Sandra Badin is Special Counsel based in our Boston office. She has broad experience litigating patents before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the US International Trade Commission, and the federal district courts. She has represented clients in a wide range of technology fields, including telecommunications and handheld devices, LCD displays, graphics processing units, medical records processing, electronic point-of-sale systems, high-density plasma cutting torches, dental materials and processes, specialty fabrics, and financial and business methods.

keyboard_566705419In 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.

723px-US-CourtOfAppeals-FederalCircuit-Seal_svgEarlier this week, Intellectual Ventures (IV) petitioned the full Federal Circuit to review the panel opinion in Intellectual Ventures v. Symantec, which invalidated two of its patents under section 101.  Both patents—the ’050 and the ’610—are directed to filtering email or file content.  (IV does not challenge the invalidation of a third patent, which was directed to receiving, screening, and distributing email.)  The petition echoes concerns raised by clients, courts, and the patent bar about the growing uncertainty about what is—and what is not—patent eligible, especially in the area of software patents.  Identifying two emerging fault lines in the court’s evolving section 101 jurisprudence, IV urges the full court to bring much needed doctrinal clarity and methodological consistency to the patent eligibility analysis. Continue Reading Intellectual Ventures Petitions Federal Circuit for Full Court Review

Faced with the growing problem of efficient infringement and the difficulty of obtaining adequate protection from the courts, US owners of standard-essential patents need to develop creative strategies to protect the value of their rights.

In a comprehensive article, published as a feature in Intellectual Asset Management magazine, several Mintz Levin attorneys discuss the extent of the growing problem, the courts’ focus on “patent hold-up, not hold-out” (including analysis of Microsoft v. Motorola, CSIRO v. Cisco, Certain 3G Mobile Handsets, and Certain Wireless Devices with 3G and/or 4G Capabilities), the implications for moving forward, and some thoughts on strategy to overcome efficient infringement.  IAM | Sept/Oct 2016: “Efficient infringement and the undervaluation of standard-essential patents

A sidebar in the article points out that in dealing recently with the issue of patent hold-out, European courts appear to be demonstrating a better understanding of the issue and the threat it poses.

The Supreme Court has made it easier for patent owners to prove willful infringement and entitlement to enhanced damages.  In a unanimous opinion issued Monday in a pair of cases decided together, Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc. and Stryker Corporation v. Zimmer, Inc., the Court did away with the Federal Circuit’s “unduly rigid” test for proving willfulness, which had allowed even “wanton and malicious” infringers who intentionally set out to steal the patent owner’s ideas and business to evade liability for enhanced damages if clever counsel were later able to articulate non-trivial—even though unsuccessful—infringement or invalidity defenses.

To read our full client alert on the decision, please click here.

patent license agreementLast month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a pivotal decision in Microsoft v. Motorola regarding the licensing of standard essential patents (SEPs) on reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms. Mintz Levin attorneys Richard G. Gervase, Jr., Bruce D. Sokler, Sandra J. Badin, and Michael T. Renaud critically assess the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Mintz Levin’s Intellectual Property Alert titled Ninth Circuit Upholds Judge Robart’s RAND Determinations in Microsoft v. Motorola. The Court endorsed the lower court’s methodology for determining the RAND rate, including its determination of the relevance of patent pools to SEP licenses. In so doing, the Court discussed the evidence necessary to determine whether particular RAND commitments have been breached and the proper measure of damages of such breaches. Based on its review of the record evidence, the Court upheld the jury’s finding that Motorola breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing when it sought injunctive relief for Microsoft’s alleged infringement of Motorola’s SEPs, as well as the jury’s $14.5 million damages award for that breach. While the decision contributes to the evolving jurisprudence of SEP enforcement, its singular focus on concerns over patent hold-up, to the exclusion of any concern over reverse patent hold-up, will only add to the growing pressure on innovators to opt out standard setting activities.  In the long run, such an outcome bodes ill for the health and vigor of the American innovation economy.

 

In a unanimous full court decision issued yesterday, the Federal Circuit availed itself of “the opportunity to revisit the § 271(a) question” left unanswered by the Supreme Court last year, and outlined “the governing legal framework for direct infringement” of method claims. It held that a party can be liable for direct infringement of method claims under 35 U.S.C. § 271(a) “in two sets of circumstances: (1) where that entity directs or controls others’ performance, and (2) where the actors form a joint enterprise.”

