Justia Patents Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
ABS Global, Inc. v. Inguran, LLC
Until recently, Sexing Tech held a monopoly on the market for sexed cattle semen in the United States. Sperm‐sorting technology separates bull semen into X‐chromosome bearing and Y‐chromosome bearing sperm cells; the resulting “sexed semen” is used to inseminate cows artificially so that dairy farmers can breed only milk‐producing cows. ABS, a bull‐stud operation, sued, alleging that Sexing Tech had unlawfully monopolized the domestic sexed‐semen market in violation of section 2 of the Sherman Act by using its market power to impose coercive contract terms. ABS sought a declaratory judgment proclaiming those contracts invalid, to permit its own entry into that market. Sexing Tech counterclaimed that ABS infringed its patents and breached the contract by misappropriating trade secrets in developing ABS’s competing technology. Three claims went to trial: ABS’s antitrust claim and Sexing Tech’s patent infringement and breach of contract counterclaims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court, holding that ABS violated a confidentiality agreement it had with Sexing Tech and that Sexing Tech’s patent was not invalid on obviousness grounds. The jury’s assessments of two of the three patent claims still at issue cannot be reconciled under the rules governing dependent claims and enablement, and so a new trial is necessary on them. View "ABS Global, Inc. v. Inguran, LLC" on Justia Law
Soarus L.L.C. v. Bolson Materials International Corp.
Bolson develops products and processes for use in 3D printing. Soarus is a distributor of specialty polymers, including G-Polymer. In 2009, Bolson and Soarus began discussing Bolson’s acquisition and use of GPolymer in connection with developing a new 3D printing process. Soarus sought to protect its rights in G-Polymer while also allowing for its potential entry into the lucrative 3D printing market. The parties executed a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Soarus then provided Bolson with confidential information regarding G-Polymer and samples. Shortly after executing the NDA, Bolson filed a provisional patent for the 3D printing process it developed using G-Polymer; the 171 Patent issued in 2013. Soarus claimed that Bolson’s patent application revealed confidential information about G-Polymer, in violation of the NDA. The district court granted Bolson summary judgment, concluding that the plain meaning of the NDA, while conferring generally broad confidentiality protection on Bolson’s use of information about G-Polymer, authorized Bolson to use such confidential information in pursuing a patent in the specific area of the fused deposition method of 3D printing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The NDA clearly authorise Bolson to freely patent and protect new applications of GPolymer in the specified 3D printing process, not confined by the NDA’s confidentiality restrictions. View "Soarus L.L.C. v. Bolson Materials International Corp." on Justia Law
XY, LLC v. Trans Ova Genetics, L.C.
XY’s patents relate to the sorting of X- and Y-chromosome-bearing sperm cells, for selective breeding purposes. Trans Ova provides services related to embryo transfer and in-vitro fertilization for cattle. XY and Trans Ova entered into a five-year licensing agreement in 2004 under which Trans Ova was authorized to use XY’s technology, subject to automatic renewal unless Trans Ova was in material breach. In 2007, Inguran acquired XY and sent a letter purporting to terminate the Agreement because of alleged breaches. For several years, the parties negotiated but failed to resolve their disputes. Trans Ova continued to make royalty payments to XY, which were declined. XY alleges that it became aware of further breaches, including underpayment of royalties and development of improvements to XY’s technology without disclosure of such improvements to XY. XY sued for patent infringement and breach of contract. Trans Ova counterclaimed, alleging patent invalidity, breach of contract, and antitrust violations. The district court granted XY summary judgment on the antitrust counterclaims. A jury found breaches of contract by both parties; that Trans Ova failed to prove that the asserted patent claims were invalid and willfully infringed the asserted claims; and XY was entitled to patent infringement damages. The court denied all of Trans Ova’s requested relief and granted XY an ongoing royalty. The Federal Circuit affirmed except the ongoing royalty rate, which it remanded for recalculation. View "XY, LLC v. Trans Ova Genetics, L.C." on Justia Law
Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions, Inc. v. Renesas Electronics America, Inc.
TAOS and Intersil were both developing ambient light sensors for electronic devices. Ambient light sensors use a silicon- or other semiconductor-based photodiode that absorbs light and conducts a current. The resulting photocurrent is detected by a sensor, and measurements of the current, a function of the ambient light, are used to adjust the brightness of an electronic screen display. One benefit is better visibility; another is improved battery efficiency. In 2004, the parties confidentially shared technical and financial information during negotiations regarding a possible merger that did not occur. Soon after, Intersil released new sensors with the technical design TAOS had disclosed in the confidential negotiations. TAOS sued for infringement of its patent, and for trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, and tortious interference with prospective business relations under Texas state law. A jury returned a verdict for TAOS and awarded damages on all four claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed liability for trade secret misappropriation, though on a more limited basis than TAOS presented to the jury, and affirmed liability for infringement of the asserted apparatus claims of the patent, but vacated the monetary awards. The court noted that there was no evidence of Intersil’s independent design of the photodiode array structure. View "Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions, Inc. v. Renesas Electronics America, Inc." on Justia Law
Elenza, Inc. v. Alcon Laboratories Holding Corporation, et al.
