Zyprexa Patent Upheld on Appeal

OlanzapineEli Lilly v. Zenith Goldline (Fed. Cir. 2006)

Lilly’s patent covers olanzapine (Zyprexa®) and its use for the treatment of schizophrenia. Three generic manufacturers (Zenith (IVAX), Dr. Reddy’s, and Teva) filed an ANDA and Lilly responded with a complaint in the Southern District of Indiana.  After a bench trial, the district court agreed with Lilly that the patent was valid, infringed, and enforceable.  The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit.

Anticipation: To anticipate the invention, a prior art reference “must disclose each and every feature of the claimed invention, either explicitly or inherently.”  However, in both Petering and Schaumann, prior art references that disclosed the family of the claimed compound were found to anticipate the claimed compound — even though the claimed compounds were not specifically discussed.

Here, the CAFC found that those cases were not applicable because the closest reference to olanzapine did not spell out “a definite and limited class of compounds that enabled a person of ordinary skill in the art to at once envisage each member in this limited class.”

Obviousness: The CAFC agreed that the prior art references did not suggest a the compound. In addition, Lilly provided strong evidence of secondary considerations, including: “(1) a long-felt and unmet need; (2) failure of others; (3) industry acclaim; and (4) unexpected results.”

The record shows a long-felt need for a safer, less toxic, and more effective clozapine-like drug; a decade (or more) of failure to find a replacement for clozapine; a reasonable amount of commercial success for olanzapine; and a number of awards for olanzapine as indicators of industry acclaim.

Public Use: Prior to filing the patent application, Lilly conducted Phase I clinical safety trials. The court found, however, that the trials were well within the experimental use exception:

In this case, Lilly tailored its tests to their experimental drug safety and efficacy purpose, adequately monitored for results, and maintained confidentiality throughout the duration of the study. The trial court did not err in finding no public use.

 

Plumtree: DJ Jurisdiction, On-Sale Bar

UntitledPlumtree v. Datamize (Fed. Cir. 2006)

Declaratory Judgment Jurisdiction: The Datamize patents cover software authoring tools for creating software kiosks. Datamize had earlier sued Plumtree for patent infringement and had also told Plumtree that it would be infringing the soon-to-issue continuation application. When the continuation did issue, Plumtree filed a declaratory judgment action — giving the CAFC one last opportunity to opine on its reasonable apprehension test before the Supreme Court issues its MedImmune decision in early 2007.

A declaratory judgment action requires an actual controversy between interested parties. The DJ plaintiff must show (1) some action by the patentee that creates a reasonable apprehension of facing a patent infringement lawsuit and (2) some activity on the part of the DJ plaintiff that could constitute infringement. With a few bright-line exceptions (such as that seen in MedImmune), the court looks to the totality of the circumstances when determining whether a reasonable apprehension of suit exists. 

Here, the court found that the prior suit on similar technology exhibited a “course of conduct” indicating a “willingness to protect [its patented] technology”and thus “created a reasonable apprehension of suit.”

On Sale Bar: Once jurisdiction was established, the CAFC looked to determine whether the Datamize patents were invalid for being on-sale more than one year prior to the filing of the application. Here, the appellate panel found that sale of a kiosk did not violate the on-sale bar because the patents did not cover the kiosks themselves.  The court noted, however, that the on-sale bar would be triggered if either (1) the sales contract required use of the patented method or (2) the patented method was actually used to complete the contract prior to the critical date.  Plumtree, however, could not prove either of those — the agreement “did not unambiguously require use of the patented method” and there was no evidence that the patented method was actually performed prior to the critical date.

Notes: This is the second CAFC opinion involving these two parties. The earlier case involved the same technology but a different patent.  That patent was invalid as indefinite because the claims included the terms “aesthetically pleasing.”

Judge Moore Opinions: Short, Focused, and To-The-Point

PatentlyO2006018In re Hays (Fed. Cir. 2006) (Nonprecedential)

New Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Moore’s first opinion is likely to be predictive of her future work — short, focused, and to-the-point. 

This case involves a pretty neat invention of a tissue holder for an automobile visor. The BPAI had rejected the claims as anticipated, but the PTO later conceded that the cited reference (relating to a golf-tee holder that clips to a lapel) was not anticipatory.

