Justia Patents Opinion Summaries

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In an earlier appeal from inter partes review, the Federal Circuit vacated-in-part the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s decision denying Nike’s motion to amend and remanded for the Board to address errors underlying its conclusion that Nike’s proposed substitute claims 47–50 were unpatentable for obviousness. On remand, the Board denied Nike’s request to enter substitute claims 47–50 of its patent on the ground that those claims are unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. 103. Nike asserts that the Board violated the notice provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act by finding that a limitation of substitute claim 49 was well-known in the art based on a prior art reference that, while in the record, was never cited by Adidas for disclosing that limitation. Nike also challenged the Board’s finding that Nike’s evidence of long-felt but unmet need was insufficient to establish the nonobviousness of substitute claims 47–50. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. Substantial evidence supports the finding that Nike failed to establish a long-felt need for substitute claims 47–50. The court vacated in part. No notice was provided for the Board’s theory of unpatentability for substitute claim 49. View "Nike, Inc. v. Adidas AG" on Justia Law

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Nevro sued, alleging infringement of 18 claims across seven patents that are directed to high-frequency spinal cord stimulation therapy for inhibiting pain. Conventional spinal cord stimulation systems deliver electrical pulses to the spinal cord to generate sensations, such as tingling or paresthesia, that mask or otherwise alter the patient’s pain. The claimed invention purportedly improves conventional spinal cord stimulation therapy by using waveforms with high-frequency elements or components, which are intended to reduce or eliminate side effects. The district court issued a joint claim construction and summary judgment order, holding certain claims invalid as indefinite. As to the remaining six claims, found not indefinite, the court granted summary judgment of noninfringement. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded. The district court erred in holding invalid as indefinite the “paresthesia-free” system and device terms and in holding indefinite the claims reciting the term “configured to.” The Federal Circuit construed “configured to” to mean “programmed to” and construed “means for generating” as a means-plus-function term, having a function of “generating” and a structure of “a signal/pulse generator configured to generate” the claimed signals. The district court erred in its claim construction but correctly determined that the term “therapy signal” does not render the claims indefinite; a “therapy signal” is “a spinal cord stimulation or modulation signal to treat pain.” View "Nevro Corp. v. Boston Scientific Corp." on Justia Law

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Valeant’s patent claims stable methylnaltrexone pharmaceutical preparations; methylnaltrexone, a quaternary amine opioid antagonist derivative, can be useful for reducing the side effects of opioids but is unstable in aqueous solution. The inventors discovered that when the pH of a methylnaltrexone solution is adjusted, the percentage of total degradants drops significantly. The patent is listed in the Orange Book for Relistor®, an injectable drug used to treat constipation as a side effect of taking opioid medication. Mylan filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application seeking FDA approval to market a generic version of Relistor®. Mylan conceded that its ANDA product would infringe claim 8 of the patent. The district court entered the parties’ stipulation to the construction of claim 8’s stability limitation: the phrase “the preparation is stable to storage for 24 months at about room temperature” means “the methylnaltrexone degradation products in the preparation do not exceed 2.0% of the total methylnaltrexone present in the preparation and the preparation is suitable for pharmaceutical use when stored for 24 months at room temperature” and granted summary judgment that claim 8 would not have been obvious. The court rejected Mylan’s expert testimony and cited references and Mylan’s theory that the claimed pH range would have been obvious to try. The Federal Circuit reversed. Mylar raised at least a prima facie case of obviousness. The district court’s obvious-to-try analysis is inconsistent with precedent. View "Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc." on Justia Law

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SF’s 329 patent is directed to an improved process for preparing high-molecular-weight polymers for use as super-absorbers in fields such as waste treatment and paper manufacturing. The district court entered summary judgment that certain claims were invalid as anticipated and that another was invalid as obvious. The court concluded that a process performed by a third party, Celanese’s “Sanwet® Process,” evidenced prior art knowledge and use of the patented invention under 35 U.S.C. 102(a), and constituted both a public-use bar and an on-sale bar to the patented invention under 35 U.S.C. 102(b). The Federal Circuit reversed. The district court misinterpreted section 102(a) and the public-use bar of section 102(b); under the proper legal standard, genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. The “known or used” prong of 102(a) means “knowledge or use which is accessible to the public.” Members of the public had access to the plant, where they could view the shape of the conical taper; no evidence suggests that any of these guests was a skilled artisan. The parties dispute whether the remaining elements of the Sanwet® Process were known, and to the extent they were not, whether they were concealed from the public on these tours, in newspaper articles, and in the commemoration video. View "BASF Corp. v. SNF Holding Co." on Justia Law

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The 968 patent is directed to replacement light-emitting diode (LED) light fixtures and seeks to minimize the need for customization by creating “low profile downlighting for retrofit applications” that accommodates various housing shapes and sizes. TCP petitioned for inter partes review of several claims. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board determined that TCP did not demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that claims 1–4, 6, 14, and 15 were anticipated by the “Chou” patent or that claims 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 16, 17, and 19–23 would have been obvious over Chou alone or in view of other prior art. The Board based its determinations exclusively on its finding that Chou does not disclose a single limitation (H/D limitation) in claims 1 and 20 of the 968 patent, the only independent claims at issue. The Federal Circuit vacated as to claims 2– 4, 6–8, 12, and 16. The Board’s determination that Chou does not disclose the H/D limitation in claim 1 of the 968 patent is not supported by substantial evidence. The Board’s conclusions regarding the H/D limitation resulted from an erroneous interpretation of the claim language and a misunderstanding of case law. The Board did not address any other arguments regarding the other limitations of claim 1 or of the rest of the challenged claims. View "Technical Consumer Products, Inc. v. Lighting Science Group Corp." on Justia Law

