by Dennis Crouch
When the Supreme Court’s October 2016 Term begins in a few weeks, its first patent hearing will be the design patent damages case of Samsung v. Apple. In Samsung, the Court asks: Where a design patent is applied to only a component of a product, should an award of infringer’s profits be limited to those profits attributable to the component? The statute at issue – 35 U.S.C. § 289 – indicates that, someone who (without license) “applies” the patented design (or colorable imitation thereof) to an article of manufacture, “shall be liable to the owner to the extent of his total profit.” Up to now, courts have repeatedly held that the “profits” are profits associated with the product (i.e., the article of manufacture) being sold, but Samsung is asking that the profits be limited only to components of the product closely associated with the patented design. Although Apple’s position is supported by both the text and history and is the approach easiest to calculate, I expect that many on the Court will be drawn to the potential unjust outcomes of that approach. Apple wins in a 4-4 split. Oral arguments are set for October 11, 2016.
The court has granted certiorari in two other cases for this October 2016 term with briefing ongoing. In Life Tech v. Promega, the court again takes up the issue of exporting components of a patented invention and the extraterritorial application of US law. 35 U.S.C. § 271(f)(2). The question here is whether export of one component can legally constitute the “substantial portion of the components” required by statute for liability to attach. In the case, the component (Taq) is a commodity but is also an admitted critical aspect of the invention. In SCA Hygiene v. First Quality, the Court asks whether the equitable defense of laches applies in patent cases. The case is a follow-on to the Supreme Court’s 2014 holding in Petrella v. MGM that laches does not apply in copyright cases. In its decision, the Federal Circuit distinguished Petrella based both upon statutory and policy arguments. Oral arguments in SCA are set for November 1, 2016.
The three pending petitions most likely to be granted certiorari are Impression Products (exhaustion); Amgen (BPCIA); and GlaxoSmithKline (antitrust reverse payments) However, these cases are awaiting views of the Solicitor General — which likely will not be filed until well after the presidential election.
A substantial number of cases are set for the Supreme Court’s September 26 conference. These include the constitutional challenges to IPR coming in MCM and Carl Cooper as well as the interesting eligibility case of Genetic Tech v. Merial.
It looks to be an interesting term.
The big list:
1. Petitions Granted:
- Briefing: SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, No. 15-927 (laches in patent cases)
- Briefing: Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., No 15-777 (design patent damages calculation)
- Briefing: Life Technologies Corporation, et al. v. Promega Corporation, No. 14-1538 (whether an entity can “induce itself” under 271(f)(1))(CVSG, awaiting government brief)
2. Petitions awaiting invited Views of SG:
- Exhaustion: Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., No. 15-1189 (unreasonable restraints on downstream uses)
- Biologics Notice of Commercial Marketing: Sandoz Inc. v. Amgen Inc., et al., No. 15-1039 (Does the notice requirement of the BPCIA create an effective six-month exclusivity post-FDA approval?) (cross-petition asks for recourse on failure to dance)
- Antitrust Reverse Payments: GlaxoSmithKline, et al. v. King Drug Company of Florence, Inc., et al., No. 15-1055 (antitrust reverse payment – appeal from the 3rd Cir.)
3. Petitions for Writ of Certiorari Pending:
- Obviousness: MacDermid Printing Solutions, LLC v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company, No. 15-1499 (is proof of a “reasonable expectation of success” necessary to combine references in an obviousness case against a claimed combination invention)
- Laches: Medinol Ltd. v. Cordis Corporation, et al., No. 15-998 (follow-on to SCA); Endotach LLC v. Cook Medical LLC, No. 16-127 (SCA Redux); Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc., et al, No. 16-202 (SCA Redux plus TM issue)
- Safe Harbor: Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc., et al. v. Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Inc., et al., No. 15-1402 (scope of 271(e) safe harbor)
- Post Grant Admin: MCM v. HP, No 15-1330 (separation of powers and right to jury trial).
- Post Grant Admin: Cooper v. Lee, No. 15-955 (whether IPRs violate Separation of Powers; two amici now filed in support); same question presented by Cooper in Cooper v. Square, No. 16-76.
- Post Grant Admin: Trading Technologies International, Inc. v. Lee, No. 15-1516 (mandamus challenging CBM initiation)
- Post Grant Admin: GEA Process Engineering, Inc. v. Steuben Foods, Inc., No. 15-1075 (Flip-side of Cuozzo: Can there be no appeal when the PTAB exceeds its authority by terminating an instituted IPR proceeding?)
- Post Grant Admin: Merck & Cie, et al. v. Gnosis S.p.A., et al., No. 16-125 (standard of appellate review of PTAB fact-finding in IPR proceedings)
- Post Grant Admin: Automated Creel Systems, Inc. v. Shaw Industries Group, Inc., et al., No. 16-108 (Achates redux – review of statute-of-limitations for filing IPR requests)
- Post Grant Admin: Pactiv LLC v. Lee, No. 16-205 (Does the “substantial new question of patentability” identified in a reexamination order limit the scope of the ex parte reexamination)
- Design Patents: Systems, Inc. v. Nordock, Inc., No. 15-978 (design patent damage calculations – similar issues as Samsung v. Apple)
- Appellate Review: Commil USA, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc., No. 15-1446 (appellate disregard of factual evidence)
- Eligibility: Jericho Systems Corporation v. Axiomatics, Inc., et al., No. 15-1502 (Eligibility of Patent No. 8,560,836 under Section 101 – Abstract Idea)[Jericho]
- Eligibility: Genetic Technologies Limited v. Merial L.L.C., et al., No. 16-188 (Sequenom redux; also question whether ineligibility is a proper subject of a motion to dismiss on the pleadings)
- Eligibility: Essociate, Inc. v. Clickbooth.com, LLC, et al., No. 16-195 (please clarify the meaning of ‘abstract idea’ and ‘inventive process’)
- Post Grant Admin: James L. Driessen, et ux. v. Sony Music Entertainment, et al., No. 15-1518 (Claim construction in IPRs – pro se case)
- Interference: Edward Tobinick v. Kjell Olmarker, et al., No. 15-1544 (question of procedure in interference case involving allegations of fraud)
- Arbitration: Neev v. Alcon Lensx, Inc., No. 16-48 (limits on arbitrator autonomy in patent cases)
- ITC Jurisdiction: DBN Holding, Inc. v. International Trade Commission, No. 16-63 (Does the USITC have jurisdiction over articles imported in order to infringe, but that do not themselves practice the invention at import).
- Claim Construction: CSP Technologies, Inc. v. Sud-Chemie AG, No. 16-238 (unduly narrow claim construction)
- Claim Construction: Google, Inc. v. Alfonso Cioffi, No. 16-200 (holding prosecution history against the patentee)
- Jurisdiction: GeoTag, Inc. v. Google Inc., No. 16-268 (Whether a compulsory counterclaim can satisfy the case or controversy requirement under Article III of the Constitution if there was no case or controversy at the time the complaint was filed?)
4. Petitions for Writ of Certiorari Denied or Dismissed:
- None so far this term.
5. Prior versions of this report: