patent litigation. Rather than arguing for infringement as an equivalent, applicants are instead arguing for broad construction of the claim terms. Finally, patent drafters are – on average – better today than they were twenty years ago and spend more energy on considering how to draft claims that capture literal infringement. In a 2007 paper, Professors Lemley and Allison found something similar – that since the late 1990′s (even before Festo), that “equivalents claims usually failed, most often on summary judgment.” Their paper title – “Demise of the Doctrine of Equivalents” – overstates its case. The DOE is sometimes valuable.

Function-Way-Result Test: There are at least two alternate tests for infringement under the doctrine of equivalents. The function-way-result test considers “on a limitation by limitation basis” whether “the accused product performs substantially the same function in substantially the same way with substantially the same result as each claim limitation of the patented product.”

Summary Judgment on DOE: Here, the issue was not so much the law of the DOE, but rather the requirement for summary judgment that there be no remaining material issue of fact. Crown’s patent claims an “annular reinforcing bead,” while Rexam’s product uses a reinforcing fold. The lower court found those different enough to avoid infringement under the DOE. On appeal, however, the Federal Circuit reversed – finding at least one unresolved material issue of fact that precluded summary judgment. DOE requires expert testimony to step through the function-way-result test. And, here, the patentee’s expert stepped through each element and his testimony had not been completely indicted or even refuted.

Because Crown provided evidence in support of its position that the annular reinforcing bead of claim 14 of the ’826 patent had only one function, and because we must resolve any reasonable factual inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, we conclude that there is a material issue of fact regarding the function of the claimed bead. Accordingly, we reverse and remand the district court’s grant of summary judgment of noninfringement.

This decision by Judge Moore is in line with the court’s 2008 Voda case which was affirmed after parsing expert testimony to ensure that the elements had been properly proven. (In Voda, the court used the alternative “insubstantial difference” test.)

Unmarked Sales by Licensee: In a scenario reminiscent of the recent Quanta v. LG case, Rexam licensed its patents to Belvac to make “neckers” used to stretch out the top of the can bodies. Under the license, Belvac was required “to notify its customers that they would require a separate license from Rexam to perform the smooth die necking method” that is claimed in Rexam’s patents. The license did not require Belvac to mark the machines that it sold. And, in fact, Belvac did not mark them with the Rexam patent number. Crown then used the machine to make over one hundred billion cans.

Marking under 35 U.S.C. § 287(a): The district court found that this past infringement was not actionable because Crown was not on notice of the patent. That decision seemingly follows from 35 U.S.C. § 287(a). Under that provision, a patentee who does not properly mark a patented article “is not entitled to damages for infringement prior to actual notice.” (quoting CAFC decision).

Marking of Method Claims: Rexam’s trick here was to assert only method claims. On its face, Section 287 applies to “any patented article,” and Federal Circuit precedent has clearly stated that the marking requirement does not apply when only method claims are asserted. With palpable regret, Judge Moore writes:

“The law is clear that the notice provisions of § 287 do not apply where the patent is directed to a process or method. Bandag, Inc. v. Gerrard Tire Co., 704 F.2d 1578, 1581 (Fed. Cir. 1983). In Hanson, 718 F.2d 1075 (Fed. Cir. 1983)—we held that 35 U.S.C. § 287(a) did not apply where the patentee only asserted the method claims of a patent which included both method and apparatus claims. Hanson is factually identical to this case, and we are therefore bound by the rule of Hanson.”

Thus the patentee is free to claim damages back six years under Section 286 even without marking or providing actual notice. This decision thus provides an additional reason to include method claims in a patent application. Now, it would be improper to conclude that there is no reason to mark products that perform method claims. In the 1993 American Medical Systems case, the Federal Circuit ruled that marking would be required if “both apparatus and method claims” were asserted and there is a “tangible item to mark.” In this case, the patent claimed both a method and apparatus, but Rexam sued only on the method claims.

Federal Circuit Affirms $4.6 million award for litigation misconduct

ICU Medical v. Alaris Medical System pic-14.jpg (Fed. Cir. 2009)

ICU’s patents covers technology for using syringes to add drugs to an IV. The district court granted summary judgment of invalidity and also awarded attorney fees and found a violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Alaris was awarded $4.6 million in attorney fees and sanctions. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed.

Section 285 of the Patent Act provides for the award of attorney fees to the winning party in “exceptional cases.” In Brooks Furniture, the Federal Circuit discussed a two-part test for whether attorneys fees may be awarded due to litigation conduct. The test requires that “both (1) the litigation is brought in subjective bad faith, and (2) the litigation is objectively baseless.” A district court fee award will be affirmed absent clear error.

