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.
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.
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 recent decision in the Northern District of Illinois gave life to the inevitable disclosure doctrine under the Defend Trade Secrets Act. Inevitable disclosure is a common law doctrine by which a court can prevent a former employee from working for a competitor of his or her former employer where doing so would require the employee to depend upon his or her former employer’s trade secret information. See, e.g., PepsiCo, Inc. v. Redmond, 54 F.3d 1262 (7th Cir. 1995). To date, some commentators have suggested that the inevitable disclosure doctrine is not available under the DTSA because of language in the statute indicating that any injunction granted under the statute to prevent trade secret misappropriation may not “prevent a person from entering into an employment relationship,” and that any conditions placed on employment must be based on “evidence of threatened misappropriation and not merely on the information the person knows.” The Northern District of Illinois’s decision in Molon Motor and Coil Corp. v. Nidec Motor Corp., No. 16 C 03545 (N.D. Ill. May 11, 2017), however, suggests that the inevitable disclosure doctrine may continue to be useful for trade secret plaintiffs asserting claims under the DTSA.
A recent decision in the Western District of Kentucky highlights the importance of explaining in a complaint under the Defend Trade Secrets Act why the allegedly misappropriated information qualifies for trade secret protection. The decision is an important reminder that it is not enough to simply call something a “trade secret” in a complaint under the DTSA. Rather, a plaintiff must plausibly allege how the information qualifies as a trade secret. Where a plaintiff fails to do so, the complaint is susceptible to dismissal with prejudice under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
In recent years, software patents have come under fire from legislation (the American Invents Act) that has generally made patents easier to invalidate, and from court decisions (the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank and its progeny) that have made computer-implemented inventions more vulnerable to subject matter eligibility challenges. Some observers have concluded that software patents are no longer worth pursuing. We disagree. Although there are real challenges, and patents on some software or other computer-implemented inventions may now be quite difficult (or even impossible) to obtain or enforce, a well-written and well-prosecuted patent application can circumvent many of these obstacles.
To read our full advisory on software patent eligibility, please click here.
Over the course of the past year, there have been two notable decisions issued by the Federal Circuit and the International Trade Commission that impact the scope and nature of the remedies available for the infringement of standard-essential patents (SEPs), and as a result, continue to shape the incentives of technology innovators to contribute their patented inventions to standards-setting bodies.
On December 3, 2015, the Federal Circuit issued its much-awaited decision in Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) v. Cisco Systems, Inc., providing meaningful guidance on a number of open questions pertaining to the calculation of damages for the infringement of SEPs. In Certain Industrial Control System Software, Systems Using Same, and Components Thereof, Inv. No. 337-TA-1020 (the 1020 Investigation), the Commission was asked to invoke the Early Disposition Pilot Program to direct the presiding Administrative Law Judge to determine whether the asserted patents are standard-essential and therefore subject to mandatory licensing obligations.
To read the additional details about these decisions and their impact, please click here.
The Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) civil seizure mechanism provides victims of trade secret theft with a tool to immediately freeze dissemination of stolen proprietary information. Using civil seizure, a court may direct federal marshals to seize property necessary to prevent the promulgation of stolen trade secrets. Civil seizure can only be employed in “extraordinary circumstances,” however, and a request for civil seizure has never been granted, though only a handful of requests have been made under this DTSA mechanism, which is still less than a year old (the most recent request was denied in the Northern District of California in OOO Brunswick Rail Mgt., et al. v. Sultanov, et al., No. 5:17-cv-00017 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 6, 2017)).
The story of civil seizure and the DTSA does not end there. Continue Reading The DTSA and Civil Seizure Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65
On December 28, 2016, the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) issued a steep fine (“KFTC Ruling”) against Qualcomm for antitrust violations in patent licensing and modem chip sales – a record penalty that the U.S. company will challenge in court. Finding that Qualcomm leverages its standard-essential patent (SEP) portfolio to further its chipset business in contravention of Qualcomm’s fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) obligations and Korean antitrust law, the agency levied a penalty of over US$850 million and directed Qualcomm to alter its business model.
The KFTC Ruling is just one of the latest challenges to Qualcomm’s licensing strategy and also sets forth Korea’s understanding of what FRAND obligations entail. Mintz Levin attorneys provide detail and insight in “Korea, In Sanctioning Qualcomm, Articulates A New Meaning For ‘FRAND’“, as published on IP Law 360.
Did Qualcomm utilize anticompetitive licensing tactics to extract excessive royalties from OEMs for its standard-essential patents (SEPs)? Is the company seeking to weaken its competitors by refusing to license its patents on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms? The Federal Trade Commission thinks so and filed suit against Qualcomm on January 17 in the Northern District of California for allegedly monopolizing the market for CDMA and LTE baseband processor technologies.
Issuance of the complaint was authorized on a 2-1 vote of the Commission, which hinged on the vote of President Obama-appointed FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, so the Inauguration of Donald J. Trump as President on Friday may have direct implications on this case.
The Mintz Levin team discusses the case and points out the irony of the timing since the FTC and Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued their revised Antitrust Guidelines for the Licensing of Intellectual Property on January 13, in which they declined to adopt guidelines relating to precisely this sort of conduct.
Read our full discussion.
When the Patent Trial and Appeal Board issues a final written decision finding against an IPR Petitioner, can that Petitioner necessarily appeal that adverse decision? In a case of first impression, the Federal Circuit recently answered “no.”
In Phigenix, Inc. v. ImmunoGen, Inc., the Federal Circuit held that Petitioner Phigenix lacked standing to appeal the PTAB’s final IPR decision in favor of Patent Owner ImmunoGen because Phigenix failed to prove that there was an actual “case or controversy” between it and ImmunoGen concerning the challenged patent. According to the Federal Circuit, although such a “case or controversy” may not be necessary for Phigenix to appear in an IPR proceeding before an administrative agency like PTAB, it remains a requirement for Phigenix to seek appellate review in a federal court.