Subsidiary’s Lost Profits Do Not Translate to Lost Profit Damages for Parent Patent Holder

PatentLawPic327Mars, Inc. v. Coin Acceptors, Inc. (CoinCo) (Fed. Cir. 2008)

Way back in 1990, Mars sued CoinCo for patent infringement — asserting two patents covering technology for authenticating coins inserted into a vending machine. Eighteen years later, the parties are still battling over damages.

Lost Profits: In this decision, the CAFC affirmed that the Mars corporate structure (designed to avoid certain taxes) eliminated the company’s ability to recover damages under a “lost profits” theory.  Usually, lost profits are only available when a patentee is a market competitor. Mars itself has never made vending machine coin changers. However, its wholly owned subsidiary, MEI, did operate vending machines and licensed the patents on a non-exclusive per-use basis.  Although it was a wholly owned subsidiary, the court found that MEI’s provable lost profits due to the CoinCo infringement did not translate to lost profits for the patentee itself (Mars).  Of particular importance was the license structure between MEI and Mars that called for a straight per use license rather than a license based on a measure of profits.  Rather, lost profits require a showing that the patent holder itself had lost profits.

This decision can be seen as a continuation of the 2004 Poly-America case where the court held that the patentee could not recover lost profits for damages felt by a sister corporation. Lost profits damages are usually preferred to damages calculated as a reasonable royalty because the lost profit calculation typically results in a larger number.

PatentLawPic328Standing: The court also ruled on standing issues. (1) Prior to 1996, MEI had no standing to sue for itself because it was only a non-exclusive licensee. (2) In 1996 Mars transferred ownership to MEI — thus, at that point Mars had no standing to sue for any subsequent infringement.

Curing standing: In patent cases, standing is typically determined at the point that a claim is filed. Here, we have a seeming loss of standing. In the 2005 Schreiber decision, the CAFC held that a “temporary loss of standing during patent litigation can be cured before judgment.” Despite a half-hearted attempt, the court found that Mars had not properly cured its standing because MEI did not transfer complete ownership back to Mars.

Cornell wins $184 Million in Damages for Past Infringement by HP

Federal Circuit Judge Randall Rader has been sitting by designation as a district court judge in the Northern District of New York.  His case is an epic patent battle between Cornell University and Hewlett-Packard (HP), and the jury trial recently concluded with an $184 million calculated as 0.8% of HP’s $23 Billion in sales.

The patent — No. 4,807,115 — issued in 1989 and expired during the seven years of litigation. It is directed toward an internal computer messaging mechanism that boosts the function of multi-processor computers.

Interestingly, Cornell and HP had discussed a licensing agreement as early as 1988 (even before the patent issued). In 1997, Intel licensed the ‘115 patent for use in its Pentium Pro chips.

Unpublished Thesis: In a pre-trial decision, Judge Rader denied Cornell’s motion in limine and allowed HP to show the jury an unpublished masters degree thesis as 102(b) prior art.  The court found the thesis publicly accessible because the thesis had been cited in a later article that was in the same area of technology as the issued patent (analogous art.).

“After weighing all the circumstances of accessibility, this court views as vitally important the citation of this scholarly work in the Tjaden-Flynn article.”

Inventor Rewards: Unlike most companies, universities generally offer a percentage royalty cut for its employee-inventors. Professor Torng, the inventor of the ‘115 patent, will reportedly receive 25% of the award (if it is ever paid). Torng has announced that he’ll only keep a few million and donate the rest (perhaps over $30 million) to charity.

The post-trial decisions and eventual appeal should be interesting.

Damages: Contentious History Between Parties Justifies High Royalty Rate

CaliperMitutoyo Corp v. Central Purchasing (Fed. Cir. 2007)

Mitutoyo and Central have been wrangling for more than a decade over Mitutoyo’s patent covering electronic calipers. The history includes Central’s 1994 agreement to exit the market; a 1995 DJ finding that the patent is not invalid or unenforceable; and a 2006 summary judgment against Central.

Both parties appealed on damages issues:

Reasonable Royalty: On appeal the CAFC found the lower court’s 29.2% reasonable royalty rate acceptable. Although a seemingly high number, Central’s profit margin is around 70%. Most interestingly, the appellate panel held that the parties “contentious history” supports a high royalty rate. This serves as a reminder that a the reasonableness of the royalty still takes-into-account the positions of the parties.

