Justia Patents Opinion Summaries
Chemours Co. FC, LLC v. Daikin Industries, Ltd.
Daikin sought inter partes review of claims 1–7 of the 609 patent and of claims 3 and 4 of the 431 patent. The 609 patent relates to a unique polymer for insulating communication cables formed by pulling wires through melted polymer to coat and insulate the wires, a process called “extrusion.” Specifically, Chemours’s patents relate to a polymer with unique properties such that it can be formed at high extrusion speeds while still producing a high-quality coating on the communication cables. The claims provide that the polymer has a specific melt flow rate range, an indicator of how fast the melted polymer can flow under pressure, i.e., during extrusion. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board found all challenged claims of both patents to be unpatentable as obvious in view of the “Kaulbach” patent.The Federal Circuit reversed. The Board’s decision on obviousness is not supported by substantial evidence and the Board erred in its analysis of objective indicia of nonobviousness. The Board apparently ignored the express disclosure in Kaulbach that teaches away from the claimed invention and relied on teachings from other references that were not concerned with the particular problems Kaulbach sought to solve. View "Chemours Co. FC, LLC v. Daikin Industries, Ltd." on Justia Law
Bot M8 LLC v. Sony Corp. of America
Bot sued Sony, alleging infringement of six patents related to gaming. The district court held a case management conference, during which Bot agreed to file an amended complaint. The district court dismissed Bot's amended complaint as to the 540, 990, 988, and 670 patents and denied Bot’s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. As to the 363 patent, the district court granted Sony summary judgment, finding claim 1 invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101.The Federal Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. To the extent the district court characterized its colloquy with counsel during the case management conference as “directing” Bot to file a first amended complaint, there was no abuse of discretion, nor in dismissing Bot’s claims as to the 540 and 990 patents for failure to state a plausible claim of infringement. A plaintiff is not required to plead infringement on an element-by-element basis but there must be some factual allegations that, when taken as true, articulate why it is plausible that the accused product infringes the patent claim. With respect to the 988 and 670 patents, the district court erred in finding the infringement allegations insufficient. Claim 1 of the 363 patent is invalid under section 101. View "Bot M8 LLC v. Sony Corp. of America" on Justia Law
In re Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Ikorongo Texas was formed as a Texas LLC and, a month later, filed patent infringement complaints in the Western District of Texas. Although "Texas" claims to be unrelated to Ikorongo Tech, a North Carolina LLC, both are run out of the same North Carolina office; as of March 2020, the same five individuals “own[ed] all of the issued and outstanding membership interests” in both. "Tech" owns the patents at issue. Days before the complaints were filed, Tech assigned to Texas exclusive rights to sue for infringement and collect damages for those patents within specified parts of Texas while retaining those rights in the rest of the country. First amended complaints named both entities as co-plaintiffs and do not distinguish between infringement in the Western District of Texas and infringement elsewhere.The defendants moved under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) to transfer the suits to the Northern District of California, arguing that three of the five accused third-party applications were developed in and potential witnesses and sources of proof were located in Northern California while no application was developed or researched in and no sources of proof were in Western Texas. The court denied the motions, reasoning that Ikorongo Texas’s rights could not have been infringed in California.The Federal Circuit directed the lower court to grant the transfer motions. The case “might have been brought” in California; the presence of Ikorongo Texas is recent, ephemeral, and artificial—a maneuver in anticipation of litigation. The district court here assigned too little weight to the relative convenience of California and overstated concerns about judicial resources and inconsistent results; other public interest factors favor transfer. View "In re Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd." on Justia Law
Minerva Surgical, Inc. v. Hologic, Inc.