The PTO is fully expected to present a new grounds of rejection.  In all likelihood, the patent will never issue because another round of appeal would be prohibitively expensive for this type of invention.

Vacated and Remanded.

  • This does not really count as Judge Moore’s first opinion because it is a non-precedential opinion. In a few weeks, we’ll get the real one.

Microsoft v. AT&T: Transnational Patent Law At The Supreme Court

Microsoft v. AT&T (Supreme Court 2006)

Transnational patent law is a hot topic, and one the Supreme Court cannot ignore. The issue de jour involves the question of unauthorized export of patented software.  AT&T holds the speech compression patent that is infringed by Microsoft Windows. (RE 32,580). Microsoft exports the software code from Redmond to various international locations.  Once abroad, the code is then copied and installed in computers that are then sold abroad.  As the invention is claimed, the code alone does not infringe. Rather, infringement would only occur once the code is combined with the computer hardware. 

Under traditional notions of patent law, Microsoft’s actions are not infringement because the code alone does not infringe the patent, and (for the purposes of this case) the code is not combined with the hardware within the U.S. 

Here, however, traditional notions of territoriality have been supplanted by statute.  Under 35 U.S.C. 271(f), supply of only a portion of a component of a patented invention from the U.S. can be infringement.

35 U.S.C. 271(f) prohibits the “suppl[y] . . . from the United States . . . [of] all or a substantial portion of the components of a patented invention . . . in such manner as to actively induce the combination of such components outside of the United States,” as well as the “suppl[y] . . . from the United States [of] any component of a patented invention that is especially made or especially adapted for use in the invention.” 

Microsoft, of course, wants to avoid infringing the U.S. patent for its activity abroad and gives two separate reasons why its activity of exporting software do not fall within the parameters of 271(f). (I) Software code is an intangible string of information not a “component” as required by the statute. (II) Because copies of the code were used to create the infringing software/hardware combination, no physical particle that Microsoft exported actually became part of the finished product.  According to Microsoft, this means that nothing in the infringing combination was actually supplied from the U.S. as required by the statute. I term these two arguments the tangibility requirement and the molecular conservation requirement.

Microsoft and its supporters have now filed their merits briefs to the Supreme Court, and my reading of their arguments is that there is strong support for molecular conservation, but only weak support for tangibility. The Bush Administration supports this distinction in its brief filed jointly by the DOJ and PTO. 

On tangibility, the Government argues that software can certainly be a component, and that the statute is not limited to “only tangible components” as Microsoft suggests. Although not cited by the Government, Section 271(c) provides a statutorily distinct way of limiting components.  In referring to infringement through importation, that clause identifies only components of certain types of inventions such as machines and compositions.

On molecular conservation, the Government correctly notes that the statute requires that the exported components be the same components that are combined in the infringing manner. “Conduct that merely induces the combination of foreign-made components does not violate Section 271(f).” The statute, according to the Gov’t, leaves foreign manufacturers “free to manufacture and assemble copies of the identical components overseas” so long as none of the components actually assembled were made within the US.  Applying their argument to this case, we know that the software was copied and only those copies were combined with hardware in a would-be infringing manner.

A group of electronics companies led by Amazon filed a colorful brief that also supports the requirement of molecular conservation.

No matter where their unique arrangement was invented or dictated, if each molecule in the machine was supplied from outside the U.S., then no component was supplied from the U.S. In the present case, Microsoft did not supply even a single molecule of the foreign machines at issue.

Amazon also raises the slippery slope issue.  According to the brief, if Microsoft is liable here, then the Court would open the door to infringement for export of blueprints or a CAD/CAM design scheme.  That result, the brief argues, goes against congressional intent. As an aside, Amazon cited Wikipedia but did not include it in its list of “authorities.”  Although they do not cite it, the Pellegrini case holds that plans or instructions for a patented item cannot serve as components under 271(f).

In support of the molecular argument, a group of professors led by professors Lemley (Stanford) and Duffy (GWU), looked appropriately at the language of 271(f):

[A]s a matter of grammar that the phrase “such components” refers back to the components that have been “supplied” from United States. Thus, the plain language of the statute requires that inducing an extraterritorial combination constitutes an act of infringement if and only if the combined components are in fact the same components that were “supplied in or from” the United States.

