On Monday, March 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Amgen v. Sanofi, a case with the parties and 27 Amici, including the United States, weighing in on whether and how the Court should address the enablement requirement of Section 112 in the context of genus claims, and in particular, genus claims to antibodies in the pharmaceutical sciences. Depending on how the court focuses its analysis, the opinion could be as narrow as how the jury instruction should read for pharmaceutical antibody claims written in the form of “a binding site plus a function.” But some of the briefs invite the court to loosen the constraints of Section 112 by eliminating the requirement of enablement of the “full scope” of the claimed embodiments in favor of a test focused on the “make and use the invention” language in the statute without the “full scope of the claimed embodiments” language the courts have used for years, with implications not just for pharma but for any art that uses functional or genus claiming.
Following the Supreme Court oral arguments in Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products LLC last week, I was reminded of an article I penned years ago for Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal exploring the boundaries of parodies when up against allegations of trademark infringement and dilution. That article observed: “Many of the trademark parody cases do not spend time analyzing what a parody is. Rather, the sheer majority of cases assume that any attempt at humor while using another’s trademark is presumptively a parody.” It noted that in the face of the essentially blanket parody exception contained in the TDRA, “courts may more heavily weigh the threshold parody question.”
At today’s hearing in Jack Daniel’s v. VIP Products, the U.S. Supreme Court Justices suggested to both sides that there might be an easier way out on the facts of this particular case than either party is proposing, but weighed the need to overturn the Second Circuit’s test in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), which some of the Justices characterized as injecting unnecessary confusion. Though the Court seemed equally concerned about retaining a way for defendants making clearly parodic use of a mark to get out of litigation quickly, which Rogers is intended to do, they questioned both sides about why in this case they couldn’t either find for Jack Daniel’s by just saying that VIP is clearly using a source identifier on a commercial product, or remand to the district court to say they failed to properly weigh the parody or proximity factors of the product, for instance. Overall, the Justices seemed skeptical that the product in question represents a non-commercial use.
The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc., which asks the Court to consider whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit erred in applying the Lanham Act extraterritorially to Abitron’s foreign sales, “including purely foreign sales that never reached the United States or confused U.S. consumers.” The Justices struggled with the appropriate reach of the Lanham Act and whether reversing the Tenth Circuit would require overruling Steele v. Bulova Watch Co., 344 U.S. 280, 282-285 (1952), but overall seemed to be considering the need for a new or narrowed test to account for the realities of modern commerce.
Lenovo has been ordered to pay InterDigital a lump sum of $138.7 million for a global FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) license covering sales of cellular devices from 2007 to December 31, 2023, in the second full FRAND trial to be decided by the UK courts, following the landmark Unwired Planet case. (Interdigital Technology Corporation & Ors v Lenovo Group Ltd (FRAND Judgment – Public Version)  EWHC 539 (Pat).) In his redacted judgment published on March 15, Mr. Justice Mellor found that neither InterDigital’s August 2021 license offer (which amounted to $337 million) nor Lenovo’s counter offer (which comprised a lump sum of $80 million +/-15% for all sales in the six-year term to the end of 2023 with a full release for all past sales for no additional consideration) were FRAND or within the FRAND range.
On March 9, e-commerce company Ingenio Inc. filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to take up an appeal of a decision last August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in favor of patent owner Click-to-Call Technologies. Ingenio’s petition asks the Supreme Court to overturn the Federal Circuit’s ruling that Ingenio was estopped from challenging the validity of patent claims that were denied institution during inter partes review (IPR) validity proceedings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
Several carefully watched copyright developments are combining to have a significant impact on the invention as well as the content landscape. A judgment from the Supreme Court of the United States is expected any day that will address the potentially shape-shifting Warhol Foundation “fair-use” suit against rock photographer, Lynn Goldsmith. This decision is also of concern to inventors and patent holders, few of whom see the writing on the IP wall: weaker intellectual property rights are gaining momentum, and lawmakers and the public don’t know enough to care.