Alcon Laboratories Holding Corporation, a developer of artificial lenses, was exploring electroactive intraocular lens (“EAIOL”) that used electric power and changes in eye pupil size to “trigger” the focus of an artificial lens. Elenza, Inc. and Alcon decided to jointly pursue the technology, first by signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (“NDA”), followed by a Stock Purchase Agreement (“SPA”). Unfortunately, the project fizzled after Elenza failed to meet development milestones in the SPA. Much to Elenza’s surprise, two years later, Alcon filed a patent application for an EAIOL and announced that it was working with Google, Inc. to develop an EAIOL. Elenza filed suit in Delaware, claiming Alcon breached its agreements with Elenza and misappropriated Elenza’s EAIOL trade secrets. Before trial, the Superior Court granted in part Alcon’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Elenza failed to support its trade secret claims. The court also limited Elenza’s damage claims. The contract claims went to trial, and a jury found against Elenza on all claims. On appeal, Elenza argued to the Delaware Supreme Court that the Superior Court erred when it granted summary judgment on its trade secret claims. According to Elenza, at the summary judgment stage, its trade secret disclosures were sufficient to prove that trade secrets existed and that Alcon used or disclosed those secrets in its later development efforts. The Supreme Court did not reach Elenza’s claim on appeal that it raised disputed factual issues about the existence of trade secrets because the Court agreed with the Superior Court that, at summary judgment, Elenza failed to support its claim that Alcon improperly used or disclosed any of Elenza’s alleged trade secrets. View "Elenza, Inc. v. Alcon Laboratories Holding Corporation, et al." on Justia Law
MACOM Technology Solutions Holdings, Inc. v. Infineon Technologies Americas Corp.
MACOM’s predecessor developed semiconductors using gallium nitride (GaN), obtained patents related to that technology, and sold those patents to Infineon's predecessor, retaining rights under separate license agreement. That agreement defines a “Field of Use” characterized by GaN-on-silicon technology and licenses MACOM to practice the GaN patents within the “Field of Use only.” MACOM and Infineon share rights to practice the patents in the Field of Use. The agreement defines an “Exclusive Field” within the Field of Use in which MACOM has exclusive rights to practice the patents—even as against Infineon. Infineon notified MACOM that it believed MACOM had breached the agreement by making and selling products using GaN-on-silicon-carbide technology, which is distinct from GaN-on-Si technology and outside the Field of Use. MACOM responded that the GaN-on-SiC sales were minimal and that any breach had been cured. Infineon terminated the Agreement. MACOM sued, asserting contract claims and seeking a declaratory judgment of noninfringement and obtained a preliminary injunction. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part, agreeing that MACOM could likely establish that its activity outside the Field of Use did not breach the agreement and that MACOM would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction. The court vacated two sentences in the injunction for lacking specificity. View "MACOM Technology Solutions Holdings, Inc. v. Infineon Technologies Americas Corp." on Justia Law
Advanced Video Technologies, LLC v. HTC Corp.
The patent, entitled “Full Duplex Single Clip Video Codec” lists co-inventors, Woo, Li, and Hsiun, and was created while they were Infochips employees. Infochips’ “receivables,” pledged as security, were seized by LM when Infochips went out of business in 1993; in 1995, LM sold Infochips’s assets to Woo. Woo assigned his interest in the patent to AVC. In 1995, AVC filed the patent's parent application. Woo and Li assigned their interests to AVC. Hsiun refused to do so. The PTO permitted AVC to prosecute the application without that assignment. AVC claimed that it obtained Hsiun’s interests by Hsiun's 1992 Employment Agreement with Infochips. The patent was issued to AVC, which later dissolved, after purporting to transfer its assets to its successors (Advanced Video). In 2011, Advanced Video filed patent infringement lawsuits. The district court found that AVC had not complied with Delaware statutes governing dissolved corporations and that no patent rights had transferred to Advanced Video. The cases were dismissed. The state court appointed a Receiver to transfer AVC's patent rights to Advanced Video. After the transfer, Advanced Video filed new infringement lawsuits, arguing that its acquisition of Hsiun’s interest was effected by the Employment Agreement’s “will assign,” trust and quitclaim provisions. The court rejected the argument and, because Hsiun was not a party to the suit, dismissed for lack of standing. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Hsiun never actually assigned her rights, despite her promises to do so. View "Advanced Video Technologies, LLC v. HTC Corp." on Justia Law
Verinata Health, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc.
