Posts in US Supreme Court

Chestek Takes Challenge of USPTO Domicile Address Rule for Trademark Applicants to High Court

On May 13, trademark law firm Chestek PLLC filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) promulgation of rules requiring trademark applicants to disclose their domicile address to the agency. According to Chestek’s petition, the Federal Circuit’s lower ruling improperly reads the agency’s notice-and-comment requirement for all general rulemaking out of the relevant statute, here resulting in the unwanted disclosure of sensitive personal information that could put certain trademark applicants at risk of stalking or abuse.

Back When the Supreme Court Got It Right On IP: Kewanee, 50 Years Later

When May rolls around, lots of people – well, trade secret people that is – think about the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA), which for the first time in U.S. history granted original jurisdiction in federal courts for civil claims of misappropriation. The DTSA was signed into law on May 11, 2016, so it’s now eight years old. And performing pretty much as Congress intended. But this year there’s a far more consequential anniversary to celebrate. May 13 marks 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 1974 opinion in Kewanee v. Bicron. I remember that time very well. Barely a year out of law school, I was still learning the ropes of legal practice. While walking down the hall I saw something very unusual: the senior partner sitting at his desk reading one of the “advance sheets.”

SCOTUS Rejects Three-Year Limit on Copyright Damages But Sidesteps Accrual Question

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued its decision in Warner Chappell Music v. Nealy, a case that asks whether a copyright plaintiff can recover damages for acts that allegedly occurred more than three years before the filing of a lawsuit. The Justices ruled 6-3 that “the Copyright Act entitles a copyright owner to recover damages for any timely claim,” with no limit preventing recovery for infringement that happened beyond three years. As to the issue of when a claim for infringement “accrues,” the Court said it “assumes without deciding” that accrual occurs upon discovery of the infringement.

Tenth Circuit Reworks Opinion on Extraterritorial Reach of Lanham Act as Per SCOTUS

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued a revised opinion on Tuesday in the case of Abitron v. Hetronic, which was on remand from the Supreme Court’s June 2023 decision vacating a $96 million damages award for Hetronic. The Court ruled last year that Sections 1114(1)(a) and 1125(a)(1) of the Lanham Act are not extraterritorial in nature and that “‘use in commerce’ provides the dividing line between foreign and domestic applications of these provisions.” The underlying case involved Hetronic’s radio remote controls, which are used to operate heavy-duty construction equipment, such as cranes. Abitron et. al. began manufacturing and selling the products primarily in Europe under the Hetronic brand and continued to do so following the termination of their distribution agreements with Hetronic.

SCOTUS Scraps Vanda’s Bid for Guidance on Obviousness Standard

The U.S. Supreme Court today denied a petition for certiorari seeking clarification from the Court on the proper standard for a showing of obviousness. Vanda Pharmaceuticals filed the petition following the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s (CAFC’s) May 2023 decision invalidating Vanda’s patent on a method of using the drug tasimelteon to treat Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder. The CAFC came to its decision in part because the court said the disclosure of clinical trials was evidence that a person of ordinary skill in the art “would have had a reasonable expectation of success.” Vanda argued in its Supreme Court petition that a “predictable results” standard should be applied instead and maintained that the High Court said as much in KSR v. Teleflex.

Newman’s Counsel Says Supreme Court’s Agreement with Her Dissent Proves Mental Fitness

The U.S. Supreme Court today reversed an en banc decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) in which Judge Pauline Newman dissented, a development Newman’s lawyers say belies CAFC Chief Judge Moore’s opinion that Newman is mentally unfit to serve on the court. The en banc decision was an appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in which Judges Newman and Reyna each separately dissented.

SCOTUS Won’t Review District Courts’ Authority to Award Sanctions

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition that challenged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision that found a district court had authority to impose $36 million in sanctions for abusive litigation practices in a trademark case. The underlying case relates to AECOM Energy & Construction, Inc.’s (AECOM) suit against Gary Topolewski, who owned a clothing business called Metal Jeans, Inc., for infringing use of trademarks associated with AECOM’s predecessor, Morrison Knudsen Corporation.

SCOTUS (Unsurprisingly) Declines Invitation to Clarify Alice

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, April 1, dismissed a petition asking the Court to revisit and clarify its seminal holding in Alice v. CLS Bank. The petition stems from a 2023 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) ruling upholding a district court’s grant of summary judgment that certain claims of Ficep Corporation’s U.S. Patent 7,974,719 (’719 patent) were patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The ‘719 patent covers a method of manufacturing industrial steel.

Rader’s Ruminations – Patent Eligibility III: Seven Times the Federal Circuit Has Struck Out

The U.S. Supreme Court’s flimsy eligibility jurisprudence offers the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) several “softball pitches” to avoid a patent bloodbath. To date, the Federal Circuit has struck out at preserving the patent system — at least twice without really even taking a swing! The first softball pitch appears in the High Court’s initial decision to exalt judge-made “exceptions” over the 200-year-old statutory rule, namely, Mayo v. Prometheus.

