Yesterday, 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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
Could a case on the boxing classic Raging Bull lead to a patent litigation prizefight of sorts? In an en banc hearing ordered on December 30, 2014, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal appellate court with special jurisdiction over patents and trademarks, will decide whether the Supreme Court’s essential elimination of a litigation defense involving copyright cases should also apply in patent cases.
The defense in question is the doctrine of laches. Laches is an equitable defense that bars recovery when a party claims it has been legally injured, but unreasonably delays pursuing any legal action in a way that prejudices the opposing party. The defense has been asserted in many kinds of cases, including contract, tort, copyright, and patent cases.
A Supreme Court case involving a copyright and the laches defense, Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1962 (2014), has triggered a ripple effect that may reach into patent law. In that case, Paula Petrella, daughter of the co-author of the screenplay that evolved into Raging Bull, alleged copyright infringement against MGM. MGM countered that Petrella delayed too long in bringing the action, as she had renewed the copyright in 1991 and first threatened suit in 1998. However, the Supreme Court rejected MGM’s position and held that Continue reading →