Lost Profits: Although Mitutoyo also sells calipers, Central was able to avoid lost profit damages by showing that the products had little customer or price overlap. (Central’s proof included economic evidence that the market for its $21 product was highly elastic – indicating few of its customers would have instead purchased Mitutoyo’s $100 product.)

Willful Infringement: Mitutoyo’s willful infringement claim was dismissed on the pleadings under FRCP 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim and failure to prosecute. On appeal the CAFC reversed – finding that Mitutoyo’s allegation of willful infringement coupled with Central’s long history with the patent were “plainly more than sufficient to meet the requirement of Rule 8(a)(2) for pleading a willful infringement claim and avoid dismissal.” Similarly, the appellate court held that failure to file a summary judgment motion on willfulness does not indicate “an intent to abandon [the] willfulness claim.”

In its August 2007 Seagate en banc opinion, the CAFC raised the culpability standard for willful infringement. This case takes a step back to remind courts that the enhanced damages theory does not (yet) require a showing of fraud.

Standing of a licensee to sue: Mitutoyo’s primary US licensee was also a party to the litigation. However, a licensee only has co-plaintiff standing if it holds “at least some of the proprietary rights” of the patent. Here, the licensee has no standing because Mitutoyo also allows one other company to import and distribute its products in the US.


Monsanto v. McFarling: CAFC Affirms “Reasonable Royalty” of 140% of Purchase Price

Monsanto v. McFarling (Fed. Cir. 2007).

Soybean.USDAMonsanto is one of the few patentees that sues individuals for patent infringement.  In Monsanto’s case, the infringers are farmers who allegedly save & replant Monsanto’s patented genetically modified seeds violation of their “Technology Agreement”. When McFarling was found liable, the Missouri jury assessed damages of $40 per seed-bag and the court issued an injunction.

Monsanto customarily requires a royalty payment of $6.50 per seed-bag in addition to $22 per bag for the soybean seeds themselves.  On appeal the CAFC focused on the proper royalty measure.  McFarling argued that $6.50 was the “established” royalty while Monsanto argued that the actual royalty rate is much greater.

The Court agreed with Monsanto that the nominal designation of $6.50 as a royalty was not the entire sum of the damages:

Picking $6.50 as the upper limit for the reasonable royalty would create a windfall for infringers like McFarling. Such infringers would have a huge advantage over other farmers who took the standard Monsanto license and were required to comply with the provisions of the license, including the purchase-of-seed and non-replanting provisions. The evidence at trial showed that Monsanto would not agree to an unconditional license in exchange for a payment of $6.50, and the explanation—that Monsanto would lose all the benefits it gets from having the cooperation of seed companies in promoting Monsanto’s product and controlling its distribution—is a reasonable commercial strategy.

In fact, the CAFC found that the royalty rate can easily be calculated as something above the total $28 dollars per bag paid.

[I]t would be improper to hold that Monsanto’s reasonable royalty damages are limited to $25.50 to $28.50 per bag.

The damage amount, instead of being based on the amount usually paid by farmers, legitimately includes (a) the harm being felt by Monsanto because of the infrinement as well as (b) the additional benefits garnered by McFarling. In particular, these include: reputational harm due to rogue planters, potential lapses in monsanto’s database of planting techniques; bargaining power; as well as McFarling’s increased yeald of $31 – $61 per acre.

Based on those advantages alone, it was reasonable for the jury to suppose that, in a hypothetical negotiation, a purchaser would pay a royalty of $40 per bag for the Roundup Ready seed.

Under CAFC law, a jury’s damage award will be affirmed unless “grossly excessive or monsrous, clearly not supported by the evidence o rbased only on speculation or guesswork.” Here the court found sufficient reasons for the verdict and affirmed.

Established Royalty: Typically, an “established royalty” is the best measure of reasonable royalty damages when “the patentee has consistently licensed others to engage in conduct comparable to the defendant’s.” The rule of established royalty rate does not apply here, however, because Monsanto apparently never allows for replanting — Thus, there are no “comparable” replanting licenses.

Blacklist: The court also noted that Monsanto may blacklist Mr. McFarling from buying its seeds. 


  • Mark Lemley of Stanford argued on behalf of the Farmer, McFarling.
  • Several other issues are included in the decision.
  • Read the case.


2007 Patent Reform: Proposed Amendments on Damages

By Professor Amy Landers

The proposed 2007 Patent Reform Act (the “Leahy-Berman bill”)[1] details modifications to 35 USC § 284 that will most certainly reduce many patent infringement damages awards. Three portions of the Leahy-Berman bill concern monetary compensation: First, the bill seeks to limit reasonable royalty damages to the inventive aspects of the claim. Second, the bill restricts the use of the entire market value rule. Third, the bill expressly confirms a fact finder’s ability to rely on certain types of evidence to measure compensatory harm.[2]

Reasonable Royalty: Relationship to Contribution over the Prior Art and Consideration of Relevant Factors.