Truckai invented NovaSure to treat abnormal uterine bleeding using a moisture-permeable applicator head to destroy targeted cells. Truckai filed a patent application and assigned the application and future continuation applications, to his company, Novacept. Novacept and its patents and patent applications were acquired by Hologic. Truckai founded Minerva and developed a supposedly improved device to treat abnormal uterine bleeding, using a moisture-impermeable applicator head to remove cells. The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) issued a patent; the FDA approved the device for sale. Hologic filed a continuation application, seeking to add claims to its NovaSure patent--one claim encompassed applicator heads generally, without regard to whether they are moisture permeable. The PTO issued the altered patent.Hologic sued Minerva for infringement. Minerva argued that Hologic’s patent was invalid because the new claim did not match the written description. Hologic invoked the assignor estoppel doctrine: Because Truckai had assigned the original application, he and Minerva could not impeach the patent’s validity. The Federal Circuit agreed.The Supreme Court vacated. Assignor estoppel is a valid defense, based on the need for consistency in business dealings, but applies only when the assignor’s claim of invalidity contradicts explicit or implicit representations made in assigning the patent. Concerns with the assignor taking contradictory positions do not arise when an assignment occurs before an inventor can make a warranty as to specific claims, such as when an employee assigns to his employer patent rights in future inventions; when a later legal development renders irrelevant the warranty given at the time of assignment; and when a post-assignment change in patent claims can remove the rationale for applying assignor estoppel. The Federal Circuit failed to recognize these boundaries, deeming “irrelevant” the question of whether Hologic had expanded the assigned claims. If Hologic’s new claim is materially broader than what Truckai assigned, Truckai could not have warranted its validity. View "Minerva Surgical, Inc. v. Hologic, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Arthrex, Inc.
Administrative Patent Judges (APJs) conduct adversarial proceedings for challenging the validity of an existing patent before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), 35 U.S.C. 6(a), (c). The Secretary of Commerce appoints PTAB members, including APJs, except the Director, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. APJs concluded that Arthrex’s patent was invalid. The Federal Circuit concluded that the APJs were principal officers who must be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate; their appointment was unconstitutional. To remedy this violation, the court invalidated the APJs’ tenure protections, making them removable at will by the Secretary.The Supreme Court vacated. The unreviewable authority wielded by APJs during patent review is incompatible with their appointment by the Secretary to an inferior office. Inferior officers must be “directed and supervised at some level by others who were appointed by Presidential nomination with the advice and consent of the Senate.” While the Director has administrative oversight, neither he nor any other superior executive officer can directly review APJ decisions. A decision by the APJs under his charge compels the Director to “issue and publish a certificate” canceling or confirming patent claims he previously allowed. Given the insulation of PTAB decisions from executive review, APJs exercise power that conflicts with the Appointments Clause’s purpose “to preserve political accountability.”Four justices concluded that section 6(c) cannot constitutionally be enforced to prevent the Director from reviewing final APJ decisions. The Director may review final PTAB decisions and may issue decisions on behalf of the Board. Section 6(c) otherwise remains operative. Because the source of the constitutional violation is the restraint on the Director’s review authority not the appointment of APJs, Arthrex is not entitled to a hearing before a new panel. View "United States v. Arthrex, Inc." on Justia Law
Yu v. Apple Inc.
Yu sued for infringement of the 289 patent, titled “Digital Cameras Using Multiple Sensors with Multiple Lenses.” The district court dismissed the suit with prejudice after concluding that each asserted claim was patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101. The court found that the asserted claims were directed to “the abstract idea of taking two pictures and using those pictures to enhance each other in some way.” The court explained that “photographers ha[ve] been using multiple pictures to enhance each other for over a century” and that the asserted claims lack an inventive concept, noting “the complete absence of any facts showing that the [claimed] elements were not well-known, routine, and conventional.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. The claimed hardware configuration itself is not an advance and does not itself produce the asserted advance of enhancement of one image by another, which is an abstract idea. View "Yu v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law
Chandler v. Phoenix Services LLC
In 2006 Heat On-The-Fly began using a new fracking technology on certain jobs. Heat’s owner later filed a patent application regarding the process but failed to disclose 61 public uses of the process that occurred over a year before the application was filed. This application led to the 993 patent. Heat asserted that patent against several parties. In 2014, Phoenix acquired Heat and the patent. Chandler alleges that enforcement of the 993 patent continued in various forms. In an unrelated 2018 suit, the Federal Circuit affirmed a holding that the knowing failure to disclose prior uses of the fracking process rendered the 993 patent unenforceable due to inequitable conduct.Chandler filed a “Walker Process” monopolization action under the Sherman Act, which required that the antitrust-defendant obtained the patent by knowing and willful fraud on the patent office and maintained and enforced that patent with knowledge of the fraudulent procurement, and proof of “all other elements necessary to establish a Sherman Act monopolization claim.” The Federal Circuit transferred the case to the Fifth Circuit, which has appellate jurisdiction over cases from the Northern District of Texas. The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction because this case does not arise under the patent laws of the United States. View "Chandler v. Phoenix Services LLC" on Justia Law
SpeedTrack, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc.