Illumina’s 794 patent, covering DNA assay optimization techniques, issued in 2011. In 2010-2011, Ariosa provided Illumina, as a prospective investor, with information on its efforts to develop a noninvasive prenatal diagnostic test. Seven months after the 794 patent issued, Illumina agreed to supply consumables, hardware, and software to Ariosa for three years, providing Ariosa with a non-exclusive license to Illumina’s “Core IP Rights in Goods,” specifically excluding “Secondary IP Rights … that pertain to the Goods (and use thereof) only with regard to particular field(s) or application(s), and are not common to the Goods in all applications and fields.” The agreement’s arbitration clause excluded “disputes relating to issues of scope, infringement, validity and/or enforceability of any Intellectual Property Rights.” Illumina never indicated that Ariosa needed to license the 794 patent . Ariosa launched the Harmony Prenatal Test, using materials supplied by Illumina. Verinata and Stanford sued, alleging that the Test infringed other patents. Illumina later acquired Verinata and accused Ariosa of breaching the supply agreement by failing to license Secondary Rights. Ariosa filed counterclaims, asserting invalidity and non-infringement; breach of contract; and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The district court concluded that the counterclaims were not subject to compulsory arbitration. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The counterclaims depend on the scope determination of licensed intellectual property rights, which is expressly exempt from arbitration. View "Verinata Health, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law
TriReme Med., LLC v. Angioscore, Inc.
AngioScore sells angioplasty balloon catheters (AngioSculpt), designed to open arterial blockages. Three AngioScore patents each list three inventors, but none lists Lotan as an inventor. TriReme is a competitor of AngioScore. Apparently concerned that AngioScore might charge TriReme with infringement, TriReme sought to acquire an interest in the AngioScore patents from Dr. Lotan, who performed consulting services for AngioScore. Lotan granted TriReme an exclusive license to “any and all legal and equitable rights” he held in the AngioScore patents. Lotan claimed that his inventive contribution arose from his work in connection with the development of the AngioSculpt catheters in 2003, which is reflected in the AngioScore patents. AngioScore’s defense was based on a 2003 consulting contract between AngioScore and Lotan. AngioScore asserts that it acquired rights to all inventive work completed by Lotan. TriReme brought suit for correction of inventorship, 35 U.S.C. 256. The district court dismissed, finding that TriReme lacked standing. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded for consideration of whether Lotan’s continued work on AngioSculpt after the contract’s effective date came within the contract’s language. View "TriReme Med., LLC v. Angioscore, Inc." on Justia Law
Expro Americas, LLC v. Walters
Expro Americas, LLC ("Expro") filed a complaint seeking, inter alia, a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Eddie Walters, a former Expro employee, and H&H Welding, LLC. Expro offered "oil and gas well and pipeline services," including providing "specially designed flaring products and services to pipeline transmission companies and refineries along the Gulf Coast." Expro's six-inch, trailer-mounted flare stacks were at the heart of this dispute. Eddie Walters was an Expro employee until August 5, 2013. Thereafter, Walters was employed by Clean Combustion, a competitor of Expro's that was created in 2013 by former Expro employees. Expro filed its application for a restraining order against H&H and Walters, alleging that both defendants stole the design for its flare stack. Expro specifically alleged that "[t]he information used to design and create the trailer-mounted flaring system is a ‘trade secret' of Expro's." Furthermore, it alleged breach of contract against H&H, claiming that the terms of Expro's purchase orders with H&H contained a "Proprietary Rights" section "in which H&H ‘warrants to keep all design, information, blueprints and engineering data with respect to the Goods confidential and to not make use of but to assign to Expro each invention, improvement and discovery relating thereto (whether or not patentable) conceived or reduced to practice in the performance of the Purchase Order by any person employed by or working under the directions of the Supplier Group.'" The trial court granted the restraining order, but after conducting an evidentiary hearing, the chancellor dissolved the temporary restraining order and found no facts to justify the issuance of a preliminary injunction. The chancellor awarded the defendants attorneys' fees and expenses in excess of the $5,000 injunction bond that Expro had posted. After determining that Expro's suit against H&H was meritless, the chancellor sua sponte dismissed H&H from the suit with prejudice. Expro appealed, and the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court found that the chancellor did not err by awarding the defendants attorneys' fees and expenses, because Expro's application for a preliminary injunction was frivolous and was made in bad faith. However, the Court found the chancellor misapplied Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 4, and therefore erred by dismissing H&H from the suit with prejudice. View "Expro Americas, LLC v. Walters" on Justia Law