Perhaps the most striking change in the Leahy-Berman bill is a proposed limitation to reasonable royalty recovery. Under current law, a reasonable royalty is calculated by envisioning the result of the parties’ hypothetical negotiation for a license to the claimed invention at the time infringement began.[3] This determination is made by a fact finder (whether judge or jury) and is guided by the application of the Georgia Pacific fifteen-factor test.[4]

Current patent law permits a reasonable royalty calculation for use made of “the invention”—that is, an infringed claim. Of course, few–if any–patent claims are entirely novel. Most claims are an improvement over the prior art. Further, combination claims aggregate prior art elements in a novel way, or else a combination of novel elements together with prior art elements.

The Leahy-Berman bill specifically requires a limit on reasonable royalty recovery to the “economic value properly attributable to patent’s specific contributions over the prior art,”—that is, the inventive portion of the claim. Such an aggressive limit on monetary relief for patent infringement has not been apparent in the case law for decades.[5] A statement by Sen. Leahy (link) explains that this limitation is intended to provide for compensation solely for “the truly new ‘thing’ that the patent reflects,” in response to a concern that “litigation has not reliably produced damages awards in infringement cases that correspond to the value of the infringed patent.” This reasonable royalty limitation, which is likely to affect patents in all technology sectors, promises to be controversial.

Additionally, the Leahy-Berman bill asks trial courts to exercise more control over the fact finder’s consideration of the reasonable royalty and to create a more defined record for appellate review. Under current law, a typical reasonable royalty jury instruction lists all fifteen Georgia Pacific factors although fewer than all factors may be relevant in any particular case.[6] Further, a verdict form asks a jury to set a royalty figure, but jurors are rarely asked to create a record as to how their result was reached.

Under the Leahy-Berman bill, the trial court must “identify all factors relevant to the determination of a reasonable royalty” and then the fact finders are limited to consider only the factors identified by the district court in awarding a reasonable royalty. As an example of this provision in operation, a trial court might make an initial determination as to whether derivative or convoyed sales exist, such that the sixth factor of the Georgia Pacific test is relevant. If no such sales are in evidence, under the Leahy-Berman bill a trial court must preclude a jury’s consideration of this sixth factor.

Significantly, the proposed legislation’s use of the word “factors” does not appear to be limited to the Georgia Pacific factors specifically and presumably would apply to any factor that might be considered, including those listed in proposed section 284(a)(4).

Apportionment: The Entire Market Value Rule

As a general rule, patent damages are linked to the subject matter of the invention.[7] In some cases, an infringed claim relates to only one part of an entire multi-functional infringing product or system. In those circumstances, apportionment is the general rule—that is, damages are based on either lost profits or reasonable royalty apportioned for the infringing part as distinct from the remainder of a device that is outside the infringed claim’s scope. For example, damages for a claim directed to an improved windshield wiper are calculated based on the value of the infringing wiper, and not the sales price of the entire car into which the wiper is installed.

This general rule is modified under the judicially created “entire market value rule.” Where the entire market value rule applies, a patentee may recover damages based on the value of an entire apparatus or system that contains both infringing and additional, unpatented features.[8]

In “Let the Games Begin, Incentives To Innovation In The New Economy Of Intellectual Property Law,” I examine how the entire market value rule has recently received expansive application. Historically, the entire market value rule allowed recovery based on the price of entire product only where the “entire value” of the product was attributable to the infringing feature.[9] However, more recently, Federal Circuit cases more broadly apply the entire market value rule so long as there is a “functional relationship” between the infringing and the non-infringing components.[10] Further, patentees can recover for sales of non-infringing components where the patentee demonstrates a “reasonable probability” of selling the non-infringing components with the infringing part.[11]

An example of this expansive application of the entire market value rule can be seen in Lucent v. Newbridge Networks[12], where the district court determined that the jury’s addition of two software programs were properly included in the royalty base even where those programs were non-infringing, were not physically part of the infringing device and were not necessary for the device to operate. More recently, the Alcatel-Lucent verdict against Microsoft concerning the Windows® Media Player was reportedly calculated based on the average cost of a personal computer, and not limited to Microsoft’s Media Player or even Windows®.[13]

The Leahy-Berman bill provides an explicit, definitional standard for the application of the entire market value rule by requiring the patentee to show that the claim’s contribution is “the predominant basis for market demand” of an entire product or process. This standard reigns in the current expansive articulations of the entire market value rule by requiring a patentee to demonstrate that an infringing feature is the single primary reason users select an infringing product or process. If enacted, this subsection will have the overall effect of limiting damages to a particular infringing piece of a multifunctional product or process for both lost profits and reasonable royalty awards.

