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, 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.
By Matthew M. Lubozynski
The Federal Circuit issued an important en banc ruling in August expanding what can constitute direct infringement of a method claim when one actor does not perform all of the elements of the claim at issue. See Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., 797 F.3d 1020 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 13, 2015) (“Akamai II”). This concept is referred to as “divided infringement” or “joint infringement.” Previously, if a single actor did not perform all of the steps of the claim, that actor could only be liable for direct infringement if the accused infringer was found to be the “mastermind,” exercising direction and control over the other entities such that the actions could be attributed to it. See Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., 786 F.3d 899, 904 (Fed. Cir. May 13, 2015) (“Akamai I”). “Direction or control” for such a finding was very narrow and the Federal Circuit had stated that this would be satisfied in instances where the “law would traditionally hold the accused direct infringer vicariously liable for the acts committed by another party . . . [and] may occur in a principal-agent relationship, a contractual relationship, or in circumstances in which parties work together in a joint enterprise functioning as a form of mutual agency.” Id. at 904-905. This previous standard essentially excluded from infringement any instance where a customer performed any of the steps of a claim in a method patent.
The Supreme Court recognized the narrow scope the Federal Circuit had circumscribed for direct infringement and invited the Federal Circuit to revisit this standard. See Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Techs., Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2111, 2120 (2014) (“Our decision on the § 271(b) question necessitates a remand to the Federal Circuit, and on remand, the Federal Circuit will have the opportunity to revisit the § 271(a) question if it so chooses.”). The Federal Circuit took the Continue reading Divided Infringement Broadened
By Will Gibbons
Defense attorneys often rely on the legal defense of laches when faced with a claim of patent infringement. This defense bars recovery when a party claims legal injury but unreasonably delays in pursuing the claim in a way that prejudices the opposing party. The laches defense has come under close examination in the SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products, Inc. case. 1
The facts giving rise to the case began when SCA, the patent holder, suggested in a 2003 letter to First Quality, its competitor in the adult incontinence market, that First Quality products were infringing on one of SCA’s patents. After exchanging letters for several years, SCA filed suit in 2010, alleging patent infringement. The District Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment primarily under laches grounds.
Then, in a ruling previously discussed on this blog, a three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit affirmed the grant of laches as a defense to patent infringement. This came despite the Supreme Court’s 2014 holding in Patrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. 2 that laches cannot be invoked to bar a claim for copyright infringement. In light of the Patrella ruling, the Federal Circuit vacated its SCA Hygiene Products ruling on December 30, 2014, ordering an en banc hearing of the court, meaning Continue reading Laches Remains Patent Infringement Defense…For Now
Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP is pleased to announce that Stephen C. Hall has been appointed as Vice Chair of the Patent Litigation Subcommittee of the Defense Research Institute’s Intellectual Property Litigation Section. The Intellectual Property Litigation Section is dedicated to meeting member needs relating to substantive law issues in patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret litigation as well as professional and business development. The Section particularly focuses on issues related to IP litigation and provides the defense practitioner with the skills and tools needed to thrive in this competitive market. The Defense Research Institute (DRI) is the leading organization of defense attorneys and in-house counsel in the nation and has served the defense bar for more than 50 years.