Rader’s Ruminations – Patent Eligibility II: How the Supreme Court Ignored Statute and Revived Its Innovation-Killing Two-Step

The Supreme Court has never quite grasped the distinction between patent eligibility and patentability. Eligibility involves entire subject matter categories or fields of inventive enterprise, like the categories “process, machine, [article of] manufacture, or composition of matter.” 35 U.S.C. 101. Ascertaining eligibility should therefore require little more than checking the patent title and ensuring that, in the words of the venerable Judge Giles Rich, “[the invention] produces a useful, concrete and tangible result.”  State Street Bank v. Signature Fin. Group, 149 F. 3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1998). In simple terms, Section 101 requires little more for eligibility than a showing that an invention has applied natural principles to achieve a concrete purpose within the expansive categories articulated by Thomas Jefferson in 1793. Patentability, on the other hand, proceeds as a detailed claim-by-claim, feature-by-feature examination of “the conditions and requirements of this title.” 35 U.S.C. 101. Ironically this fundamental distinction that eludes the Supreme Court is explicit in the statutory language of 35 U.S.C. 101 itself.

Rader’s Ruminations – Patent Eligibility, Part 1: The Judge-Made ‘Exceptions’ are Both Unnecessary and Misconstrued

In supreme irony, the U.S. Supreme Court lists the three exceptions to statutory patent eligibility in Chakrabarty, Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980) — the case most famous for the observation that Thomas Jefferson’s statutory language from the 1793 Act (still in place today) covers “anything under the sun made by man.” Id. at 309. While construing Jefferson’s “broad” statutory language in 35 U.S.C. 101 with “wide scope,” the Court noted: “The laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas have been held not patentable.” Id. The Court tries to support this listing with a string citation to several cases — each standing for something different than an exception from statutory language. Still, to ensure clarity, the Court gives examples: “a new mineral discovered in the earth or a new plant found in the wild is not patentable subject matter.” Likewise, Einstein could not patent his celebrated law that E=mc2, nor could Newton have patented the law of gravity.”  Id. So far so good, but this classic example of the Court trying to sound informed and competent out of its comfort zone reemerges 30 years later to replace (and effectively overrule) the statutory rule that governed for over 200 years and remains in Title 35.

USPTO Issues Updated Obviousness Guidance Tracing 15 Years of Case Law Following KSR

On February 27, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a notice in the Federal Register providing updated guidance for agency decision-makers on making proper determinations of obviousness under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling in KSR International Co. V. Teleflex Inc. While the USPTO’s examiner guidance doesn’t constitute substantive rulemaking, it traces 15 years of case law from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to clarify several areas of confusion stemming from the Supreme Court’s calls for a flexible approach to the obviousness analysis for patent validity.

Rader’s Ruminations: The Most Striking (and Embarrassing) Legal Mistake in Modern Patent Law

The most striking (and embarrassing) mistake of law in modern patent law history occurred in the case of eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, 347 U.S. 388 (2006). This mistake led to an alarmingly incorrect outcome and a monumental disruption of U.S. innovation policy…. The traditional and longstanding remedy for trespass on a patent property right is a permanent injunction. By making removal of an established infringer/trespasser optional in eBay, the Supreme Court vastly undercut and devalued every patent’s exclusive right. This erroneous outcome is a cataclysmic policy error, but that policy miscarriage is not itself the embarrassing error of law.

DIG, Dogs and Bad Wine: Justices Float Scrapping Warner Chappell to Consider Alternate Petition on ‘Discovery Accrual Rule’ for Copyright

Oral arguments took place today in Warner Chappell Music v. Nealy, a case that asks whether a copyright plaintiff can recover damages for acts that allegedly occurred more than three years before the filing of a lawsuit. The Justices repeatedly asked the parties involved whether they should dismiss the case as having been improvidently granted (DIG) in order to first grant and decide another pending case that directly addresses a technically peripheral, but seemingly crucial, question at issue in Warner Chappell, namely, whether the so-called discovery accrual rule applies to the Copyright Act’s statute of limitations for civil claims.  

Supreme Court Denies Five IP Petitions on Issues from IPR Joinder to Contributory Trademark Infringement

On February 20, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order list that denied petitions for writ of certiorari filed in at least five intellectual property cases. While none of these cases induced large numbers of amici to ask the Court to grant cert, they do represent several current issues in IP law that remain unaddressed. From the use of joinder to evade time-bar limits in patent validity proceedings to the service of process required for a grant of preliminary injunction, the Court’s cert denials leave several open questions with which the patent and trademark community will likely grapple.