In a May 10, 2018 ruling, discussed earlier on this blog, Magistrate Judge Payne affirmed the jury’s willfulness finding largely on the ground that TCL did not proffer any evidence that it held a subjective, good faith belief that it did not infringe the patent-in-suit or that the patent was invalid. The fact that TCL filed over a dozen petitions for inter partes review of the asserted patents did not mean, as a matter of law, that TCL held such a subjective, good faith belief. The ruling demonstrates the importance, post-Halo, of alleged infringers performing their own investigation of allegations against them – mere pleadings taking non-infringement or invalidity positions may not suffice to defeat a willfulness allegation. Continue Reading Willfulness Finding in EDTX Ruling in TCL v. Ericsson Illustrates the Risk to Accused Infringers of Failing to Investigate Allegations
Daniel Weinger is an Associate in the firm and is based in our Boston office. His practice involves all phases of patent litigation in Federal District Courts and the International Trade Commission, where he has been actively engaged in evidentiary hearings. He has experience in a variety of technology areas, including computer software, software architecture, GPS, network devices, semiconductors, converged devices, and LED lighting.
On May 10, 2018, Magistrate Judge Payne reconsidered his previous March 2018 order which had vacated a jury award, and granted plaintiff Ericsson’s motion for reconsideration. The May ruling makes clear that the accused infringer bears the burden of production for royalty-stacking and other mitigatory arguments on damages. Whereas the March ruling excluded Ericsson’s damages expert for failing to account properly for the royalty stack on the accused products that his damages theory implied, the May ruling scrutinized the record and found that TCL had failed to submit any evidence into the record that would support even a jury instruction on royalty stacking. The decision underscores the importance of developing an affirmative record in support of each element of a damages theory or counter-theory.
The ruling also stands in stark relief to Judge Selna’s 2017 ruling in the Central District of California case between the parties. There, Judge Selna determined that approximately $20 million would represent a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) royalty for TCL’s infringement of Ericsson’s worldwide portfolio of patents declared essential to various telecommunications standards (SEPs) – thousands of patents that, the parties agreed, represented a significant share of the value of the technology in those standards.
On Tuesday, May 8, 2018, the International Trade Commission (“ITC” or the “Commission”) published the final changes to its rules of practice and procedure. The Commission stated that the changes are intended to both modernize and simplify Commission practice as well as to increase the speed and efficiency of investigations. In total, the Commission provided eleven amendments/additions to its current rules of practice and procedure, which take effect beginning on June 7, 2018. Going forward, the new rules will apply only to those Section 337 investigations instituted after that date; any investigations currently pending or filed before June 7 will proceed under the current rules. Of these changes, several may have a lasting impact on practice in Section 337 investigations, while other changes are minor but still require practitioners to take note.
On April 18, 2018, the International Trade Commission (“Commission”) reversed an Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) finding that a litigation funding agreement destroyed standing for a complainant at the ITC. In Certain Audio Processing Hardware, Software, and Products Containing the Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-1026 (the “1026 investigation”), the ALJ issued an initial determination (“ID”) that found that Complainant Andrea did not have standing to assert the 6,363,345 (“the ’345 patent”) against Respondent Apple without joining litigation funder AND34, with which Andrea entered into a Revenue Sharing and Note Purchase Agreement (the “funding agreement”) to fund Andrea’s enforcement activities. But on review, the Commission concluded that the ALJ was wrong and reversed the portion of the ID that found that the funding agreement between Andrea and AND34 undermined standing.
On March 20, 2018, the public version of Eastern District of Texas Magistrate Judge Roy Payne’s March 7, 2018 order tossing a $75 million jury verdict obtained by Ericsson against TCL Communication was released. Ericsson Inc., et al, v. TCL Communication Technology Holdings, Ltd., et al, Case No. 2:15-cv-00011-RSP, Doc. No. 460 (redacted memorandum opinion and order) (E.D. Tex. March 7, 2018) (“Order”). Judge Payne’s order sheds important light on the damages analysis for infringement of patents covering features of smartphone technology and potentially provides lessons to future litigants seeking damages for smartphone innovations.
After a jury verdict finding infringement, Ericsson also won a damages verdict of $75M due to TCL’s ongoing and willful infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,149,510 (“the ’510 patent”). Ericsson contended that the ’510 patent covers smartphone functionality that allows a user to grant or deny access to native phone functionality to a third-party application, which is a standard feature in all Android smartphones. After trial, TCL moved for judgment as a matter of law on infringement and damages, or in the alternative new trials. Judge Payne indicated that he was going to uphold the infringement verdict, but ordered a new trial on damages. Order at 1.
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.
Late last week, the Federal Circuit granted a writ of mandamus in In re Cray, 2017-129 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 21, 2017), overturning Judge Gilstrap’s four-factor test for determining whether a defendant possesses “a regular and established place of business” in a district such that the defendant could be sued for patent infringement in that district. In re Cray provides useful guidance because it is the first time since the Supreme Court’s TC Heartland decision that the Federal Circuit has weighed in on what constitutes a “regular and established place of business.” The patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), provides that venue is proper in a patent infringement lawsuit only where the defendant (1) resides or (2) has “committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.” TC Heartland clarified that a defendant “resides” only in the state in which it is incorporated. It did not address the second prong, however, which is an alternative way of establishing venue. More frequently patent owners are looking to the second prong to determine the locus of an appropriate venue now that the first prong of the statute has been interpreted narrowly.
On May 17, 2017, the International Trade Commission (ITC) reversed an ALJ’s ruling and found a violation of Section 337 in Certain Air Mattress Systems, Components Thereof and Methods of using the Same (“Certain Air Mattress Systems”), Inv. No. 337-TA-971, due to the importation of certain air mattresses, and components of air mattresses, by the named respondents. The public version of the Commission opinion has been released and provides future ITC litigants with guidance regarding the proper allocation of expenses for domestic industry purposes, and how the Commission views certain types of products for public interest consideration.
One living member and the estates of the 1980s funk group, Collage, have filed suit against musicians Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars claiming the duo copied the bass line, guitar riff, and various other elements of Collage’s 1980s work “Young Girls.” This lawsuit comes on the heels of last year’s controversial verdict out of the Central District of California where a jury found that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” copied key elements from Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”
See Mintz Levin’s Trademark & Copyright Matters blog for our full write-up on the “Uptown Funk” case and how the “Blurred Line” decision may impact it.
On October 19, 2016, the ITC instituted Investigation No. 1025, based on a complaint filed on May 26, 2016, by Silicon Genesis Corporation (SiGen), against Soitec, S.A. (Soitec). As part of the institution, the ITC ordered that the ALJ issue an early initial determination regarding whether SiGen “has satisfied the economic prong of the domestic industry requirement.” See 81 F.R. 73419 (Notice of Institution of Inv. No. 1025) (Oct. 25, 2016). This is now the fourth time the ITC has ordered the 100-Day program in an investigation, and in this case it appears that previous behavior by the complainant SiGen contributed to the order.