For the professors, supplying exact copies does not meet the requirement. Most of the briefs come-up with some hypothetical metaphor to explain their situation — a guy memorizing some code and flying on an airplane, a hard-copy print out of some code that runs a fuel-injection system, CAD/CAM instructions, blueprints, etc.  The idea apparently is that if we allow copies of software to be considered components, then these situations necessarily also provide for infringement actions.  More accurately, however, they are just poor hypotheticals.

Software as Patentable Subject Matter: The anti-patent activist group SFLC led by Dan Ravicher and Eben Moglen also filed a brief that may be the dark-horse of this debate.  Their brief asks the Court to take a fresh look at the patentability of software.

Software can not be a “component[] of a patented invention” under 35 U.S.C. § 271(f) because software is not patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. As such, the Federal Circuit’s holding to the contrary in this case is erroneous and should be reversed.

It would be odd for the Court to decide the 101 issue in this case after dismissing LabCorp earlier this year.  However, I expect at least one concurring opinion supporting the ideas in this brief.

Impact on Software Industry: If Microsoft loses here, it will at least have a clear avenue to avoid future infringement. Unfortunately for US business, that avenue is to move all software development activities abroad so that components are never exported. This harmful effect was recognized and discussed in SIIA’s brief. SIIA is an industry group of software & technology companies who want to continue to design products in the US, but manufacture those products abroad. This argument is punctuated by BSA’s questionable hyperbole: “The purpose of patent protection is to encourage domestic innovation, not to drive it overseas.”

Impact in Biotech: Although not yet a viable industry, this could have a potentially large impact on biotechnology patent issues.  Like software, DNA code (or other biologics) could be shipped from the U.S. to be copied abroad and incorporated into an organism in an infringing manner.  Even more abstract, the export may merely involve transmitting a sequence listing that would be used to reproduce the sequence abroad.  Any decision on software should consider the potential impact on these areas as well.

Methods: What Professor Wegner has called the “Bizarre Twist” of this case involves the CAFC’s notion of export of components of method claims. In Union Carbide v. Shell, the court found that methods could indeed have components, and those included items used in the method (such as a catalyst).  Thus, in that case, the defendant could be held liable for exporting a stock catalyst if it intended to use the ingredient in a would-be infringing manner. Shell settled its case with Union Carbide, but has filed an amicus brief in this case, arguing that the Federal Circuit “seriously erred” by declaring that “every form of invention eligible for patenting falls within the protection of section 271(f).” 

Statutory Construction Excludes Methods?: Shell compares the use of the term “component” in 271(f) its use in 271(c) — the section addressing importation.  In 271(c), Congress explicitly limited components to “component[s] of a patented machine, manufacture, combination, or composition,” but also included a provision excluding importation of materials used in a patented process.  Shell’s argument: because 271(f) does not include the provision discussing materials used in a patented process, it cannot cover processes.  Of course, the unstated counter-argument to shell is that components discussed in 271(c) are specifically limited to components of machines, while 271(f) components are not so limited — indicating that “component” in 271(f) should receive a broader interpretation.

International Law: All of the transnational patent issues have an impact on international law issues. FICPI, a Swiss-based organization of patent folks filed its brief asking the the U.S. to keep its patents territorial and avoid stomping on the toes of others (as “young nations” are bound to do). FICPI’s implication that the Supreme Court is bound by the Paris Convention is plainly wrong.  The Paris Convention is not U.S. law. However, their point is well-taken, if 271(f) covers software, it thwarts the efforts of other countries to eliminate software patents.

Documents:

Important recent 271(f) cases:

  • NTP v. Research in Motion, (271(f) “component” would rarely if ever apply to method claims).
  • AT&T v. Microsoft, 414 F.3d 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (271(f) “component” applies to method claims and software being sold abroad);
  • Union Carbide v. Shell Oil (Fed. Cir. 2005) (271(f) “component” applies to method claims).
  • Eolas v. Microsoft, 399 F.3d 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (271(f) “component” applies to method claims and software);
  • Pellegrini v. Analog Devices, 375 F.3d 1113 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (271(f) “component” does not cover export of plans/instructions of patented item to be manufactured abroad);
  • Bayer v. Housey Pharms, 340 F.3d 1367 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (271(g) “component” does not apply to importation of ‘intangible information’).