The problem – ICU argued that the claim term “spike” could be a non-pointed structure such as a tube even though the specification “repeatedly and uniformly describes the spike as a pointed instrument.” The claim construction was not ICU’s only problem:

For example, the district court found that ICU made “multiple, repeated misrepresentations . . . to the Court regarding its own patents in an effort to conceal what are now characterized as errors in order to rescue the TRO/PI from denial.” These misrepresentations related to (1) ICU’s assertion of claims in the ’509 patent that were identical to claims in the ’592 patent (i.e., assertion of double-patented claims); (2) ICU’s assertion of more double-patented claims from the ’509 patent even after Alaris and the district court warned ICU of the double-patenting issue; (3) ICU’s misrepresentation of Federal Circuit authority; (4) ICU’s representation that figures 13 and 20–22 of the common specification “clearly” disclosed a spikeless embodiment, only to later acknowledge that these figures do not disclose such an embodiment and state that its representation was an “honest mistake.”

Although the Brooks Furniture rule discusses objectively baseless “litigation,” that rule is not construed to focus on the litigation as a whole. Rather, attorney fees may be assessed if any portion of the litigation is brought in bad faith and in an objectively baseless manner. Here, the Federal Circuit found that the lower court had “appropriately exercised its discretion in awarding attorney fees only for [a] portion of the litigation.”

Notes:

  • Federal Circuit Decision 08-1077.pdf
  • District Court award of Fees: 232495.pdf. Bottom line: “The Court finds that Alaris is due $4,587,622.44 in attorney fees and $164,721.19 in costs for the reasons set forth below. . . . This represents a reasonable lodestar calculation for Alaris’ work . . . , and it constitutes a reasonable pro rata amount of Alaris’ total expenditure of $11,000,000 in attorney fees and $2,000,000 in costs overall in this case.”
  • District Court decision to find a Section 285 exceptional case and Rule 11 sanctions. 232494.pdf. Money Quote: “[The submitted declarations] do not substantively justify or excuse ICU’s litigation tactics or show its good faith. These declarations were prepared by ICU’s litigation counsel for the purpose ofopposing the Rule 11 and Fees Motions, and comprise mostly self-serving assertions of good faith by interested witnesses, such as ICU’s CEO (Dr. George Lopez), trial counsel (Fulwider, Patton, Lee & Utecht; Paul Hastings; or Pooley & Oliver), patent counsel (Knobbe Martens) and its paid experts (Dr. Maureen Reitman and Bob Rogers). These materials lack the indicia of credibility provided by declarations or opinions from outside, independent counsel or experts, particularly outside patent, as opposed to litigation, counsel. Most of the materials appear to have been “memorialized” in retrospect, providing marginal support compared to, for example, an ex ante documented and vetted analysis that preceded the litigation or that, al minimum, preceded the TRO/PI request and the inclusion of the “spike” claims in the amended complaint.”
  • Although the district court decision appears to identify the Fulwider firm as “trial counsel,” that appears to have been a mistake made by the court. A Fulwider attorney has indicated that their firm “was never one of ICU’s trial counsel in that matter, and thus made no representations to the court on ICU’s behalf.” In fact, ICU appears to be somewhat of a toxic client. According to the court documents, Fulwider represented ICU in the 1990′s. At some point ICU dropped the firm as a client and sued for malpractice based on Fulwider’s representation of alleged ICU competitors. Fulwider did not admit wrongdoing, but a 2007 press release by ICU claims that ICU “will be paid $8 million in settlement of its claims against Fulwider.”

Federal Circuit Affirms $4.6 million award for litigation misconduct

ICU Medical v. Alaris Medical System pic-14.jpg (Fed. Cir. 2009)

ICU’s patents covers technology for using syringes to add drugs to an IV. The district court granted summary judgment of invalidity and also awarded attorney fees and found a violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Alaris was awarded $4.6 million in attorney fees and sanctions. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed.

Section 285 of the Patent Act provides for the award of attorney fees to the winning party in “exceptional cases.” In Brooks Furniture, the Federal Circuit discussed a two-part test for whether attorneys fees may be awarded due to litigation conduct. The test requires that “both (1) the litigation is brought in subjective bad faith, and (2) the litigation is objectively baseless.” A district court fee award will be affirmed absent clear error.

The problem – ICU argued that the claim term “spike” could be a non-pointed structure such as a tube even though the specification “repeatedly and uniformly describes the spike as a pointed instrument.” The claim construction was not ICU’s only problem:

For example, the district court found that ICU made “multiple, repeated misrepresentations . . . to the Court regarding its own patents in an effort to conceal what are now characterized as errors in order to rescue the TRO/PI from denial.” These misrepresentations related to (1) ICU’s assertion of claims in the ’509 patent that were identical to claims in the ’592 patent (i.e., assertion of double-patented claims); (2) ICU’s assertion of more double-patented claims from the ’509 patent even after Alaris and the district court warned ICU of the double-patenting issue; (3) ICU’s misrepresentation of Federal Circuit authority; (4) ICU’s representation that figures 13 and 20–22 of the common specification “clearly” disclosed a spikeless embodiment, only to later acknowledge that these figures do not disclose such an embodiment and state that its representation was an “honest mistake.”

