Tag Archives: Federal Circuit En Banc

Supreme Court Patent Update: 271(e) Safe Harbor

by Dennis Crouch

Look for opinions in Halo/Stryker and Cuozzo by the end June 2016.

Post Grant Admin: While we await Cuozzo, a set of follow-on cases continue to pile-up.  My speculation is that the Supreme Court will delay any decision in those cases until it finalizes the outcome of Cuozzo. With a host of new friend-of-the-court briefs and interesting constitutional questions, MCM v. HP is perhaps best positioned for certiorari.  Additional pending cases include Versata v. SAP (scope of CBM review); Cooper v. Lee (whether IPRs violate Separation of Powers); Click-to-Call Tech, LP v. Oracle Corp., (Same questions as Cuozzo and now-dismissed Achates v. Apple); GEA Process Engineering, Inc. v. Steuben Foods, Inc. (Flip-side of Cuozzo: Appeal when PTAB exceeds its authority by terminating an instituted IPR proceeding?); Interval Licensing LLC v. Lee (Same as Cuozzo); and Stephenson v. Game Show Network, LLC (Same as Cuozzo)

Design Patent Damages: Samsung has filed its opening merits briefs in the design patent damages case against Apple.  Design patent infringement leads to profit disgorgment, but the question is what profits? [More from Patently-O].

Versus Cisco: There are a couple of newly filed petitions. Interestingly, both filed by Michael Heim’s firm with Miranda Jones on both briefs representing plaintiff-petitioners.  In both cases Cisco is respondent.

  • CSIRO v. CISCO (fact-law divide in proving infringement damages under 35 U.S.C. § 284).
  • COMMIL v. CISCO (appellate disregard of factual evidence).

Of course, Commil was the subject to a 2015 Supreme Court decision that rejected the Federal Circuit’s original opinion favoring Cisco.  On remand, the Federal Circuit completely changed its decision but again sided with Cisco and rejected the jury verdict — holding “that substantial evidence does not support the jury’s finding that Cisco’s devices, when used, perform the “running” step of the asserted claims.”

Safe Harbor for Federal Submissions: In the newly filed Amphastar Pharma case, the Supreme Court has already requested a response from Momenta. The question presented focuses on the safe-harbor provision of 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(1) and asks: Whether the safe harbor protects a generic drug manufacturer’s bioequivalence testing that is performed only as a condition of maintaining FDA approval and is documented in records that must be submitted to the FDA upon request.  The federal circuit held that Amphastar’s activity in this case was not protected by the safe harbor because it involved information “routinely reported” to the FDA post-approval. [Amphastar Petition]

The big list:


In re Aqua Products

In re Aqua Products (Fed. Cir. 2016)

In a short opinion, the Federal Circuit has reaffirmed the USPTO’s tightly restrictive approach to amendment practice in Inter Partes Review (IPR) proceedings.  Under the rules, a patentee has one opportunity to propose amendments or substitute claims. However, the motion to amend will only be granted if the patentee also demonstrates in the motion that the proposed amendments would make the claims patentable over the known prior art. See Idle Free Sys., Inc. v. Bergstrom, Inc., IPR2012–00027, 2013 WL 5947697 (PTAB June 11, 2013).

That approach has been upheld in several Federal Circuit cases, including Microsoft Corp. v. Proxyconn, Inc., 789 F.3d 1292, 1307−08 (Fed. Cir. 2015).  As such, the panel here held that its power was restricted:

Given our precedent, this panel cannot revisit the question of whether the Board may require the patentee to demonstrate the patentability of substitute claims over the art of record.

As such, the Federal Circuit found no abuse of discretion in thte PTAB’s denial of amendment.

We conclude that the Board did not abuse its discretion by denying Aqua’s motion to amend. The Board rebutted Aqua’s sole argument that the vector limitation made the substitute claims patentable over the combination of Henkin and Myers. Because Aqua’s arguments with respect to that combination rested exclusively on the vector limitation, the Board had no obligation to address the other amendments or to consider the issue of objective indicia of non-obviousness, which Aqua did not raise in connection with the Henkin/Myers combination. We affirm.

The case is being handled by Finnegan’s top appellate lawyer James Barney and is now set-up for en banc review.


Apple v Samsung: Mooting the Injunction

In my recent update on Supreme Court patent cases I skipped over a new Samsung v. Apple petition since one Samsung v. Apple case has already been granted a writ of certiorari.  Although both cases involve smartphone patents, they are entirely separate procedurally.

  • Already PendingSamsung Electronics Co., Ltd. v. Apple Inc., No 15-777 (design patent damages calculation) (certiorari granted, merits briefing ongoing), appeal from Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., 786 F.3d 983 (Fed. Cir. 2015)
  • Newly Filed: Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.  v. Apple Inc., No 15-1386 (vacating injunction mooted by later opinion) (petition filed), appeal from Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., 809 F.3d 633 (Fed. Cir. 2015).

The new case itself involves a pair of appeals: In a 2015 decision, the Federal Circuit found that an injunction against Samsung to halt infringement was proper under the eBay standards. The first case did not, however, reach the merits issues involving patent validity and infringement. Then, in February 2016, the court reversed the jury verdict and held that all of the asserted claims were either invalid or not infringed.

The decision on appeal here is that first injunction decision that, up to now, the Federal Circuit has not expressly vacated (even though the underlying basis for the injunction has now been proven not to exist).  Thus, in its petition, Samsung asks simply that the Supreme Court vacate the Federal Circuit’s decision. Question presented:

Should the Court grant the petition, vacate the judgment below, and remand to dismiss the appeal as moot, in accordance with United States v. Munsingwear, Inc., 340 U.S. 36 (1950), where the Federal Circuit’s opinion requiring a permanent injunction is mooted by a later Federal Circuit opinion eliminating all basis for liability by holding two of the three patents at issue invalid and the other one not infringed?

The one big caveat here is that an en banc petition is still pending on the merits side and therefore is not moot. The petition merely glosses over this issue without offering any explanation as to why the Supreme Court shouldn’t just wait for the outcome of the en banc petition. Of course, Samsung understands all of this – and likely would have delayed the filing were it not for the looming deadline for its petition filing. [SamsungInjunctPetition]  To me, it seems that the Federal Circuit panel in the still pending validity/infringing case would permit a motion for stay of relief pendant lite. 

Apple’s En Banc request in the merits case (validity/infringement) is in the midst of briefing.  Apple’s basic argument is that the appellate panel unduly substituted its judgment for that of the jury:

After a thirteen-day trial and three-and-a-half days of deliberation, a jury found that Samsung’s smartphones infringed three Apple patents, confirmed the validity of Apple’s asserted patents, and awarded damages of nearly $120 million. The issues on appeal were primarily factual and subject to deferential substantial evidence review. Yet, in an unprecedented decision, the panel reversed nearly every aspect of the verdict that favored Apple. The panel reached that result by deciding the case on a different record than the jury had before it, and by shifting Samsung’s burden to prove invalidity to require instead that Apple prove validity.


Pending Supreme Court Patent Cases 2016 (May 18 Update)

by Dennis Crouch

It is now time to begin looking for an opinion in the Halo/Stryker regarding whether the Federal Circuit’s test for willful infringement is too rigid. Those cases were argued in February 2016.  We can also expect a decision in Cuozzo prior to the end June 2016.

Supplying Components Abroad: The Solicitor General has finally filed its brief in Life Tech v. Promega. The brief supports certiorari — but only for one of the two questions presented: namely,

whether a supplier can be held liable for providing ‘all or a substantial portion of the components of a patented invention’ from the United States when the supplier ships for combination abroad only a single commodity component of a multi-component invention

The patent in the case involves a DNA amplification kit used for personal identification.  And, although the allegedly infringing kids were made in the UK, one commodity-component (the Taq polymerase) was supplied from the U.S.  Focusing on the language of the statute, the Solicitor Generals argues that liability for export of a single component of a multi-component invention “is contrary to Section 271(f)’s text and structure, and it is inconsistent with the presumption against extraterritoriality.”  Separately, the brief argues that the Federal Circuit was correct in its holding that a party can actively induce itself – thus 271(f)(1) inducement does not require a third party to be induced. [USPromega CVSG Petition].

Post Grant Admin: I previously discussed GEA Process Engineering. That case involves the Flip-side of Cuozzo and asks whether an appeal can follow when the PTAB exceeds its authority by terminating an already instituted IPR proceeding?  The respondent (Steuben Foods) had previously waived its right to respond, but the Supreme Court has now requested a response.  That move makes certiorari more likely, but the result will depend upon the outcome in Cuozzo.

Attorney Fees: Newegg Inc. v. MacroSolve, Inc., No. 15-1369.  Professor Mark Lemley’s brief on behalf of Newegg asks that the attorney-fee framework of Octane Fitness actually be implemented. [NewEggPetition].  Although Octane Fitness gives district courts discretion in determining whether to award fees, Newegg argues that the E.D. Texas court improperly applied “a special, heightened burden of proof.”  The Supreme Court is currently considering the Kirtsaeng attorney fee case for copyright law. That decision may shed some light on the patent cases as well.

A new petition in Automotive Body Parts, No. 15-1314,  focuses on a question of civil procedure regarding a clerk’s transfer of a design patent case out of E.D.Tx in a manner that violated the local rules.  Here, the clerk transferred the case immediately after the judge ordered transfer even though the local rules call for a 21 day delay.  The case is rising through a petition for mandamus, but my view is that the petition fails to show why transfer is so harmful (except for the reality that patent plaintiffs are usually given more respect in E.D.Tx.).

The court was scheduled to discuss Cooper v. Lee at its May 12 conference. No action was taken following that conference – lightly suggesting to me that the court is holding judgment until it resolves Cuozzo.  Apart from the AIA Trial challenges, most potential life changing case on the docket for patent attorneys is Cubist v. Hospira that focuses on the role of secondary indicia of non-obviousness. As with most Supreme Court patent cases over the past decade, Cubist argues that the Federal Circuit’s rules are too restrictive and should instead follow a looser factor-based analysis when considering the issue.  In the next couple of weeks, the court will consider the Cubist petition as well as that of Dow v. NOVA  (appellate review standard); Vehicle Intelligence (abstract idea); and WesternGeco (damages calculation for 271(f) infringement by exporting components).

Secret Offers to Sell: The Federal Circuit is not slowing down its patent jurisprudence in any way – except for the rash of R.36 affirmances. An important case is Helsinn that focuses on whether the AIA abrogated the rule in Metallizing Engineering.

The big list: (more…)

Guest Post: 35 USC 289—Grant of Certiorari in Samsung v Apple = The Opportunity for a Better-Crafted Standard for Awarding Total profits

Guest post by Gary L. Griswold.  Mr. Griswold is a Consultant residing in Hudson, WI and was formerly President of and Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for 3M Innovative Properties Company. The paper reflects the views of the author. He wishes to thank Bob Armitage and Mike Kirk for their excellent contributions to the essay.

In August, 2015, I published an article on Patently-O entitled “35 USC 289-After Apple v Samsung, Time for a Better-Crafted Judicial Standard for Awarding “Total Profits.” [i] The article appeared before the Supreme Court granted certiorari in this appeal.[ii] My use of the word “after” was, thus, a bit premature. The crafting of a new judicial standard may actually be accomplished over the next several months, as the Supreme Court considers the damages issue in Apple v. Samsung case later in its current term.

The statutory basis for awarding damages in this case is no “small-change.” 35 USC 289 provides the design patent holder with the infringer’s “total profits” on the “article of manufacture” to which the patented design “has been applied”[iii]. My August article referenced a Patently-O article by Professor Rantanen that included an analysis of the Federal Circuit’s Apple v Samsung decision and its ramifications, suggesting that the section 289 damages provision could induce “an explosion of design patent assertions and lawsuits.”[iv] Indeed, section 289 holds the potential for design patent procurement and assertion to become the next big “patent assertion entity” business model.

Some commentators have suggested that design patents, being sought and accumulated differently from utility patents, are not likely to stimulate much PAE interest. Whatever merit in that view, it needs to be tempered with the realization that greed is the mother of all of this type of business-model invention. One need only reflect on the fact that more than 1,000 qui tam actions for false marking were filed by opportunistic plaintiffs following the 2009 Federal Circuit decision in Forest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Co. before such actions were thankfully banished by the “Leahy-Smith America Invents Act.”[v] The prospects for design infringement revenue generation based on the “total profits”-recovery provision in 35 USC 289 could make successful design patent assertion a staggeringly profitable business. The potential for such an outcome as well as an example of such assertion was referenced in the briefs relating to the Apple v. Samsung certiorari petition[vi].

The possibility of a surge in design-patent PAE activity is almost certainly one of many reasons why the Supreme Court granted certiorari—and why it should not squander the opportunity presented in the Apple v. Samsung appeal to provide a reasoned and principled demarcation between those fact patterns where a “total profits” remedy is clearly warranted and those where it is not.

In deciding this appeal, the Supreme Court may focus on what constitutes an “article of manufacture” under section 289. The statute provides a design patent infringer “shall be liable to the [design patent] owner to the extent of [the infringer’s] total profit” if the infringer “applies the patented design … to any article of manufacture.” [vii](emphasis added) But, the patented design is not necessarily synonymous with the article of manufacture itself.

Indeed, for section 289 purposes, an “article of manufacture” has been held to be the entire substrate to which the patented design is applied. For example, it has been held that a boat becomes the “article of manufacture” when the patented design is for the windshield applied to the boat[viii]. Other examples of “articles of manufactures” whose total profits might be subject to a section 289 recovery include (1) a large agricultural combine, when the patented design is for a tire tread applied to a tire used on the combine; (2) an automobile, when the patented design is for the automobile’s rear taillights; and (3) an HDTV, when the patented design is for a semiconductor used in the television.

In my earlier articles, I described such “total profits” recovery scenarios as a problem in need of a judicial solution. I suggested eliminating access to section 289 “total profits” recoveries in situations where a consensus exists that a remedy of this type would be entirely unwarranted. My approach would interpret section 289 as authorizing a total-profits recovery only “if the patented design is substantially the basis for customer demand for the entire article”.[ix] If it is the basis for consumer demand, the section 289 total-profits recovery would apply to the article; if not, a recovery of total profits would not be available for the article.

This approach bears some similarity to the determination of utility patent damages under the entire market value rule[x]. A utility patent on a boat windshield does not allow the value of the boat to be used as the basis for determining a reasonable royalty absent a demonstration that the windshield was the basis for the customer demand for the boat.

In addition, the “customer demand” limitation is consistent with the apparent rationale for enacting section 289 in the first place. Current section 289 and its predecessors replaced a Supreme Court decision[xi] that provided limited damages to design patent owners even where the infringers had applied the patented design to an article of manufacture in order to create the customer demand for the article of manufacture. In such a situation, forcing the copyist to turn over its total profits obtained on the infringing article represents good policy.

However, even under a “customer demand” limitation, section 289 is no timid remedy. It would not involve any form of “apportionment” of the profits to be awarded to the design patent holder on the ground that some proportion of the profits might be attributable to non- design patented factors. Apportionment is not consistent with the Congressional intent when section 289 and its predecessors were enacted.

Moreover, even if the section 289 remedy is unavailable, the patent owner is not left without the right to recover damages. All the remedies otherwise available for patent infringement remain, whether or not a section 289 “total profits” recovery can be secured as long as there is no double recovery of damages[xii].

The Apple v. Samsung case is of particular importance because imposing the “customer demand” standard on section 289 recoveries does not require another act of Congress. The courts are free to interpret statutes to effectuate the purpose Congress had in enacting them. Under section 289, Congress did nothing to preclude the courts from determining what qualifies—and does not qualify—as an “article of manufacture.”

The Federal Circuit sees this judicial flexibility otherwise. It (incorrectly) saw its hands as having been tied by Congress in Apple v. Samsung, stating: “We are bound by what the statute says, irrespective of policy arguments that may be against it”[xiii]. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to see the situation differently.

The Supreme Court may—and should—see it differently. It can define an “article of manufacture” as being limited to objects for which the patented design is substantially the basis for customer demand. Courts have acted similarly in the past to assure that application of a statute will not result in foreseeable outcomes which are clearly inappropriate and manifestly unintended. The emergence of the “entire market value” rule is a good example of where the alleged “infringing product” cannot be reflexively used as the basis for a damages calculation where the “patented invention” is a mere component or feature of the product and not the product itself.

The Court will have, however, some competing approaches to consider in the course of deciding this appeal. Another possible approach to interpreting section 289 is the so-called “separate product” exception. This exception to a section 289 recovery limits the availability of total profits to the smallest separately sold product to which the patented design is applied. While this exception has the potential to limit the possibility of some of the ludicrous outcomes noted above, it is no panacea. For example, it fails to exclude a section 289 recovery where a design patented graphical user interface (GUI) is used in an electronic device which does not involve a separately sold product. This is a serious deficiency because of the difficulty in finding any policy rationale for awarding total profits on an electronic device simply because a design on a GUI used in it is patented.

Apple has, nonetheless, suggested in its responsive brief to “Defendant-Appellants’ Petition for Rehearing en banc” what amounts to a more generalized rendition of a “separate product” exception: “As the panel correctly recognized, this distinctive design was not severable from the inner workings of Samsung’s smartphones, see Op.27-28, in a way that a cupholder is analytically distinct from the overall look-and-feel of a car.”[xiv] (emphasis added) While “severability” appears to be a more general “exception” criterion than simply being a “separate” product, the “severability” approach does not appear to address the deficiency explained above for the “separate product” exception.

If there is a concern with the “customer demand” limitation, it would be whether the limitation is so broad that it swallows most or all of the “total profits” rule. Indeed, there are many factors which cause a purchaser to acquire a particular article of manufacture—most notably its functional aspects. However, to apply the “customer demand” approach, one begins with the customer looking for something in a product space and then making the specific decision to purchase. Everyday products with new, ornamental designs such as specially shaped paper clips are a good example.[xv] While they have a known function, they are most likely purchased for their appearance. An option would be to only consider the ornamental features of a product to determine whether they were substantially the basis for customer demand, but that may well be too narrow and could lead to a total profit remedy for minor differences from an ornamental perspective.

The Supreme Court would not have granted certiorari without a sense that its guidance was needed to properly titrate a powerful damages provision. It can best do so by allowing section 289 to remain a viable incentive to create and commercialize new designs, but then limiting the articles of manufacture qualifying for a “total profits” recovery to those where the patented design is substantially the basis for customer demand for the article of manufacture. Such a holding would secure section 289 as both a distinguishing and distinguished feature of U.S. design patent law.

[i] Griswold, Gary. “35 USC 289 – After Apple v. Samsung, Time for a Better-Crafted Judicial Standard for Awarding “Total Profits”? Patently-O. August 14, 2015. https://patentlyo.com/patent/2015/08/griswold-patent-damages.html

[ii] See U.S. Supreme Court Orders List from March 21, 2016 at 2. http://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/032116zor_h3ci.pdf

[iii] 35 U.S.C. § 289:

“Whoever during the term of a patent for a design, without license of the owner, (1) applies the patented design, or any colorable imitation thereof, to any article of manufacture for the purpose of sale, or (2) sells or exposes for sale any article of manufacture to which such design or colorable imitation has been applied shall be liable to the owner to the extent of his total profit, but not less than $250, recoverable in any United States district court having jurisdiction of the parties.

Nothing in this section shall prevent, lessen, or impeach any other remedy which an owner of an infringed patent has under the provisions of this title, but he shall not twice recover the profit made from the infringement.”

[iv] Rantanen, Jason, “Apple v. Samsung: Design Patents Win.” Patently-O. May 18, 2015. https://patentlyo.com/patent/2015/05/samsung-design-patents.html

[v] Laurie Rose Lubiano, “The America Invents Act applies the brakes to the false marking bandwagon.” LEXOLOGY, January 3 2012. http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=401c9bea-d643-4521-bc7d-c63d5b4a25f5

[vi] Samsung Petition for a Writ of Cert. Case No. 15-777. at 36-38. http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/15-777_PetitionForAWritOfCertiorari.pdf

[vii] 35 U.S.C. § 289

[viii] Order on Motion for Partial SJ, In re Pacific Coast Marine Windshields Ltd. v. Malibu Boats LLC, Case No. 6:12-cv-33 (M.D. Fl. August 22, 2014)

[ix] See Griswold, https://patentlyo.com/patent/2015/08/griswold-patent-damages.html; See also Griswold, Gary. “35 USC § 289 – An Important Feature of U.S. Design Patent Law: An Approach to its Application.” IPO Law Journal. April 6, 2015. http://www.ipo.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/griswold_an-approach.pdf

[x] See Cornell University v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 609 F.Supp. 2d 279, 288-89 (N.D.N.Y. 2009):

(1) The infringing components must be the basis for customer demand for the entire machine including the parts beyond the claimed invention, (2) the individual infringing and non-infringing components must be sold together so that they constitute a functional unit or are parts of a complete machine or single assembly of parts, and (3) the individual infringing and non-infringing components must be analogous to a single functioning unit. It is not enough that the infringing and non-infringing components are sold together for business advantage. Notably, these requirements are additive, not alternative, ways to demonstrate eligibility for application of the entire market value rule.

See also Virnetz, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc., 113 F.3d 1308, 1326 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (Judge Prost: “we recently affirmed that ‘[a] patentee may assess damages on the entire market value of the accused product only where the patented feature creates the basis for customer demand or substantially creates the value of the component parts.”)

[xi] See Dobson v. Dornan, 118 U.S. 10, (1886); Dobson v. Hartford Carpet Co., 114 U.S. 439 (1885); Dobson v. Bigelow Carpet Co., 114 U.S. 439 (1885); Bigelow Carpet Co. v. Dobson/Hartford Carpet Co. v. Same, 10 F. 385,386; 1882 U.S. App. LEXIS 2295 (E.D. Pa. 1882).

[xii] 35 U.S.C. § 289, paragraph 2: “Nothing in this section shall prevent, lessen, or impeach any other remedy which an owner of an infringed patent has under the provisions of this title, but he shall not twice recover the profit made from the infringement.”

[xiii] Apple v. Samsung, Fed. Cir. Opinion at 27, fn. 1.

[xiv] See Brief in Opp’n to Rhg, Apple v. Samsung, Case No. 2014-1335; 2015-1029 at 27-28 (Fed. Cir. July 20, 2015)

[xv] See, e.g., Design Patent No. USD647,138: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/pdfs/USD647138.pdf


Automatic Assignment of Future Inventions: A Serious Error of Federal Law that Requires Supreme Court Review

Guest post by Dr. Shubha Ghosh, Crandall Melvin Professor of Law and Director of the Technology Commercialization Law Program at Syracuse University College of Law

In Stanford v Roche, 563 U.S. 776 (2011), the Supreme Court ruled that the Bayh-Dole Act did not create special rules of patent ownership for universities and other recipients of federal research funding.  Traditional rules of inventor ownership and assignment, developed for for-profit entities applied to research institutes. Nothing in the language of the Bayh-Dole changed the basic rules and created a statutory automatic assignment (one analogous to work made for hire under the Copyright Act).

But what are the traditional rules for patent assignment? One issue the majority ignored in Stanford is the future interest assignment rule created by the Federal Circuit in Filmtec Corp. v. Allied Signal, 939 F.2d 1568 (Fed. Cir. 1991).  By containing the phrase “hereby assigns,” the Federal Circuit stated in Filmtec, an assignment would have priority over another that only contained the word “assigns.” An assignor stating that he “assigns” a future interest is simply conveying a promise to assign in the future. However, the magic phrase “hereby assigns” is a present assignment of a future interest.  Stanford University’s failure to include the word “hereby” in its assignment agreement lost patent rights to Roche, a competing assignee that showed the wisdom to include the word “hereby” in its agreement.

Justices Breyer and Ginsburg in dissent sharply criticized the Filmtec rule of “automatic assignment” through agreement in the Stanford case. This sentiment was echoed in Justice Sotomayor’s concurrence. All three justices, however, recognized that the assignment interpretation issue was not properly before the Court.  Dr. Alexander Shukh, a computer hardware engineer, signed an assignment to his former employer Seagate.  The assignment contained the “hereby” language sanctioned by the Filmtec decision.  Seagate, and the Federal Circuit, reads the hereby language as creating an automatic assignment of Shukh’s rights to his inventions and resulting patents. The Shukh decision does not involve priority of assignments and  goes beyond the Filmtec decision criticized by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor.  Under Shukh, the magic words “ hereby assigns” extinguishes all rights of employees in their inventions.

The Court should grant Shukh’s certiori petition. This post demonstrates that there is a serious error of federal law that requires Supreme Court review. It also shows how the Court might correct the misapplication of federal law.

The Federal Circuit created the rule of automatic assignment through agreement without any basis in the Patent Act or in the common law of assignment. Acting from its institutional law as patent law expert, the Federal Circuit seemingly adopted the Filmtec rule as one of patent assignment. But, as Professor Ted Hagelin pointed out in a 2013 article in the AIPLA Law Quarterly, the automatic assignment rule has no foundation in the Patent Act.  Section 261 speaks to writing requirements and priority rules arising from filing.  There is no mention of the magic word “hereby” as a marker between promises to assign in the future and present assignments of future interests.  Professor Hagelin recommended that Congress correct the error by amending Section 261.

But the Federal Circuit’s error is deeper than one of statutory misconstruction. Its decision confuses the relationship between patent law and contract law. The error is in the same category as the controversy over the conditional sale doctrine, a court created rule from Mallinckrodt v. Medipart, 976 F.2d 700 (Fed. Cir. 1992).  In Mallinckrodt, the Federal Circuit examined a patent owner’s power to impose conditions on its grant of rights to a licensee. Through announcing the conditional sale doctrine, the Federal Circuit ruled that a violation of such conditions constituted patent infringement rather than contract breach.  By so ruling, the Federal Circuit expanded its own jurisdiction by transforming questions of state contract law into those of patent law. A similar move occurs in Filmtec.

