A recent opinion from the District of New Jersey is a cautionary tale for patent practitioners regarding conduct during patent prosecution that can be framed as bad faith. This can become an expensive misstep during subsequent litigation. In Howmedica Osteonics Corp. v. Zimmer, Inc. et al., 2-05-cv-00897, the court granted defendant Zimmer, Inc.’s (“Zimmer”) motion for over $13 million in attorney fees and costs under 35 U.S.C. § 285 over plaintiff Howmedica Osteonics Corp.’s (“Howmedica”) argument that its actions did not support a finding of an exceptional case.
Chris is a patent attorney whose practice focuses on IP litigation. He is based in the firm’s Boston office and has worked on a variety of International Trade Commission cases involving mechanical, electrical, software, and computer engineering technology. Earlier in his career, Chris founded and ran a company that developed and sold kits for a Linux-powered gaming system.
A recent order from the Northern District of California provides patent practitioners interesting guidance regarding conduct during licensing discussions—and may be a cautionary tale to potential licensors engaged in efficient infringement. In Finjan, Inc. v. SonicWall, Inc., 5-17-cv-04467, the court denied the defendant SonicWall’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff Finjan, Inc.’s (“Finjan”) willfulness allegations. Finjan alleges both that SonicWall infringes ten of Finjan’s patents covering behavior-based and antimalware security, and also that SonicWall’s infringement was willful because it engaged in insincere licensing discussions in order to intentionally delay the infringement litigation.
The Federal Circuit recently overturned a decision estopping the plaintiff from pursuing its infringement claims in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and clarified the effect of reexamination on equitable estoppel and laches. In John Bean Technologies Corporation v. Morris & Associates, Inc., the Federal Circuit held that District Court abused its discretion applying equitable estoppel to bar John Bean Technologies Corp.’s (“John Bean”) infringement action without considering the impact of an intervening ex parte reexamination on the claims of the asserted patent.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two important patent law opinions that relate to the inter partes review procedure introduced by the America Invents Act: Oil States Energy Servs., LLC v. Greene’s Energy Grp., LLC, which upholds the constitutionality of inter partes review, and SAS Institute, Inc. v. Iancu, which requires the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to adjudicate the validity all patent claims challenged in a petition for inter partes review if the Board decides to adjudicate the validity of any claim challenged in that petition. Yesterday, the PTO issued a memo describing how pending trials will be conducted and how new petitions will be addressed in light of SAS Institute, but important questions remain.
In Drop Stop LLC v. Jian Qing Zhu et al, 2-16-cv-07916 (CACD January 22, 2018), the Central District of California granted Plaintiff’s motion to award attorney fees due to Defendants’ exceptional litigation tactics under 35 U.S.C. § 285. Initially, counsel for Plaintiff sent a cease and desist email to Defendants to stop selling an infringing product, and attached a draft claim chart in support of its infringement position. The claim chart included a disclaimer stating “PLEASE NOTE – this informal opinion cannot be relied upon definitively. A formal opinion is required, and that involves extensive study and other efforts to provide a reliable outcome. Please call me to discuss.” However, four days later, Defendants re-listed the accused products and sent Plaintiff an email attaching Plaintiff’s draft claim chart without the disclaimer. Defendants relied upon Plaintiff’s claim chart to support its non-infringement positions despite not having performed any analysis of their own, and entirely dismissing Plaintiff’s disclaimer, which expressly disclaimed any formal legal opinion.
We first 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), a case with the potential to substantially alter the patent litigation landscape, back in June. On Monday, November 27, 2017 the Court heard oral arguments on 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 and without a jury.
Advocates and commentators on both sides of the argument weighed in extensively prior to Monday’s argument, culminating in almost 60 amicus curiae briefs, the most of any case this term. Parties urging the Court to reject Oil States’ argument included, for example, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, GE, Apple, the Internet Association (which represents Amazon, Facebook and Google), and the current Solicitor General of the United States, Noel Francisco. On the other side, inventors, venture capitalists, law professors, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, amongst others, urged the Justices to abolish inter partes review. Protesters, including some organized by websites such as www.usinventor.org, gathered outside the Court on Monday to support Oil States armed with signs stating “PTAB Kills American Dreams” and “Innovation: Don’t Kill it!”
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 move that could drastically change the patent law landscape, the United States Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in Oil States Energy Services LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group LLC, No. 16-712, to answer the question whether the inter partes review (IPR) process violates the U.S. Constitution by “extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury.”
In 2001, Oil States Energy Services LLC (“Oil States”) was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,179,053 for a lockdown mechanism to ensure a mandrel is locked in an operative position during fracking. Oil States sued Greene’s Energy Group LLC (“Greene’s Energy”) in the Eastern District of Texas in 2012 for infringing this patent, and in turn, Greene’s Energy petitioned the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to institute an IPR on the patent. This petition was granted. After the proceedings, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the administrative body of the USPTO that handles IPRs, concluded the challenged patent claims were invalid. Oil States appealed to the Federal Circuit, which affirmed the decision, and Oil States then petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari.
New rules for patent cases in the Northern District of California will significantly affect litigation and settlement of cases in Silicon Valley’s backyard. Lawyers litigating cases in the district after the January 17, 2017 change should be wary of the new requirements that set the Northern District of California apart. These changes fall into three main categories.
The first change affects the initial Case Management Conference under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26. In the Case Management Statement, parties now must provide non-binding, good-faith estimates of the damages expected in the case, as well as an explanation for the estimates. Patent L.R. 2-1(b)(5). If a party cannot provide this information they must explain why, state what information they would need to do so, and state when the party believes they would be in a position to provide the estimate and explanation.