Although the Brooks Furniture rule discusses objectively baseless “litigation,” that rule is not construed to focus on the litigation as a whole. Rather, attorney fees may be assessed if any portion of the litigation is brought in bad faith and in an objectively baseless manner. Here, the Federal Circuit found that the lower court had “appropriately exercised its discretion in awarding attorney fees only for [a] portion of the litigation.”

Notes:

  • Federal Circuit Decision 08-1077.pdf
  • District Court award of Fees: 232495.pdf. Bottom line: “The Court finds that Alaris is due $4,587,622.44 in attorney fees and $164,721.19 in costs for the reasons set forth below. . . . This represents a reasonable lodestar calculation for Alaris’ work . . . , and it constitutes a reasonable pro rata amount of Alaris’ total expenditure of $11,000,000 in attorney fees and $2,000,000 in costs overall in this case.”
  • District Court decision to find a Section 285 exceptional case and Rule 11 sanctions. 232494.pdf. Money Quote: “[The submitted declarations] do not substantively justify or excuse ICU’s litigation tactics or show its good faith. These declarations were prepared by ICU’s litigation counsel for the purpose ofopposing the Rule 11 and Fees Motions, and comprise mostly self-serving assertions of good faith by interested witnesses, such as ICU’s CEO (Dr. George Lopez), trial counsel (Fulwider, Patton, Lee & Utecht; Paul Hastings; or Pooley & Oliver), patent counsel (Knobbe Martens) and its paid experts (Dr. Maureen Reitman and Bob Rogers). These materials lack the indicia of credibility provided by declarations or opinions from outside, independent counsel or experts, particularly outside patent, as opposed to litigation, counsel. Most of the materials appear to have been “memorialized” in retrospect, providing marginal support compared to, for example, an ex ante documented and vetted analysis that preceded the litigation or that, al minimum, preceded the TRO/PI request and the inclusion of the “spike” claims in the amended complaint.”
  • Although the district court decision appears to identify the Fulwider firm as “trial counsel,” that appears to have been a mistake made by the court. A Fulwider attorney has indicated that their firm “was never one of ICU’s trial counsel in that matter, and thus made no representations to the court on ICU’s behalf.” In fact, ICU appears to be somewhat of a toxic client. According to the court documents, Fulwider represented ICU in the 1990′s. At some point ICU dropped the firm as a client and sued for malpractice based on Fulwider’s representation of alleged ICU competitors. Fulwider did not admit wrongdoing, but a 2007 press release by ICU claims that ICU “will be paid $8 million in settlement of its claims against Fulwider.”

Federal Circuit Affirms $4.6 million award for litigation misconduct

ICU Medical v. Alaris Medical System pic-14.jpg (Fed. Cir. 2009)

ICU’s patents covers technology for using syringes to add drugs to an IV. The district court granted summary judgment of invalidity and also awarded attorney fees and found a violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Alaris was awarded $4.6 million in attorney fees and sanctions. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed.

Section 285 of the Patent Act provides for the award of attorney fees to the winning party in “exceptional cases.” In Brooks Furniture, the Federal Circuit discussed a two-part test for whether attorneys fees may be awarded due to litigation conduct. The test requires that “both (1) the litigation is brought in subjective bad faith, and (2) the litigation is objectively baseless.” A district court fee award will be affirmed absent clear error.

The problem – ICU argued that the claim term “spike” could be a non-pointed structure such as a tube even though the specification “repeatedly and uniformly describes the spike as a pointed instrument.” The claim construction was not ICU’s only problem:

For example, the district court found that ICU made “multiple, repeated misrepresentations . . . to the Court regarding its own patents in an effort to conceal what are now characterized as errors in order to rescue the TRO/PI from denial.” These misrepresentations related to (1) ICU’s assertion of claims in the ’509 patent that were identical to claims in the ’592 patent (i.e., assertion of double-patented claims); (2) ICU’s assertion of more double-patented claims from the ’509 patent even after Alaris and the district court warned ICU of the double-patenting issue; (3) ICU’s misrepresentation of Federal Circuit authority; (4) ICU’s representation that figures 13 and 20–22 of the common specification “clearly” disclosed a spikeless embodiment, only to later acknowledge that these figures do not disclose such an embodiment and state that its representation was an “honest mistake.”

