Category Archives: Patents

Supreme Court Narrows Infringement for Sending Component(s) Abroad – But Only by a Little Bit

By Steve Hall

Last week, in a near-unanimous opinion rendered without dissent, the Supreme Court emphasized quantity over quality, holding that it is not an infringement under the Patent Act to supply a single component of a multi-component product being manufactured abroad.  Life Technologies Corp. v. Promega Corp., No. 14-1538, — S.Ct. –, 2017 WL 685531 (Feb. 22, 2017).  The particular section of the Act before the Supreme Court was 35 U.S.C. §271(f)(1), which makes it possible for infringement to arise from “[supplying] or [causing] to be supplied in or from the United States all or a substantial portion of the components of a patented invention.”  The purpose of the statute is to prevent a domestic manufacturer from making all, or substantially all, components for an infringing product in the U.S., while shipping the components overseas for assembly.  Id.  The combining of components overseas must be performed “in a manner that would infringe the patent if such combination occurred within the United States.”  35 U.S.C. §271(f)(1).

In terms of the discrete issue before it, the Supreme Court held that “when a product is made abroad and all components but a single commodity article are supplied from abroad, the activity” does not infringe.  Life Technologies Corp., at *8.  The product at issue was a Continue reading Supreme Court Narrows Infringement for Sending Component(s) Abroad – But Only by a Little Bit

The Impact of President Trump’s IP-Related Appointments

By Steve Hall and Kate Van Namen

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Having been sworn in as the Forty-Fifth president of the United States, Donald Trump will now appoint individuals who will leave their fingerprints on the intellectual property landscape.  Although it might not happen overnight, at some point in 2017 the President is expected to appoint a Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and a new Supreme Court justice to fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia.  These are at least two of the significant appointments by President Trump related to intellectual property.

The USPTO Director sets the tone for hiring and promoting administrative judges, examiners, and supervisors – individuals who, collectively, exercise great power with respect to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.  Also, the Director serves as the principal advisor to the President on domestic and international intellectual property policy matters.

Undoubtedly, the criteria for USPTO Director candidates will revolve around jobs.  The President has expressed the need for strengthening U.S. patents worldwide and preventing misappropriation of intellectual property as substantial factors in protecting jobs in this country.  Candidates who do not go to sleep at night thinking about Continue reading The Impact of President Trump’s IP-Related Appointments

Abusive Patent Litigants Find a New Angle

Last week, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case that sheds further light on a relatively new phenomenon associated with the term “reverse patent troll.” (Phigenix, Inc. v. ImmunoGen, Inc., January 9, 2017.) The notion of “abusive patent litigation” in the language of the Patent Office has existed for more than a decade. Often, the perpetrators are shell companies who sue or threaten legal action against others and who enjoy relative impunity, as it is difficult to recover fees or assert counterclaims against them. In the traditional sense, an abusive patent litigant is a company that obtains patents – even weak ones that never should have been granted over prior art in the first place – and uses them to extract settlements from companies that sell a product or provide a service. In this newest iteration, however, the victim is the one who owns a patent. The “play” here is that the aggressor will challenge the company’s patent if its demands are not met.

In the case last week, the patent owner was ImmunoGen, Inc. It licensed its patent over a cancer-fighting antibody to Genentech. The challenger was Phigenix, Inc., the new owner of a patent it had acquired only recently, which it claimed overlapped with the ImmunoGen patent. Phigenix threatened to challenge the ImmunoGen patent unless an agreement to license its newly acquired patent was Continue reading Abusive Patent Litigants Find a New Angle

Supreme Court Broadens “Article of Manufacture” for Design Patent Infringement, Declines to Do Anything Else

By Matt Lubozynski

iStock_000019576650LargeYesterday, in a unanimous opinion, the United States Supreme Court broadened what can be considered an “article of manufacture” for design patent infringement.  See Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., No. 15-777, — S. Ct. —, 2016 WL 7078449 (Dec. 7, 2016).  “Patent protection is available for a ‘new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.’”  Id. at *2 (quoting 35 U.S.C. §171(a)).  This is often referred to as a design patent.  A design patent is “infringed if, in the eye of an ordinary observer, giving such attention as a purchaser usually gives, two designs are substantially the same.”  Id. (citation and quotation omitted).  Damages for design patent infringement are permitted under 35 U.S.C. § 289.  §289 states that an infringer “shall be liable to the owner to the extent of his total profit, but not less than $250[.]”  35 U.S.C. § 289.  The Supreme Court provided a two-part test for “[a]rriving at a damages award under §289[.]”  Id. at *4.  “First, identify the ‘article of manufacture’ to which the infringed design has been applied.  Second, calculate the infringer’s total profit made on that article of manufacture.”  Id.

In the current case, Apple sued Samsung in 2011 for infringing three of its design patents relating to its iPhone.  Id. at *4.  The design patents at issue covered a black rectangular front face with rounded corners, a rectangular front face with Continue reading Supreme Court Broadens “Article of Manufacture” for Design Patent Infringement, Declines to Do Anything Else

Beware Ye Willful and Wanton Pirates

By Matt Lubozynski

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, “eschew[ed] any rigid formula for awarding enhanced damages under § 284,” abandoned the prior “unduly rigid” Seagate test laid out by the Federal Circuit, and instead left the award of enhanced damages simply to the discretion of the district court.  Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc., No. 14-1513, slip. op. at 12 (June 13, 2016).  This decision should serve to make it much easier, although not automatic, for a patentee to receive enhanced damages after a finding of infringement.

Under 35 U.S.C. § 284, a court “may increase the damages up to three times the amount found or assessed.”  The Federal Circuit, in a prior ruling, had adopted a two-part test to allow for the award of such damages.  This test, known as the Seagate test, required first, proof by “clear and convincing evidence that the infringer acted despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement of a valid patent.”  Id. at 5 (citation omitted).  The state of mind of the accused infringer was not taken into account at this step, and further, this objective recklessness could not be found if the accused infringer came up with a “substantial question as to the validity or noninfringement of the patent” during the infringement action itself.  Id. (citation and punctuation omitted).  If this objective recklessness were established, then “a patentee must show – again by clear and convincing evidence- that the risk of infringement was either known or so obvious that it should have been known to the accused infringer.”  Id. (citation and punctuation omitted).  If, and only if, both of these are satisfied, could a court then decide whether to actually award enhanced damages.  Id. Continue reading Beware Ye Willful and Wanton Pirates

Venue Stays the Same in Patent Cases

By Matthew M. Lubozynski

iStock_000019576650LargeThe Federal Circuit recently made an important ruling concerning the proper venue for patent infringement suits.  The decision by the Federal Circuit did not change the current interpretation of the venue statutes and companies will continue to be brought into court in such locations as the Eastern District of Texas, despite having minimal contacts with such locations.

In re TC Heartland LLC, — F.3d —, 2016 WL 1709433 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 29, 2016), the Plaintiff, Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, brought a patent infringement suit against Defendant, TC Heartland LLC (“Heartland”), in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.  Heartland moved to dismiss the case or transfer venue to the Southern District of Indiana.

In support of its motion, Heartland argued that it is an Indiana limited liability company with its headquarters in Indiana.  Id. at *1.  Heartland further argued that it had a minimal presence in Delaware, including that it was not registered to do business in Delaware, and that only 2% of sales of the Continue reading Venue Stays the Same in Patent Cases

Steve Hall and Matt Williams quoted in Louisville Business First on the current state of Intellectual Property Law

Steve Hall and Matt Williams, members of Wyatt’s Intellectual Property Protection & Litigation Service Team, were quoted in Louisville Business First.  The article, “Intellectual Property Law Has a Real-World Impact on Businesses,” describes changes in Intellectual Property Law and their effect on companies and individuals alike.

Please click here to read the full article.

Steve Hall quoted in The Lane Report on Intellectual Property Protection

Steve Hall, an experienced patent lawyer and litigator, and member of Wyatt’s Intellectual Property Protection & Litigation Service Team, was recently quoted in the February 2016 issue of The Lane Report.  The article, “Many Options to Protect Intellectual Property,” draws upon the knowledge of local experts in the field and describes various ways to ensure a company’s intellectual property is protected.

Please click here to read the full article.

Congress Fails to Enact New Patent Reform

By Matthew M. Lubozynski 

On December 18, Congress adjourned for the year without enacting any new patent legislation.  This is despite the fact that late in 2014, members of Congress stated that patent reform was a priority for the 114th Congress, and particularly for 2015.  Many commentators believed that significant patent reform was likely for 2015.  This appeared to be the case as, in 2014, new patent legislation had made it out of the House of Representatives but was ultimately killed in the Senate.  Then, at various times throughout 2015, at least 4 bills, (1) The Innovation Act (H.R. 9) (the one previously killed in the Senate in 2014); (2) The TROL Act (H.R. 2045); (3) the STRONG Patents Act (S. 632); and (4) the PATENT Act (S. 1137), were introduced in either the House or Senate dealing with some aspect of patent reform.  However, no law has gone into effect and it now appears that the momentum for patent reform that was prevalent early in 2015 has subsided and there are questions as to whether patent reform will even take place in 2016.

The last major patent reform happened in 2011 with the America Invents Act.  However, prior to that, there had been over 50 years since any substantive patent reform.  With the Supreme Court continuing to take more patent cases and the continued presence of non-practicing entities, a.k.a. “trolls,” it will be interesting to see whether patent reform will be at the top of Congress’ priorities in 2016, as it appeared to be at the beginning of 2015.

 

Glen Reid obtains victory for WCM Industries, Inc. in patent infringement case

Glen Reid, member of Wyatt’s Intellectual Property Protection & Litigation Service Team, served as co-counsel in WCM Industries, Inc.’s recent patent infringement case.  The company was victorious in a jury trial.  A story about the case, entitled “IP Trial an Unusual Victory: Fierce competitors go to trial over IP rights,” appeared in the November 16th issue of Law Week Colorado.