The usurpation of contract law by patent law is the subject of my 2014 article in the Journal of the Patent and Trademark Office Society.  My argument in that paper is grounded, in part, in Judge Pauline Newman’s criticism of Filmtec in her dissent from denial of en banc review in Abraxis v. Navinta. 672 F.2d 1239 (Fed. Cir. 2011). According to Justice Newman, patent assignments are a matter of contract law, which is in the jurisdiction of the states. Therefore, the Federal Circuit should look more closely at state law in deciding cases about patent assignments.

The judge’s point is particularly salient when one remembers that the Federal Circuit was created as an expert patent court.  It was given jurisdiction to hear some non-patent matters when these matters are related to patent cases.  Patent assignments are one obvious example of when the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction to consider state matters.  But, as Judge Newman points out, jurisdiction to hear a case does not mean authority to create new law, as the Federal Circuit arguably did in Filmtec and in Stanford. Instead, the Federal Circuit should look to other authorities to address non-patent law matters. For contract law matters, what state courts and legislatures have said about assignments generally would be relevant.  Furthermore, state law provides a stable and predictable source of authority for actors engaged in the business practice of negotiating patent assignments and other contracts.

The core problem is that the court has ignored the Erie doctrine. Under the Supreme Court’s 1937 decision in Erie v. Tompkins, a federal court ruling on a matter of state law under its diversity jurisdiction must apply the law of the state from which the dispute arose.  Which state law to apply is a matter of choice of law principles.  What the federal court cannot do is create its own federal common law in lieu of the state statutory or common law. As the Court affirmed in Butner v. United States, 440 U.S. 48 (1979),  the Erie doctrine applies to a court’s supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims attendant to a federal question. By creating its own federal common law of contracts, the Federal Circuit reveals a fundamental error in its understanding of the federal court system.

State law offers a different analysis of patent assignments from what the Federal Circuit adopts. Justice Breyer, in his Stanford dissent, cited a treatise on patent law by George Ticknor Curtis from 1873 that discusses patent assignments.  Curtis addresses how state law treats assignments and cites a Massachusetts case from 1841 dealing with patent assignments.  Relevant to the issues in Stanford, the assignment involved the present assignment of an invention that had not been made yet.  The court analyzed the assignment as it would any contract, identifying the terms of the document as a key to the expectations of the parties. State law precedents perhaps offer an alternative to the questionable Federal Circuit jurisprudence, at least with respect to patent assignments.

One related area in state law is that of security interests, a part of debtor-creditor law.  In entering into credit agreements, creditors ask for security in the form of collateral for a loan. The collateral may be a legal interest that is not in existence at the time of the loan.  An example would be the future sales or proceeds from a debtor’s business. Another example would be inventory remaining at the end of an accounting period.  These future interests are analogous to the future inventions or patents that I have been discussing.  Rights can be claimed in these properties that are nonexistent at the time of the contract formation between creditor and debtor.

Security interests provide the most common situation in which conflicting obligations arise.  Debtors often take multiple mortgages, hypothetic future proceeds to multiple creditors, and take multiple loans out on the same collateral.  As long as the value of the collateral can cover all the debts, then there is no problem in general.  However, if not all creditors can be satisfied, priority rules are necessary.  In the case of future interests, the law does not fall back on simple rules like first in time because there are multiple interests involved.  A creditor does not want to run the risk of not receiving any return on the debt.  The legal rules of priority allow the creditor to investigate the collateral and through such due diligence identify competing claimants on the collateral.  Priority rules, consequently, depend not only on the timing of the contract, but also on recording and notice requirements.

The case of conflicting patent assignments bears some similarity to the law on intangible future interests in creditor-debtor law.  Both entail rights in property that has yet to come into being.  The main lesson from creditor-debtor law, which is largely a matter of state law, is that many interests are implicated and therefore simple rules are not satisfactory.  The Federal Circuit has arguably adopted too simple and misguided a rule in the Filmtec.  The Supreme Court has confounded the error in the Stanford decision by ignoring the issue of automatic assignments. One way to correct course is by granting Shukh’s petition for certiori and restore the proper balance between federal patent law and state commercial law.

The Recent Federal Circuit Decision in Acorda Therapeutics v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals May Not be the Last Word on Personal Jurisdiction in ANDA Cases

Guest Post By: Paul Dietze and Mini Kapoor, Haynes and Boone, LLP[1]

 On March 18, 2016, the Federal Circuit held that Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Mylan”), a generic drug manufacturer, was subject to specific personal jurisdiction in Delaware because Mylan had filed an abbreviated new drug application (“ANDA”) and “contemplate[d] plans to engage in marketing of the proposed generic drugs” in the state.[2]  The ruling affirmed two different decisions by judges in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware that Mylan was subject to specific jurisdiction in Delaware.[3]  However, as noted below, it looks like Mylan intends to seek panel or en banc rehearing and possibly pursue a petition for certiorari if the Federal Circuit does not grant the rehearing or re-hears the case and continues to find personal jurisdiction.

I. Procedural Posture of the Cases

Mylan filed two separate ANDAs with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) seeking permission to market generic versions of unrelated pharmaceutical products marketed by Acorda Therapeutics, Inc. and AstraZeneca AB under the statutory scheme outlined in the Hatch-Waxman Act (the “Act”).  As permitted under the Act, Mylan certified that the patents of the brand name drug companies listed in the FDA’s Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations (“the Orange Book”) were either invalid or would not be infringed by Mylan’s marketing of its proposed generic versions of the drugs.  Each certification is deemed an artificial act of infringement under the Act, and permits the brand name drug companies to sue the generic drug company.  Acorda and AstraZeneca sued Mylan for patent infringement in separate lawsuits filed in Delaware.  Mylan moved to dismiss in both cases, arguing that it was not subject to either general or specific personal jurisdiction.[4]

Specifically, Mylan, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman,[5] argued that it was not subject to general jurisdiction in Delaware because it did not have contacts with Delaware that were so continuous “as to render it essentially at home in the forum state,” and was not subject to specific jurisdiction because it did not satisfy the minimum contacts requirement.[6]  Both district court decisions held that Mylan was subject to specific jurisdiction in Delaware.[7]  The district court decisions, however, differed as to whether or not Mylan was subject to general jurisdiction in Delaware.

II. The Opinion

On appeal, the majority opinion of the Federal Circuit panel affirmed specific jurisdiction without addressing general jurisdiction.[8]  The panel identified Mylan’s ANDA filings as “formal acts that reliably indicate plans to engage in marketing of the proposed generic drugs” and held the particular actions that “Mylan has already taken—its ANDA filings—for the purpose of engaging in that injury-causing and allegedly wrongful marketing conduct in Delaware” were sufficient to satisfy the minimum contacts requirement.[9] The court also identified the significant expense a generic drug company incurs in the ANDA application process as evidence of an ANDA-filer’s plans to market the drug.[10]  The court further noted that Mylan’s distribution channels in Delaware make clear that these future marketing activities would “unquestionably take place in Delaware (at least).”[11] The court concluded that the planned sales were “close enough” to the subject of the lawsuits to satisfy the minimum contacts requirement and justify specific jurisdiction in Delaware.[12]

Having found the minimum contacts requirement satisfied, the court considered whether Delaware’s exercise of jurisdiction would “offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”[13]  The court held that other considerations, such as those identified in Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz,[14] would not render jurisdiction unreasonable.

III. The Logical Implications

 By establishing specific personal jurisdiction by virtue of filing an ANDA with plans to direct sales of a generic drug into a particular state, a generic drug manufacturer, such as Mylan, would appear to be subject to specific jurisdiction in any state in which it intends to market the generic drug.  Almost always, this will be any state in the country.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Daimler, branded-drug companies often asserted jurisdiction in a state based on general jurisdiction, arguing that the generic company was subject to jurisdiction in the state because it intended to sell the generic version of the drug in the state.  In Daimler, however, the Supreme Court held that general jurisdiction cannot attach unless the defendant’s contacts with the forum state are “so continuous and systematic as to render [the non-resident corporate defendant] essentially at home in the forum State.”[15] A corporation is essentially at home only in its state of incorporation and the state where its principal place of business is located.[16] Daimler specifically rejected the notion that general jurisdiction will lie “in every State in which a corporation engages in a substantial, continuous, and systematic course of business.”[17] This decision in Daimler raised the concern as to whether brand name drug companies could continue to rely on general jurisdiction to file suits in the forum of their choice.  However, the court’s ruling in Acorda, by establishing specific jurisdiction based on filing an ANDA with plans to sell the drug in a state, arguably makes the high bar for general jurisdiction established in Daimler of little significance in ANDA cases.

Thus, under Acorda, brand name drug companies are likely to continue to have wide latitude in selecting the forum in which to sue an ANDA-filer.  Delaware and New Jersey, where ANDA cases are often brought, are likely to continue to be forums of choice for ANDA cases.

IV. Expected Future Litigation

 Letters filed by Mylan in pending district court actions indicate that Mylan plans to seek panel and en banc rehearing in Acorda.[18]  The letters provide a preview of Mylan’s potential arguments for rehearing.  Mylan is expected to argue that Acorda’s holding that Mylan is subject to specific jurisdiction in every state “is contrary to the basic notion of specific jurisdiction and the more basic constitutional guarantees at the heart of the Supreme Court’s due process/personal jurisdiction jurisprudence.”[19]  Mylan is further expected to argue that Acorda was wrongly decided because it “simply recreates the pre-Daimler status quo by allowing courts throughout the nation to rely on specific jurisdiction where general jurisdiction is no longer applicable.”[20]  Mylan also indicates that it will argue that Acorda’s reliance on Mylan’s future contacts in Delaware is contrary to the Supreme Court’s Walden v. Fiore decision[21] and that the present decisions are misplaced in view of prior Federal Circuit precedent in Zeneca Ltd. v. Mylan Pharm., Inc.,[22] where the Federal Circuit “held that submission of an ANDA to the FDA in Maryland did not authorize the exercise of jurisdiction over the ANDA-filer by Maryland federal courts.”[23]  Acorda, Mylan argues, makes “Zeneca merely academic.”

Regardless of the Federal Circuit’s final ruling, the losing party may very well file a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court seeking review of the Federal Circuit’s decision.  That Acorda and Mylan were represented at the Federal Circuit by former Solicitor Generals (Theodore Olson for Acorda and Paul Clement for Mylan), while AstraZeneca was represented by another Supreme Court veteran (Kannon Shanmugam), shows that each party considers this case to be important and that they are likely preparing to ask the Supreme Court to consider the matter.  So the panel decision in Acorda appears to be merely the beginning of the appellate proceedings.  Given these expected actions it will be interesting to see if the brand name drug companies continue to file suits in both the brand name drug company’s preferred jurisdiction as well as where the generic drug company is incorporated or has its principal place of business until all the Acorda appellate proceedings are concluded.

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[1] Paul E. Dietze, Ph.D., is Of Counsel in the Washington, DC office and Mini Kapoor, Ph.D., is an associate in the Houston, Texas office of the law firm of Haynes and Boone, LLP.  Their practices emphasize pharmaceutical patent counseling, patent procurement, and patent litigation.

[2] Acorda Therapeutics Inc. et al. v. Mylan Pharm. Inc., No. 2015-1456 and AstraZeneca AB v. Mylan Pharm. Inc., No. 2015-1460, 2016 WL 1077048 (Fed. Cir. March 18, 2016) [Patently-O Discussion].

[3] Acorda Therapeutics Inc. & Alkermes Pharma Ireland Ltd. v. Mylan Pharm. Inc. & Mylan Inc., 78 F. Supp. 3d 572 (D. Del. 2015) (Stark, C.J.); AstraZeneca AB v. Mylan Pharm. Inc., 72 F. Supp. 3d 549 (D. Del. 2014) (Sleet, J.).

[4] Acorda, No. 1:14-cv-00935, 2014 WL 8772659  (Defs.’ Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss) (Aug. 27, 2014);  AstraZeneca, No. 14-696, 2014 WL 4745288  (Defs.’ Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss) (June 26, 2014).

[5] 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014).

[6] Acorda, No. 1:14-cv-00935, 2014 WL 8772659 (Defs.’ Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 3, 6) (Aug. 27, 2014); AstraZeneca, No. 1:14-00696, 2014 WL 4745288  (Defs.’ Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 5, 13) (June 26, 2014).

[7] Acorda, 78 F. Supp. 3d at 597; AstraZeneca, 72 F. Supp. 3d at 560.

[8] Judge O’Malley opined that by virtue of voluntarily electing to do business in Delaware, and registering and selecting an agent for service of process in the state, Mylan was subject to general jurisdiction in Delaware.  Acorda, Nos. 2015-1456 & 2015-1460, 2016 WL 1077048 at *11 – *12 (Judge O’Malley concurring).

[9] Acorda, Nos. 2015-1456 & 2015-1460, 2016 WL 1077048  at *8 -*9.

[10] Id. at *11 – *12.

[11] Id. at *13.

[12] Id.

[13] Id. at *13 -*14 (quoting Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).

[14] 471 U.S. 462, 477 (1985).

[15] Daimler, 134 S. Ct at 758 n.11 (emphasis added).

[16] Id. at 760.

[17] Id. at 760-61 (internal quotations omitted).

