In another interesting development in our ongoing coverage of the application of the TC Heartland patent venue standard by lower courts, the District Court for the Western District of Texas recently determined that when a parent company ratifies its subsidiary company’s place of business, it can be considered a “regular place of business” for purposes of establishing proper venue. In Board of Regents, The University of Texas System, and Tissugen, Inc.v. Medtronic PLC, Medtronic, Inc., and Tyrx, Inc., Cause No. A-17-CV-0942-LY (May 17, 2018 W.D. TX), it was undisputed that neither defendant was incorporated in the Western District of Texas. As such, the Court looked to whether either business maintained a regular and established business within the district, and concluded that Medtronic did.
A California jury recently awarded Apple $538.6 million in total damages for patent infringement by Samsung. This is the latest development in the patent battle between smartphone industry titans that began in 2011 and took another step towards completion. The verdict arrived after five days of deliberations and seven months after Judge Koh ordered a second trial to determine appropriate damages in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in December of 2016. The jury attributed $533.3 million for the infringement of Apple’s design patents and $5.3 million for infringement of Apple’s utility patents.
On May 14, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, In re: ZTE (USA) Inc., No. 2018-113, held that Federal circuit law governs the burden of proof for venue challenges under 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) and that the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff to demonstrate proper venue upon a defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of venue. Accordingly, the Federal Circuit granted defendant ZTE USA’s petition for mandamus and vacated an order from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas denying ZTE USA’s motion to dismiss for lack of venue.
In our continuing coverage of the post-TC Heartland landscape, the Federal Circuit recently clarified that venue is proper in only one district per state in In re BigCommerce, Inc., 2018-122 (Fed. Cir. May 15, 2018) (slip op.). Last year, the Supreme Court held in TC Heartland that a company resides where it is incorporated. Among the many unresolved questions flowing from that decision involved the treatment of patent venue in states with multiple districts. Specifically, no appellate court had determined whether a domestic corporation incorporated in a multi-district state “resides” only in the single judicial district where it maintains a principal place of business or registered office, or whether venue could be proper in all judicial districts within that state.
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 <i>TCL v. Ericsson</i> Illustrates the Risk to Accused Infringers of Failing to Investigate Allegations
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.
Further to our ongoing coverage of post-TC Heartland patent litigation, in a recent case in the Western District of Wisconsin, the court granted defendants’ motion to transfer for improper venue. In doing so, it rejected the plaintiff’s contention that venue can be proper where one corporation “works closely” with another corporation resident in the jurisdiction.
In Unity Opto Technology Co. Ltd. v. Lowe’s Home Centers LLC and LG Sourcing, Inc., 18-cv-27-jdp (W.D. Wis.) (May 4, 2018), co-defendant Lowe’s Home Centers has a place of business in the district, namely a physical store located in Plover, Wisconsin. However, co-defendant LG Sourcing does not own, lease, maintain, or operate any facilities in the district, nor does LG Sourcing employ any residents that reside in the district either.
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.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced a propose change to the standard for construing both unexpired and amended patent claims in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings under the America Invents Act (“AIA”). The change would replace the current Broadest Reasonable Interpretation (“BRI”) standard with the standard articulated in Phillips v. AWH Corp. 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc). This change would harmonize the claim construction standard applied in inter partes review, post-grant review, and covered business method patent proceedings before the PTAB with the one used by federal district courts and the International Trade Commission. The proposed amendment would also allow the PTAB to consider any prior claim construction determination concerning a term of the involved claim in a civil action, or an ITC proceeding, that is timely made of record in an AIA proceeding.
The Federal Circuit recently overturned a decision estopping the plaintiff from pursuing its infringement claims in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and clarified the effect of reexamination on equitable estoppel and laches. In John Bean Technologies Corporation v. Morris & Associates, Inc., the Federal Circuit held that District Court abused its discretion applying equitable estoppel to bar John Bean Technologies Corp.’s (“John Bean”) infringement action without considering the impact of an intervening ex parte reexamination on the claims of the asserted patent.