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
Andrew DeVoogd is a Member in the firm and is based in our Boston office. He focuses on patent litigation, particularly concerning Section 337 investigations in the International Trade Commission, and has participated in all phases of numerous high-stakes ITC investigations involving some of the largest technology companies in the world. Drew has also litigated patent infringement cases and other complex business disputes in federal district courts across the United States. In addition, he provides strategic counseling to help clients protect and leverage IP rights to maximize their value.
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 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.
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.
Last month, following a jury verdict in federal district court in Delaware awarding Plaintiff Idenix Pharmaceuticals LLC $2.54 billion in damages—“the largest damages verdict ever returned in a patent [infringement] trial”—Chief Judge Leonard Stark denied Idenix’s motion for enhanced damages. Idenix Pharm. LLC v. Gilead Scis., Inc., No. 14-CV-00846, at *2, 15 (D. Del. Sept. 22, 2017). Chief Judge Stark determined that even though the jury concluded that Defendant Gilead Sciences, Inc. willfully infringed Idenix’s patent directed to novel treatments of the Hepatitis C Virus (“HCV”), the totality of the circumstances did not warrant the award of enhanced damages. He based the denial of the motion on the public health benefit of the accused products and on the amount of the jury award.
The United States Supreme Court decided earlier this year that a 1957 opinion is still valid and still limits venue choices for patent infringement actions under 28 U.S.C. § 1400. See TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, 581 U.S. ___ (2017) (citing Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U.S. 222, 226 (1957)). In its extensively-covered TC Heartland decision issued in May, the Court held that “[a]s applied to domestic corporations, ‘reside[nce]’ in § 1400(b) refers only to the State of incorporation,” where the accused infringer has a “regular and established place of business” in the venue. While framed as merely confirmation of precedent from the 1950s, many practitioners and commentators viewed this decision as a dramatic change in the patent litigation landscape.
Since TC Heartland came down, lower courts have applied the new paradigm in differing ways. As trends have developed in recent months, we thought it useful to provide a sampling of the various approaches to venue issues post-TC Heartland. These issues include, for example, whether defendants who did not contest venue prior to the TC Heartland decision waived the defense of improper venue because the case was—or was not—an “intervening change” in the law, and how to assess whether a defendant has regular and established place of business in a particular venue.
After an eight-year battle through the Federal Courts, the fight over attorneys’ fees in Octane Fitness v. ICON Health & Fitness has likely reached its end with the Federal Circuit upholding the hotly disputed $1.6 million award to Defendant Octane Fitness. This case previously made it up to the Supreme Court, which overturned the Federal Circuit’s prior standard for determining exceptional cases under 35 U.S.C. § 285. Following a remand to the District Court applying the new totality-of-the-circumstances test established by the Supreme Court, the parties again appealed to the Federal Circuit.
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.
A flurry of activity from various courts this past week on “exceptional cases” under Section 285 of the Patent Act provided notable guidance for practitioners and patent owners, with a particular emphasis on the motivation and conduct of the litigants. We provide a short synopsis of these cases.
By way of context, in 2014, the Supreme Court in Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1749 (2014), instructed courts to apply a totality of the circumstances test when evaluating whether a case is “exceptional” under 35 U.S.C. § 285. If a case is found to be exceptional within the meaning of the statute, monetary sanctions and fee-shifting may be imposed. This totality of the circumstances analysis was a substantial departure from the previous Federal Circuit tests, which were uniformly viewed as more rigid. Some of the factors the Supreme Court suggested district courts could consider included “frivolousness, motivation, objective unreasonableness (both in the factual and legal components of the case) and the need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence.” Our previous discussion of exceptional cases under Section 285 can be found here.