[18] See, for example, Takeda GmbH, et al., v. Mylan Pharm. Inc., 1:15-cv-00093 (N.D. W. Va.) (Defs.’ Letter Status Rep.) (Mar. 25, 2016).

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] 134 S. Ct. 1115 (2014).

[22] Takeda GmbH, et al., v. Mylan Pharm. Inc., 1:15-cv-00093 (N.D. W. Va.) (Defs.’ Letter Status Rep.) (Mar. 25, 2016).

[23] 173 F.3d 829 (Fed. Cir. 1999).

Guest Post: The AIA, Inter Partes Review, and Takings Law

In a provocative new article called “Taking Patents,” 72 Wash & Lee L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016), Gregory Dolin (Baltimore) and Irina Manta (Hofstra) argue that the Federal Government effectuated a taking through its creation and implementation of the inter partes review mechanism.  Below, Camilla Hrdy and Ben Picozzi summarize the main points of their recent response to Dolin and Manta, “The AIA Is Not a Taking: A Response to Dolin & Manta,” 72 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. Online 472 (2016).

Gregory Dolin and Irina Manta argue in a forthcoming article that the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) effectuated a Fifth Amendment “taking” by enhancing the mechanisms for challenging issued patents in administrative proceedings. Initial data do indicate that patents are more likely to be found invalid in the new inter partes review (IPR) and covered business method review (CBMR) proceedings than in district court actions or through the IPR and CBMR’s administrative predecessors. Patentees’ have even complained that the filing of individual IPR petitions has affected their stock prices.

Has the AIA made it too easy to invalidate a patent? Have patentees been treated unfairly? Maybe. Maybe not. But one things is clear: Dolin and Manta’s argument that the AIA is a taking faces serious legal hurdles.

First, Dolin and Manta’s premise that patents are property rights protected by the Takings Clause is far less clear than they contend. While the Supreme Court has recently suggested that patents, like land, “cannot be appropriated or used by the government itself, without just compensation,” see Horne v. Department of Agriculture, 135 S. Ct. 2419 (2015) (quoting James v. Campbell, 104 U.S. 356, 358 (1882)), both that statement, and the statement it quotes, are dicta. More recent decisions express greater ambivalence regarding patents’ status under the Takings Clause.

In contrast with trade secrets, the Supreme Court has never held that patents are property under the Takings Clause. In Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board v. College Savings Bank, 527 U.S. 627 (1999), the Court held that Congress can’t abrogate states’ sovereign immunity from patent infringement claims. In reaching this conclusion, the Court stated that patents are “surely included within the ‘property’ of which no person may be deprived by a State without due process of law.” Id. at 642. But the Court declined to rule on patents’ status under the Takings Clause. See id. at 642.

Most recently, in Zoltek Corp. v. United States, 442 F.3d 1345 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (per curiam), vacated on other grounds, 672 F.3d 1309, 1314–22 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (en banc), the Federal Circuit held (rightly or wrongly) that 28 U.S.C. § 1498 is the only means of recovery for patentees whose patents are infringed by the U.S. government. Patentees can’t bring claims for compensation under the Takings Clause. Although the court eventually vacated that decision, the court never repudiated the reasoning behind its constitutional holding.

Dolin and Manta try to get around Zoltek by arguing that, unlike government infringement—which is like a forced permit and leaves all the rights of a patent intact—the AIA “changed the scope of patent rights themselves” by subjecting issued patents to more stringent post-issuance review. However, courts have not endorsed that argument, and analogs are difficult to find.

Second, even if we accept the argument that government can potentially take patents by altering their scope retroactively, courts are unlikely to view post-issuance review proceedings as the kinds of government actions regulated by the Takings Clause. Courts assessing constitutional challenges under the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment tend to distinguish actions intended to “cure” defects in government administrative systems from incursions on property rights. In Patlex Corp. v. Mossinghoff, 758 F.2d 594 (Fed. Cir. 1985), the Federal Circuit rejected a very similar challenge to IPR’s predecessor based partly on this distinction, noting that reexamination statute belonged to “the class of ‘curative’ statutes, designed to cure defects in an administrative system[,]” and that such statutes are treated more favorably for Fifth Amendment purposes even when they devalue property rights. We see little reason that a court would reach a different conclusion today.

Lastly, even if a court decides it is possible for the government to take patents by subjecting them to more stringent post-issuance review, Dolin and Manta’s argument almost certainly loses as a matter of takings doctrine. To determine whether a particular governmental action effectuates a taking, courts assess “the character of the governmental action, its economic impact, and its interference with reasonable investment-backed expectations.” See Penn. Cent. Transp. Co. v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104, 124 (1978). Thus, even assuming we accept that the AIA significantly devalued all patents (a big “if”), whether this constitutes a taking depends on whether patentees should have anticipated that Congress would amp up administrative review, given the existing regulatory background.

Dolin and Manta argue the AIA’s enhanced IPR and CBMR proceedings interfered with patentees’ “reasonable investment-backed expectations” by increasing the likelihood that their patents would be found invalid in administrative proceedings utilizing patentee-unfriendly rules such as “preponderance of the evidence” standard for invalidation and “broadest reasonable construction” with limited opportunity to amend. But, as Dolin and Manta concede, the AIA was enacted against a background of federal statutes and regulations that authorize challenges to patent validity. IPR and CBMR review are only the latest in a series of administrative procedures authorizing parties to offensively challenge the validity of issued patents. To us, it seems highly unlikely that the question of whether the Takings Clause applies to the creation of new IPR and CBMR review could turn on such small differences as whether or not patentees have a full opportunity to amend their claims during review.

Also, it is worth noting that beyond third party challenges to patent validity, numerous federal regulatory statutes limit patentees’ ability to exploit their inventions for purposes of health and safety. For example, various regulatory review statutes, such as the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), practically reduce effective patent lifetimes by prohibiting patentees from commercially marketing or using protected products prior to regulatory approval. Yet none of these statutes fully compensate patentees for their losses.

Are these actions all takings as well? This conclusion has troubling consequences. Does Congress really need to compensate patentees every time it passes a statute that significantly affects the value of issued patents? Could Congress pass regulations for the purpose of restraining bad-faith enforcement of patents that have already been granted? What about judicial actions that reduce the value of patents? Do they intend for Congress to compensate patentees in these cases or to take fewer actions limiting patent rights, simply due to the fear of effectuating a taking? This seems like a dangerous basis on which to formulate patent policy.

In any case, we think that, given this regulatory backdrop and the existence of administrative review proceedings for over thirty years, patentees could foresee—or reasonably should have foreseen—that the government would continue to actively regulate patent rights without “just compensation.”

Together, these arguments persuade us that the AIA is not a taking. Nevertheless, the authors’ article is a thought-provoking and educational analysis of the constitutional implications of Congress’s recent efforts to reform the patent system. We thank them for reopening the door on this area of scholarship.

Pending Supreme Court Patent Cases 2016 (May 3 Update)

by Dennis Crouch

Laches: The Supreme Court granted SCA’s writ of certiorari on the question of whether laches defense applies to block back-damages in patent cases. The Federal Circuit says “yes” while the Supreme Court recently said “no” in a parallel copyright case (Patrella).  The Supreme Court decided Patrella 6-3 with Justice Scalia in the majority offering the potential of a tight-split in this case.  The court looks to be sitting-on the parallel case of Medinol v. Cordis until SCA is decided.

CheerCopyrightCopyright on Useful Articles: Although not a patent case, the court also decided to hear a “useful article” copyright case.  Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands.  The case asks whether the stripes and chevrons found in a cheerleader uniform are sufficiently “separable” from the uniform in order to be copyrightable.  The useful article doctrine is generally considered to be setting up a boundary line between the domains of copyright and patent.

More Challenges to USPTO Authority: MCM filed its petition for writ of certiorari directly challenging USPTO authority to conduct inter partes review proceedings with two easy questions:

  1. Does IPR violate Article III of the Constitution?
  2. Does IPR violate the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution?

[MCM Petition and Appendix] MCM’s brief was filed Tom Goldstein along with Ned Heller.  The question for the Supreme Court is whether to extend or contract from its position in Stern v. Marshall, 131 S. Ct. 2594 (2011) where the court held that Article III of the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from withdrawing “from judicial
cognizance any matter which, from its nature, is the subject of a suit at the common law, or in equity, or admiralty.” Quoting Murray’s Lessee v. Hoboken Land & Improvement Co., 59 U.S. 272  (1856)).

The brief raises a set of interesting old cases focusing both on the separation of powers and the tradition that patent-revocation for invalidity requires a jury to decide disputed facts.

  • Ex Parte Wood & Brundage, 22 U.S. 603 (1824)
  • McCormick Harvesting Mach. Co. v. C. Aultman & Co., 169 U.S. 606 (1898)
  • Mowry v. Whitney, 81 U.S. 434 (1871)
  • Murray’s Lessee v. Hoboken Land & Improvement Co., 59 U.S. 272 (1856)
  • Neilson v. Harford, Webster’s Patent Cases 295 (1841)
  • Pennock v. Dialogue, 27 U.S. 1 (1829)
  • United States v. Am. Bell Tel. Co., 128 U.S. 315 (1888)

Cooper v. Lee raises some parallel issues. Its petition will be considered by the Court in its May 12. [Update: The court has “rescheduled” consideration of Cooper’s brief – perhaps awaiting its own determination in Cuozzo.]

Hereby Assign Future Inventions: In Shukh v. Seagate, the petitioner raises the long-brewing question involving the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of patent assignments.  In particular, the Federal Circuit has ruled – as a matter of federal patent law – that patent rights are assignable before their invention is even contemplated. The petition asks:

[W]hether FilmTec’s “automatic assignment” rule should be overruled because it extinguishes inventors’ constitutional and statutory rights to inventorship and ownership.

In Stanford v. Roche, Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor criticized the Federal Circuit’s rule and suggested that the issue should be presented in a future case. The majority expressly noted that its opinion did not decide the issue. [Shukh v. Seagate – Redacted Public Petition]

Disparaging Trademarks: A pair of disparaging trademark cases have also been petitioned: Lee v. Tam (“Slants”) and  Pro-Football v. Blackhorse (“Redskins”).   The Federal Circuit previously held the limit on registering disparaging marks to be an unconstitutional abrogation of the freedom of speech.

The big list: (more…)

Supreme Court to Review (and likely Reject) Laches as a Defense in Patent Infringement Cases

by Dennis Crouch

The Supreme Court has granted SCA Hygeine’s petition for writ of certiorari with merits briefing over the summer and a likely fall 2016 hearing on the question:

Whether and to what extent the defense of laches may bar a claim for patent infringement brought within the Patent Act’s six-year statutory limitations period, 35 U.S.C. § 286.

SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, Supreme Court Docket No. 15-927 (2016).  This case is another patent-copyright parallel and follows the Supreme Court’s 2014 copyright laches case in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 134 S. Ct. 1962 (2014).  In Petrella, the Supreme Court held that laches cannot be used to further shorten the three-year copyright limitations period set forth in 17 U.S.C. § 507(b).  Following Petrella, however, the Federal Circuit rejected the copyright parallels and instead embraced patent law exceptionalism — holding en banc that laches remained a viable defense and can bar infringement claims accruing within the six-year limitations period of 35 U.S.C. § 286. (6-5 holding).

In both patent and copyright cases the issue of laches arises more often than you might think because of the legal treatment of “ongoing” infringement.   Each infringing act is seen as a new act of infringement.  Thus, the six-year limits period starts anew each time a new copy of the infringing product is made, sold, or used.  If someone has been making an infringing product for the past 10 years, the statute would let the patentee them reach back 6 years for damages. Courts often see that result as as problematic when the patentee sits on its rights for so long (and since most civil claims have a shorter period of limitations) and thus apply the laches doctrine to limit collection of back damages even when within the six-year period.

Look for the court to reverse the Federal Circuit’s ruling based upon the historic interplay between equity and law.  As in Petrella, I expect that the court will base its decision on the rule that that laches is a defense to equitable relief but does not limit the recovery of legal damages.  Although Petrella was 6-3, I expect that the dissenters will see the value in linking patent and copyright regimes.

= = = = =

The court also granted certiorari in Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands – that case focuses on the functionality doctrine in copyright law.  In particular focusing on copyrightability of the stripes and chevrons integrated into cheerleader uniforms. Question presented: What is the appropriate test to determine when a feature of a useful article is protectable under § 101 of the Copyright Act?

The petition outlines the ten-different-tests that folks use to determine whether the work of authorship is capable of being “identified separately from, and … existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”


Federal Circuit Continues Broad Venue Allowance in Patent Cases

by Dennis Crouch

In its petition for writ of mandamus, TC Heartland raised a set of interesting venue and personal jurisdiction claims – basically arguing that both the statute and Supreme Court precedent strongly limit where patent claims can be brought.

In its new decision, however, the Federal Circuit panel has rejected the petition – finding that “Heartland’s arguments are foreclosed by our longstanding precedent.”  This result was expected – likely even by Heartland’s counsel Prof John Duffy and Jim Dabney – and the long game has seemingly always been focused on en banc review and a potential supreme court review.  An eventual win by Heartland would result in a major shake-up of patent litigation by greatly reducing the concentration of patent cases – especially those in the Eastern District of Texas.