Although the Brooks Furniture rule discusses objectively baseless “litigation,” that rule is not construed to focus on the litigation as a whole. Rather, attorney fees may be assessed if any portion of the litigation is brought in bad faith and in an objectively baseless manner. Here, the Federal Circuit found that the lower court had “appropriately exercised its discretion in awarding attorney fees only for [a] portion of the litigation.”

Notes:

  • Federal Circuit Decision 08-1077.pdf
  • District Court award of Fees: 232495.pdf. Bottom line: “The Court finds that Alaris is due $4,587,622.44 in attorney fees and $164,721.19 in costs for the reasons set forth below. . . . This represents a reasonable lodestar calculation for Alaris’ work . . . , and it constitutes a reasonable pro rata amount of Alaris’ total expenditure of $11,000,000 in attorney fees and $2,000,000 in costs overall in this case.”
  • District Court decision to find a Section 285 exceptional case and Rule 11 sanctions. 232494.pdf. Money Quote: “[The submitted declarations] do not substantively justify or excuse ICU’s litigation tactics or show its good faith. These declarations were prepared by ICU’s litigation counsel for the purpose ofopposing the Rule 11 and Fees Motions, and comprise mostly self-serving assertions of good faith by interested witnesses, such as ICU’s CEO (Dr. George Lopez), trial counsel (Fulwider, Patton, Lee & Utecht; Paul Hastings; or Pooley & Oliver), patent counsel (Knobbe Martens) and its paid experts (Dr. Maureen Reitman and Bob Rogers). These materials lack the indicia of credibility provided by declarations or opinions from outside, independent counsel or experts, particularly outside patent, as opposed to litigation, counsel. Most of the materials appear to have been “memorialized” in retrospect, providing marginal support compared to, for example, an ex ante documented and vetted analysis that preceded the litigation or that, al minimum, preceded the TRO/PI request and the inclusion of the “spike” claims in the amended complaint.”
  • Although the district court decision appears to identify the Fulwider firm as “trial counsel,” that appears to have been a mistake made by the court. A Fulwider attorney has indicated that their firm “was never one of ICU’s trial counsel in that matter, and thus made no representations to the court on ICU’s behalf.” In fact, ICU appears to be somewhat of a toxic client. According to the court documents, Fulwider represented ICU in the 1990′s. At some point ICU dropped the firm as a client and sued for malpractice based on Fulwider’s representation of alleged ICU competitors. Fulwider did not admit wrongdoing, but a 2007 press release by ICU claims that ICU “will be paid $8 million in settlement of its claims against Fulwider.”

Rooklidge: Patent Reform Damages Provision Violates Seventh Amendment

The following post is by Bill Rooklidge. Rooklidge is a patent litigator and former head of the AIPLA. He clerked at the Federal Circuit in the early 1980′s.

Richard Cauley’s March 14, 2009 guest post accurately characterized the damages reform provision of the Patent Reform Act of 2009 as “a judicial nightmare” because of its procedural complications, attendant delay and reversal potential. Two additional problems with that provision merit note: it perpetuates prior art subtraction and introduces into jury trial multiple potential violations of the Seventh Amendment.

Fact-finding and the Seventh Amendment. The Supreme Court coined the term “gatekeeper” in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), to describe the trial court’s obligation to “ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.” In addition to rulings on Daubert motions, courts also fulfill their gatekeeper role by ruling on motions for summary judgment and judgment as a matter of law, motions in limine, evidentiary objections, and jury instructions. The bills’ damages section would enhance the courts’ gatekeeper role, but in doing so unconstitutionally invade the jury’s province as fact finder.

The bills would add to 35 U.S.C. §284 paragraph (c)(1), which would require the court to select from three methods for calculating a reasonable royalty “based on the facts of the case and after adducing any further evidence the court deems necessary.” A procedural rule requiring the court to weigh evidence to select from alternate theories would be void for depriving the patentee of its right to jury trial. See Fidelity & Deposit Co. of Maryland v. United States, 187 U.S. 315, 320 (1902). A genuine issue of material fact, that is, a dispute over facts that might affect the outcome, requires the issue to go to the jury. See generally Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242 (1986). Similarly, the trial court’s exclusion of the entire market value rule under paragraph (c)(1)(A) for the patentee’s failure to make “a showing to the satisfaction of the court,” would violate the Seventh Amendment in a jury trial in which the patentee presents enough evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact. See Minks v. Polaris Indus., Inc., 546 F.3d 1364, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (vacating because trial “court necessarily engaged in an independent review of the evidence and substituted its conclusion for that of the jury on the factual issue of compensatory damages”).

