Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

by
In December 2015, Apple filed two petitions for inter partes review of the 696 patent, challenging certain claims as obvious. VirnetX filed responses arguing that prior art reference RFC 2401 was not a printed publication under 35 U.S.C. 102(b) as of November 1998. The Patent Board found that RFC 2401 was a printed publication and concluded that the 696 patent was unpatentable as obvious. During the pendency of VirnetX’s appeal, the Federal Circuit decided another case between the parties (VirnetX I), upholding the Board’s decision that RFC 2401 was a printed publication as of November 1998. The Federal Circuit then held that VirnetX is collaterally estopped by the VirnetX I judgment from relitigating the printed publication issue. VirnetX did not preserve an issue of whether inter partes review procedures apply retroactively to patents that were filed before Congress enacted the America Invents Act. View "VirnetX Inc. v. Apple, Inc." on Justia Law

by
When the patent owner filed for the 772 patent, the law defined the patent term as 17 years from the date the patent issued. The law was later amended to define the patent term as expiring 20 years from the patent’s earliest effective filing date, Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994 (URAA), 108 Stat. 4983. The owner then filed for the related 990 patent. The change in law caused the second patent to expire earlier than the first patent. The owner concedes that the claimed inventions in the two related patents are obvious variants of each other. The district court invalidated the 772 patent based on obviousness-type double patent; the invalidating reference, the 990 patent, was filed and issued after, but expired before, the 772 patent. The Federal Circuit reversed. The patents are governed by different patent term statutory regimes; the correct framework is to apply the traditional obviousness-type double patenting practices extant in the pre-URAA era to the pre-URAA patent and look to that patent’s issuance date as the reference point for obviousness-type double patenting. Under this framework, and because a change in patent term law should not truncate the term statutorily assigned to the pre-URAA 772 patent, the 990 patent is not a proper double patenting reference. View "Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. v. Breckenridge Pharmaceutical, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Ezra filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for a generic version of Novartis’s multiple sclerosis drug, Gilenya®. Novartis sued for infringement, asserting the 229 patent. Because the 229 patent was filed before the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), its patent term was 17 years. It was set to expire in 2014. Novartis secured a patent term extension (PTE) of five years, 35 U.S.C. 156. Section 156 was enacted to restore the value of the patent term that an owner loses because the product cannot be commercially marketed without regulatory, e.g., FDA, approval. Multiple patents may cover the same product, but only one patent’s term can be extended. Novartis also owned the 565 patent covering Gilenya® and sought PTE on the 229 patent, which now expires in February 2019. Because the 565 patent issued from an application filed after the URAA, its 20-year term expired in 2017. The court denied Ezra’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, where Ezra argued that the extension of the 229 patent’s term beyond the life of the 565 patent de facto extended the life of the 565 patent and rendered the 229 patent invalid for double patenting; the two patents' claims are not patentably distinct. Ezra stipulated that its ANDA product infringes and dropped the double patenting issues. The court found the 229 patent valid, unexpired, enforceable, and infringed, and enjoined Ezra’s ANDA product until the 2019 expiration. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Obviousness-type double patenting does not invalidate an otherwise valid PTE. View "Novartis AG v. Ezra Ventures LLC" on Justia Law

by
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

by
Seoul's asserted patents are directed to methods of backlighting display panels, particularly LED displays used in televisions, laptop computers, and other electronics. The 209 patent teaches, “uniform illumination is difficult to achieve, and prior art devices frequently fail[ed] to provide a sufficiently uniform source of illumination for LCD displays.” The invention claimed in the patent purports to solve this problem by providing a light source that uniformly backlights the rear surface of the display panel. The district court entered summary judgment that claim 20 is not anticipated and awarded damages. The Federal Circuit affirmed that claim 20 of the 209 patent and the asserted 554 patent claims are not anticipated and upheld the denial of judgment as a matter of law of no induced infringement. The evidence, while not overwhelming, provides at least circumstantial evidence that would allow a jury to reasonably find that Emplas had knowledge of the patents and of its customers’ infringing activity and that it intended to induce their infringement. 35 U.S.C. 271(b), The court upheld the $70,000 award for infringement of the 209 patent but vacated the $4 million damages award for infringement of the 554 patent, as not supported by substantial evidence. View "Enplas Display Device Corp. v. Seoul Semiconductor Co." on Justia Law

by
Ancora’s 941 patent, entitled “Method of Restricting Software Operation Within a License Limitation,” describes and claims methods of limiting a computer’s running of software not authorized for that computer to run. It issued in 2002, and the patentability of all claims was confirmed in a reexamination in 2010. Ancora sued HTC, alleging infringement of the 941 patent. The district court dismissed, concluding that the patent’s claims are invalid because their subject matter is ineligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C 101, as directed to, and ultimately claiming no more than, an abstract idea. The Federal Circuit reversed. The claimed advance is a concrete assignment of specified functions among a computer’s components to improve computer security, and this claimed improvement in computer functionality is eligible for patenting. The asserted innovation of the patent relates to where the license record is stored in the computer and the interaction of that memory with other memory to check for permission to run a program that is introduced into the computer. View "Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. HTC America, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The patent, entitled “Rinseable splash shield and method of use,” discloses a vessel for containing contents to be mixed that is positioned in a mixing machine and a splash shield that is positioned to shield the opening of the vessel. After the material within the vessel is mixed by a mixing element, the splash shield is separated from the vessel and rinsed by a nozzle on the mixing machine. The patent describes how the invention “provide[s] a drink mixer having a splash shield that may be automatically rinsed following mixing of each batch or beverage, preferably without disassembly or removal of any components or disposable covers.” The Patent Trial and Appeal Board upheld the patentability of claim 21 under 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Board changed claim construction theories midstream without providing the parties an opportunity to respond, and erred in construing the “nozzle” terms so as to require that the nozzles be prepositioned. Substantial evidence supports the Board’s decision ’s that Hamilton Beach did not persuasively establish a motivation to combine the prior art references to arrive at claim 21. View "Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. v. f'real Foods, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff’s asserted RE940 patent, a reissue of its 805 patent, relates to boron steel sheets with an aluminum-based coating that, when hot-stamped, become highly mechanically resistant. In 2010, plaintiff sued AK Steel for infringement. The primary issue was whether steel sheets produced by AK met the mechanical resistance limitation of the 805 patent after thermal treatment. While the 2010 case was on remand, Plaintiff filed the complaint related to this appeal, asserting the RE940 patent. According to AK, the accused products in this case—steel sheets marketed and sold under the trade name ULTRALUME—are the same as the AXN steel sheets in the 2010 case. The district court granted AK summary judgment, citing collateral estoppel. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded. Evidence indicates a material difference in the accused products, so collateral estoppel does not apply. Differences with respect to the claimed limitations constitute changes in controlling facts. Discovery is necessary to determine whether and to what extent AK supplied auto manufacturers with steel sheets with ultimate tensile strength in excess of 1,500 megapascals after thermal treatment, its knowledge and intent in doing so, and the relationships between AK, the hot-stampers, and the auto manufacturers during the relevant timeframe. View "Arcelormittal Atlantique v. AK Steel Corp." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs sued Oath in the Eastern District of New York, alleging patent infringement. Oath conducts business in New York, but is incorporated in Delaware; it does not have “a regular and established place of business” in the Eastern District as defined in the patent statute venue provision, 28 U.S.C. 1400(b) In 2016, Oath moved under FRCP 12(b)(6) to dismiss for failure to state a claim but did not object to venue. Oath withdrew its motion and filed an answer, admitting the complaint’s venue allegations but expressly reserving the right to challenge venue based upon any change in law, including the Supreme Court’s "TC Heartland" decision. The Supreme Court subsequently issued that decision, holding that, under section 1400(b), “a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation,” rejecting Federal Circuit precedent that a domestic corporation “resides” in any judicial district in which the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction. Oath moved to dismiss. Plaintiffs argued that Oath had waived the venue defense because it was “available” in 2016. The district court agreed. In November 2017, the Federal Circuit held (Micron) that “TC Heartland changed the controlling law ... making the waiver rule ... inapplicable” but that venue rights might be forfeited by delay in asserting them in some circumstances. On reconsideration, the district court again denied Oath’s motion. The Federal Circuit remanded with instructions to either dismiss or transfer the case. The district court provided no analysis of why these circumstances supported a finding of forfeiture under section 1406(b) and erred in failing to apply the Micron precedent. View "In re: Oath Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Cisco’s 597 patent, titled “Method and Apparatus for Securing a Communications Device using a Logging Module,” relates generally to ensuring network device security by using a logging module with restricted configurability to detect and communicate changes to a network device’s configuration. Arista petitioned for an inter partes review (IPR) of certain claims of the patent. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board upheld some of those challenged claims as patentable but invalidated others. On appeal, Arista argued that the Board erred in construing the term “broadcast,” and that this error caused the Board to improperly reject Arista’s obviousness challenge to five claims. Cisco’s cross-appeal concerned the Board’s refusal to apply the doctrine of assignor estoppel. The Federal Circuit reversed as to Arista’s appeal, finding that the Board applied incorrect claim construction, and affirmed Cisco’s cross-appeal. While the issue of assignor estoppel was reviewable, section 311(a), by allowing “a person who is not the owner of a patent” to file an IPR, unambiguously dictates that assignor estoppel has no place in IPR proceedings. View "Arista Networks, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law