The basic setup:

Heartland alleged that it is not registered to do business in Delaware, has no local presence in Delaware, has not entered into any supply contracts in Delaware or called on any accounts there to solicit sales. But Heartland admitted it ships orders of the accused products into Delaware pursuant to contracts with two national accounts.

Based upon this setup, Heartland argues (1) that it does not “reside” in Delaware for venue purposes according to 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b); and (2) that Delaware district court lacks specific personal jurisdiction over it for this civil action.

Unfortunately for Heartland, these same arguments were raised and resolved by VE Holding Corp. v. Johnson Gas Appliance Co., 917 F.2d 1574 (Fed. Cir. 1990).  Although Heartland presented an argument that an amendment to the statute overruled VE Holdings, that argument was flimsy and rightly rejected by the appellate panel.  Rather, the real argument – now to be presented en banc – is that VE Holdings was wrongly decided and represents a misinterpretation of both the statute and Supreme Court precedent.

I previously explained the primary argument as follows:

In the dispute, Heartland has asked the court to reconsider its interpretation of the patent venue statute 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) and order that the limiting elements of the provision be given effect.  Under the proposed interpretation, a patent infringement case could only be filed in districts either (1) the defendant resides or (2) the defendant has both committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business. This proposal stems directly from the language of 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) which requires either (1) residency or (2)  a combination of infringing acts plus a regular-place-of-business as a prerequisite to proper patent venue. For the past several decades the limits of § 1400(b) have been given essentially no weight after being undermined by 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c). This broadened provision undermines § 1400(b) by providing a very broad definition of the term “resides” — indicating that that “except as otherwise provided by law,” a defendant will be deemed to “reside” in any venue where the defendant is subject to that court’s personal jurisdiction in the action at hand. When § 1400(b) and § 1391(c) are read together, it appears that patent cases can be filed in any venue with personal jurisdiction over the defendant.  The point of the TC Heartland mandamus action is that those two provisions should not be read together, but instead, the more traditional and limited definition of “residency” should apply when interpreting 1400(b).

On TC Heartland’s side is Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U.S. 222 (1957).  In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that “28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) is the sole and exclusive provision controlling venue in patent infringement actions, and that it is not to be supplemented by the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c).”  This statement was reiterated by the Supreme Court in Brunette Mach. Works Ltd. v. Kockum Indus., Inc., 406 U.S. 706 (1972) (“Congress placed patent infringement cases in a class by them-selves, outside the scope of general venue legislation.”).  Congress then amended the statute which led the Federal Circuit to hold that Fourco no longer held sway.




Federal Circuit Rejects Reduced-Deference for AIA-Trial Decisions

by Dennis Crouch

En banc denials in Merck & Cie v. Gnosis (Fed. Cir. 2016) and S. Alabama Medical v. Gnosis (Fed. Cir. 2016)

The Federal Circuit has denied en banc review of decisions in four inter partes review proceedings brought by Gnosis. Federal Circuit had previously affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s IPR determination that the challenged Merck and SAMSF patent claims were invalid as obvious.[1]

The petitions focused on the standard-for-review of factual findings made by the PTAB. The appellate panel applied the “substantial evidence” standard that requires affirmance of challenged factual findings when those conclusions are based upon “more than a mere scintilla” of evidence.  The Supreme Court has restated this standard only requiring that “a reasonable mind might accept [the evidence] as adequate to support [the] conclusion.”  In the appeal, the patentees agreed it is appropriate that PTAB factual conclusions be given deference. However, the patentees argued that the standard should be “clear error” – a lower level of deference.  A way to think about the difference between the two of these is to consider that factual findings by a jury are generally reviewed for substantial evidence (higher deference) while a judge’s factual findings are reviewed for clear error (lower deference).

In most administrative law areas, agency factual determinations are reviewed for substantial evidence.  However, the patentees here argued that the litigation-like setup in this case calls for a litigation-like standard of review, i.e., clear error.  Thus, the primary question presented:

Should PTAB factual findings be reviewed for “clear error” or “substantial evidence” in an appeal of a final written decision in an inter partes review?

In an 11-1 split, the Federal Circuit has denied en banc rehearing on this issue.  Judge O’Malley (joined by Judges Wallach and Stoll) offered her opinion explaining the denial.  Judge Newman dissented.

Judge O’Malley’s opinion appears to be designed to set-up Supreme Court review (if Cuozzo wins its case) or Congressional action.  She writes:

I agree that application of the substantial evidence standard of review is seemingly inconsistent with the purpose and content of the AIA. This court is bound by binding Supreme Court precedent—Dickinson v. Zurko, 527 U.S. 150 (1999)—and this court’s own—In re Gartside, 203 F.3d 1305 (Fed. Cir. 2000)—to apply the substantial evidence standard of review to factual findings by the Board, however. Because Congress failed to expressly change the standard of review employed by this court in reviewing Board decisions when it created IPR proceedings via the AIA, we are not free to do so now. I, thus, concur in the denial of en banc rehearing in this case because there is nothing that could come of our en banc consideration of the question posed. I write separately, however, because I agree with the dissent to the extent it argues that a substantial evidence standard of review makes little sense in the context of an appeal from an IPR proceeding. But the question is one for Congress.

Judge Newman argues that the trial-like setup of the AIA proceedings allows for an important distinction from the Zurko and Gartside decision that requires a full reconsideration of the standards applied to PTAB determinations.

= = = = =

[1] Merck owns U.S. Patent No. 6,011,040; and SAMSF owns U.S. Patent Nos. 5,997,915, 6,673,381, and 7,172,778 that are licensed to Merck.  The patents relate to methods of using folate to lower a patent’s homocysteine level.

The Gatekeeping Function of Patent Eligibility as Part of a More Complete Understanding of § 101 Principles

Guest Post by Bruce Wexler and Edwin Mok

From a review of the opinions expressed in the majority decision and rehearing denial in Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc., 788 F.3d 1371, reh’g en banc denied, 809 F.3d 1282 (Fed. Cir. 2015), petition for cert. filed (No. 15-1182, Mar. 21, 2016), and in the briefs filed by various parties in relation to Sequenom Inc.’s petition for writ of certiorari, we can see several different viewpoints emerge with respect to the case.  Some express the viewpoint that the case reached the wrong outcome, either because the Court (a) misunderstood the facts relating to the invention or patent, (b) misapplied existing § 101 principles, or (c) both.  Others express the viewpoint that the case reached the right outcome, either because the Court (a) correctly applied § 101 principles, or (b) incorrectly did so but would have reached the same outcome under a correct analysis.  And there are also some who express the viewpoint that the case correctly applied current § 101 eligibility principles but still reached a wrong outcome, such that § 101 requires a serious overhaul, or should be done away with altogether as a patentability criterion.  In this article, we do not take a position on any of these viewpoints.  Rather, we write to shed more light on the gatekeeping function of patent eligibility which we see permeating judicial decisions on § 101, making it worthy of careful contemplation when considering any one of the positions expressed above.

Analysis of § 101 patent eligibility generally involves discourse using the term “preemption.”  The Supreme Court, for example, has described preemption as driving the exclusionary principle under § 101.  Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S.Ct. 2347, 2354 (2014); see also Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Labs. Inc., 132 S.Ct. 1289, 1294 (2012) (“[Our precedents] warn us against upholding patents that claim processes that too broadly preempt the use of a natural law.”).  But, at the same time, we see in the cases that complete preemption by a patent claim—in the sense of a claim so broad it just recites an abstract idea or natural phenomenon—has not been the sine qua non of patent ineligibility.  For example, we have seen the Supreme Court reject eligibility arguments that merely contend that the claim in fact recites some physical structure, and so does not completely preempt the underlying abstract idea or natural phenomenon itself (putting aside for the moment what that structure is).  The late Chief Judge Archer explained why such arguments are unsatisfactory in a dissent he authored over twenty years ago in In re Alappat, 33 F.3d 1526 (Fed. Cir. 1994), in which he opposed the patentability per se of a mathematical algorithm just because the claim referenced generic computing structures.  His reasoning was strikingly similar to that appearing more recently in Mayo.  As Chief Judge Archer observed, if patent eligibility was necessarily satisfied by reciting any physical structure, then Diamond v. Diehr would have been a much shorter opinion, and Flook and Benson would have come out the other way.  Alappat, 33 F.3d at 1557.  Alice too would have come out the other way, since some of the claims there recited generic computing structures.  See Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2358-59 (“There is no dispute that a computer is a tangible system (in § 101 terms, a ‘machine’) . . . [b]ut if that were the end of the § 101 inquiry, an applicant could claim any principle of the physical or social sciences by reciting a computer system configured to implement the relevant concept.”).

A way to make sense of this situation is to consider the gatekeeping function that § 101 plays within the patent law, also discussed within the Supreme Court cases but at times in a more subtle way.  To understand this function more clearly, we can look to the hypothetical discussed by Chief Judge Archer to explain how § 101, when correctly applied, “lays the predicate for the other provisions of the patent law.”  Alappat, 33 F.3d at 1553.  This hypothetical illustrates that, but for § 101 eligibility principles, a patent could be awarded for originating a new musical composition—something generally agreed to be outside the subject of patent law—by claiming the song in a generic physical form such as a CD (it was the 1990s, after all).  Id. at 1553-54.  Assuming the musical composition was original, the physical structure of the CD would contain a unique assembly of pits and lands specific to that new piece of music, and thus it would be a composition of matter that is structurally novel under § 102.  And because “the patent law cannot examine music for ‘nonobviousness,’ the Patent and Trademark Office could not a make a showing of obviousness under § 103” (which it would be their burden to do).  Id. at 1554.  And even if they could examine this question, the PTO examiners ought not to be judging musical compositions for obviousness (e.g., imagine patent examiners charged with determining whether a guitar lick or chord progression is obvious under patent law).  The result of allowing through the eligibility gate a claim reciting a CD (or equivalent generic structure) embodying the new song could be patent exclusivity granted for discovering a new musical composition.  Chief Judge Archer posited that § 101 acts as a gatekeeper to prevent such discoveries from being eligible themselves for analysis of patentability under the remaining patent law provisions.

The Supreme Court has also discussed this gatekeeping aspect of patent eligibility.  In Mayo, the Court rejected the government’s argument as an amicus that “virtually any step beyond a statement of a law of nature itself should transform an unpatentable law of nature into a potentially patentable application sufficient to satisfy § 101’s demands.”  Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1303.  In so doing, the Court discussed the limitations of patent law’s other provisions to judge ineligible subject matter:

We recognize that, in evaluating the significance of additional steps, the § 101 patent-eligibility inquiry and, say, the § 102 novelty inquiry might sometimes overlap.  But that need not always be so.  And to shift the patent-eligibility inquiry entirely to these later sections risks creating significantly greater legal uncertainty, while assuming that those sections can do work that they are not equipped to do.

Id. at 1304 (concluding that §§ 102, 103, and 112 cannot “substitute . . . for the better established inquiry under § 101”).  The Court recognized that the presence of a law of nature in a claim would not be entirely ignored when analyzing novelty and nonobviousness, since it is indeed an aspect of the claimed invention.  Id.  In other words, the entirety of the claimed subject matter that passes through the eligibility gate is evaluated for novelty and nonobviousness.  This operation of the patent law is viewed as supporting a need for an eligibility inquiry up front, which asks whether the invention as described and claimed by the patentee as a whole resides in something more than just the new idea or law of nature itself, so that it is appropriate to allow the claim as a whole to be judged by the remaining substantive patentability provisions.  And, from this perspective, we can also understand how very basic questions of a patent’s stated novelty for the claimed subject matter, and the breadth of the claim, can impact how the eligibility question is answered.  See, e.g., id. at 1295, 1297-98; Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2359-60; Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2107, 2116-19 (2013).

Chief Judge Archer’s hypothetical in dissent wound up playing out in the area of business method patents.  The Federal Circuit’s decision in State St. Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Fin. Grp., Inc., 149 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1998), having as a foundation the majority opinion in Alappat, opened the floodgates for patenting new methods of conducting business.  Seismic changes in the way banking was done during the late 1980s (see The Big Short for a dramatization of that happening) fostered this eventual patenting explosion.  Although these patents generated controversy, it would take over a decade and a half, until Alice, for the Supreme Court to rule that inventions residing in a way of doing banking business were simply beyond the realm of patent law, even where the claims recited generic computing structures.  See Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2360.  This decision has dramatically changed how lower courts look at business method patents.  See, e.g., Ultramercial, Inc. v. Hulu, LLC, 772 F.3d 709 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (reversing its own two pre-Alice rulings that had upheld validity, and finding the patents in suit to be ineligible).

