In June, we covered the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in Oil States Energy Servs., LLC v. Greene’s Energy Grp., LLC, 137 S. Ct. 2239 (2017). The Court will decide whether inter partes review – an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) since September 16, 2012 to analyze the validity of existing patents – violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury. With its remarkably high rate of invalidating challenged patents, inter partes review (IPR) has become an effective method for defendants in patent disputes to apply pressure on patent holders, often utilizing serial IPRs to take multiple shots at invalidating patents they infringe. With the potential for IPRs to be declared unconstitutional, some parties have asked courts to stay active litigation until after Oil States is decided. One court in the Northern District of Texas recently denied such a motion to stay in Leak Surveys, Inc. v. FLIR Systems, Inc., 3-13-cv-02897 (TXND 2017-11-13, Order) (Lynn, USDJ). Continue Reading District Court Denies Motion to Stay Pending Supreme Court Decision in Oil States
In a nonprecedential opinion issued on November 13, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court finding that Apotex’s aBLAs for biosimilar versions of Neulasta® and Neupogen® did not infringe an Amgen protein folding patent. The Federal Circuit affirmed the non-infringement finding despite statements made in Apotex’s pre-litigation letters sent during the parties’ information exchange (i.e., the “patent dance”), which the district court found were controverted by evidence presented by Apotex at trial.
Amgen makes the biologic drugs Neulasta® (pegfilgrastim) and Neupogen® (filgrastim). Apotex submitted aBLAs (“abbreviated Biologics License Applications”) to the FDA seeking approval of biosimilar versions of both drugs under the BPCIA (“Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act”) framework. The parties engaged in the BPCIA’s “patent dance” information exchange process, whereby Apotex provided Amgen with copies of Apotex’s aBLAs. Amgen ultimately brought suit under 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(2)(C), (a) and (g), asserting that Apotex’s proposed manufacturing processes would infringe, among others, Amgen’s U.S. Patent. No. 8,952,138 (the ‘138 patent).
The ‘138 patent covers a method of refolding misfolded proteins. This process purportedly allows for large-scale protein refolding using lower reagent volumes than was previously possible. The district court construed (and the Federal Circuit did not reverse) asserted claim 1 of the ‘138 patent to require “refold mixture” protein concentrations above 1.0 g/L. Continue Reading Federal Circuit Evaluates Import of Factual Statements Made During BPCIA Pre-litigation Patent Dance
On November 15, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit resolved a split among district courts on the question whether the United States Supreme Court’s TC Heartland decision constituted a change in the law, or merely a course-correction to honor preexisting law. The Federal Circuit held that the Supreme Court’s decision changed the controlling law. In re: Micron, No. 17-00138 at 13 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 15, 2017).
Micron Technology, Inc. asked the Federal Circuit to set aside the district court’s denial of its motion to dismiss or transfer the case for improper venue. The district court held that Micron waived its objection to venue because it failed to raise an available venue defense in its initial Rule 12 motion to dismiss, and concluded that TC Heartland was not a change in the law.
The Federal Circuit disagreed. It reasoned that the Supreme Court clearly rejected V.E. Holding and concluded that the definition of “resides” in § 1391(c) does not apply to § 1400(b). The Federal Circuit further reasoned that the Supreme Court changed the law by severing § 1400(b) from § 1391(c). As a result, the objection was not “available” under Rule 12(g)(2) when Defendant filed its motion to dismiss in 2016, before TC Heartland came down. On this basis, the Federal Circuit reversed and remanded the case. This decision resolves a previously open question in the wake of TC Heartland that we wrote about here.
In issuing its precedential decision earlier this month in Two-Way Media v. Comcast, the Federal Circuit affirmed a Delaware district court determination that four data streaming patents were directed to ineligible subject matter pursuant to § 101 and the Alice framework. The four related patents (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,778,187, 5,983,005, 6,434,622, and 7,266,686) describe methods and systems for streaming audio/visual data over a communications system (e.g., the Internet) and, in particular, a scalable architecture for delivering real-time information to a number of users, including a control mechanism allowing for management and administration of users intended to receive the real-time information.
Under Alice step one, the Court found that the patents claimed the abstract idea of sending and monitoring the delivery of audio/visual information. The Federal Circuit agreed with this characterization of the claims, finding that the claims used results-based functional language with no articulation of how the particular results are achieved. Two-Way Media also proposed claim constructions that it argued tied the claims to a scalable network architecture. Even after adopting Two-Way Media’s propose constructions, both the District Court and the Federal Circuit found that the constructions, at best, encompassed using generic computer components to carry out the abstract idea and still failed to indicate how the claims themselves “are directed to a scalable network architecture that itself leads to an improvement in the functioning of the system.” (emphasis added) Continue Reading Federal Circuit Affirms Delaware Alice Decision
Earlier this week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) published a new rule governing when privilege exists for communications between clients and their domestic or foreign patent attorneys and patent agents before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”). For context, the originally proposed amendment sought to resolve ambiguity as to when privilege extends to USPTO patent practitioners during PTAB discovery proceedings in light of prior Federal Circuit, District Court and PTAB decisions. The now-published rule codifies the PTAB’s intent to protect communications between patent agents and clients from discovery, stating that:
“communication[s] between a client and a USPTO patent practitioner or a foreign patent practitioner that is reasonably necessary and incident to the scope of the patent practitioner’s authority shall receive the same protections of privilege under Federal law as if that communication were between a client and an attorney authorized to practice in the United States, including all limitations and exceptions[;]”
“USPTO patent practitioners and foreign jurisdiction patent practitioners shall receive the same treatment as attorneys on all issues affecting privilege or waiver, such as communications with employees or assistants of the practitioner and communications between multiple practitioners.”
