By Matthew M. Lubozynski
The 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
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
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
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