Currently, the gateway through which a proposed invention must pass is based on Supreme Court precedent, including the Mayo ruling.  In close cases, the § 101 principles may not be so easy to apply, especially since inventions generally speaking are constituted from arrangements of physical forms, which call into operation laws of nature and natural principles, arriving at a useful result.  See, e.g., Alappat, 33 F.3d at 1551-52 (quoting G. Curtis, A Treatise on the Law of Patents for Useful Inventions at xxiii-xxv (4th ed. 1873)); cf. Graver Tank & Mfg. Co. v. Linde Air Products Co., 339 U.S. 605, 609-10 (1950) (underlying a claimed invention is its “way,” the physical form; “function,” the principles of operation; and “result,” the effect achieved).  Thus, the task of separating what is appropriate for the subject of patent law from what is not appears to inevitably demand a set of core principles, rather than a detailed recitation of rules that neatly answers every case in all technical areas.  Historical efforts by courts to construct rigid mechanical tests for eligibility have, after struggling and evolving, ultimately failed.  For example, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Federal Circuit’s predecessor court developed a series of rules for eligibility, which lengthened in name as subsequent cases recognized the need to address existing inadequacies—the so-called Freeman‑Walter‑Abele test—before it was finally rejected.  See, e.g., State St. Bank, 149 F.3d at 1374.  As Chief Judge Archer explained, “[w]ithout particular claimed subject matter in mind, it is impossible to generalize with bright line rules the dividing line between what is in substance [a patent-eligible application] versus merely the discovery of an abstract idea or law of nature or principle outside § 101.”  Alappat, 33 F.3d at 1554.  He observed that the copyright law has long lived with a similar tension in the idea/expression dichotomy (i.e., the principle that the expression of ideas can be protected by copyright but not ideas themselves).  Id. at 1554 n.15; see also 17 U.S.C. § 102(b).  However, as he explained, “[t]here are . . . answers in every § 101 case.”  Alappat, 33 F.3d at 1554.  One question that has arisen is whether the Federal Circuit’s more recent decision in Genetic Techs. Ltd. v. Merial L.L.C., Nos. 2015-1202, 2015-1203 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 8, 2016)—which stated (slip op. at 11) that it was effectively bound to its outcome by Ariosa, which was itself said to be compelled by Mayo in the opinion of Judge Lourie (Ariosa, 809 F.3d at 1284)—altogether signals an attempt to return to a set of bright-line rules, or whether these cases instead reflect a genuine acceptance and application of the Supreme Court’s § 101 principles on their specific facts.  Either way, the Supreme Court precedents are ultimately bookends for understanding how to apply the law of eligibility in any particular situation.

As we can therefore see, § 101’s gatekeeping role is not distinct from the provision’s policy purpose of preventing undue preemption.  A possible way to think about it is that if the Mayo test is properly applied, and the totality of claimed subject matter is allowed through the eligibility gate, then the law of novelty and nonobviousness and claim breadth should, for example, be operating on subject matter in a way that is appropriate under the patent law.  This is a way to make sense of the different outcomes in Diamond v. Diehr (finding eligible a claim to an improved rubber-curing process that involved use of a computer algorithm) and Parker v. Flook (finding ineligible a claim to a method for using an algorithm to adjust alarm limits).  See Alice, 132 S.Ct. at 2358.  From a practice standpoint, thinking about § 101’s gatekeeping function in relation to the totality of the claimed subject matter may in some cases serve as a useful check on understanding how a court may perceive the patent eligibility issue.  For example, if the novelty or nonobviousness analyses would devolve into an evaluation of the novelty or nonobviousness of an idea or natural phenomenon itself, without significantly more to that inquiry, that may indicate to the inventor, the patent examiner, or the court that the invention is treading near the borderline of patent-ineligible subject matter.  This is a more nuanced understanding than simply regarding Mayo as articulating a “two-part test,” without adequate recognition as to what that test is trying to do.

In our next post, we consider the different opinions in the denial of the petition for rehearing in Ariosa and particularly their expressed commentary on principles of patent eligibility.

Bruce Wexler is a partner, and Edwin Mok an associate, in the New York office of Paul Hastings.  Their practice focuses on patent litigation and trials.  Mr. Wexler is also an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law, where he teaches an advanced patent course.

Section 101 – Pivotal Moment for Clarity on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility

Guest post by Bart EppenauerMr. Eppenauer is the Managing Partner of the Seattle office of Shook Hardy & Bacon and former Chief Patent Counsel at Microsoft. In the interests of disclosure, Shook represents three of the many defendants/appellees in the McRo (Planet Blue) case discussed below. Mr. Eppenauer is not involved in that case.

We have reached a pivotal moment for the courts to provide more meaningful guidance on the contours of what actually is patent eligible subject matter (rather than what is not) and a workable framework for applying such guidance. A number of important cases are before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit involving patent subject matter eligibility in the wake of Alice v. CLS Bank Int’l and Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Labs. Given the high invalidation rate of patents on Section 101 grounds at the Supreme Court, Federal Circuit, U.S. District Courts, and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), interested stakeholders have justifiable concerns on the future value of patents involving software and life sciences, and the fallout this could have on American investment in these crucial industries.

On March 21, 2016, Sequenom, Inc. filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari seeking to overturn the Federal Circuit’s decision invalidating its pre-natal genetic testing patent as a patent ineligible natural law or phenomenon, in Sequenom, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. Ten days earlier, Versata Development Group also filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari challenging multiple findings by the Federal Circuit involving a Covered Business Method (CBM) Patent Review by the USPTO invalidating its software based hierarchical pricing engine patent. See Versata Development Group, Inc. v. SAP America, Inc. Petitions for Writ of Certiorari on subject matter eligibility were also filed in March in Cloud Satchel v. Barnes & Noble and Vehicle Intelligence Safety v. Mercedes-Benz USA. At the Federal Circuit, several important “abstract idea” cases are soon to be decided, including McRO (Planet Blue) v. Bandai Namco Games America on patents for automated lip synchronization of 3D animated characters, Intellectual Ventures v. Symantec involving malware and spam detection and email filtering patents, and Thales Visionix v. USA relating to a helmet mounted display system patent. Several of these cases could provide an excellent opportunity for the courts to provide more clarity on application of the Mayo/Alice test under Section 101.

The Sequenom case in particular may be the right case for the Supreme Court to reexamine the boundaries of Section 101, especially given the dramatic, if not unintended, impact that Mayo and Alice have had on subject matter eligibility decisions. At the heart of Sequenom, the Court has another opportunity to determine whether a novel method is patent eligible when it involves the research and discovery of naturally occurring phenomenon. Petitioner Sequenom asserts that the Court’s Mayo decision set out uncertain and indiscernible limits on Section 101 doctrine that has eroded trust in the patent system, such that the issue is “particularly life-threatening to life-science innovators.” (Petition p. 12). Several Federal Circuit judges seem to agree with this proposition. In his concurrence in affirming the district court’s decision under Section 101, Judge Linn remarked:

I join the court’s opinion invalidating the claims of the ’540 patent only because I am bound by the sweeping language of the test set out in Mayo…. In my view, the breadth of the second part of the test was unnecessary to the decision reached in Mayo. This case represents the consequence—perhaps unintended—of that broad language in excluding a meritorious invention from the patent protection it deserves and should have been entitled to retain.

In their concurrence on denial of rehearing en banc, Judges Lourie and Moore also strongly asserted that the Sequenom claims at issue were neither solely directed to a natural phenomenon, nor abstract, and “it is unsound to have a rule that takes inventions of this nature out of the realm of patent-eligibility on grounds that they only claim a natural phenomenon plus conventional steps, or that they claim abstract concepts.” But these judges agreed that the Federal Circuit panel “did not err in its conclusion that under Supreme Court precedent it had no option other than to affirm the district court.” And in his separate concurrence of denial of rehearing en banc, Judge Dyk noted:

Yet I share the concerns of some of my colleagues that a too restrictive test for patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 with respect to laws of nature (reflected in some of the language in Mayo) may discourage development and disclosure of new diagnostic and therapeutic methods in the life sciences, which are often driven by discovery of new natural laws and phenomena. This leads me to think that some further illumination as to the scope of Mayo would be beneficial in one limited aspect. At the same time I think that we are bound by the language of Mayo, and any further guidance must come from the Supreme Court, not this court.

Without question, Section 101 is no longer a “coarse filter” for subject matter eligibility, as many jurists and practitioners believe it should be. That is evident from the recent landscape of Section 101 decisions since Alice. Of the more than 250 federal court decisions invoking Section 101 since Alice, 70% of those cases have found the patent invalid. And at the Federal Circuit, DDR Holdings v. Hotels.com stands alone as the sole decision upholding the patent under Section 101 among 31 decisions since Alice. My optimistic view that DDR Holdings would forge a sensible path on software patents and that more decisions would follow this path has simply not proven true to date. Nonetheless, given that so many of the patents before the Federal Circuit involved simple financial or business practices or other non-technical practices implemented on generic computers, there still may be hope that DDR Holdings will provide the underpinnings for further decisions clarifying the eligibility of software technology inventions.

Perhaps the nearest opportunity for such a clarification lies in the McRO/Planet Blue case, where we can expect a decision at any time. The case has been noted as a case to watch on software patentability in that the patents at issue arguably utilize complex and specific computer-implemented techniques for automated lip synchronization of 3D animated characters. Based on questions and comments from the judges during oral argument, the Federal Circuit may view this case as involving a technology-based patent that will dictate a different outcome under the Mayo/Alice test than so many of the negative decisions on business method or ecommerce patents with token computer implementation.

It will most likely be several months for a decision in Intellectual Ventures v. Symantec as the Federal Circuit heard oral argument on April 6, 2016. Intellectual Ventures (IV) argues that its patents are designed to improve computer network security through novel approaches to malware and spam detection and email screening. As such, IV believes that their patents solve problems “specifically arising in the realm of computer technology” and DDR Holdings demonstrates that the patents are patent eligible. Symantec counters that the IV patents use generic computing technology to apply basic concepts such as using the Dewey decimal system on digital files or applying standard mail routing practices to email instead of postal mail. IV likely has a better argument that DDR Holdings should apply than many of the recent Federal Circuit decisions where that argument has failed, but I could see this case going either way.

The Thales Visionix case involves a patent for helmet-mounted display systems (HMDS) for use in defense and aerospace applications such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Unlike traditional heads-up display systems which require a pilot to look straight ahead at a display to read tactical information, a HMDS projects tactical information onto the interior visor of a pilot’s helmet. This frees the pilot from looking straight ahead at a fixed point to receive the displayed information. The claims at issue are not as specific as their intended application, yet recite a motion tracking system that includes inertial sensors and an element for receiving signals from the inertial sensors to determine orientation of a tracked object. The Court of Federal Claims judge applied Alice in a sweeping fashion and found claim 1 amounted to nothing more than a system of generic inertial sensors and a receiving element, and claim 22 as nothing more than an instruction to solve a navigation equation. In concluding that the ultimate concern under Section 101 is one of “preemption,” the judge found that the scope of the patent’s claims is insufficiently limited under Mayo and Diamond v. Diehr, and granted the motion for judgment on the pleadings. Frankly, I was quite surprised to see this decision, and believe that it is an unfortunate example of the Mayo/Alice framework taken to its extreme. Briefing is ongoing in the case, so a decision is months away.

We are at a critical juncture on defining the proper scope and application of Section 101. Unless the judiciary delineates a clearer framework for enabling meaningful patent protection in areas like biotech and software where America has been a technology leader, the U.S. could rapidly lose its competitive edge in these vital industries. Without this guidance, the U.S. will cement its recent reputation as even more restrictive and less open to patenting important new and potentially life-saving technologies than other jurisdictions such as China and Europe, which was unthinkable just a few years ago. It is critical that the Federal Circuit take the opportunity in one of these pending cases to provide meaningful guidance on the proper scope and contours of patent subject matter eligibility applied to software related technology. Even more importantly, the Supreme Court should agree to hear the Sequenom case and clarify (or revise) its Mayo/Alice test to ensure that meritorious inventions in life sciences and software remain patentable. While I don’t believe it is yet time to take legislative action, recent calls for the abolition of Section 101 entirely and dissatisfaction with application of the Mayo/Alice test is reaching a critical level. These key cases offer a significant opportunity to establish much-needed clarifications. Should this opportunity be missed, it is hard to see how Congressional action can be avoided.

Pending Supreme Court Patent Cases 2016 (April 18 Update)

by Dennis Crouch

Cuozzo: Prof Mann provides his preview of the April 25 oral arguments in Cuozzo v. Lee; and Cuozzo has filed its reply brief. Neither document address my the mootness concern regarding Cuozzo’s demand for an ordinary construction of claim terms rather than their broadest reasonable interpretation.  As far as I have seen, nothing in the record suggests that a change in claim interpretation standard would alter the PTO’s determination.

Following its April 15 Conference, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in a set of cases, including Vermont v. MPHJLimelight v. Akamai; Hemopet v. Hill’s Pet Nutrition; and Tas v. Beachy. In its April 1 Conference, the Court denied cert in Retirement Capital v. US Bancorp. That case had questioned whether subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 is a ground specified as a condition for patentability under 35 U.S.C. § 282(b)(2).

