Justia Patents Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) established many global standards for 3G, 4G, and 5G cellular communications technology. ETSI members that own standard-essential patents must provide “an irrevocable undertaking in writing that [they are] prepared to grant irrevocable licenses on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND)” terms. Ericsson holds patents that are considered essential to the ETSI standards and agreed to grant licenses to other companies to use its standard-essential patents on FRAND terms. HTC produces mobile devices that implement those standards; to manufacture standard-compliant mobile devices, HTC has to obtain a license to use Ericsson’s patents. Ericsson and HTC have previously entered into three cross-license agreements for their respective patents. Negotiations to renew one of those agreements failed.HTC filed suit, alleging that Ericsson had breached its commitment to provide a license on FRAND terms and had failed to negotiate in good faith. The jury found in favor of the defendants. The district court entered a separate declaratory judgment that the defendants had affirmatively complied with their contractual obligations. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the district court’s exclusion of HTC’s requested jury instructions, its declaratory judgment that Ericsson had complied with its obligation to provide HTC a license on FRAND terms, and the exclusion of certain expert testimonial evidence as hearsay. View "HTC Corp. v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson" on Justia Law

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The International Trade Commission (ITC) investigated a complaint under Tariff Act Section 337, alleging that Comcast’s customers directly infringe patents by using Comcast’s X1 system. The patents claim an interactive television program guide system for remote access to television programs. An ALJ found a violation, concluding that the X1 set-top boxes are imported by ARRIS and Technicolor and that Comcast is sufficiently involved with the design, manufacture, and importation of the products, such that it is an importer under Section 337. The ITC affirmed, stating that Comcast induced infringement and that Comcast "instructs, directs, or advises its customers on how to carry out direct infringement.” The ITC affirmed that ARRIS and Technicolor do not directly infringe because they do not provide a “remote access device” as required by the claims and do not contributorily infringe because the set-top boxes have substantial non-infringing uses. The ITC issued a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders directed to Comcast. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting Comcast’s arguments that its conduct is not actionable under Section 337 because Comcast’s inducing conduct “takes place entirely domestically, well after, and unrelated to," the importation and that Comcast does not itself import the articles. The ITC has authority (19 U.S.C. 1337(d)(1)) to issue an exclusion order that blocks the importation of articles manufactured and imported by ARRIS and Technicolor, despite its determination that they did not violate Section 337 and did not infringe the patents. View "Comcast Corp. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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The University, an agent or instrumentality of the Swiss Confederation, having a place of business in Bern, Switzerland, granted an exclusive license of its 114 patent to the German company LABOKLIN, whose principal place of business is in Bad Kissingen, Germany. Under the License Agreement, LABOKLIN was required to commercialize the invention in North America. LABOKLIN entered into sublicenses in the U.S. PPG, a corporation headquartered in Washington State, offers laboratory services. After obtaining the University’s consent, LABOKLIN sent a cease-and-desist letter to PPG in Spokane, Washington. PPG sued LABOKLIN and the University, requesting a declaratory judgment that the Asserted Claims of the 114 patent are ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101 for failing to claim patent-eligible subject matter. The Federal Circuit affirmed that the district court had jurisdiction over both LABOKLIN and the University. LABOKLIN had sufficient minimum contacts with the U.S. to comport with due process; the University, a foreign sovereign in the U.S., had engaged in “commercial activity” sufficient to trigger an exception to jurisdictional immunity under 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(2) by “obtain[ing] a patent and then threaten[ing] PPG by proxy with litigation.” PPG had stipulated to infringement of the Asserted Claims; the courts found those Claims patent-ineligible as directed to patent-ineligible subject matter, namely the discovery of the genetic mutation that is linked to HNPK. View "Genetic Veterinary Sciences, Inc. v. LABOKLIN GMBH & Co. KG" on Justia Law