SpeedTrack’s 360 patent discloses a “computer filing system for accessing files and data according to user-designated criteria.” The patent explains that prior-art systems “employ a hierarchical filing structure” and “emulate commonly[ ]used paper filing systems” in that they “organize data into files (analogous to papers in a paper filing system) and directories (analogous to file folders and hanging files).” According to the patent, such systems could “become very cumbersome.” According to the patent, prior-art solutions presented additional drawbacks. The 360 patent discloses a method that uses “hybrid” folders, which “contain those files whose content overlaps more than one physical directory” and “allows total freedom from the restrictions imposed by hierarchical and other present-day computer filing systems.”SpeedTrack sued various retail website operators, alleging infringement of the patent. The Federal Circuit affirmed the stipulated judgment of noninfringement based on the district court’s construction of the term “hierarchical limitation.” View "SpeedTrack, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law
Hyatt v. Hirshfeld
Until 1995, a patent’s term was 17 years from the date of issuance, which incentivized certain patentees to delay by abandoning applications and filing continuing applications in their place to obtain patents at a financially desirable time. In 1995, changes in the law triggered a patent application rush. Hyatt, the named inventor on 399 patent applications, bulk-filed 381 applications during that "bubble," each a photocopy of an earlier application. Four applications relate to computer technologies, claim priority to applications filed in the 1970s and 1980s, and are atypically long and complex. Hyatt filed multiple amendments. From 2003 to 2012, the PTO stayed the examination of many of Hyatt’s applications pending litigation. The Board of Patent Appeals affirmed the rejection of the four applications.Hyatt filed suit under 35 U.S.C. 145. The district court ordered the PTO to issue the patents.The Federal Circuit vacated. Prosecution laches may “render a patent unenforceable when it has issued only after an unreasonable and unexplained delay in prosecution that constitutes an egregious misuse of the statutory patent system under a totality of the circumstances” and is a defense available to the PTO in an action to obtain a patent. The district court erred in concluding that the PTO failed to prove prosecution laches. Rather than analyze the evidence of Hyatt’s conduct, the court repeatedly placed blame on the PTO. The court held the issues invalidity for anticipation and lack of written description.in abeyance. View "Hyatt v. Hirshfeld" on Justia Law
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. v. United States International Trade Commission
Bio-Rad’s patents relate to the generation of microscopic droplets, contiguous fluid that is encapsulated within a different fluid, by using a microfluidic chip. Typically, the inner fluid is water-based, while the outer fluid is oil. The patents arise out of research conducted by inventors at QuantaLife. In 2011, Bio-Rad purchased QuantaLife, acquiring QuantaLife’s patent rights. The inventors became employees of Bio-Rad and executed assignments of their rights to applications that later issued as the 664, 682, and 635 patents. Soon after Bio-Rad acquired QuantaLife, three inventors left Bio-Rad to start 10X, which has developed technology and products in the field of microfluidics, with the goal of achieving DNA and RNA sequencing at the single-cell level. Bio-Rad alleged that 10X violated the Tariff Act, 19 U.S.C. 1337, by importing into the U.S. certain microfluidic chips. The Trade Commission concluded that 10X did not infringe the 664 patent by importing its “Chip GB” but infringed the 664, 682, and 635 patents by importing its “GEM Chips.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. The construction of the term “droplet generation region” is consistent with the intrinsic evidence; substantial evidence established that the use of 10X’s GEM chips directly infringes the asserted claims. Bio-Rad proved the elements of induced and contributory infringement of the 682 and 635 patents with respect to the GEM Chips. View "Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. v. United States International Trade Commission" on Justia Law