Speed is almost always of the essence for the victim of trade secret misappropriation. Many companies ground their business in proprietary information that, if made public, would make the exclusive product or service those companies provide a commodity good. The International Trade Commission provides a lightning fast mechanism to address trade secret misappropriation and stop foreign goods embodying misappropriated trade secrets from entering the United States, and thus it is no surprise that when trade secret misappropriation takes place abroad, companies turn to the ITC for relief. A recent decision by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin makes the ability of the ITC to address trade secret misappropriation even stronger by finding, for the first time, that ITC determinations may have preclusive effect in United States District Court.
Michael Renaud is the Division Head of our Intellectual Property Practice and serves on the firm’s Policy Committee. He is an experienced litigator known for his business approach to creating value in patent assets. His success on behalf of clients comes from his ability to identify the value drivers in a portfolio and communicate that value to competitors, investors, purchasers, licensees, counsel, judges, and juries. With a background in mechanical engineering and nearly 20 years of experience practicing law, he has the combination of technical and legal skills essential to a strategic patent practice.
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 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
The public version of ALJ Shaw’s Initial Determination (ID) in U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) investigation Certain Magnetic Data Storage Tapes and Cartridges Containing the Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-1012 (1012 Investigation), provides important guidance on enforcement of standard-essential patents (SEPs) in the ITC. Respondent and accused infringer Sony argued that several of the patents asserted by patentee Fujifilm wereessential to the LTO-7 standard (relating to “linear tape open” magnetic media) and therefore that Fujifilm had waived its right to injunctive relief and was obligated to license its patents on FRAND terms. ALJ Shaw ultimately found that Sony had not met its burden of demonstrating essentiality, but he nevertheless provided helpful instructions on the quantum of proof necessary to make out such a claim, as well as other factors relevant to ITC enforcement of SEPs, all of which affirmed that the ITC is a viable forum for enforcement of SEPs. In sum he ruled that:
- The party arguing that a patent is essential bears the burden of proof on that point;
- Unless a patent is, in fact, essential to a given standard, there can be no breach of the standard-setting organization (SSO) agreement(s) giving rise to the FRAND obligation at issue;
- Breach of an SSO agreement and of forum selection clauses are not valid defenses in ITC investigations; and
- Respondents bear the burden of proving that a complainant/patentee relinquished its rights to equitable relief by joining the SSO in question.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Aqua Products Inc., v. Matal materially changes the burden of proof associated with the patentability of amended claims during an inter partes review (“IPR”), shifting the burden from the Patent Owner seeking the amendment to the IPR Petitioner opposing it.
Prior to the Aqua decision, if a Patent Owner sought to amend claims during an IPR, the Patent Trial and Appeals Board (the “Board”) placed the burden on the Patent Owner to prove that the proposed amended claims were patentable. When Patent Owner Aqua attempted to amend its claims during an IPR challenge to its U.S. Patent No. 8,273,183, the Board found that Aqua had not met its burden and denied Aqua’s motion to amend.
The Defend Trade Secrets Acts (DTSA) provides an important tool for any company possessing trade secrets to bring a suit in federal court to remedy and prevent dissemination of a misappropriated trade secret. Specifically, under 18 U.S.C. § 1836, the DTSA creates a federal private civil cause of action for trade secret misappropriation in which “[a]n owner of a trade secret that is misappropriated may bring a civil action . . . if the trade secret is related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce.” But what about conspiracy to commit trade secret misappropriation – can a private party bring a civil action for conspiracy to commit trade secret misappropriation under 18 U.S.C. § 1832(a)? The Eastern District of Virginia in Steves and Sons, Inc. v. Jeld-Wen, Inc., CA No. 3:16-cv-545 (E.D. Va.) recently addressed this novel question, and found that the answer is “no.” Continue Reading DTSA Does Not Create a Private Civil Cause of Action for Conspiracy to Commit Trade Secret Theft
Last week, the Federal Circuit held computer memory system patent claims not abstract and thus patent-eligible under Section 101, reversing a lower court dismissal of the case under Rule 12(b)(6). Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp., No. 2016-2254, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 15187 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 15, 2017).
U.S. Patent No. 5,953,740 (“the ‘740 patent”) describes a memory system that can be tailored for use with multiple different processors without reducing performance. Id. at 3. The ‘740 patent explains that when “the [memory] system is turned on, information about the type of processor is used to self-configure the programmable operational characteristics.” Visual Memory, No. 2016-2254, slip op. at 4. “For example, depending on the type of processor, internal cache 16 can store both code and noncode data, or it can store only code data.” Id. at 4. Claim 1 recites the following:
The Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) Ex Parte Seizure mechanism allows victims of trade secret misappropriation to quickly prevent further dissemination of confidential information by asking a court to direct federal marshals to seize stolen trade secret material and secure that material during the pendency of a formal DTSA case. The DTSA directs that civil seizure only be used in “extraordinary circumstances,” however, and courts entertaining requests for civil seizure have hewed closely to this directive. See, e.g., OOO Brunswick Rail Mgt. v. Sultanov, Case No. 5:17-cv-00017 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 6, 2017) (denying request for civil seizure and instead ordering preservation of devices at issue pursuant to Rule 65); Magnesita Refractories Co. v. Mishra, 2:16-cv-524 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 25, 2017) (same); Dazzle Software II, LLC v. Kinney, Case No. 1:16-cv-12191 (E.D. Mich. July 18, 2016) (denying request for civil seizure where court not convinced that defendant would not comply with order under Rule 65); Balearia Caribbean Ltd. Corp. v. Calvo, Case No. 1:16-cv-23300 (S.D. Fla. Aug 5, 2016) (“a plaintiff may not rely on bare assertions that the defendant, if given notice, would destroy relevant evidence”).
In what appears to be the first civil seizure order under the DTSA, in Mission Capital Advisors LLC v. Romaka, No. 16-cv-5878 (S.D.N.Y. July 29, 2016), the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered federal marshals to seize contact lists and other electronically-stored information that was allegedly misappropriated by Defendant, a former employee of Plaintiff. The circumstances of this case provide insight into what “extraordinary circumstances” are necessary for a district court to order civil seizure under the DTSA. Continue Reading DTSA and Ex Parte Seizure – Lessons from the First Ex Parte Seizure Under The DTSA
In a first of its kind decision with important ramifications for patentees, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) denied a petition to suspend or temporarily rescind remedial orders issued in Investigation No. 337-TA-945 pending appeal of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (“PTAB”) separate finding that the patent claims at issue are invalid. The ITC has therefore decided to continue to exclude products it found to be infringing certain patents, regardless of the PTAB invalidating the very patents the exclusion order is based upon in separate IPR proceedings. While this decision aiding patentees may surprise some, it is consistent with the ITC’s practices regarding stays and of giving little deference to IPR proceedings.
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.