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Intellisoft sued Acer in California state court, asserting state law claims, including misappropriation of trade secrets. After more than three years of litigation, Acer sought to plead a patent inventorship counterclaim under federal law and thereafter removed the action to a federal district court, which denied Intellisoft’s motion to remand and later entered final judgment in favor of Acer. The Federal Circuit reversed. Removal was not proper under 28 U.S.C. 1441. Acer’s arguments do not establish that Intellisoft’s trade secret claim necessarily raised patent law issues. Intellisoft did not need to establish patent infringement to prove trade secrets misappropriation. A plaintiff’s reliance on a patent as evidence to support its state law claims does not necessarily require the resolution of a substantial patent question. Removal was not proper under section 1454, which requires that the claim supporting removal must be contained in an operative pleading. Acer’s cross-complaint was not operative, the counterclaim was never “asserted” under section 1454. View "Intellisoft, Ltd. v. Acer America Corp." on Justia Law

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Myco believed its competitor, BlephEx, made false and misleading statements about Myco’s product and whether it infringed BlephEx’s patent, entitled “Method and Device for Treating an Ocular Disorder.” The district court preliminarily enjoined BlephEx from making allegations of patent infringement and from threatening litigation against Myco’s potential customers. The Federal Circuit reversed. Federal law requires a showing of bad faith before a patentee can be enjoined from communicating his patent rights. A showing of “bad faith” must be supported by a finding that the claims asserted were objectively baseless. There was no adequate basis to conclude that allegations of patent infringement would be false or misleading. Even if the injunction were narrowly tailored to allegations of infringement and threats of litigation against Myco’s potential customers, the “medical practitioner immunity” provision of 35 U.S.C. 287(c) does not blanketly preclude a patent owner from stating that a medical practitioner’s performance of a medical activity infringes a patent. Myco asked the court to assume, without any supporting evidence, that a doctor would have interpreted general statements as an accusation of patent infringement and a threat of litigation against the doctor herself. View "Myco Industries, Inc. v. Blephex, LLC" on Justia Law

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Windy CIty’s patents share a common specification and are generally related to methods for communicating over a computer-based network. Exactly one year after being served with Windy City’s infringement complaint, Facebook timely petitioned for inter partes review (IPR). Windy City had not yet identified the specific claims it was asserting in the infringement proceeding. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board instituted IPR. After Windy City identified the claims it was asserting in the infringement litigation, Facebook filed two additional petitions for IPR of additional claims and motions for joinder to the already instituted IPRs. The one-year time bar of 35 U.S.C. 315(b) had passed. The Board nonetheless instituted new IPRs and granted joinder, then held that Facebook had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that some of the challenged claims, including several claims only challenged in the later-joined proceedings, are unpatentable as obvious but had failed to show that others were unpatentable. The Federal Circuit vacated in part. The Board erred in allowing Facebook to join itself to a proceeding in which it was already a party and in allowing Facebook to add new claims to the IPRs through that joinder. The court held that the obviousness determinations on the originally instituted claims are supported by substantial evidence. View "Facebook, Inc. v. Windy City Innovations, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 1996, two doctors discovered cell-free fetal DNA in maternal plasma and serum, previously discarded as medical waste. In 2001, they obtained a patent, claiming a method for detecting the small fraction of paternally inherited cell-free fetal DNA in the plasma and serum of a pregnant woman. In 2015, the Federal Circuit (Ariosa) held that the patent's claims were invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101, as directed to “matter that is naturally occurring.” The patents at issue are unrelated to the Ariosa patent and begin by acknowledging the "Ariosa" natural phenomenon, then identify a problem that was the subject of further research: there was no known way to distinguish and separate the tiny amount of fetal DNA from the vast amount of maternal DNA. The patents use an additional discovery to claim methods of preparing a fraction of cell-free DNA that is enriched in fetal DNA. The Federal Circuit concluded that the claims are patent-eligible. These inventors patented methods of preparing a DNA fraction. The claimed methods utilize the natural phenomenon that the inventors discovered by employing physical process steps to selectively remove larger fragments of cell-free DNA to enrich a mixture in cell-free fetal DNA. Those steps change the composition of the mixture, resulting in a DNA fraction that is different from the naturally-occurring fraction in the mother’s blood. View "Illumina, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hafco’s patent, issued in 2013, covers a “Rock Dust Blower” used to distribute rock dust in areas such as coal mines, where rock dust is applied to interior surfaces, to control the explosive hazards of coal dust. Hafco contracted with GMS to serve as the distributor of Hafco’s blower for sale to mining customers. In 2015, Hafco terminated this arrangement, stating that performance was poor. GMS then produced a rock dust blower for sale to mining customers. Hafco sued for infringement. GMS filed an unsuccessful pretrial motion for patent invalidity. The jury found GMS liable for willful infringement and awarded damages of $123,650. The court entered a permanent injunction against infringement but remitted the damages award to zero, offering a new trial on damages. The Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment of infringement and the denial of GMS’ request for a new trial and remanded the case. The jury was correctly instructed that the question is how the ordinary observer would view the article as a whole. Given that there was no prior art introduced at trial, no attempt by GMS to introduce the prior art, and no proposed jury instruction on the issue, the purported exclusion of this instruction cannot be an error. View "Hafco Foundry & Machine Co. v. GMS Mine Repair & Maintenance, Inc." on Justia Law