In an interesting development in the post-TC Heartland world, it appears that the Federal Circuit will soon answer the question whether the Supreme Court’s venue decision was a change in the law, or merely a course-correction to honor preexisting law. Here, in a case arising out of the Eastern District of New York, the Federal Circuit ordered AlmondNet, Inc., Datonics, LLC, and Intent IQ, LLC to respond to a petition for a writ of mandamus submitted by Yahoo Holdings, Inc. In its petition, Yahoo argued that the District Court erred in denying its motion to transfer, and specifically that it waived the right to challenge venue on the basis that TC Heartland did not change the law of venue.
In Vecco Instruments Inc. v. SGL Carbon, LLC, No. 17-CV-2217 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 2, 2017), Judge Pamela Chen in the Eastern District of New York recently granted Vecco’s motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining SGL Carbon. The requested injunction sought to prevent SGL Carbon’s further actions related to its likely indirect infringement of Vecco’s asserted patents. Notable in this extensive and detailed 76-page decision is the Court’s discussion of how “long-term and second-order” effects of the accused infringer’s actions can satisfy the “irreparable harm” requirement of the preliminary injunction analysis.
Plaintiff Vecco designs, manufactures, and services LEDs, power electronics, hard drives, and other electronic devices. It also owns patents related to metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) reactors, a technology that enables high-volume fabrication of metal-organic semiconductor wafers that can be turned into LEDs. Vecco enjoys a large share of the MOCVD market due, in large part, to a distinctive feature of its MOCVD reactors: a removable wafer carrier, typically made of graphite that is mounted on a spindle centrally positioned within the reactor. Vecco authorized SGL Carbon to manufacture these wafer carriers for Vecco and its customers, but in 2013, SGL Carbon began manufacturing wafer carrier for a new entrant into the MOCVD market. Vecco claims this constituted infringement of its MOCVD patents, and sought a preliminary injunction to stop this activity during the pendency of the patent litigation case.
On November 1, 2017 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) implemented an expansion of the Collaborative Search Pilot Program (CSP), which began in 2015 and ended earlier in 2017, to expedite prosecution of related applications at the USPTO and the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) or Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO). The original CSP is discussed in the Global IP Matters article Expediting Patent Prosecution with the New Collaborative Search Pilot Program. The new expanded CSP eases some requirements for participation in the program and increases the number of grantable CSP petitions per year, which should make the free CSP more attractive to applicants having patent applications co-pending at the USPTO and the JPO or KIPO.
Following a lengthy and extensive litigation that began in 2011 that culminated in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in December of 2016, smartphone industry titans Apple and Samsung will again find themselves in Federal District Court Judge Lucy Koh’s courtroom on remand to determine appropriate damages for Samsung’s infringement of Apple’s design patents.
US Design Pat. No. 593,087
US Design Pat. No. 604,305
US Design Pat. No. 618,677
As we have written before, Apple originally filed this patent infringement action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 2011, alleging that, in relevant part, Samsung’s smartphones infringed three of Apple’s design patents. Judge Koh presided over the dispute. The jury found infringement of all three design patents, and the district court entered final judgment awarding $399 million attributable to Samsung’s infringement of the design patents. The Federal Circuit upheld the lower court’s judgment on the amount of damages for infringement of the design patents, and Samsung filed a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court seeking reversal.
In a precedential opinion issued on October 11, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the Patent Trial and Appeals Board’s (“PTAB”) finding of non-obviousness where the prior art taught away from some, but not all, of the embodiments covered by the challenged claims. In Owens Corning v. Fast Felt Corp., No. 2016-2613 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 11, 2017), the panel held that the PTAB had applied an unreasonably narrow construction to the exclusion of embodiments that were not taught away from by prior combinations disclosing all of the claim elements.
PTAB’s Improper Claim Construction
Fast Felt owns U.S. Patent No. 8,137,757 (“the ‘757 patent”), which it asserted against Owens Corning in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. In turn, Owens Corning petitioned for inter partes review of the claims of ‘757 patent, and the PTAB instituted trial. Owens Corning contended that the challenged claims were rendered obvious by prior art combinations disclosing all elements of the independent claims. However, in its final written decision, the Board determined that Owens Corning failed to provide a motivation to combine and upheld the patentability of the challenged claims. Owens Corning timely appealed.