Notes:

  • I will be updating this page as more briefs are filed.
  • I will be talking about cross-border liability at Santa Clara University’s 25th Annual Computer & High Technology Law Journal Symposium on January 26 in San Jose. Information here.

Even under DOE, “predetermined” combo must be determined beforehand

BingoPlanet Bingo v. Gametech (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Planet Bingo is the exclusive licensee of two patents covering a way to play bingo.  This game combines the numbers with an indicator (such as the color red) to give enhanced awards. The patent claims a “predetermined” winning combination, and that is where the dispute lies.

In the accused game of “rainbow bingo,” the color of the first ball chosen serves as the indicator.  Since that color is not known before the game begins, the court found it was not “predetermined.” as required by the claims.

Planet Bingo, however, asserted infringement under the DOE. Although the defendant’s indicator color is not known before the game begins, it is known immediately after the first bingo ball is drawn — something that is equivalent.  The CAFC disagreed, finding that under Warner-Jenkinson, a color that is “predetermined” cannot, as a matter of law, be equivalent to a color that is selected immediately after the game starts.

Here, the court focused particular attention on foreseeability of the asserted equivalent — apparently assuming that most variations in the bingo-arts would be foreseeable.

Unjust Enrichment For Stealing Ideas Does Not Create Patent Jurisdiction

PatentlyO2006014Thompson v. Microsoft (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Thompson sued Microsoft for unjust enrichment under Michigan law.  Arguing that Microsoft stole his idea, patented it, and implemented it in various products. In its motion to dismiss, Microsoft argued that the claim was preempted by federal patent law. (citing Ultra-Precision).

Instead of hearing the appeal, however, the CAFC declined jurisdiction because the case did not arise under federal patent laws as required by Christianson & Holmes v. Vornado.

Thompson’s well-pleaded complaint does not establish that the right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal patent law. Thus, the district court’s jurisdiction does not “aris[e] under” section 1338.

In particular, the court noted that preemption alone does not create jurisdiction. An inventorship issue might create an issue, but Thompson’s claim could have theoretically succeeded without proving inventorship (in the strict patent sense).

Case transferred to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Preliminary Injunction Decision, CAFC Forecasts Post-eBay Jurisprudence

PLAVIXSanofi v. Apotex (Fed. Cir. 2006)

Generic manufacturer Apotex wants to make something similar to Sanofi’s Plavix (clopidogrel bisulfate) and filed an ANDA alleging that Sanofi’s patents were invalid.

The two parties worked together to negotiate a settlement.  The agreement, however, was not accepted by state attorneys general even after new terms were presented. Under provisions of the agreement, the regulatory denial killed the settlement and the parties resumed litigation.

Sanofi then filed a motion for preliminary injunction to stop Apotex from selling its product. Within 21 days, the district court issued a PI. (During that time, Apotex shipped six-months of product). Apotex then appealed the PI.  Preliminary injunction jurisprudence has its own four-factor test that is similar to that of permanent injunctions. The plaintiff must show:

  • Reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of the case;
  • Irreparable harm if an injunction is not issued;
  • Balance of hardships tipped in favor of the plaintiff; and
  • Public interest that is not negatively impacted.

The major difference between the factors for consideration in preliminary injunctive relief and those for permanent relief is that preliminary relief requires a showing of a likelihood of success while permanent relief requires success on the merits as a precondition. Thus, the final three factors will give some indication of how the court will rule in post-eBay injunction cases.

Likelihood of success on the merits: Apotex took the odd position of arguing anticipation based on a broadly worded claim of a prior art patent that was examined during prosecution.  The CAFC confirmed that this made the burden of proving invalidity at trial “especially difficult.”  On obviousness, the CAFC confirmed that the unpredictability of enantiomer activity made the claimed dextrorotatory formation nonobvious even if the molecule as a whole was known.

On Irreparable Harm: The settlement agreement between the parties included a provision that capped any damages for infringement by Apotex — seemingly an admission that Sanofi would settle for money damages. The court did not buy-into this argument, but only because of the technicality that the agreement also contemplated an injunction.

Balance of hardships tip entirely in Sanofi’s favor because Apotex chose to launch its product under threat of injunctive relief.  It could have avoided the situation altogether and thus should not benefit from this factor.