There was a slight uptick in district court filings last week after a slow January and February, with 43 new patent filings, including a design patent battle involving tumblers and multiple filings indicating an association with high-volume plaintiffs such as Jeffrey Gross and Leigh Rothschild. It was a busy week at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), with over 32 new challenges last week, with only one procedural denial on an institution decision—but that was not based on discretionary denial, which remains often briefed but rarely successful for the time being. Of course, the big news this week was that the Federal Circuit has revived an Administrative Procedure Act (APA) challenge to the Fintiv decision on discretionary denial itself as arbitrary agency action that skirted proper procedure and had an outsized impact on a broad swath of cases.
On March 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued a precedential decision in Intel Corp. v. PACT XPP Schweiz AG reversing a final written decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) that found Intel had failed to show that PACT’s patent claims were invalid for obviousness. In reversing, the Federal Circuit ruled that the PTAB improperly rejected Intel’s “known technique” rationale supporting a motivation to combine prior art references under the flexible analysis set out by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 obviousness ruling in KSR v. Teleflex.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued a precedential ruling Monday that vacated and remanded a district court ruling on patent infringement in a case between Amazon and AlterWAN. The circuit judges vacated the ruling, which found Amazon did not infringe on two AlterWAN patents for internet network technology. Based on two of the district court’s claim constructions, the parties entered into a stipulation of non-infringement; however, AlterWAN appealed the case and contested the district court’s construction of two terms relevant to the patent claims. The CAFC found the stipulation to be vague and lacking detail, and thus vacated the ruling and sent it back to the district court.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) on Monday said that Apple has standing to pursue its claim that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director’s instructions to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) regarding discretionary denial practice under Apple Inc. v. Fintiv, Inc. were made without proper notice-and-comment rulemaking. The CAFC affirmed the district court’s ruling on two other challenges brought by Apple, Cisco, Intel and Edwards Lifesciences, but said that at least Apple had standing to present the challenge that the discretionary denial instructions were improperly issued and reversed on that ground. The appeal relates to Apple’s and the other companies’ challenge of the Fintiv instructions governing the PTAB’s discretion to deny institution of inter partes review (IPR) proceedings based on their contention that they will result in too many denials.
On March 6, biotechnology developer Amgen filed a reply brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in its appeal of the invalidation of its patent claims covering antibodies effective at blocking low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol receptors. The brief responds to arguments raised both by rival pharmaceutical firm Sanofi and the U.S. federal government in Amgen’s appeal of the invalidation of its patent claims as a matter of law under 35 U.S.C. § 112, which the district court entered on judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) after a jury verdict upheld the validity of Amgen’s patent claims.
Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. filed its reply brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, March 10, in a major trademark case set to be argued on March 22. The brief contends that the country’s most popular brands are at risk of losing their brand identity if the Court affirms the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s view that a poop-themed dog toy mimicking Jack Daniel’s Whiskey bottle is an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protection. In November 2022, the Supreme Court granted Jack Daniel’s petition for a writ of certiorari, which seeks to clarify whether the First Amendment protects VIP Products, LLC’s humorous use of Jack Daniel’s trademarks for commercial purposes against claims of infringement and dilution.
As James Madison once said, “Our First Amendment freedoms give us the right to think what we like and say what we please. And if we the People are to govern ourselves, we must have these rights, even if they are misused by a minority.” Not often do such lofty constitutional principles intersect with patent litigation. But the Federal Circuit’s decision in Lite-Netics, LLC v. Nu Tsai Capital, LLC, No. 2023-1146 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 17, 2023), upholds strong free speech rights for patent holders. The case deals with an issue of frequent concern for both outside and in-house patent counsel: how much can (or should) be said in the marketplace about a patent dispute?
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) on Thursday upheld a decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) affirming an examiner’s refusal to register the mark OXIPURITY for chemical products. The court agreed with the TTAB that OXIUPURITY is likely to be confused with the previously registered mark, OXYPURE, for ““hydrogen peroxide intended for use in the treatment of public and private potable water systems and supplies.”