Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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.

Continue Reading Supreme Court to Decide the Constitutionality of Inter Partes Review

A flurry of activity from various courts this past week on “exceptional cases” under Section 285 of the Patent Act provided notable guidance for practitioners and patent owners, with a particular emphasis on the motivation and conduct of the litigants. We provide a short synopsis of these cases.

By way of context, in 2014, the Supreme Court in Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1749 (2014), instructed courts to apply a totality of the circumstances test when evaluating whether a case is “exceptional” under 35 U.S.C. § 285. If a case is found to be exceptional within the meaning of the statute, monetary sanctions and fee-shifting may be imposed. This totality of the circumstances analysis was a substantial departure from the previous Federal Circuit tests, which were uniformly viewed as more rigid. Some of the factors the Supreme Court suggested district courts could consider included “frivolousness, motivation, objective unreasonableness (both in the factual and legal components of the case) and the need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence.” Our previous discussion of exceptional cases under Section 285 can be found here.

Continue Reading Pumping Up Exceptional Cases Under the Octane Fitness Standard

DC_SupremeCourtIn keeping with recent erosion of patent rights, patent owners’ power to control the post-sale use and sale of their patented products was severely limited this week by the U.S. Supreme Court in the highly anticipated case regarding the patent exhaustion doctrine, Lexmark Int’l, Inc. v. Impression Prods., Inc., No. 15-1189.

As we reported earlier here and here, the Federal Circuit previously provided patent owners with some power to control their patented products—even after an authorized sale.  Specifically, the Federal Circuit held, in an en banc decision, that a patent owner’s patent rights are not exhausted if a patented product is sold with a clearly communicated restriction and that an authorized foreign sale of a product does not exhaust the patent owner’s U.S. patent rights to exclude associated with that product.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Overrules and Rewrites 25 Years of Federal Circuit Law on Patent Exhaustion

shutterstock_69589705On May 10, 2017 and following a Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) reexamination decision upholding certain claims, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in Cisco Systems, Inc. v. Cirrex Systems, LLC that all of the appealed claims of a fiber optic patent held by Cirrex are invalid for lack of a written description support required by 35 U.S.C. § 112.  The panel applied its own construction of a key claim term requiring that a recited functional limitation take place in a specific location which the specification failed to describe.

Continue Reading You Can Not Claim What you Don’t Possess – Federal Circuit Holds Fiber Optic Claims Invalid under Section 112

723px-US-CourtOfAppeals-FederalCircuit-Seal_svgIn its opinion in Aylus Networks, Inc. v. Apple Inc., the Federal Circuit expanded the scope of prosecution disclaimer to statements made by a patent owner during Inter Partes Review (IPR) proceedings.  The Court explained that extending the doctrine to cover patent owner statements, made either before or after institution of an IPR, ensures that claims are not argued in one way to maintain patentability and a different way to support infringement allegations.  The Court also noted that its conclusion promotes the public notice function of intrinsic evidence and protects the public’s reliance on statements made during IPR proceedings.

Continue Reading Federal Circuit Expands Scope of Prosecution Disclaimer to IPR Proceedings

The Federal Circuit has now reversed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s decision in Synopsys, Inc. v. ATopTech, Inc.  finding claims 1 and 32 of U.S. Patent No. 6,567,967 (the “‘967 patent”)  as being “not supported by substantial evidence.”

Synopsys sued ATopTech in 2013 for allegedly infringing the ‘967 patent. ATopTech subsequently filed two inter partes review (IPR) petitions (IPR2014-01150 and IPR2014-01159) challenging the validity of all claims of the ‘967 patent. The ‘967 patent aims to improve circuit performance by splitting large components into small subcomponents and optimizing the connections between subcomponents. Claim 1 requires “flattening each of said plurality of hierarchically arranged branches by eliminating superfluous levels of hierarchy above said atomic blocks.”  Claim 32 requires “determining optimal placement of each of the hard blocks, if any, within the predefined area.”  The Board found both claims either obviousness or anticipated in view of the Fields and/or Su references.

Continue Reading Federal Circuit Rejects Board’s Understanding of Prior Art

Pharmaceuticals_LabOn April 6, 2017, the Federal Circuit reversed-in-part and affirmed-in-part the district court’s judgment of infringement and summary judgment for non-infringement of The Medicines Company’s (“MedCo”) patents-in-suit.  See The Medicines Company v. Mylan, Inc., 2015-1113 (Fed. Cir. 2017).  The patents-in-suit were U.S. Patent Nos. 7,582,727 (“the ’727 Patent) and 7,598,343 (“the ’343 Patent”).  MedCo initiated a suit against Mylan, Inc. (“Mylan”) in response to Mylan submitting an Abbreviated New Drug Application (“ANDA”).  Through submitting an ANDA request, Mylan wished to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) for a generic drug that would directly compete against MedCo’s ANGIOMAX® product.  To counter Mylan’s ANDA request, and keep their product exclusive, MedCo filed suit alleging that Mylan’s ANDA drug infringed claims in both the ’727 and ’343 Patents.

The district court held on summary judgment that Mylan’s drug did not satisfy the “efficient mixing” limitation of the ’343 Patent; however, following a 6-day bench trial found that Mylan’s drug did infringe the ’727 Patent because the asserted claims did not include an “efficient mixing” limitation.  Mylan argued on appeal that the district court erred by not including the “efficient mixing” limitation as part of the “batches” limitation in the ’727 Patent.

Continue Reading Federal Circuit Limits Claim to Single Embodiment Because Only Enabling Description Provided in the Patent

FinancialReviewIn the recent decision of Clarilogic v. Formfree Holdings, the Federal Circuit invalidated the patentee’s (Formfree) claim to a “computer-implemented method for providing certified financial data indicating financial risk about an individual.”  In sum, Claim 1 of Formfree’s patent recited (1) “electronically collecting financial account data” (e.g., historical transaction data) for an individual, (2) validating the data by “applying an algorithm engine” to identify exceptions that “indicate incorrect data or financial risk,” (3) confirming the exceptions by “collecting additional data and applying the algorithm engine to the additional data,” and (4) “generating, using a computer, a report from the financial account data and the valid exceptions.”

Continue Reading Federal Circuit Invalidates Claim to Generating “Financial Risk” Reports

On March 14, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit clarified, in a precedential opinion, that an anticipating reference must supply all of the claim elements, regardless of what a person of skill in the art might envision when reading the reference.  In Nidec Motor Corporation v. Zhongshan Broad Ocean Motor Co. Ltd., et al., the Federal Circuit explicitly rejected the notion that a patent claim may be anticipated by a prior art reference lacking a claim element when a skilled artisan reading the reference would “at once envisage” that missing element.  Reversing the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”), the Federal Circuit panel held that Nidec’s patent was not anticipated.

Continue Reading Federal Circuit Reverses PTAB’s Holding of Anticipation Despite an Element Missing from the Prior Art

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.