The only patent cases surviving the April 15 conference are (1) Interval Licensing v. Lee that asks the same question as Cuozzo: Can the Patent and Trademark Office appropriately apply the “broadest reasonable interpretation” standard in construing patent claims in post-grant validity challenges?; and (2) Medinol v. Cordis that focuses on whether “the equitable defense of laches [may be used to] bar legal claims for damages that are timely under the express terms of the Patent Act.”   Medinol is conceptually linked to the SCA Hygiene case that also raises the laches issue. The court will consider both cases in its April 22 conference and may likely couple the decision to grant/deny.  The court is also scheduled to consider Cloud Satchel (abstract idea eligibility) and Globus Medical (appellate jurisdiction) at Friday’s conference. Neither of these cases offer much hope for the respective petitioner.

In Cooper v. Lee, the US Government filed its brief opposing certiorari. The government argues that Cooper’s Article III challenge to the IPR system “lack’s merit.”

[P]atents are quintessential “public rights” whose issuance and cancellation Congress may permissible entrust to a non-Article III tribunal. . . . Pursuant to its constitutional authority to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” by establishing a patent system, Congress created the PTO – an agency with “special expertise in evaluating patent applications.” Kappos v. Hyatt, 132 S. Ct. 1690 (2012). It directed that agency to issue a patent if “it appears that the applicant is entitled to a patent” under standards set by federal law, 35 U.S.C. 131. Patents are accordingly rights that “exist only by virtue of statute.” Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, 229 n.5 (1964). They “dispose of public rights held by the government on behalf of the people.” Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 831, 849 n.2 (2015) (Thomas, J., dissenting).

The government also argues that the posture of the case lacks merits – in particular that Cooper’s collateral challenge to the procedures doesn’t work.  Cooper has argued that “inter partes review violates Article III of the Constitution by authorizing an Executive Branch agency, rather than a court, to invalidate a previously issued patent.”

Daniel Bohnen has filed a brief on behalf of UK’s Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) in support of the Sequenom v. Ariosa petition.   The brief argues that the court should look to “maintain international harmonisation in the law of patent-eligibility.”[AriosaCIPA].  More briefs in support of the petitioner are expected this week as is Ariosa’s opposition brief (if any).

Finally, Nova has filed its opposition in Dow v. Nova and is attempting to refocus attention on the merits of the indefiniteness decision rather than the procedure for reaching that decision.  The difference in question presented is interesting:

Dow: Whether factual findings underlying a district court’s determination on the definiteness of a patent claim under the Patent Act, 35 U.S.C. 112, like a district court’s factual findings underlying construction of a patent claim, are subject to appellate review only for clear error or substantial evidence rather than de novo review.

Nova: Whether the court of appeals correctly invalidated Dow’s patent claims as indefinite under 35 U.S.C. § 112.

Explaining its shift of the question, Nova argues that “Dow’s petition rests on a false premise that the Federal Circuit refuses to give deference to factual findings” that underlie the definiteness determination.  Nova is correct as to the Federal Circuit’s position — the only question here is whether the Supreme Court will order the appellate court to follow its own law in this case. [DowPetition][NovaOpposition]

The big list: (more…)

Judge Dyk’s Concurrence in the Denial of Rehearing En Banc in Sequenom

By Jason Rantanen

In preparing for a talk on recent developments in patent law that I’m giving in a few days at the Salishan Patent Conference, I went back and reread Judge Dyk’s opinion concurring in the Federal Circuit’s denial of rehearing en banc in Sequenom v. Ariosa (available here: 14-1139.Order.11-30-2015.1).  In my view, he hits the nail on the head with this one, framing the patent eligible subject matter issue as an issue of claim breadth.  I find his discussion particularly appealing because unlike many conventional critiques of the Supreme Court’s Mayo/Alice framework, Judge Dyk acknowledges that patent law is not limitless, and that patentable subject matter should not be completely unbounded, subject only to the constraints of §§ 102, 103 & 112.  Accepting this proposition frees Judge Dyk to articulate a conceptually coherent approach to patentable subject matter in the context of discoveries of natural laws, one that allows for valid claims in this space but which still imposes limits on what can be claimed.  When discovery of a natural law supplies the innovative aspect of the invention, Judge Dyk writes, claims should be limited to what the inventor has actually done:

“In my view, the breadth of the claim should be critical. Even when a patent applicant has demonstrated some particular utility for a newly discovered law of nature and reduced it to practice, the claim should be invalid unless narrowly tailored to the particular application of the law that has been developed. Claims that extend far beyond the utility demonstrated by the patent applicant and reduced to practice should be invalid, as they “too broadly preempt the use” of the underlying idea by others. Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1294; see also Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 191–92, 101 S.Ct. 1048, 67 L.Ed.2d 155 (1981). But, so long as a claim is narrowly tailored to what the patent applicant has actually invented and reduced to practice, there is limited risk of undue preemption of the underlying idea. In Myriad the Court noted, 133 S.Ct. at 2120, that an example of a meritorious claim might be claim 21 of Myriad’s U.S. Patent No. 5,753,441 (“the ′441 patent”), which was not at issue in the case and which Judge Bryson discussed in his concurring opinion on our court’s decision below, Ass’n for Molecular Pathology, 689 F.3d at 1348 (Bryson, J., concurring). Claim 21 of the ′441 patent covers a method of detecting any of several specific mutations in the BRCA1 gene, newly discovered by the patent applicant and shown to increase a person’s risk of developing particular cancers, using conventional methods. See In re BRCA1 & BRCA2, 774 F.3d at 765.

This approach appears also to be supported by Morse. The Supreme Court established in Morse that the extent to which a patentee can claim is the extent to which he has actually made some concrete use of the discovery and reduced it to practice. “The specification of this patentee describes his invention or discovery, and the manner and process of constructing and using it; and his patent … covers nothing more.” Morse, 56 U.S. at 119. Limiting patentees to narrow applications they have actually developed and reduced to practice would be in keeping with Mayo ‘s commandment that “simply appending *1292 conventional steps, specified at a high level of generality, to laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas cannot make those laws, phenomena, and ideas patentable.” Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1300 (emphasis added).

This proposed approach, limiting the scope of patents based on new discoveries to narrow claims covering applications actually reduced to practice, would allow the inventor to enjoy an exclusive right to what he himself has invented and put into practice, but not to prevent new applications of the natural law by others.5 This would ensure that the scope of the patent claims would not “foreclose[ ] more future invention than the underlying discovery could reasonably justify.” Id. at 1301. Limiting the scope of the patent also would avoid the problem that “the more abstractly [a process patent’s] claims are stated, the more difficult it is to determine precisely what they cover.” Mayo, 132 S.Ct. at 1302 (quoting Christina Bohannan & Herbert Hovenkamp, Creation without Restraint: Promoting Liberty and Rivalry in Innovation 112 (2012)).”

Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc., 809 F.3d 1282, 1291 (Fed. Cir. 2015).  Of course, I may be biased to agree with Judge Dyk here: I’ve long thought that Section 112(a) doesn’t do an adequate job, by itself, of limiting claim breadth. (And §112(b) only relates to claim clarity, a different issue than claim breadth.)  (c.f. fn 5 of Judge Dyk’s concurrence).

Battles between the PTO and Courts

The dispute between the University of Alabama, Paul Bryant Jr., and Houndstooth Mafia stems from the latter’s unlicensed use of a houndstooth pattern and other ‘marks’ that relate to the University and former legendary coach Bear Bryant.

Prior to the September 2013 federal complaint, Alabama & Bryant Jr. (the heir) had previously attempted to oppose Houndstooth Mafia’s trademark registration of the mark shown below. However, in a precedential opinion the TTAB sided with the Mafia – finding that the opposers’ failed to show (a) “acquired distinctiveness in their alleged Houndstooth Pattern”; (b) likely confusion as to source or sponsorship; or (c) that the mark is disparaging. As such, the TTAB dismissed with prejudice.


After losing at the board, the named plaintiffs filed the aforementioned trademark infringement and unfair competition lawsuit.

The parties eventually settled and, as part of the consent decree, the district court ordered vacatur of the TTAB decsion.  However, the TTAB refused take any action to vacate its prior decision, writing: “The Final Consent Judgment points to no legal error in our prior decision, and we have not been alerted to any aspect of the public interest that would be furthered by vacatur and would outweigh our initial determination of the precedential value of the prior decision.”

Back in the district court, Alabama then asked for and received a new order from the district court judge — this time expressly ordering the USPTO to vacate its prior determination.  The court wrote: “In June 2015, the TTAB essentially (and inexplicably) treated the court’s Order as a request, and issued a decision refusing to comply with this court’s Order.”

The court’s February 23, 2016 order was quite specific:

Within fourteen (14) days of this order, the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is ENJOINED TO AND SHALL VACATE its July 23, 2013 Opinion on Opposition No. 91187103, and otherwise take any further action necessary to effectuate this Order and the Court’s May 27, 2014 Final Consent Judgment, including permitting the HOUNDSTOOTH MAFIA & Design Application (Serial No. 77/342,852) to be registered on the Principal Register with the University as its owner.


The USPTO has complied with the order.  In a March 3 order, the TTAB issued an order vacating its prior decision and ordering that the HOUNDSTOOTH MAFIA mark be registered (and that its ownership be changed to Univ of Alabama). An April 5, 2016 the mark was registered.

Meanwhile . . . The USPTO has filed its notice of appeal with the 11th Circuit court of appeals its brief will be due May 3, 2016.  The agency is likely to challenge the district court’s power to order vacatur under U.S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall Partnership, 513 U.S. 18 (1994).


Adding Fuel to the Bonfire of Patents

Genetic Tech. v. Merial (Fed. Cir. 2016)

Lincoln famously explained the role of the patent system of adding “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”  In GTG, the court simplified the phrase by finding that genetic testing patents only value may be literally as fuel.

The decision by Judge Dyk and joined by Chief Judge Prost and Judge Taranto affirms a lower court’s dismissal on-the-pleadings of GTG’s patent infringement claim.[1]  The holding is that the claimed method for analyzing DNA for linkage disequilibrium is ineligible for as effectively claiming a law of nature.  The basic idea stems from the inventors discovery that coding regions (exons) typically correlate with “linked” certain non-coding regions (introns).

The parties agreed that claim 1 of the GTG ‘179 patent was representative for purposes of the eligibility issues. The claim encompasses methods of detecting a particularly genetic allele using the two step process of (1) amplifying and then (2) analyzing the linked intron region.

In analyzing the claims here, the court highlighted the similarity of the claims here to those in both Mayo v. Prometheus[2] and Ariosa v. Sequenom.[3]

The similarity of claim 1 to the claims evaluated in Mayo and Ariosa requires the conclusion that claim 1 is directed to a law of nature. . . .  The claim is directed to a natural law—the principle that certain non-coding and coding sequences are in linkage disequilibrium with one another. We hold that claim 1 is directed to unpatentable subject matter at the first step of the Mayo/Alice test. . . .

Claims directed to laws of nature are ineligible for patent protection when, “(apart from the natural laws themselves) [they] involve well-understood, routine, conventional activity previously engaged in by researchers in the field.” Mayo.

We conclude that the additional elements of claim 1 are insufficient to provide the inventive concept necessary to render the claim patent-eligible.

GTG is an Australian company that had previously sued a few dozen companies for infringing the ‘179 patent. The claims have been reexamined (at Merial’s request) and patentability confirmed.

= = = = =

[1] The courts found that claims 1-25 and 33-36 of U.S. Patent No. 5,612,179 are ineligible under Section 101.

[2] Mayo Collaborative Serv. v. Prometheus Lab., Inc., 132 S.Ct. 1289 (2012)

[3] Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc., 726 F.3d 1296 (Fed. Cir. 2013); rehearing en banc denied by Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc., 809 F.3d 1282 (Fed. Cir., Dec. 02, 2015); on petition for writ of certiorari (No. 15-1182, filed March 21, 2016).

Cardpool: Amending Claims in Reexam after Court Judgment of Invalidity

by Dennis Crouch

The timing of a settlement is sometimes really important for patentees — especially if a court is about to find your patent invalid.

Slightly complex story: In Cardpool v. Plastic Jungle, the district court ruled on summary judgment that Cardpool’s gift-card-exchange patent claims invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101 and dismissed the case with prejudice. U.S. Patent No. 7,494,048.  That decision was initially affirmed by the Federal Circuit in a R.36 Judgment Without Opinion. Shortly thereafter, however, the USPTO issued a reexamination certificate finding the claims (as amended in reexam) patentable (of course, the PTO did not consider eligibility but only novelty and nonobviousness).

The timing of the reexamination certificate gave Cardpool the opportunity to request rehearing from the Federal Circuit. The appellate court agreed and vacated its prior summary affirmance (although not the district court’s opinion) and remanded to the district court to consider the impact of the reexamination changes.

The parties apparently came to some agreement and thus on remand the parties jointly moved for the district court to vacate its invalidity judgment since the claims had been amended and since the PTO certificate issued before the appellate mandate. See Fresenius USA, Inc. v. Baxter Int’l, Inc., 721 F.3d 1330, 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2013).

However, the district court rejected the plea for vacatur — finding that the PTO decision does not “displace a district court judgment” and that it would be “against the public interest” to allow a patentee to overcome an invalidity judgment simply by “amending its invalid claims.”