The first section of the bills’ section (c)(1)(B) authorizes trial courts to exclude the patentee’s prior licenses for failure to make a “showing to the satisfaction of the court” of three facts regarding the claimant’s other licenses:

“the claimed invention has been the subject of a nonexclusive license for the use made by the invention by the infringer”;

the licenses have been extended “to a number of persons sufficient to indicate a generally marketplace recognition of the reasonableness of the licensing terms”; and

“the license was secured prior to the filing of the case before the court.”

The court also must determine whether the infringer’s use is “of substantially the same scope, volume, and benefit of the rights granted under such license. The second sentence of paragraph (c)(1)(B) requires a similar procedure for noninfringing substitutes for the infringing product or process. And paragraph (c)(1)(C) likewise requires the court to “conduct an analysis to ensure that a reasonable royalty is applied only the portion of the economic value of the infringing product or process properly attributable to the claimed invention’s specific contribution over the prior art.” A court making these findings would invade the province of the jury where the patentee presents substantial evidence on these issues.

Prior Art Subtraction. Section (c)(1)(A)’s requirement for application of the entire market value rule that the “claimed invention’s specific contribution over the prior art” be the “predominant basis for market demand” is just the latest form of “prior art subtraction.” Use of “specific contribution over the prior art” is an attempt to separate the “gist” or “heart” of the invention from the patent claims, and would introduce the extra step of subjectively redefining the scope of a patent. The Federal Circuit long ago rejected using the “gist” or “heart” of the invention to determine obviousness, see Para-Ordnance Mfg. v. SGS Importers Int’l, Inc., 73 F.3d 1085 (Fed. Cir. 1995), and recently rejected using the “point of novelty” in design patent law. Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swisa, Inc., 543 F.3d 665, 678 (Fed. Cir. 2008). Stripping the prior art elements out of the claimed invention that has been examined by the USPTO, construed by the federal district court, and relied upon to determine validity and infringement, in no way approximates the “heart” or “gist” of the invention, and that inherently subjective process would be unfair to the patent owner, and would eliminate application of the entire market value to inventions consisting entirely of prior art elements, arguably the vast majority.

Paragraph (c)(1)(C) would limit the reasonable royalty base to the “economic value of the infringing product or process properly attributable to the claimed invention’s specific contribution over the prior art,” replacing apportionment with prior art subtraction. This analysis is no substitute for the sophisticated and nuanced apportionment approach available under existing case law such as Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. United States Plywood Corp., 318 F. Supp. 1116, 1133-37 (S.D.N.Y. 1970). Paragraph (c)(1)(C) would address the combination invention problem by stating that for combination inventions “the contribution over the prior art may include the value of the additional function resulting from the combination, as well as the enhanced value, if any, of some or all of the prior art elements as part of the combination, if the patentee demonstrates that value.” This analysis, which finds no precedent in existing case law and lacks any readily definable economic standards, does not even begin to address the problem that subtracting the prior art elements simply does not approximate what the inventor really invented.

Replacement of “contribution over the prior art” with the “essential features” language from the Supreme Court’s recent Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc., 128 S. Ct. 2109 (2008), would just put another label on prior art subtraction. Regardless of label, the bills’ damages provision would drastically reduce patent owners’ ability to obtain reasonable royalty damages, which could not be less fair to those, like independent inventors, research institutions and universities, that have no ability to obtain lost profits damages.

Notes

Patent Reform 2009: More on Damages

Guest Post by Richard Cauley. Cauley is the author of the recent Oxford Press book titled Winning the Patent Damages Case: A Litigator’s Guide to Economic Models and Other Damage Strategies. I asked him to provide some thoughts on the damages proposals in the Patent Reform Act of 2009. Cauley.jpg

The damages provisions of the Patent Reform Act of 2009 are not new, nor, in an economic sense, are they particularly controversial. Although their introduction in this legislation may create a political firestorm among those who wish to artificially maximize the economic leverage of patentholders both in court and across the bargaining table, the solutions proposed in the latest attempt at patent reform merely reflect – and attempt to measure – the true economic worth of a patent and the reasonable return to which an inventor is entitled.

What these damages provisions (all of which were contained in the various versions of the failed Patent Reform Act of 2007) attempt to accomplish is to force the court to limit the patentholder’s recovery to the real economic worth of an invention – for example, to a company who might want to license that invention to use in another product or to a consumer who might purchase a product because of that very invention.

Thus, the section limiting the application of the entire market value rule to situations in which the actual invention – the advance over the prior art – forms the basis of consumer demand compensates the inventor only to the extent his invention produces something that people actually want to buy.

This section also ensures that patents on relatively minor components are not given a value in excess of their real economic worth. Where the patent does not cover something critically important to the consumer, the provision limits the patentholder’s recovery to the value of that component to the customer – and precludes a recovery based on the entire product, which may include many other patented components.

