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
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.
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.
As we noted in our blog post last week, the USPTO held its “Chat with the Chief on SAS” webinar on April 30, 2018, to advise the public on the implications of the Supreme Court’s opinion in SAS Institute for practice before the Board going forward. The panelists were Chief Judge David Ruschke, Vice Chief Judge Tim Fink, and Vice Chief Judge Scott Weidenfeller.
The panelists noted that out of approximately 800 cases currently pending before the Board, about 18-20% have been instituted on fewer than all challenged claims. (The percentage of petitions instituted on only a subset of all challenged grounds was not available as of the date of the webinar.)
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.
The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently granted immunity under the whistleblower provision of the Defend Trade Secret Act in what appears to be the first decision of its kind under the new federal trade secret statute. The DTSA’s whistleblower immunity safe harbor protects employees from civil or criminal liability for a confidential disclosure of trade secrets to an attorney “solely for the purpose of reporting or investigating a suspected violation of law.” There have been relatively few decisions interpreting this section of the DTSA since its enactment, all of which found that the whistleblower provision was not satisfied. See, e.g., Unum Grp. v. Loftus, 220 F. Supp. 3d 143 (D. Mass. 2016). With the first decision granting immunity under the whistleblower provision, litigants now have further guidance as to circumstances where the whistleblower provision may apply.
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.
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.
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.