With respect to the “direct or control” prong, the Court said that it “continue[s] to consider general principles of vicarious liability.”  Under those principles, “an actor is liable for infringement under § 271(a) if it acts through an agent (applying traditional agency principles) or contracts with another to perform one or more steps of a claimed method.”  But in addition to liability based on agency or contract, the Court held that, “on the facts of this case, … liability under § 271(a) can also be found when an alleged infringer conditions participation in an activity or receipt of a benefit upon performance of a step or steps of a patented method and establishes the manner or timing of that performance.”  (emphasis added).  In such instances, the Court said, “the third party’s actions are attributed to the alleged infringer such that the alleged infringer becomes the single actor chargeable with direct infringement.”  Whether a single actor has directed or controlled the actions of a third party is a question of fact reviewable on appeal for substantial evidence. Continue Reading In Akamai v. Limelight, Unanimous Federal Circuit Outlines Framework for Direct Infringement of Method Claims

Administrative Law Judge Essex has made another important contribution to the ongoing conversation regarding the enforcement of standard essential patents (SEPs) at the International Trade Commission. Building on the analysis he presented in his Initial Determination in Commission investigation No. 337-TA-868, In the Matter of Certain Wireless Devices with 3G and/or 4G Capabilities and Components Thereof, Judge Essex recently issued the public version of his Initial Determination on Remand in investigation No. 337-TA-613, In the Matter of Certain 3G Mobile Handsets and Components Thereof, in which he provides a grounded, evidence-based framework for adjudicating the FRAND defense.

While Judge Essex’s decision is subject to Commission review, it is nevertheless noteworthy because it addresses several important questions related to the enforcement of SEPs: Continue Reading FRAND Defense: ALJ Essex Provides an Evidence-Based Framework

Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court held in Brulotte v. Thys Co., 379 U.S. 29 (1964) that a license agreement requiring royalty payments for use of a patented invention after expiration of the patent term is unlawful per se.  On March 31, in Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc., No. 13-720, the Supreme Court will consider whether economics, the parallel antitrust law, and marketplace realities are such that Brulotte should be overturned.

Kimble arose out a licensing dispute over a patent settlement involving a glove that allows its wearer to mimic the comic-book hero Spider-Man by shooting pressurized foam string from the palm.  While expressing some reservation regarding whether the Brulotte rule continued to make sense, the Ninth Circuit held that the settlement royalty provision was unenforceable after the patent’s expiration.

The thrust of Kimble’s argument is that Brulotte was based on antitrust principles regarding the inherent market power of a patent and antitrust per se rules—principles that have been widely rejected.  Kimble advocates instead that Brulotte-type agreements be analyzed on a case-by-case basis under the antitrust rule of reason and only be invalidated if the patentee is actually shown to have market power.

The case has attracted over a dozen amicus briefs on all sides of the issues, including from the American Intellectual Property Law Association, the Licensing Executives Society, and Intellectual Property Owners Association.

Most notably, the Solicitor General has submitted a brief defending the Brulotte rule and has been granted the right also to present oral argument. The SG argues that the rule is based on sound patent law principles of free public access to unpatented and formerly-patented inventions and that antitrust considerations do not justify overruling Brulotte’s rule of patent policy.  The SG further contends that principles of stare decisis apply with particular force to statutory-interpretations decisions such as this one.

We will be monitoring the Supreme Court oral argument next week and will report further.

Administrative Law Judge Essex of the International Trade Commission (“ITC”) recently issued the public version of his decision in ITC investigation No. 337-TA-868.  In it, he holds that the respondents should be precluded from relying on the FRAND defense—the defense that the patents-in-suit are subject to being licensed on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms, and therefore that an exclusion order should not issue—because they failed to see a license to practice the patents before implementing the standard to which they now claim the patents are essential.  In so holding, Judge Essex responds to a number of influential bodies, including the Justice Department, the U.S. Patent Office, and the Federal Trade Commission, who have taken the position that injunctive relief should not be available to holders of standards-essential patents.

Our attorneys present a comprehensive discussion of the decision in this client alert.