Likewise, the section requiring the court to determine whether there is already a “market price” for licensing the patent – in the form of pre-existing licenses for similar patent rights – simply measures how much a prospective licensee would be willing to pay on the open market for the right to use the patent. Of course, this is what the reasonable royalty remedy is supposed to measure.

The purpose of these provisions is obvious. First, they will limit the ability of patentholders, primarily patent trolls, to recover damages in patent litigation far in excess of the actual economic value of those patents. More importantly, however, they will reduce the threat of such inflated damages awards – a threat such plaintiffs use as leverage in licensing campaigns and settlement negotiations to secure recoveries far exceeding the worth these patents really have to the prospective licensees.

The problem with these proposed statutes, then is not their objective – to give patents the value they actually deserve – but the implementation. As written, these provisions are a judicial nightmare. They require the court to conduct a kind of “damages Markman” in which the court must decide, before giving the case to the jury, the economic value of the patent’s “specific contribution over the prior art,” the “basis” for the “market demand” for an infringing process, the “relevant market” for a claimed invention and whether that market has “similar noninfringing substitutes” for the claimed invention. Apparently, the court is also supposed to make the economic decision of which Georgia Pacific factors the jury is allowed to consider.   

The delay which will be caused in an ongoing trial will inevitably be substantial and the opportunities for reversible error in this process will be legion. Although the intent of the drafters of these provisions was certainly praiseworthy– to codify limits on jury’s overvaluing patents in awarding damages – the byzantine rules they set up to implement these objective shows that they certainly have never tried a patent case. Indeed, if the courts would simply follow the judicially- established guidelines already in place, this complex set of regulations would not be necessary.

Hopefully, calmer heads will prevail before these rules are actually imposed on the patent litigation bar and on the courts. There are better and more effective ways of reaching these objectives.

Indeed, it is not surprising that, in another section of the bill – limiting venue for patent cases to districts in which the defendant has a facility – there appears to be no appropriate venue for a patent case against an infringing foreign defendant with no facilities in the United States. Thus, a plaintiff might have jurisdiction over an infringer, but nowhere to sue the company – all dressed up and no place to go.

Links:

Forward Looking Patent Damages

In the wake of eBay, courts and scholars have been working to figure out what to do after denying injunctive relief. A common suggestion is to award an ongoing royalty – often termed a compulsory license. In an impressive body of research stretching back to the year 1660, Lewis & Clark professor Tomás Gómez-Arostegui concludes that “federal courts lack the authority, in either law or equity, to award prospective compensation to plaintiffs for post-judgment copyright or patent infringements.”

Until such time as Congress creates a new form of compulsory licensing, future-damage awards and continuing royalties can only be granted in lieu of a final injunction by consent of the parties.

In non-patent cases, such as accidental death, courts regularly calculate future damages – such as earning capacity. However, in those cases, the award is based on a past tort. In patent cases, prospective damages are based upon future infringing actions.

Looking historically, Gómez-Arostegui could not find a single instance prior to 1789 where the Chancery “awarded a continuing royalty in lieu of a final injunction in infringement cases.” In cases where no injunction was granted, the court did “nothing at all” about ongoing infringement.

How does this cut:

Read the paper here.

Patent Reform 2009: Damages

The most contentious portion of the Patent Reform Act of 2009 is the damages provision. The current damages statute gives little guidance to a court. Damages must be “adequate to compensate for the infringement but in no event less than a reasonable royalty for the use made of the invention by the infringer.” 35 U.S.C. §284. The Court may “increase the damages up to three times the amount found or assessed.” Id. The courts have given some flesh to the rough skeleton created by these statutes. One construct is the hypothetical negotiation – asking the counterfactual question of what licensing scheme would these dueling foes have agreed to if they had actually come to a licensing agreement. The Georgia Pacific factors guide the process of deternining a reasonable royalty. In some cases, courts allow a patentee to recover lost profits.

As it turns out, the damages actually awarded in patent cases are generally thought to be much higher than negotiated license agreements.  Part of the difference stems from the reality that patent damages are awarded only on patents that are known to be valid, infringed, and enforceable, and after the risk and expense of litigation have already been taken. In ordinary license negotiations, these risks lower the potential royalty rate and – in contrast – should increased the level of compensation in post-trial damages.  There is some evidence that juries simply tend toward large damage awards.

Stacking Problem: In some technology areas – such as electronics – this creates a potential problem known as royalty stacking. Most electronics products are covered by multiple patents – often dozens of patents. CDMA2000 communication standard, for instance, reportedly invringes at least 924 patents. [LINK] When each patentee is awarded a 5% royalty, it does not take long before the entire revenue is taken just to pay for intellectual property rights. If everyone has blocking rights then no business can get done, and we see the tragedy of the anti-commons. Of course, stacking is only a problem in theory. CDMA2000 is a standard actually used around the world. Producers are making (some) money. Multiple patents covering products have causes prices to be raised, but it is not clear than any market has been destroyed or even that the royalty payments outway the benefit of the innovation.