An open question exists as to the interaction between the proposed subsection (a)(2) governing reasonable royalties and (a)(3) governing the entire market value rule. Specifically, proposed subsection (a)(2) precludes recovery for the value of unpatented features of an infringing product or process. On the other hand, proposed subsection (a)(3) arguably permits such compensation where the inventive element is the “predominant basis for market demand.”

Marketplace Licensing and “Other Factors”.

The Leahy-Berman bill proposes one additional change, which appears of minor importance. That is, the bill expressly states that a fact finder may consider “the terms of a non-exclusive marketplace licensing of the invention” and any “other relevant factors” under the law in the damages determination. This subsection appears to be a codification of the existing law, which permits district courts wide discretion in considering evidence relevant to the damages determination.


As a whole, the Leahy-Berman bill represents an effort to refine and narrow available damages for patent infringement by building on an existing body of case law. The proposed changes to patent damages will undoubtedly present some challenging questions if adopted into law.

Two of the proposed sections require apportionment of inventive claimed matter from that outside the claim scope. The difficulty presented is that apportionment determinations can be difficult to implement. Perhaps the best evidence of this is the pre-1948 law, which relied on apportionment for calculating lost profits and had been described as a “complete failure of justice in almost every case in which supposed profits are recovered or recoverable” due to the time and complexity involved.[14]

Further, the Leahy-Berman bill has the potential for significant consequences for the licensing value of patents more generally. That is, to the extent that licensing determinations may reflect of potential results at trial, one might be expect that licensing negotiations will account for lowered damages the bill is passed into law. 2001).


Patent Reform: Damage Apportionment

The influential Intellectual Property Owner’s Association continues to push for patent reform. In particular, the IPO board has voted to support a modification of the rules on damages. The change would explicitly require apportionment of damages. In other words, damages for patent infringement would never be more than the economic value attributable to the innovation.

Proposed amendment:

Upon finding for the claimant the court shall award the claimant damages adequate to compensate for the infringement but in no event less that a reasonable royalty for the use made of the invention by the infringer, together with interest and costs as fixed by the court.

Where an infringer shows that an apportionment of economic value is necessary to assure that damages based upon a reasonable royalty do not exceed the economic value properly attributable to the use made of the invention, such apportionment shall exclude from the reasonable royalty calculation the economic value shown by the infringer to be attributable to the infringer’s incorporation into the infringing product or process of features or improvements, whether or not themselves patented, that contribute economic value to the infringing product or process separately from the economic value properly attributable to the use made of the invention.

Where the claimant shows that the use made of the invention is the basis for market demand for an infringing product or process, the royalty may be based upon the entire market value of the products or processes provided to satisfy that demand.

The court shall identify all factors relevant to the determination of a reasonable royalty under this section and the court or the jury, as the case may be, shall consider such factors in making the determination.

When the damages are not found by a jury, the court shall assess them. In either event the court may increase the damages up to three times the amount found or assessed. Increased damages under this paragraph shall not apply to provisional rights under section 154(d) of this title.

The court may receive expert testimony as an aid to the determination of damages or of what royalty would be reasonable under the circumstances.

IPO also supports changes to the inequitable conduct jurisprudence:

IPO supports legislation to (1) limit or eliminate the unenforceability defense based upon inequitable conduct in patent litigation, (2) eliminate the requirement to disclose the best mode contemplated by the inventor of carrying out the invention, and (3) allow enhanced patent infringement damages to be awarded for “willful” infringement only in limited circumstances, such as those set forth in IPO’s Amicus Brief filed in In Re Seagate Technology LLC.

Microsoft v. AT&T: Transnational patent Law

Microsoft v. AT&T (Supreme Court 2007).

Section 271(f) of the Patent Act expands the territorial scope of US patent protection by creating liability for exporting one or more “components” of a patented invention so that the whole invention may be practiced abroad. The statute is divided into parts one and two dealing with inducement and contributory activity respectively.

The case at hand involves Microsoft’s infringement of AT&T’s speech coding technology patent. Microsoft has conceded that its software (once installed on a computer) infringes the patent in the US. However, Microsoft has fought against paying patent royalties for sale of the same software abroad.  Microsoft’s argument, spelled out in its brief, is two-fold: (1) Software cannot be a ‘component’ as required by the statute because software code is intangible; and (2) Software copies made abroad cannot be considered ‘supplied’ from the US as required by the statute because no physical particle that Microsoft exported actually became part of the finished product.  I have previously labeled these arguments as the tangibility requirement and the molecular conservation requirement. [Link]

Now, AT&T and its supporters has filed their briefs that explain why 271(f) should encompass foreign copies of software shipped from the US. [Petitioner and Gov’t briefs are discussed here]

AT&T’s Brief on the Merits:

Tangibility: AT&T attacks the tangibility requirement head-on, arguing that there is no such requirement.

[The software] is plainly a component of [the patented] device, just as a unique collection of intangible words is a component of any book bearing the title Moby-Dick, even though those words, too, must be combined with ink and paper before the book can be read.

Of course AT&T is correct — the statute does not spell-out any tangibility requirement, and Microsoft’s statutory argument is, at best implicit. AT&T’s arguments are supported by business practice as well. Software and hardware are developed and sold separately, and each side can easily be though of as providing components of the whole.

Molecular Conservation Requirement: AT&T takes a different view of the statutory requirement that the components be “supplied” from the US. In AT&T’s story, “supplied” means satisfying a need or furnishing.  Using a but-for analysis, AT&T makes clear that without Microsoft’s shipment of the code abroad, it would not have ended-up in the foreign computers.

Here, the Windows object code is present in the foreign made computers only because Microsoft “provided” or “furnished”—in a word, supplied—it from the United States, via golden master disk or electronic transmission.

As it stands, the AT&T brief is well written and convincing on its own — the major problem being that it leads with a petty argument for dismissal.

Philips Corporation also filed a brief in support of AT&T.  Philips makes several arguments, two of which I discuss here:

  1. In today’s market, software and hardware companies do compete head-to-head.  A finding that software export is noninfringing would be at the expense of electronics companies because hardware exports would continue to be considered infringing.  Thus, awarding the win to Microsoft here may free the software industry, but will even further damage the hardware export industry.
  2. In many ways, this case is about the size of damages. Microsoft hopes that copies made abroad will not be seen as infringing because those copies were not literally shipped from the US.  Philips points out under the rules of consequential damage calculations, Microsoft would owe damages for sales of all copies even if 271(f) only covered the initial master disk shipment.

WARF, California, and RCTech filed a joint brief in support of AT&T. These holders of strong bio-related patents see the potential that this case could narrow the scope of their protection. WARF points-out how Microsoft comes to the table with unclean hands:

When it suits its interests, even Microsoft acknowledges that the number of units it supplies is not limited by the number of golden masters it sends abroad. In Microsoft Corp. v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue, Microsoft argued that it was entitled to tax deductions . . . for all foreign sales of software replicated from Microsoft’s golden master abroad, claiming that such copies were “export property” under the statute. The Ninth Circuit . . . agreed with Microsoft that all copies created from the golden master were export property, thereby providing Microsoft with another $31 million in claimed deductions for 1990 and 1991. is an educational NGO that supports, as you might guess, the Bayh Dole act (at its 25th anniversary).  In a brief supporting AT&T, BD25 argues for the protection of intangible assets — especially assets that are replicable and intended to be replicated.  These include software code, cell lines, patented seeds, DNA, etc. Replicable assets are important and should be protectable.


  • On the Merits
  • In Support of Microsoft
  • In Support of AT&T
  • In Support of Neither Party
  • Reply Brief:
  • On Petition for Certiorari
  • 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’).

    Earlier Discussion of this case

    Text of 35 USC 271(f)

    (1) Whoever without authority supplies or causes to be supplied in or from the United States all or a substantial portion of the components of a patented invention, where such components are uncombined in whole or in part, in such manner as to actively induce the combination of such components outside of the United States in a manner that would infringe the patent if such combination occurred within the United States, shall be liable as an infringer.

    (2) Whoever without authority supplies or causes to be supplied in or from the United States any component of a patented invention that is especially made or especially adapted for use in the invention and not a staple article or commodity of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use, where such component is uncombined in whole or in part, knowing that such component is so made or adapted and intending that such component will be combined outside of the United States in a manner that would infringe the patent if such combination occurred within the United States, shall be liable as an infringer.