Ferring v. Barr Labs (Fed. Cir. 2006).
The Ferring decision seems to have again expanded the scope of inequitable conduct in patent cases. In a twenty-page dissent, Judge Newman took issue with this expansion.
I agree with J. Newman that inequitable conduct is “a serious charge” that should not be taken lightly. In the past, the defense has been “grossly misused . . . with inequitable conduct charged in almost every case in litigation.” Certainly, these charges do nothing to help the current popular distrust of the patent system.
After the CAFC decision in Kingsdown v. Hollister (requiring objective evidence of material misconduct + intent to deceive), charges of inequitable conduct were pushed to the background and taken-out of many cases. However, in this decision, Newman sees a revival:
My colleagues on this panel have regressed to that benighted era, rejecting the efforts of Kingsdown to bring objectivity to charges of inequitable conduct, instead reviving the culture of attack on inventor rights and attorney reputations based on inference and innuendo. My colleagues, endorsing several novel and unsupportable presumptions of wrongdoing, do injury to the reasonable practice of patent solicitation, even as they defy the rules of summary judgment.
Here, Newman argues, the panel has found materiality based on a “should have known ” standard:
The panel majority, steeped in adverse inferences, holds that good faith is irrelevant and presumes bad faith. Thus the court resurrects the plague of the past, ignoring the Kingsdown requirements of clear and convincing evidence of a misrepresentation or omission material to patentability, made intentionally and for the purpose of deception. I respectfully, but urgently, dissent.