Uncertainty Problem: Jury verdicts are quite unpredictable, and because the royalty rules are so loose, damages appeals are rarely successful.

The new legislation appears to take on these problems in a way to (1) reduce the average damage award; (2) make damage awards more rational and predictable; and (3) make damages judgment more subject to appellate review.

The practical approach of the legislation is to create a “standard for calculating reasonable royalty” which require a determination of the “specific contribution over the prior art” to determine damages. Some courts already follow the rules set out in the proposed legislation. Thus, legislation advocates may refer to the damages reforms as simply a clarification that limits the actions of rogue courts.

The proposed text reads as follows:

35 USC 284(c)(1) IN GENERAL.-The court shall determine, based on the facts of the case and after adducing any further evidence the court deems necessary, which of the following methods shall be used by the court or the jury in calculating a reasonable royalty pursuant to subsection (a). The court shall also identify the factors that are relevant to the determination of a reasonable royalty, and the court or jury, as the case may be, shall consider only those factors in making such determination.

”(A) ENTIRE MARKET VALUE.-Upon a showing to the satisfaction of the court that the claimed invention’s specific contribution over the prior art is the predominant basis for market demand for an infringing product or process, damages may be based upon the entire market value of that infringing product or process.

”(B) ESTABLISHED ROYALTY BASED ON MARKETPLACE LICENSING.-Upon a showing to the satisfaction of the court that the claimed invention has been the subject of a nonexclusive license for the use made of the invention by the infringer, to a number of persons sufficient to indicate a general marketplace recognition of the reasonableness of the licensing terms, if the license was secured prior to the filing of the case before the court, and the court determines that the infringer’s use is of substantially the same scope, volume, and benefit of the rights granted under such license, damages may be determined on the basis of the terms of such license. Upon a showing to the satisfaction of the court that the claimed invention has sufficiently similar noninfringing substitutes in the relevant market, which have themselves been the subject of such nonexclusive licenses, and the court de termines that the infringer’s use is of substan tially the same scope, volume, and benefit of the rights granted under such licenses, damages may be determined on the basis of the terms of such licenses. ”

(C) VALUATION CALCULATION.-Upon a determination by the court that the showings required under subparagraphs (A) and (B) have not been made, the court shall conduct an analysis to ensure that a reasonable royalty is applied only to the portion of the economic value of the infringing product or process properly at tributable to the claimed invention’s specific contribution over the prior art. In the case of a combination invention whose elements are present individually in the prior art, the contribution over the prior art may include the value of the additional function resulting from the combination, as well as the enhanced value, if any, of some or all of the prior art elements as part of the combination, if the patentee demonstrates that value.

”(2) ADDITIONAL FACTORS.-Where the court determines it to be appropriate in determining a reasonable royalty under paragraph (1), the court may also consider, or direct the jury to consider, any other relevant factors under applicable law.

Notes:

  • I’ll use this opportunity to plug a new book by Richard Cauley: Winning the Patent Damages Case (Oxford 2009). Great book, the only problem is the $185 price tag.
  • The Bills have received numbers: H.R. 1260 is sponsored by Rep. Conyers (MI) and co-sponsored by Reps. Berman (CA), Goodlatte (VA), Jackson-Lee (TX), and Smith (TX). S. 515 is sponsored by Sen. Leahy and co-sponsored by Sens. Crapo (ID), Gillibrand (NY), Hatch (UT), Risch (ID), Schumer (NY), and Whitehouse (RI). Both Bills have been referred to their respective Judiciary Committee which are headed by the Bill sponsors.

Back Reading

Patent Reform Act of 2009

Patent reform legislation has now been introduced in both the House and the Senate. The provisions call for major reforms and mirror much of the proposed legislation from 2008. If anything, this is not a consensus Bill. File Attachment: SenateBill.pdf (116 KB) File Attachment: HouseBill.pdf (180 KB)

Proposed changes in the Senate Bill include:

