Since the Supreme Court’s decision in eBay v. MercExchange there have been 131 cases where a permanent injunction has issued and 43 cases where a permanent injunction has been denied. Some have tried to pass this off as not much of a departure from the practice prior to the Supreme Court’s decision. Such a viewpoint is, however, not correct. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision it was virtually unheard of for a district court to deny a victorious plaintiff a permanent injunction in patent infringement case. So the Supreme Court’s decision in eBay v. MercExchange has been one that has significantly altered the patent litigation landscape and, therefore, is easily one of the most important Supreme Court patent cases in recent memory.
Hungar would go on to say that the clear and convincing standard “makes no sense,” which nearly immediately drew the first comment from the bench with Justice Ginsburg saying that it would be difficult to say the standard makes no sense when it was supported by Justice Cardozo and Judge Rich. Ginsberg would later, in a nearly annoyed way, say “then you have to be saying that Judge Rich got it wrong…” Hungar cut off Justice Ginsburg, not typically a wise move.
This morning the first panel discussion is focusing on Stanford v. Roche, titled Who’s Rights Are They Anyway? The first speaker, Maggie Shafmaster, Ph.D., Vice President and Chief Patent Counsel, Genzyme Corporation, lead off by pointing out something that everyone largely seems to agree with, namely that the facts of the case are still largely in dispute, which makes me wonder why would the Supreme Court take such a case. Be that as it may, Shafmaster went on to say that this case is one that makes in-house attorneys and those representing Universities lay awake at night. She characterized the case as “an academic/industry collaboration gone wrong.” And we are off to the races!
What becomes clear in reading these briefs (and the excerpts below) is that despite what you might have heard to the contrary the Supreme Court has already previously addressed this issue and has done so in support of a standard appreciably higher than the mere preponderance supported by Microsoft. The argument of those in support of Microsoft has been that at least some Circuit Courts of Appeal had a lower presumption of validity prior to when the Federal Circuit announced the clear and convincing standard of proof and thereby settled patent law. While that may be true it seems abundantly clear that law setting a preponderance standard was directly in conflict with the clear and unambiguous Supreme Court precedent directly on point. In fact, there is even Supreme Court precedent directly on point saying that more than a mere preponderance is necessary even when the prior art has not been previously considered. So perhaps i4i and the amici, including the U.S. government by and through the Solicitor General and the USPTO General Counsel Bernie Knight can convince the Supreme Court not to overrule its own prior decisions and keep an appropriately high standard.
Microsoft would like to have the standard for invalidating a patent claim lowered to a mere preponderance of the evidence standard. They say that prior art not considered by the Patent Office should not be afforded the same level of deference. I say — why not? Truthfully the standard for invalidating patent claims in court should be the same as it is when a patent is denied. The standard shouldn’t even be as low as “clear and convincing,” rather it should be “abuse of discretion.”
Earlier this week the United States Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of certiorari filed by lawyers from Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project (FUP) and Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP and will review the constitutionality of a federal statute that has removed thousands of foreign works from the Public Domain and placed them under copyright protection. The case presents a two-pronged constitutional challenge to the 1994 law passed by Congress, which amended the Copyright Act. The case will test whether Congress has the authority to remove works from the Public Domain under the “Intellectual Property Clause” of the United States Constitution and whether the 1994 law violates the First Amendment rights of those who performed, adapted, restored and distributed works which had previously been in the Public Domain.
It is impossible to know for sure, but it is reasonable to assume that the 1000+ page IDS Kappos referred to might be in response to what the Supreme Court will likely do. The Supreme Court doesn’t seem to like to apply changes in the law prospectively, even radical changes as this would be. So if they do lower the burden the changes will be applied retroactively and affect (and infect) issued patents and pending patent applications. With that in mind, those with patent applications pending might want to anticipate the worst and file “everything made by man under the sun” information disclosure statements. That way you will be protected if the Supreme Court says there is a reduced standard for invalidating patent claims when prior art was not submitted to the Patent Office.
Today it is quite difficult to demonstrate that a patent claim issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office is invalid and should not have been issued. Microsoft, along with a great many others, is urging the Supreme Court to change that and make it easier for them to demonstrate that patent claims, and thereby the associated patent rights, are invalid and should not have been issued. A strange association of those who are large patent owners themselves are urging the Microsoft position because they are tired of getting sued on patents that they infringe and having to pay tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars because they have trampled on the rights of innovators. So in order to excuse their own infringement they are asking the Supreme Court to throw the entire patent system under the bus, which is sadly more likely to happen than not.
If you are anti-patent then you are anti-innovation because those who innovate are not the behemoths of industry, but rather start-up companies that absolutely require patents in order to attract funding, expand and create jobs. Thus, given the hostility toward patents it is entirely accurate to characterize the Roberts Court as anti-innovation. The Roberts Court increasingly puts hurdles in the way of high-tech job growth. You see, it is easy for anyone to characterize the Supreme Court as “pro-business” because selecting a victor in a “business case” almost necessarily means that a business has been victorious. But what business? One that is likely to innovate, expand, create jobs and form new industry? Or one that once innovated and expanded, but now finds themselves stagnant and laying off employees?
One of the most debated issues in patent and antitrust law today involves pharmaceutical patent settlements. Brand-name drug manufacturers pay generic firms to settle patent litigation and delay entering the market. How should the antitrust laws respond? The Cipro case presents an ideal vehicle for Supreme Court review. It involves a simple, undisputed payment from brand to generic to delay entering the market.
The latest edition of Fortune magazine has John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, on the cover proclaiming the Roberts Court to be the most pro-business court we have ever seen. So how can it be that the Roberts Court, which has shown hostility toward innovators and contempt for patents that is unusual, is considered pro-business? On top of that, the Roberts Court seems poised to strike at the very heart of the patent right granted by the United States federal government; namely the presumption of validity. That sure doesn’t sound very pro-business to me.
At this time of the year all typically sit back and reflect on the year that has been, spend time with family and friends, watch some football and set a course to follow into the new year. So here are the top 10 events that shaped the patent, innovation and intellectual property industry during 2010 — at least according to me, and with a heavy patent emphasis. What did you expect?
United States Supreme Court issued a non-decision in the matter of Costco Wholesale Corporation v. Omega, S.A. The Per Curiam decision simply read: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.” Unfortunately, this non-decision could well signal the beginning of the end for the first sale doctrine given that goods manufactured and sold outside the United States can apparently be controlled downstream by the copyright owner without the copyright owner having exhausted rights through the sale.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of Stanford University v. Roche Molecular Systems, Inc.; faculty and student inventors, the public, and American industry have an enormous stake in the Court’s decision. The appeal pits university patent administrators against university inventors. If the administrators win, university inventors will have no invention rights—not in the work they do at the university, and not in the work they do in the community. This is a crucial juncture for every researcher who has ever or might someday work in federally funded research. Likewise, it presents a tipping point for innovative industry and anyone with a vested interest in American research.
Earlier today the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Microsoft Corporation v. i4i Limited Partnership, with Chief Justice John Roberts taking no part in the decision or petition. This comes only days after the United States Patent and Trademark Office refused to grant reexamination of the patent in question. Given Microsoft doesn’t even have strong enough prior art to provoke a reexamination by the USPTO it seems absurd to think they could have been victorious even if the district court reviewed the patent claims de novo and without any presumption.