Public Interest: The CAFC continued its line of the “importance of the patent system in encouraging innovation.” Interestingly, the court focuses on how the expense of pharmaceutical inventions necessitates strong patent protection. . . . begging the question of whether less expensive innovations (such as software) have less of a public interest in strong patent protection.

Court Retains Article III Jurisdiction To Determine Attorney Fees

HighwayHighway Equipment v. Feco (Fed. Cir. 2006).

The district court dismissed the case with prejudice after the plaintiff gave the defendant a covenant not to sue. Just before trial, the plaintiff gave up and granted a covenant not to sue. The district court dismissed the case, but retained jurisdiction to decide the issue of attorney fees (fees denied).

On appeal, the CAFC first decided the issue of Article III jurisdiction — holding that even after dismissing the case major, the lower court properly retained jurisdiction over the attorney fee issue. The appellate panel then agreed that attorney fees were not justified in this case.

Are Design Patents Worthless? Preliminary Injunction Vacated

PatentlyO2006002PHG Tech v. St. John (Fed. Cir. 2006).

PHG’s design patents cover ornamental designs for medical label sheets.  PHG sued St. John’s for infringement and was awarded a preliminary injunction based on the court’s belief that PHG had a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits.

St. John’s appealed the preliminary injunction (PI) to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC).

The CAFC reviews a PI grant for abuse of discretion, and only vacates a PI when there is “clear error.”  In general, however, a PI should only issue after weighing “(1) the likelihood of the patentee’s success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted; (3) the balance of hardships between the parties; and (4) the public interest.”

The first factor is a deal-breaker — if the plaintiff does not show a likelihood of eventually succeeding in the case then a PI should not be awarded. Here, St. John’s argued only the first factor based on its argument that PHG’s patents impermissibly cover designs that are primarily functional. 

Functionality in design cases is a tricky beast. 35 USC 171 requires that a design be “ornamental,” and this has been interpreted to exclude designs that are “primarily functional rather than ornamental.”  Of course, every design has some function . . . One way that the court gets at functionality is to see whether there are equally useful alternative designs.  If an alternative design would reduce the utility, then it is “not truly an alternative.”

In this case, the lower court found that there were “a multitude of alternative designs,” but the lower court did not make specific findings as to whether or not those alternative designs altered the utility. St. John’s did, however present expert testimony that the “alternative” designs were not as useful. On appeal, the CAFC was swayed by St. John’s expert and found “clear error” because the lower court (1) did not make any “explicit findings” regarding utility of the alternatives and (2) failed to even mention St. John’s expert report.

“The evidence presented by St. John, in our view, was sufficient to raise a substantial question of invalidity.”  Preliminary Injunction Vacated.

 

Obviousness: Skill in the Art Avoids Death Ray

Optivus and Loma Linda v. Ion Beam Apps. (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Focused proton beam therapy offers real promise to cancer victims. Optivus and Loma Linda control rights to several relevant patents including a multi-room proton therapy apparatus. The pair sued IBA for patent infringement as well as various business torts (unfair competition) based on IBA’s marketing of its devices without FDA approval.

The district court granted summary judgment in the defendant IBA’s favor on invalidity, noninfringement, and unfair competition. Optivus and Loma Linda appealed.

Appellate Practice Waiver of Arguments: In their opening brief, appellants argued a lack of motivation to combine various pieces of prior art, but did not raise an argument as to whether the prior art contained all of the claim elements.  They then attempted to raise that issue in their reply brief. The CAFC, however, dismissed that issue as a matter of procedure — holding that the argument was “waived because it was not raised in Loma Linda’s opening brief.”

Death Ray: On motivation to combine prior art, Loma Linda argued that modifying a UW Neutron therapy center by sending protons to the patient would create a “death ray” that would kill the patient. After defining “skill in the art” as familiarity with particle beam technology uses in medical treatment, the CAFC dismissed this “teaching-away” because our PHOSITA would know to turn down the intensity. 

Unfair Competition: Marketing Non-Approved Device: The CAFC reversed the dismissal of the California unfair competition claims — holding that California law provides a right of action on unfair competition even where the claim is based on violation of a law and the law does not provide for a private right of action. 

Doctrine of Equivalents, Avoiding the Tronzo-Trap

Depuy Spine v. Medtronic (Fed. Cir. 2006).