Mr. Hall concentrates his practice in the areas of patents and litigation involving medical technology, life sciences, and chemical products and inventions. He is a registered patent attorney who practices before the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in federal and state courts. He is a former President of Kentucky Defense Counsel and former Vice Chair of the Biotechnology Law Committee of the American Bar Association. Mr. Hall is AV rated in Martindale-Hubbell and has been recognized in Woodward/White’s The Best Lawyers in America for Biotechnology, and Kentucky Super Lawyers and Chambers and Partners USA in the area of Intellectual Property. He has also been recognized as one of the top lawyers in the area of Patent Law by Louisville Magazine. Mr. Hall earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Louisville, magna cum laude, and his law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
By Stephen C. Hall
Rarely has such a short word or phrase influenced patent claims to such a degree as the phrase, “means for.” This phrase sits at the intersection of function (what an invention accomplishes) and structure (the materials for accomplishing it). 35 U.S.C. § 112, para. 6 is the basis for its use in patent claims:
An element in a claim for a combination may be expressed as a means or step for performing a specific function without the recital of structure, material, or acts in support thereof, and such claim shall be construed to cover the corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof.1
With this provision, Congress created a balance by permitting patentees the option to claim inventions with functional language, which tends to require fewer words. But in exchange for brevity in the claims, the specification must Continue reading Patent Appeals Court Raises Bar on Functional Claiming
By Matthew M. Lubozynski and Amanda Warford Edge
Just over a year ago, on April 29, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two landmark patent opinions—Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc.1 and Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Mgmt. System, Inc.2 Both cases dealt with the Federal Circuit’s application of 35 U.S.C. § 285, which permits courts to award attorney’s fees to the prevailing party in “exceptional” patent cases. Prior to these decisions, the Federal Circuit made “exceptional case” determinations under a fairly specific standard, finding an “exceptional case” only if it involved “material inappropriate conduct” or was both “objectively baseless” and “brought in subjective bad faith.” Further, to establish the “exceptional” nature of the case, the parties were required to produce clear and convincing evidence—and the Federal Circuit reviewed a lower court’s award of attorney’s fees de novo. In Octane Fitness and Highmark, however, the Supreme Court drastically changed these standards. As a result of these changes, many believed that a grant of attorneys’ fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285 would be much easier to attain.
As an initial matter, in Octane Fitness, the Court rejected the Federal Circuit’s “overly rigid” formula for exceptionality findings. According to the Court, the formula “superimposes an inflexible framework onto statutory text that is inherently flexible.” The Court instead held that Continue reading A Year in Review: The Impact of Octane Fitness and Highmark on Attorney’s Fee Awards in Patent Cases
By Matt Lubozynski
Last week, the United States Supreme Court issued an important ruling in Commil USA, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc., concerning defenses available to a defendant accused of inducing infringement of a patent. Generally, under 35 U.S.C. § 271, there are 3 ways one can be found liable for patent infringement. First, one can be found to directly infringe a patent, which many may be surprised to find is a strict liability offense, requiring no intent to infringe and no knowledge of the patent prior to suit being brought on the part of the accused infringer. One can also be found liable for indirect infringement of a patent, either through inducing infringement or contributory infringement of the patent. Both of these, contrary to direct infringement, require actual knowledge of the patent-in-suit and knowledge of infringement. Thus, as the Supreme Court emphasized, one can defeat a claim of inducement or contributory infringement by showing it did not know its acts were infringing the patent-in-suit.
The question presented to the United States Supreme Court in Commil was whether a belief that the patent-in-suit was invalid, versus not infringed, was a defense to a claim of inducement. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals had previously held Continue reading United States Supreme Court Finds Belief in Invalidity Not a Defense to Inducement Claim
By Stephen C. Hall
How would the dynamic of patent infringement litigation change if Patent Assertion Entities, who file lawsuits serially, faced a higher level of scrutiny over their pre-lawsuit investigation? This post explains how to accomplish this with due regard for attorney-client privilege and attorney work product.
In its study of the Patent Assertion Entity (“PAE”), the Federal Trade Commission defined PAEs as firms that acquire patents to generate revenue through litigation. Like any patent holder, a PAE must reasonably investigate before filing a lawsuit. However, a serial PAE might sue dozens or hundreds of players in an industry with a cookie-cutter complaint, and some attempt to exploit the fact that Continue reading The “Patent Assertion Escrow” as a Limit against Abusive, Coercive Litigation
By Stephen C. Hall
A recent opinion by a Federal Circuit panel demonstrates that three years can be a long time in the smartphone industry. MobileMedia Ideas, LLC v. Apple, Inc. targeted Apple’s iPhone products and determined, for now at least, the fate of claims in two patents owned by MobileMedia, a non-practicing holding company partially owned by Nokia and Sony. (Fed. Cir. 2014-1060, 2014-1091.) Rulings on two separate patents hinged on whether a skilled artisan would have been motivated to combine multiple references.
The determination of obviousness is a legal question based on juror fact findings. In the case at hand, two references in combination taught Continue reading The Motivation to Combine References: Substantial Evidence and the Obviousness Examination Guidelines