  • First to File: Moving to a first-to-file system that credits invention based on the filing date of the patent application rather than on the date of actual invention.   The provision eliminates the one-year grace period for most cases. Thus, any independent third-party publication prior to filing is considered prior art regardless of the date of invention. Likewise, secret prior art (102(e)) cannot be ‘sworn behind’ based on prior invention. This provision obviously hurts folks who delay in filing patent applications.
  • Damages: Must look to the invention’s “specific contribution over the prior art” to determine damages. There is an interesting provision that a reasonable royalty may be calculated as the price of licensing a “similar noninfringing substitute in the relative market.” In some cases, this could push damages to zero if the noninfringing substitute is in the public domain. The provision also codifies that treble damages are limited to instances where a judge finds that an adjudged infringer recklessly continued to infringe after receiving particularly specified written notice sufficient to create declaratory judgment jurisdiction and without relying on reasonable advice of counsel.
  • Expanded Reexamination Proceedings: Reexaminations may be requested based on published prior art, or evidence of prior public use or sale in the US. Inter partes reexaminations would begin to look more like court cases and would be heard by administrative patent judges. The Bill would clarify that parties would be estopped from filing inter partes reexamination requests after a district court judgment.
  • Additional Post Grant Review: Within 12 months of issuance, a third party can file a cancellation petition based on any ground of invalidity (rather than simply prior art). The post grant reviews would also be conducted by the administrative patent judges.
  • Pre-Issuance Submissions: Third parties can submit prior art during examination of the patent as well as a statement regarding the relevance of the art. The art should be submitted the latter of (1) six months after publication or (2) before the first office action on the merits.
  • Patent Litigation Venue: “A party shall not manufacture venue by assignment, incorporation, or otherwise to invoke the venue of a specific district court.” Venue is only proper were (a) defendant is incorporated; (b) defendant has its principle place of business; (c) where the defendant is permanently located and has committed substantial acts of infringement; or (d) where the plaintiff resides if the plaintiff is a nonprofit or individual inventor. The court should transfer venue to avoid evidentiary burdens when transfer can be accomplished without causing undue hardship to the plaintiff.”
  • Interlocutory Appeals: The Federal Circuit will have jurisdiction over interlocutory appeals of claim construction when approved by the lower court.
  • Administrative Patent Judges: The BPAI would become the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Interferences would be gone, however they would be replaced by derivation proceedings as well as reexamination and post-grant trials.
  • PTO Powers: The PTO has power to set its fees, including reducing fees.
  • Oath: Easing the rules to more easily allow rights-holders to file patent applications on behalf of the inventor.
  • Federal Circuit Judges: Making legal it for a Federal Circuit judge to reside more than 50 miles from DC.

As you can see, this is very much the type of reform that companies like Google would like to see. Google is regularly faced with charges of patent infringement and rarely sues for infringement. Some of these changes will benefit the system as a whole, but it is clear that this is not “balanced” reform. The damages provision will almost certainly reduce patent awards. And, perhaps equally important, the damages provision provides adjudged infringers a real cause to appeal jury awards if they did not directly follow the expert testimony.

I believe that the expanded use of reexaminations and post grant review and prior art submissions will be beneficial, and I have faith that the administrative patent judges will be able to handle their newfound responsibilities. That said, these provisions provide challengers with new ways to attack patent rights.

The plaintiff bar in the Eastern District of Texas is quite good, and defendants are doing what they can to escape from their grasp. The venue provision moves in that direction and would thus weaken the value of patents.

The trick with the first to file system is to realize that it is not about some mythical race to invent between competitors. Rather, it is about keying the priority on the date of filing the application rather than the date of invention or even one year prior to filing. This provision weakens patent rights because more materials will be considered prior art. It is possible to switch to a first-to-file system without eliminating the grace period so dramatically – this legislation does not, however meet that standard.

The Bill is sponsored by both Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Hatch (R-UT). Representative Conyers (D-Mich) introduced parallel legislation in the House, the legislation is largely similar, but does contain some differences. (I have not reviewed the House version in detail). Some opposition has already formed. Reps Manzullo (R-IL) an Michaud (D-ME) issued a joint press release titled “New patent bill encourages IP theft, destroys American jobs.” Their focus was on the damages provision.

There are some changes from the 2008 legislation.

  • The Bill does not require that all applications be published at 18 months.
  • Applicants would not be required to search prior art.
  • The 2009 Bill allows public use or sale in the US to be reasons for challenging patents.
  • CHECK 21 provisions are gone.
  • Fee Diversion is allowed in the 2009 Bill. (Oddly, Leahy explained that PTO Examiners perfer a system of fee diversion)
  • The 2009 Bill does not address inequitable conduct.

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Jury verdict forms

Agere Systems v. Sony Corp (E.D. Tex. 2008).

In November 2008, a jury returned a verdict finding that Sony had induced infringement of Agere’s patent by marketing and selling its PlayStation Portable (PSP) game. It is interesting to look at the simplicity of the jury form:

Post-verdict motions are still pending in the Sony case, but an appeal is expected.

In Spine Solutions v. Medtronic (D.Del. 2008), the jury found that the asserted claims were non-obvious and that the patentee was entitled to lost profit damages.

Some of the damages were also awarded based on a “reasonable royalty” of 18%.