PatentlyO027Medtronic won summary judgment of non-infringement for its Vertex spinal implants, but the jury found that its MAS spinal screws were infringing. Both sides appealed, and we discuss two issues here:

Claim Construction:  Depuy tried to get the CAFC to buy into its argument that a the conical wall of the Vertex model was also a spherical wall.  Although impressed with its novel argument, the CAFC did not bite at the elementary calculus or basketball analogy showing how, at the limit, cones and spheres are virtually indistinguishable.

PatentlyO2006001

Doctrine of Equivalents and Vitiation: This case seems right-on-point with Tronzo, and the patentee learned the appropriate lesson. In Tronzo, the theory of equivalence would have allowed any shape to be equivalent to “generally conical.”  Here, however, the patentee argued that there was a special nexus between the claimed spherical shape and the alleged equivalent conical shape. The tailored argument made the difference, and the CAFC agreed that equivalents could apply without vitiating the term. The CAFC also found it important to the DOE analysis that the patent does not label other shapes as either prior art or inferior. [Practice Tip…].

Pharmaceutical Patent Doctrine of Equivalents Survives Challenge

TestAbraxis (AstraZeneca) v. Mayne (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Mayne attempted to around Abrxis’s anesthetic formulation patent covering DIPRIVAN. The district court, however, found that Mayne’s product still infringed, both directly and under the doctrine of equivalents, despite its replacement of EDTA (“edetate”) with DTPA. 

On appeal, the CAFC reversed the direct infringement based on claim construction, but agreed that there was infringement under the DOE.

Infringement under the doctrine of equivalents is reviewed for clear error.  To infringe under the DOE, the accused device must perform “substantially the same function in substantially the same way to obtain the same result” as the patented invention.

During the design-around, the defendant had attempted to identically match the characteristics and stability function of the Abraxis product.  They eventually chose the DTPA replacement because it is “structurally similar to edetate, [and therefore] product stability is predicted to be unaffected.”

Even so, the defendant argued under the modern DOE exclusion principle that the patentee’s use of the “restrictive term edetate,” rather than a more generic term, precluded extension of equivalents coverage as a matter of law. The CAFC disagreed, finding that equivalents could be asserted because the inventors “did not clearly disavow” broader coverage.

There is no evidence that the patentees made a clear and unmistakable surrender of other polyaminocarboxylates, or calcium trisodium DTPA in particular, during prosecution.

Furthermore, because the use of DTPA was admittedly unforeseeable, it is proper to extend DOE.

The defendant also asserted that DOE should not be extended to cover DTPA because Mayne was able to obtain a patent to cover that modification. The CAFC did not buy that argument either. As noted above, the patent shows that the equivalent was unforeseeable at the time of the invention (weighing in favor of DOE).  In addition, the district court’s fact finding of “substantial evidence of equivalence” withstood CAFC scrutiny.

 

Claim Term Limited to “Scoop of the Invention”

ScreenShot063Akeva v. Adidas (Fed. Cir. 2006, NON-PRECEDENTIAL)

Akeva’s patent covers shoes with a rear sole “secured” to the heel of the shoe.  The patent is clear that the rear sole may be detachable or rotatable.  In order to capture Adidas’s activity, Akeva also argued that “secured” could mean permanently secured.  The court disagreed with that claim construction based on the language of the specification:

the language of the ‘471 specification specifically states that the invention of the ‘471 patent is an athletic shoe with a detachable heel: “However, in a radical departure from conventional shoes, the shoe of the present invention incorporates a heel structure, including a detachable rear sole, that significantly alleviates heel wear problems associated with conventional soles and provides enhanced cushioning and/or spring.”.

Once again describing the “present invention” resulted in the specification serving to limit the scope of the claim terms.  The truth is, however, the seeming requirement of a detachable sole pervades the patent and, in CAFC terminology, was “the scoop of the invention.”  The “field of the invention,” for instance, was written “as athletic shoes with interchangeable/detachable rear soles.”

As could be expected, the boilerplate language at the end of the specification was deemed worthless even though the language asserts that the specification is not limiting in any way.

The court did find this case distinguishable from others because the detachable sole is “not one of several features, it is the primary feature of the invention.” 