No Vacation: Now, on appeal again, the Federal Circuit has affirmed the lower court ruling that vacatur is not necessary or proper:

The Supreme Court counsels that “vacatur must be decreed for those judgments whose review is . . . ‘prevented through happenstance’—that is to say, where a controversy presented for review has ‘become moot due to circumstances unattributable to any of the parties.’” U.S. Bancorp Mortg. Co. v. Bonner Mall P’ship, 513 U.S. 18, 23 (1994).

Here, the mootness is due to amendments made by the patentee.  As such, the appellate court refused to vacate the district court judgment.

= = = = =

Res Judicata: What is unclear here is the level of claim & issue preclusion that will apply going forward when Cardpool asserts the patent against some third party.  Claim 1 was found invalid by a final judgment. However, Claim 1 has now been amended.   Could Cardpool sue Plastic Jungle (or its assigns) on the revised Claim 1?  Could Cardpool sue an unrelated alleged infringer? Writing for the majority, Judge Newman suggests (but does not hold) that Cardpool will be able to do so:

On the facts and procedures of this case, the issue of validity of the reexamined claims remains to be addressed in any future proceeding. In the initial proceeding the original claims were adjudicated only on the ground of subject matter eligibility under section 101. As in Aspex, the effect of a prior judgment rendered on specific issues as applied to the original claims, depends on the facts and issues of the reexamination, and invokes equity as well as law.

I pulled-up the reexamined claims and found that they were extensively amended to require that the method be computer-implemented using a processor, computer program, data requests, validation process by the processor, etc.  I would be truly surprised, if these amendments are sufficient to overcome the Alice Corp. test for eligibility (as implemented).


Pending Supreme Court Patent Cases 2016 (April 1 Update)

by Dennis Crouch

Design Patent Damages: The Supreme Court has granted Samsung’s petition for writ of certiorari on the issue of design patent damages under 35 U.S.C. 289.  The statute allows for disgorgment of the infringer’s “total profit,” but the question is total-profit-as-to-what? Certainly not the entire company. The Federal Circuit has ruled that the total profit applies to the article of manufacture (here a mobile phone) while Samsung argues that the profit should be reduced to the profits associated with the component at issue (the screen). The Supreme Court rejected the second proposed issue of design patent scope.

No Standing for Cuozzo?: I wrote some about the standing and appellate jurisdiction issue in Cuozzo earlier this week.  [Link].  Up to now, Cuozzo has not explained how a Phillips claim construction would impact the outcome of its inter partes review.  Cuozzo’s reply brief may address that issue – either way they almost have to come-up at oral arguments under questioning from Justice Breyer or Justice Sotomayor.

Post Sale Restraints: A key new petition was filed in Impression Products v. Lexmark on the issue of patent exhaustion and the extent that a manufacturer can rely upon patent rights to create post-sale use requirements and restrictions and limits on international trade. [Link]. In Sequenom, v. Ariosa, the court is subtly asked to reconsider and scale-back the language of Mayo v. Prometheus.  The petition actually asks the court to stop mis-interpreting Mayo. [Link].  Vehicle Intelligence and Safety as well as Cloud Satchel also raise Section 101 challenges, but those cases are battling long odds.

Reviewing a Jury Verdict of Definiteness: New petition Dow v. Nova raises the interesting question regarding the standard for appellate review of factual findings that serve as the underlying basis for a definiteness determination. Based upon a logical extension of Teva v. Sandoz, those factual findings should be given deference even though the ultimate determination of definiteness is a question of law.  An important distinction from pure claim construction is that (as here) juries may be tasked with the job of ruling whether a claim is indefinite.  In that situation, the juries do not separate their factual conclusions from legal conclusions creating some amount of confusion.  The original Federal Circuit opinion cited to Teva, but not for its holding regarding deference. I would not be surprised by a GVR order from the Supreme Court asking the Federal Circuit to reconsider based upon that holding. [DowPetition].

Flexible Obviousness Test Does Not Apply to Secondary Indicia of Nonobviousness: In Cubist Pharma v. Hospira, the petitioner-patentee challenges the Federal Circuit’s increasingly bright line limits on secondary indicia of nonobviousness.  How do those limits mesh with the flexible doctrine outlined in Section 103 and explained by Deere and KSR.  [CubistPetition].

Did the AIA Shrink Federal Circuit Appellate Jurisdiction?: Finally, in Globus Medical, the question focuses on Federal Circuit jurisdiction over appeals in former-patent-cases, but where the only issue appealed is a non-patent issue.  This same issue was previously decided in favor of Federal Circuit jurisdiction. However, the AIA modified the language of the Federal Circuit appellate jurisdiction statute and opened the door to a re-visitation.  28 U.S.C. 1292.  However, the argument barely carries the weight of its linguistics if that.

Previously, the Federal Circuit had appellate jurisdiction over cases if the district court’s jurisdiction could at least in-part be traced to 28 U.S.C. 1338 (giving district court’s jurisdiction over patent cases). The AIA amended the statute to give appellate jurisdiction to the Federal Circuit in any “civil action arising under” the patent laws.  Since appellate jurisdiction ordinarily attaches at the notice-of-appeal filing stage, Globus Medical argues that former patent cases no longer “arise under” the patent laws once final judgment is issued and no patent questions are appealed.

Denials: Cert was denied in Daiichi Sankyo v Lee (term adjustment); ParkerVision (standard for setting aside jury verdict based upon errors in expert testimony); Biogen (district court jurisdiction over interferences post-AIA); Morales v. Square (eligibility); Joao Bock v. Jack Henry (eligibility); and BriarTek v. DeLorme (USITC preclusion issue).

The big list:

1. Petitions Granted:

2. Petitions Granted with immediate Vacatur and Remand (GVR)

3. Petitions for Writ of Certiorari Pending:

  • IndefinitenessThe Dow Chemical Company v. Nova Chemicals Corporation (Canada), et al., No. 15-1160 (standard for appellate review of jury verdict of definiteness that is inherently based upon the jury’s factual findings) [DowPetition]
  • Exhaustion: Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., No. 15-1189 (unreasonable restraints on downstream uses)
  • Obviousness: Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Hospira, Inc., No. 15-1210 (bright line limits on secondary indicia of nonobviousness) [CubistPetition]
  • Infringement by Joint EnterpriseLimelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc., et al., No. 15-993 (can a defendant be held liable for the collective performance of method steps by multiple independent parties?)
  • Post Grant Admin: Versata v. SAP, No. 15-1145 (scope of CBM review)
  • Post Grant AdminCooper v. Lee, No. 15-955 (whether IPRs violate Separation of Powers; two amici now filed in support)
  • Post Grant AdminClick-to-Call Tech, LP v. Oracale Corp., No. 15-1014 (Same questions as Cuozzo and now-dismissed Achates v. Apple)
  • 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 AdminInterval Licensing LLC v. Michelle K. Lee, No. 15-716 (Can the Patent and Trademark Office appropriately apply the “broadest reasonable interpretation” standard in construing patent claims in post-grant validity challenges?)
  • Post Grant Admin: Stephenson v. Game Show Network, LLC, et al., No. 15-1187 (is BRI proper for IPR validity challenges?; Same as Cuozzo) [GameShowNetworkPetition]
  • LachesMedinol Ltd. v. Cordis Corporation, et al., No. 15-998
  • LachesSCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag, et al. v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, et al., No. 15-927 (three amici filed in support)
  • 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).
  • Design Patents: Systems, Inc. v. Nordock, Inc., No. 15-978 (design patent damage calculations – similar issues as Samsung v. Apple)
  • InducementLife Technologies Corporation, et al. v. Promega Corporation, No. 14-1538 (whether an entity can “induce itself” under 271(f)(1))(CVSG, awaiting government brief)
  • Preclusion or JurisdictionVermont v. MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC, No. 15-838 (Federal court jurisdiction in anti-troll consumer protection case)
  • Preclusion or JurisdictionGlobus Medical, Inc. v. Sabatino Bianco, No. 15-1203 (Appellate jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit) [GlobusMedicalPetition]
  • Eligibility Challenges: Sequenom, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc., et al., No. 15-1182 (scope of the natural phenomenon eligibility exclusion)
  • Eligibility ChallengesRetirement Capital Access Management Company, LLC v. U.S. Bancorp, et al., No. 15-591 (Whether subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 is a ground specified as a condition for patentability under 35 U.S.C. § 282(b)(2))
  • Eligibility Challenges: Hemopet v. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., No. 15-1062 (natural phenom case of tailoring a diet to a pet’s genomic characteristics)
  • Eligibility Challenges: Cloud Satchel, LLC v. Barnes & Noble, Inc., et al., No. 15-1161 (abstract idea eligibility) [CloudSatchelPetition]
  • Eligibility Challenges: Vehicle Intelligence and Safety LLC v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, et al., No. 15-1201 (abstract idea eligibility) [VehicleIntelligencePetition]
  • Damages: Innovention Toys, LLC v. MGA Entertainment, Inc., et al., No. 15-635 (Stryker/Halo follow-on – potential wait-and-see)
  • DamagesWesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corporation, No. 15-1085 (consequential lost-profit damages for infringement under Section 271(f))
  • Written DescriptionTas v. Beach, No. 15-1089 (written description requirement for new drug treatments)

4. Petitions for Writ of Certiorari Denied or Dismissed:

  • Daiichi Sankyo Company, Ltd. v. Michelle K. Lee, No. 15-652 (Patent Term Adjustment – whether the 180 day deadline applies; could bleed into admin law issues)
  • Parkervision, Inc. v. Qualcomm Incorporated, No. 15-1092 (“Whether and under what circumstances an inconsistency in expert testimony permits a court to set aside a jury verdict and grant the losing party judgment as a matter of law.”)
  • Joao Bock Transaction Systems, LLC v. Jack Henry & Associates, Inc., No. 15-974 (defining an abstract idea)
  • Biogen MA, Inc. v. Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research, et al., No. 15-607 (Whether AIA eliminated federal district courts’ jurisdiction over patent interference actions under 35 U.S.C. § 146.)
  • BriarTek IP, Inc. v. DeLorme Publishing Company, Inc., et al., No. 15-1025 (Preclusive impact of ITC consent judgment).
  • Morales v. Square, No. 15-896 (eligibility under Alice)
  • ePlus, Inc. v. Lawson Software, Inc., No. 15-639 (what happens with a finally-determined permanent injunction after PTO cancels the patent claim?)
  • Media Rights Technologies, Inc. v. Capital One Financial Corporation, et al., No. 15-725 (Claim Construction: whether there a strong presumption against construing terms as subject to 35 U.S.C. § 112p6 that do not recite the term “means.”)
  • Alexsam, Inc. v. The Gap, Inc., No. 15-736 (appellate jurisdiction over patents that were dropped from case pre-trial)
  • Universal Lighting Technologies, Inc., v. Lighting Ballast Control LLC, No. 15-893 (intrinsic vs extrinsic evidence for claim construction).
  • STC, Inc. v. Global Traffic Technologies, No. 15-592 (Whether marking the packaging of a patented article with patent notification satisfies the marking provision of 35 U.S.C. § 287(a) where the patented article itself is undisputedly capable of being marked.)
  • Achates Reference Publishing, Inc. v. Apple Inc., et al., No. 15-842 (IPR institution decisions unreviewable, even when addressed in a final written decision by PTAB) [Note – This case was dismissed after being settled by the parties]
  • Alps South, LLC v. The Ohio Willow Wood Company, No. 15-567
  • Allvoice Developments US, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., No. 15-538
  • OIP Technologies, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 15-642
  • Fivetech Technology Inc. v. Southco, Inc., No. 15-381
  • Tyco Healthcare Group LP, et al. v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc., No. 15-115
  • Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., No. 15-561
  • Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Ltd., et al. v. Eidos Display, LLC, et al., No. 15-288
  • Kenneth Butler, Sr. v. Balkamp Inc., et al., No. 15-273
  • Arthrex, Inc. v. KFx Medical Corporation, No. 15-291
  • Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., et al., No. 15-559 (Commil re-hash – if actions were “not objectively unreasonable” can they constitute inducement?)
  • Daiichi Sankyo, Inc., et al. v. Apotex Inc., No. 15-281
  • Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Apotex Inc., No. 15-307
  • Luv N’ Care, Ltd. v. Munchkin, Inc., No. 15-242
  • Automated Merchandising Systems, Inc. v. Michelle K. Lee, Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office, No. 15-326
  • I/P Engine, Inc. v. AOL Inc., et al., No. 14-1358
  • Interval Licensing LLC v. AOL Inc., et al., No. 14-1362
  • Content Extraction and Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, National Association, et al., No. 14-1473
  • L. Gore & Associates, Inc. v. Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc., et al., No. 15-41
  • NetAirus Technologies, LLC v. Apple Inc., No. 14-1353
  • Muffin Faye Anderson v. Kimberly-Clark Corporation, No. 14-10337
  • MobileMedia Ideas LLC v. Apple Inc., No. 15-206
  • SpeedTrack, Inc. v. Office Depot, Inc. et al., No. 15-461 (Kessler doctrine)
  • Rodney K. Morgan, et al. v. Global Traffic Technologies LLC, No. 15-602
  • Lakshmi Arunachalam v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., No. 15-691

5. Prior versions of this report: