This month I have been running a series of articles on the United States Supreme Court. Today we switch things up a little and talk patents, focusing on one of the most important decisions the Supreme Court has made over the last generation — i4i v. Microsoft. I recently chatted with Michael Cannata. His is a name you might not know, but he was intimately involved in the i4i case. He is the manager of a fund that put up the capital for i4i to fight the battle. He consequently became a Director for i4i and was involved with co-managing the litigation for i4i.
In 1879 the United States Supreme Court first had the opportunity (and necessity) to address whether Congress had been granted in the Constitution the power to enact legislation to protect trademarks. Since 1879 there have been many cases involved trademark issues that have wound up the top Court in the United States. But a summary start to finish of all Supreme Court trademark cases is even a bit ambitious for us in a single article. Thus, what follows is a summary of those trademarks issues that have reached the Supreme Court over the last generation.
In a recently published Forbes.com article titled”The Federal Circuit, Not the Supreme Court, Legalized Software Patents,” Lee doubled down with his absurd and provably incorrect assertions regarding the patentability of software patents. But he also more or less sheepishly admitted that his reading of the most relevant case is not one that is widely accepted as correct by anyone other than himself. He wrote: “To be clear, plenty of people disagree with me about how Diehr should be interpreted.” Thus, Lee admits that his primary assertion is one he created from whole cloth and contrary to the widely held views to the contrary. Of course, the fact that his radical views are in the minority was conveniently omitted from his ?Ars Technica? article. If Lee has any integrity he will issue a public apology to the Federal Circuit and issue a retraction. If Lee doesn’t come to his senses and do the right thing in the face of overwhelming evidence that he is wrong then Forbes.com and Ars Technica should step in and do what needs to be done.
October overwhelmingly means one thing in the legal world. No, not Halloween, although to some it may seem just as scary. Every October the United States Supreme Court breaks its hibernation and starts its new session. Every case heard and decision handed down by the Supreme Court between October 1, 2012 and the end of June 2013 will be a part of the Court’s October 2012 term. This, the first of what will be a handful of SCOTUS related intellectual property articles, is a summary of the most important Supreme Court copyright fair use cases dating back to Baker v. Selden in 1879.
At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, the Solicitor General of the United States petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a recent federal appeals court ruling concerning the FTC’s case against a “pay-for-delay” agreement. The petition for certiorari, the mechanism for asking for the Supreme Court to review a case, argues that the agreement that postponed generic competition for the testosterone-replacement drug AndroGel is anti-competitive and should not be legal. But thanks to the byzantine legal rules created by the Hatch-Waxman Act, the brand name owner was doing nothing more than what seems to explicitly be authorized by the law.
One week ago, on July 18, 2012, Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court sat down for an interview with Piers Morgan of CNN. See Scalia interview transcript. During the interview Morgan asked Scalia what his hardest decision has been while on the Supreme Court. I thought it might be fun to ask some industry insiders what their guess was as to the unnamed case Justice Scalia was thinking of as the “hardest decision.” Some of those I asked didn’t offer a guess, but rather took the opportunity to discuss the aforementioned Scalia statements more generally. Those “musings” will be published tomorrow.
Now the Patent Office and the courts have the unenviable task of trying to figure out what the Supreme Court really meant in Mayo v. Prometheus. If Diehr remains good law, which it clearly does, and Mayo v. Prometheus is good law, which it has to be as the last pronouncement, then it becomes clear that the proper statutory analysis is to go step by step through the statute analyzing patentability under the separate and distinct patentability requirements of 101, 102, 103 and 112. That is unless there is something that allows for the short-circuiting of the appropriate analysis as in Mayo v. Prometheus. What is that something?
A decision with the right outcome but for the wrong reasons can confound jurisprudence nearly as much as a decision that is entirely wrong. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that all that found its way into the Siedman patents was the results of the very research that had been recommended in the 1996 paper and which Prometheus had been prompted to under-write. The more natural objection which, unfortunately, was not pursued was therefore lack of inventive step under 35 USC §103. It is submitted that this should have been enough to dispose of the issue between the parties, arguably even in a motion for summary judgment, but unfortunately it was not how the case was pleaded and argued.