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Maxchief has its principal place of business in China and distributes one of the plastic tables it manufactures (UT-18) exclusively through Meco, which is located in Tennessee. Meco sells the UT-18 tables to retailers. Wok competes with Maxchief in the market for plastic folding tables, and also has its principal place of business in China. Wok owns patents directed to folding tables. Wok sued Maxchief’s customer, Staples, in the Central District of California, alleging that Staples’ sale of Maxchief’s UT-18 table infringed the Wok patents. Staples requested that Meco defend and indemnify Staples. Meco requested that Maxchief defend and indemnify Meco and Staples. The Staples action is stayed pending the outcome of this case. Maxchief then sued Wok in the Eastern District of Tennessee, seeking declarations of non-infringement or invalidity of all claims of the Wok patents and alleging tortious interference with business relations under Tennessee state law. The district court dismissed the declaratory judgment claim for lack of personal jurisdiction. With respect to the state law tortious interference claim, the district court concluded it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Wok lacked sufficient contacts with the forum state of Tennessee for personal jurisdiction as to both the declaratory judgment claim and the tortious interference claim. View "Maxchief Investments Ltd. v. Wok & Pan, Ind., Inc." on Justia Law

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WesternGeco owns patents for a system used to survey the ocean floor. ION sold a competing system, built from components manufactured in the U.S., then shipped abroad for assembly into a system indistinguishable from WesternGeco’s. WesternGeco sued for patent infringement, 35 U.S.C. 271(f)(1) and (f)(2). The jury awarded WesternGeco royalties and lost profits under section 284. The Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit, holding that WesternGeco’s award for lost profits was a permissible domestic application of section 284 of the Patent Act, not an impermissible extraterritorial application of section 271. To determine whether the case involves a domestic application of the statute, courts must identify the statute’s "focus” and ask whether the conduct relevant to that focus occurred in U.S. territory. If so, the case involves a permissible domestic application of the statute. When determining the statute’s focus, the provision at issue must be assessed in concert with other provisions. Section 284, the general damages provision, focuses on “the infringement.” The “overriding purpose” is “complete compensation” for infringements. Section 271 identifies several ways that a patent can be infringed; to determine section 284’s focus in a given case, the type of infringement must be identified. Section 271(f)(2) was the basis for WesternGeco’s claim and damages. That provision regulates the domestic act of “suppl[ying] in or from the United States,” and vindicates domestic interests, The focus of section 284 in a case involving infringement under section 271(f)(2) is the act of exporting components from the U.S., so the relevant conduct occurred in the U.S. Damages are not the statutory focus but are merely the means by which the statute remedies infringements. The overseas events giving rise to the lost-profit damages here were merely incidental to the infringement. View "WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp." on Justia Law

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Stellar and Allied are American companies. Stellar sent Allied's Mexican distributors notice letters accusing them of infringing Stellar’s Mexican Patent. Allied manufactures the accused products in the U.S., which are then sold in Mexico by the distributors. Allied sells the same product in the U.S. under a different name. Allied’s U.S. counsel responded to Stellar’s notice letters on behalf of the distributors, arguing that the products did not infringe. Stellar did not respond but filed infringement actions in Mexico. Allied then sought a declaratory judgment against Stellar in the Southern District of Florida, of non-infringement, invalidity, unenforceability due to inequitable conduct, and tortious interference with business relationships. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, stating: “Stellar’s decision to enforce its Mexican patent under Mexican law against separate entities cannot, without further affirmative action by Stellar, create an actual controversy with Allied with regard to its U.S. Patent,” and that the complaint was “devoid of any allegations that Stellar has done anything to give Allied a reasonable belief that Stellar intends to enforce its 974 Patent in the United States.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. Stellar’s actions do not create a justiciable case or controversy. View "Allied Mineral Products, Inc. v. OSMI, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lexmark holds patents on the components of toner cartridges that it manufactures and sells. Lexmark allows consumers to buy a cartridge at full price, with no restrictions, or to buy a cartridge at a discount through Lexmark’s “Return Program,” by signing a contract agreeing to use the cartridge only once and to refrain from transferring the cartridge to anyone but Lexmark. Remanufacturers acquire empty Lexmark cartridges—including Return Program cartridges—from purchasers in the U.S. and overseas, refill them, and resell them in the U.S. Lexmark sued remanufacturers with respect to Return Program cartridges that Lexmark had sold within the U.S. and cartridges that Lexmark had sold abroad and that remanufacturers imported into the country. The Federal Circuit ruled for Lexmark with respect to both. The Supreme Court reversed. Lexmark exhausted its patent rights (35 U.S.C. 271(a)) in all of the cartridges. A patentee’s decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose. If a patentee negotiates a contract restricting the purchaser’s right to use or resell an item, it may be able to enforce that restriction as a matter of contract law, but may not do so through a patent infringement lawsuit. The exhaustion doctrine is not a presumption about the authority that comes along with a sale; it is a limit on the scope of the patentee’s rights. The Patent Act just ensures that the patentee receives one reward—of whatever it considers satisfactory compensation—for every item that passes outside the scope of its patent monopoly. View "Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc." on Justia Law

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AT&T’s patent is directed to a method of compressing and transmitting transform coefficients in a manner that does not rely on scanning the coefficients in any particular order; all of the coefficients in a block are transmitted at once. Days before the America Invents Act inter partes review procedures went into effect, LG requested inter partes reexamination of the patent, alleging anticipation. Before the PTO decided whether to initiate reexamination, LG asked the PTO to suspend its rule prohibiting a requester from filing documents between requesting inter partes reexamination and the PTO’s initial office action on the merits so that it could file a second request, requesting denial of its initial request. LG did not withdraw, nor did it withdraw its reexamination request. The PTO granted LG’s initial request and declined to suspend the rules. The examiner found new grounds of rejection. While discussions between AT&T and the examiner were ongoing, LG withdrew. The examiner suspended the prohibition against interviews during inter partes reexamination proceedings. Before any amendment, the examiner issued an Action Closing Prosecution that explained a different basis for finding the patent anticipated. The Board and the Federal Circuit affirmed. The Board did not exceed its statutory authority when instituting the reexamination and substantial evidence supported the finding of anticipation. View "In re: AT&T Intellectual Property II" on Justia Law

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Halo, a Hong Kong company that designs and sells high-end modern furniture, owns two U.S. design patents, 13 U.S. copyrights, and one U.S. common law trademark, all relating to its furniture designs. Halo’s common law trademark, ODEON, is used in association with at least four of its designs. Halo sells its furniture in the U.S., including through its own retail stores. Comptoir, a Canadian corporation, also designs and markets high-end furniture that is manufactured in China, Vietnam, and India. Comptoir’s furniture is imported and sold to U.S. consumers directly at furniture shows and through distributors, including in Illinois. Halo sued, alleging infringement and violation of Illinois consumer fraud and deceptive business practices statutes. The district court dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds, finding that the balance of interests favored Canada and that Canada, where the defendants reside, was an adequate forum. The Federal Circuit reversed. The policies underlying U.S. copyright, patent, and trademark laws would be defeated if a domestic forum to adjudicate the rights they convey was denied without a sufficient showing of the adequacy of the alternative foreign jurisdiction; the Federal Court of Canada would not provide any “potential avenue for redress for the subject matter” of Halo’s dispute. View "Halo Creative & Design, Ltd. v. Comptoir des Indes Inc." on Justia Law

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Binzel, which manufactures welding equipment, owns the German DE 934 patent, filed in 1997, and the U.S. 406 patent, issued in 2002, which claims priority to the German application, for a method of manufacturing a contact tip for metal inert gas welding. Lismont, a resident of Belgium asserts that, beginning in 1995, he developed the method disclosed in both patents for Binzel and, that by mid-1997, he had disclosed the details to Binzel. Lismont contends that, despite Binzel's representations that he was the first to conceive of this method, Binzel filed the DE 934 application naming its employee, Sattler, as the inventor. In 2000-2002 Lismont initiated suits in the German Federal Court and sought information about the countries in which Binzel was pursuing patents and about the manufacture and sales of contact tips that used the method at issue. The German courts ruled against Lismont, finding that he failed to prove that he had an inventorship interest. The German Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 2009. Lismont then filed actions in the German Constitutional Court and in the European Court of Human Rights. In 2012, Lismont initiated U.S. litigation seeking to correct inventorship of the 406 patent (35 U.S.C. 256(a)). After discovery concerning the issue of laches, the court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Federal Circuit affirmed: Lismont failed to rebut the presumption of laches. View "Lismont v. Alexander Binzel Corp." on Justia Law