New Appreciation of Composition’s Properties are Not Patentable

SevofluraneAbbott Labs. v. Baxter Pharm. (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Way-back-when, Abbott went through a recall of its inhalation anesthetic sevoflurane because of excess Lewis acid buildup.  Abbott’s scientists figured-out that mixing water in the solution would bind an deactivate Lewis acids, and stabilize the product. Abbott changed its product and also obtained patent protection.

When Baxter filed its Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) to begin selling its version of a sevoflurane inhaler, Abbott sued for infringement.  After a bench trial, the patent was found valid, but not infringed.  Abbott appealed.

The CAFC pointed its laser vision on the question of validity.  A prior reference had indicated that water could be combined with sevoflurane, but had not realized that the composition would work to prevent the acid buildup. Framed in this manner, the prior-art was found to be anticipatory:

Our cases have consistently held that a reference may anticipate even when the relevant properties of the thing disclosed were not appreciated at the time.

The CAFC went-on to find that a claim directed to the newly discovered property of the prior art cannot support a patent because it is inherently disclosed by the art.

This rule holds equally well to process claims:

an inventor may not obtain a patent on a process having the same steps as a prior art process, in which the new process merely identifies a new, advantageous property of the prior art process.

Reversed on validity.

Parallel Finding of Invalidity Did Not Relieve Licensee’s Pressure to Pay Royalties for Urinary Catheter Patent

ScreenShot042Go Medical v. Inmed (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Go Medical owns a patent on a urinary catheter with a specialized sheath designed to reduce the chance of bacterial contamination. The parties entered into a long-term licensing contract and the defendant began manufacturing and selling the device.  In another lawsuit, Go’s patent was found invalid, but that finding was later reversed on appeal.  Several months after the invalidity finding (but before its reversal), the defendant stopped paying royalties — placing them in escrow. Go eventually sued for infringement, but the patent was found invalid. (invalidity affirmed on appeal).

The defendant then asked for some of its money back — arguing that the it should not have to pay for the licensing of an invalid patent. Under Kohle, however, a licensee is liable for contract damages up to the date “the licensee first challenges the validity of the patent.”

In other words, a licensee “cannot invoke the protection of the Lear doctrine until it (i) actually ceases payment of royalties, and (ii) provides notice to the licensor that the reason for ceasing payment of royalties is because it has deemed the relevant claims to be invalid.”

Thus, according to the CAFC, the original invalidity finding did not relieve the defendant of its responsibilities to continue to pay its license fees. Further, the defendant’s movement of payments to escrow was not sufficient to avoid license fees because the defendant did not explicitly state that it was “ceasing payments [because it deemed the] patent to be invalid.”  Merely placing royalty payments in escrow “until the validity of the patent was resolved on appeal” is insufficient to relieve a licensee from license payments.

Notes:

  • Zura discusses the best mode issues here

Arbitration: Incorporation of AAA rules in license creates clear and unmistakable intent to arbitrate

Qualcomm v. Nokia (Fed. Cir. 2006).

A 2001 license agreement between Nokia and Qualcomm includes an arbitration clause.  The agreement apparently does not cover all of Nokia’s products, and in 2005, and Qualcomm sued Nokia for patent infringement. The parties disputed whether the arbitration clause should apply here. Writing for a two-judge majority, Judge Prost explained that the parties “clearly and unmistakably” intended that the patent questions be arbitrated instead of a court as evidenced by the agreement’s incorporation of the AAA rules.

On remand, the district court will send the dispute to arbitration unless the arguments supporting arbitrability of the issues would be “wholly groundless.”

Notes:

E.D. Tex.: Halliburton’s Fragile Gel Patent Found Indefinite

HalliburtonHalliburton v. M-I LLC (E.D. Tex., Oct 18, 2006).

Halliburton decided to take advantage of the E.D. Texas patent excitement and sued M-I for infringing its patents directed to a method of drilling a borehole without losing “fragile gel” drilling fluid. 

On motion, the district court granted summary judgment of invalidity based on indefiniteness. In particular, the court could not find any way to give meaning to the claim term “fragile gel.”

Datamize makes clear that adequate support in the specification can make a purely subjective claim term definite. However, when, as here, the specification provides only a subjective definition for a subjective claim term, there is no “objective anchor” by which skilled artisans can identify the bounds of the claims.

Notes:

CAFC Reverses Medrad Reissue Case

Patentlyo025Medrad v. Tyco (Fed. Cir. 2006).

In October 2005, I discussed the district court case involving Medrad.  In that case, the district court held that a Section 251 Reissue can only be used to correct an error in the specification, drawings or claims and cannot be used to correct a procedural error that is not reflected in the patent grant itself. During prosecution, the patentee had filed a second reissue to correct a mistake made during the prosecution of the first reissue. (The patentee failed to file a supplemental reissue declaration in compliance with PTO Rule 1.175). The lower court found that correction of that mistake did not fall within the guidelines of Section 251.

On appeal the CAFC sided with the patentee by giving a broad meaning to the statutory phrase “[invalid] by reason of the patentee claiming more or less than he had a right to claim in the patent.” In particular, the unanimous appellate panel found that the phrase does not literally mean “claim more or less” but rather that the phrase “encompass[es] any error that causes a patentee to claim more or less than he had a right to claim.”  Thus, a reissue can apparently be filed based on any error that would result in invalid claims.

Notes:

  • 35 USC 251 reads as follows:

Whenever any patent is, through error without any deceptive intention, deemed wholly or partly inoperative or invalid, by reason of a defective specification or drawing, or by reason of the patentee claiming more or less than he had a right to claim in the patent, the Director shall, on the surrender of such patent and the payment of the fee required by law, reissue the patent for the invention disclosed in the original patent, and in accordance with a new and amended application, for the unexpired part of the term of the original patent. No new matter shall be introduced into the application for reissue.

CAFC OK’s Fee-Based Regulation at PTO

Barber of SevilleThe CAFC has now explicitly opened the door to fee-based regulation at the USPTO.

Figueroa v. U.S. (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Fighting a lost cause, Figueroa sued the U.S. government using PTO fees to fund other federal programs (fee diversion). From FY 1991 to FY 2004, for instance, the PTO collected about $11.1 billion in fee revenue and only spent about $10.6 billion.  The remaining $545 million was returned to the general fund.

Figueroa alleged that the PTO fees “exceeded congress’s power under the Patent Clause” of the Constitution and was also an un-apportioned (and thus unlawful) direct tax on intellectual property.

Using a rational-basis test, the two-judge majority found that Congress had plenty of reasons for charging the fees that it did. Most notably, the court found that an acceptable basis for high fees would be to provide incentives against certain types of patent prosecution activities.

[E]ven if fees exceeded the existing and predicted costs of operating the patent system, Congress could also rationally decide to set fees above what is needed to meet the funding needs of the PTO in order to deter the filing and prosecution of certain types of patent applications. The Supreme Court has recognized that Congress may legitimately impose taxes or fees in order to discourage undesirable behavior.

In particular, the court noted that high fees could be used to discourage the filing of applications associated with vanity patents, likely invalid patents, non-commercial uses, and patents designed to inhibit competition.

This gives constitutional backing to the fee-based regulation at the PTO, such as charging large fees for additional claims or continuations. In a recent letter to Jon Dudas, the IPO opposes any “collaborative” or “platinum plated” examinations because those “would discriminate against [patentees] with limited resources, draw the examining staff away from traditional examination, and create different classes of patents in the eyes of the courts.” [IPO Letter]

Links:

Damages: Jury’s Award of Both Patent And Trademark Damages Was Impermissible Double Recovery

ScreenShot038Aero v. Intex and Wal-Mart (Fed. Cir. 2006)

Aero has patented an air mattress inflation control system that it advertises using the registered mark “ONE TOUCH.”  A jury found that Intex (and Wal-Mart) were infringing both the patent and the trademark. The judge awarded $5.80 million for willful patent infringement ($2.95 in compensation, doubled for willfulness) and $1 million for the trademark infringement.

On appeal, the CAFC looked at the damage award and found some double-counting.

This case presents the question of whether Aero’s recovery of both patent and trademark infringement damages represents an impermissible double recovery.

Under Federal Circuit, double recovery for the “same injury” is inappropriate.

At trial, Aero had used similar evidence of Intex sales to show damages for both the patent and trademark claims. Because Aero did not show any other harm to its trademark apart from the sales of the patented product, the CAFC found that the injury was identical, and thus cancelled the trademark recovery.

The case is remanded to the district court for entry of judgment in Aero’s favor in the principal amount of $5.9 million. [Still enough for a good night’s sleep]