This is a good time to review the implications of this case, but an even better time to look into the origins and constitutionality of the Non-obviousness requirement. You might object that the jurisprudence of the non-obviousness requirement is so well established that nothing can be learned from this sort of analysis. I disagree. Patent law is under assault by the Supreme Court, the media, the ‘information wants to be free’ crowd, multinational corporations, and the economics profession. If we attempt to explain patent law based on the decisions of people who never passed the patent bar, never wrote a patent, never prosecuted a patent, and do not have a technical background, we are doomed. We need to define patent law as a natural law/right based on certain fundamental truths. This is the only way to get the non-patent attorney judge or the general public to understand patent law and understand that it represents justice.
On Monday, April 30, 2007, the United States Supreme Court issued its final decision in the matter of KSR v. Teleflex, which overruled the Federal Circuit’s application of the so-called “teaching, suggestion, motivation” test (or simply TSM) as it applies to determining whether an invention is obvious. At least for the last generation (and likely longer) no other Supreme Court case in the patent arena has been nearly as influential as the Court’s decision in KSR v. Teleflex. This is because obviousness is where the rubber meets the road for the patentability of inventions. This 5th Anniversary of the ruling provides an opportunity to revisit the decision and where we have come since. This will be a recurring theme this week on IPWatchdog.com as we look at the law of obviousness in the wake of this infamous decision.
Maybe it is the result of the case being of such little importance to the patent system as a whole, or maybe it is just evidence that every blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. Whatever the case may be, the United States Supreme Court yesterday did get it right in a patent case. Virtually no one brings appeals from the Patent Office to the district court under § 145 despite the far more favorable review standard, which we have known about at least since 1999 in Dickinson v. Zurko. § 145 will remain an infrequently used relic of the patent system, and we are left to lament that it would have been far better for the Supreme Court to get Mayo v. Prometheus right than for them to get Kappos v. Hyatt right. Sigh.
Just over three weeks ago the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, which sent much of the patent world into a whirlwind. In that decision the Supreme Court unanimously found that the claims at issue did not exhibit patent eligible subject matter because the additional steps that were added to the underlying law of nature were well known in the industry. A curious ruling for many reasons, and one that will have to be digested over many years as the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Circuit struggle to figure out how Diamond v. Diehr remains good law (it was not overruled) and remains consistent with a ruling that seems completely inapposite. To continue to provide a variety of perspectives on this landmark ruling what follows is the reactions of those in the industry.
Unfortunately this unspecific remand by the Supreme Court in AMP vacates as well the two-to-one ruling by this same Federal Circuit panel (Judges Lourie and Moore in the majority, Judge Bryson in dissent) that the claimed isolated DNA sequences were also patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. What, pray tell, does Mayo Collaborative Services change with regard to that ruling in the original AMP decision? For those, like the plaintiffs in AMP (including the ACLU), who would like to upset this “applecart,” they’re likely to be very disappointed. I can describe what should be the impact of the ruling (and reasoning) in Mayo Collaborative Services on the claimed isolated DNA sequences in three short monosyllabic words: NONE AT ALL. And the Federal Circuit can (and should) say likewise, perhaps in far more words.
The Prometheus decision shows that you can never know for sure what the outcome will be once you arrive at the Supreme Court. We also know that the Supreme Court is taking more patent cases now than ever, and those decisions have significant implications for the entire industry above and beyond the patent claims at issue and the parties involved. Your patent portfolio may be at risk because some other company obtained poorly written claims and the Supreme Court has taken the opportunity to decide not only the issues before them but to make decisions based on overarching concerns about the entire patent system.
The reasoning in Mayo Collaborative Services makes no patent law logical sense on numerous grounds, including disregarding an important paragraph in the Supreme Court’s 1981 case of Diamond v. Diehr that is not only binding precedent, but also tells us that Breyer’s opinion repeatedly does what this paragraph from Diehr says not to do in an analysis of method or process claims under 35 U.S.C. § 101. But the question now becomes what do we do to keep the reasoning in Mayo Collaborative Services from exploding into completely irrational, as well as patent law insane doctrine? The way forward to patent-eligibility rationality, as well as sanity, is through the remand decision in Classen Immunotherapies, Inc. v. Biogen IDEC. Put differently, there may yet be “light” in this currently “dark” patent-eligibility tunnel.