Supreme Court Action Today

By Dennis Crouch

Supreme Court Action on 10/7/2013

Extraterritorial Application of US Patent Law: The Supreme Court has issued an invitation to the Solicitor General to file the Views of the Obama Administration (CVSG) in Maersk Drilling USA, Inc. v. Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Inc., Sct. No. 13-43 (2013). The focus of the case is location – and, what is meant by an “offer to sell . . . within the United States” under 35 U.S.C. § 271(a). The Federal Circuit held that the actual location of the offer is immaterial so long as the offer contemplated performance within the United States.

Subject Matter Eligibility: The Supreme Court has denied certiorari in the § 101 case challenging PerkinElmer’s patented “method for determining whether a pregnant woman is at an increased risk of having a fetus with Down’s syndrome.” Intema Ltd. v. PerkinElmer, Inc., Supreme Court No. 12-1372. The case with a much greater shot is Alice v. CLS Bank and perhaps its companion WildTangent v. Ultramcercial. Briefing of the petition continues in those cases.

False Marking: The Supreme Court has denied certiorari in PubPat’s False Marking case. PubPat had challenged the AIA’s retroactive rejection of non-competitor qui tam suits for false marking. Public Patent Foundation, Inc. v. McNeil-PPC, Inc., Sct. No. 13-161.

Prior Art Presumed Enabling: The Supreme Court has denied certiorari in the Finjan’s challenge to the PTO’s presumption that prior art is enabling. Finjan, Inc. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Sct. No. 12-1245.

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Patent Cases Where Petition for Certiorari has been Filed:

Limelight v. Akamai, Sct. No. 12-786, is still pending at the Supreme Court and awaiting comments from the US Solicitor General (CVSG) before the court decides whether to grant the petition for writ of certiorari. The question presented in that case is whether indirect infringement (inducement) requires underlying direct infringement by a single actor. The Federal Circuit says “no.”

Hyundai Motor America, Inc. v. Clear with Computers, LLC, Sct. No. 13-296. This pending case is a follow-up to the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Microsoft v. i4i where the court held that invalidity defenses must be proven with clear and convincing evidence. That decision included a concurrence by Justice Breyer indicating that questions of law (such as obviousness) need not be proven with clear and convincing evidence. “The question presented is whether, following i4i, a district court may … instruct a jury to apply the heightened ‘clear and convincing’ standard not only to disputed factual aspects of an invalidity claim, but also to the legal aspects of such a claim – including the ultimate question of a patent’s invalidity?”

The petition for writ of certiorari in Sony v. 1st Media, Sct. No. 12-1086, is fully briefed but has not yet been decided. That case involves the extent of district court discretion in evaluating the equitable doctrine of patent unenforceability. The case largely challenges the strict requirements of Therasense.

In Fox Group, Inc. v. Cree, Inc., Sct. No. 12-1378, the asserted patent was found invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102(g)(2) since the subject matter of the patent had previously been invented. The statute only works if the prior inventor did not abandon, suppress, or conceal the prior invention and here the prior inventor concealed how to make the invention, did not commercialize it, and did not apply for a patent. However, the prior inventor did disclose the fact of the invention and publicly offered some non-enabling clues to the invention. Although briefing is now complete, the Supreme Court took no action in this case yet.

Nautilus v. Biosig is pending at the Supreme Court and awaiting a response from Biosig. The case questions whether the “Insolubly Ambiguous” standard for indefiniteness is overly strict.

Another pending petition is Nokia v. v. International Trade Commission, Sct. No. 12-1352. The case focuses on patent enforcement entities and the “domestic industry” requirement for USITC jurisdiction.

Organic Seed Growers and Trade Ass’n v. Monsanto Co, Sct. No. 13-303, is also pending as a petition for writ of certiorari. The case argues that organic farmers have jurisdiction to challenge Monsanto’s GMO seed patents.

Saffran v. Johnson & Johnson, Sct. No. 13-405. In this case, the patentee essentially asks the Supreme Court to decide the issue before the en banc Federal Circuit in Lighting Ballast Control. I.e., “Whether the Federal Circuit should have given deference to the district court’s factual findings in construing the patent claims.” This petition is something of a place-holder to give the patentee time to see the outcome of Lighting Ballast.

Artesyn Technologies, Inc. v. SynQor, Inc., Sct No. 13-375. In this pending case, the losing defendant has asked that the Supreme Court tell the Federal Circuit to “Follow KSR” and also “Follow Global-Tech” rather than recreating the formal TSM test and allowing recklessness serve as proof of knowledge for induced infringement. In the similar pending petition of Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., Sct. No. 13-290, the petitioner asks for a further definition of “willful blindness” for inducement.

Power Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc., Sct. No. 13-269. This damages case focuses on when lost-sales outside of the US can be captured under US law. Here, the patentee argues that those sales should be accounted-for when they are “direct and foreseeable result of patent infringement inside the United States.” Briefing is ongoing at the petitions stage.

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Patent cases where the Supreme Court has granted certiorari and will be hearing the case this term:

Medtronic Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corp., Sct. No. 12-1128 (Does a Declaratory Judgment plaintiff who is also an ongoing licensee of the patent have the burden of proving non-infringement?).

Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Mgmt. Sys., Sct. No. 12-1163 (When must deference be given to a lower court judgment regarding an exceptional case finding under §285?).

Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health and Fitness, Inc., Sct. No. 12-1184 (What is the proper definition of an “exceptional case”?).

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Hal Wegner follows these developments closely and his Top-Ten lists are available through the LAIPLA website: