Posts in US Supreme Court

Hatch-Waxman at the Supreme Court: Supporting Cert. in Cipro

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 Roberts Supreme Court: Pro-Business and Anti-Patent?

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.

Top 10 Patent, Innovation & IP Events of 2010

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?

Supreme Court Punts on Costco First Sale Copyright Case

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.

Supreme Court Case Could Deprive Inventors & Businesses Ability to Commercialize Inventions

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.

US Supreme Court Accepts Microsoft Appeal in i4i Case

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.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Costco Copyright Case

The dispute arose because Omega, S.A., sought to prevent the petitioner, Costco Wholesale Corporation, from reselling genuine watches originally sold by Omega to authorized foreign distributors. Omega, a Swiss company that manufactures watches in Switzerland, did not authorize the importation of the watches by Costco, despite the fact that Costco legally purchased the watches abroad. Thus, the question in this case will be whether copyrighted materials made abroad and legally purchased abroad can be imported without the express permission of the copyright owner. In other words, does the first sale doctrine extinguish the rights of the copyright holder when the goods are made abroad and sold abroad.

On the Record with Mark Lemley: The Presumption of Validity

On Friday, September 17, 2010, I had the opportunity to chat with Professor Mark Lemley, who is the William H. Neukom Professor at Stanford Law School and partner in the San Francisco law firm Durie Tangri LLP. Lemley is well known both in the academic community and the practice community. In fact, he is one of only a select few that have managed to simultaneously have a stellar career both in academia and in private practice. I chat with Lemley via e-mail from time to time on various matters, and we have talked about an interview for some time. Then a draft of a amicus brief Lemly filed today with the United States Supreme Court arrived in my inbox and I knew this was the issue that would make for an excellent interview. Lemley is leading the charge of law professors who are asking the Supreme Court to review i4i v. Microsoft and address the presumption of validity enjoyed by an issued patent, pegging the presumption to those references considered by the patent examiner during prosecution.

Interview Finale: Chief Judge Michel on Bilski & Supreme Court

In this final installment of my interview with Chief Judge Paul Michel we discuss Bilski v. Kappos and what he thought of the Supreme Court’s decision. Judge Michel talks about how only one of the Justices who decided Bilski ever decided a patentable subject matter decision, leaving the impression that the Supreme Court should probably just leave well enough alone. He tells us that he “think[s] the Federal Circuit can help minimize harm” that may otherwise be caused by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bilski v. Kappos, but is unsure whether the Federal Circuit can all “the harm that may lie inherent in the approach of the Supreme Court in that opinion…” Chief Judge Michel also discusses how he feels that the patent system is now favoring extremely large companies over independent inventors, start-ups and small businesses. Plus, the fun stuff!

Through the Fuzzy Bilski Looking Glass: The Meaning of Patent-Eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101

So now what does SCOTUS’ ruling in Bilski “really” mean to us “mere mortals”? First, we’ve got two “wild cards” to deal with as noted above: (1) Stevens has retired; and (2) what does Scalia’s refusal to join Parts II B-2 and C-2 of Kennedy’s opinion for the Court signify. Some aspects of “wild card” #2 are dealt with above, but as also noted, there are still some aspects which are unclear or at least ambiguous as to how this refusal by Scalia should be viewed. This lack of clarity/ambiguity will require some sorting out by the Federal Circuit, which may come as early as the reconsideration by the Federal Circuit of Prometheus, Classen, or even the appeal in AMP v. USPTO involving the gene patenting controversy. In AMP, District Court Judge Sweet’s invalidity ruling regarding the method claims for determining a pre-disposition to breast/ovarian cancer using the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes relies at least in part upon the “M or T” test which, as noted above, SCOTUS unanimously relegated to “second class” status in Bilski as not the only test for patent-eligibility.

Diagnostic Testing in the Wake of Bilski v. Kappos

Now that the Supreme Court has vacated and remanded both the Classen and Prometheus decisions, the Federal Circuit must revisit these issues. For Prometheus, the decision may be simpler, because the claims were already held to meet the machine-or-transformation test. Although the Supreme Court’s Bilski decision held that the M-or-T test was not the only test by which patent-eligibility can be determined, the Supreme Court seemed to have agreement from all nine Justices that the machine-or-transformation test was still a useful tool and valid option. See, e.g., Bilski, slip. op. at 2 of J. Breyer’s concurrence. Although a claim that does not meet the M-or-T test may still be patent-eligible under other theories, one can presume that the M-or-T test is still a “safe harbor” for claims that meet its provisions. The Federal Circuit’s re-visitation of Prometheus will be the first opportunity for this presumption to be tested.

Section 273 is NOT a Red Herring: Stevens’ Disingenuous Concurrence in Bilski

Where this decision takes on a surreal quality is how the various Justices viewed the impact of 35 U.S.C. § 273 in determining whether “business methods” are patent-eligible. Justice Stevens and 3 other Justices (Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotamayor) are completely WRONG in treating 35 U.S.C. § 273 as if this statute doesn’t exist. Even Scalia, who obviously doesn’t like patents on “business methods” (by his refusal to join Part II B-2 of Kennedy’s opinion) couldn’t stomach rendering the language of 35 U.S.C. § 273 a nullity.

Dissecting Bilski: The Meaning of the Supreme Patent Decision

Who knows what goes through the minds of anyone, let alone a cloistered Justice of the United States Supreme Court. What we do know, however, is that 5 Justices, namely Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Thomas, Alito and Scalia all agreed that business methods are patentable subject matter. All 9 Justices agreed that the Federal Circuit misread previous Supreme Court decisions when they mandated that the machine or transformation test be the only test for determining whether a process is patentable subject matter. All 9 Justices agreed that the Bilski application was properly rejected, with the majority agreeing that it was properly rejected because it was an abstract idea, and the concurring minority simply wanting to say that business methods are not patent eligible unless tied to an otherwise patentable invention (see Stevens footnote 40).

BIO Commends Supreme Court for Expansive View of Patentability in Bilski

“In our amicus brief, BIO urged the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s rigid new test for determining whether a method or process is eligible for patenting. We are pleased that the Justices crafted a narrow opinion that does just that. The Court was clearly conscious of the potential negative and unforeseeable consequences of a broad and sweeping decision,” stated BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood. “This ruling specifically states that the ‘machine-or-transformation test is not the sole test for patent eligibility’ and recognized that the lower court’s ruling could have created uncertainty in fields such as advanced diagnostic medicine techniques.”

Supremes Decide Bilski: Machine or Transformation Not the Only Test, Bilski Not Patentable

The Supreme Court held that the machine-or-transformation test is not the sole test for patent eligibility under §101, and that the Federal Circuit erred when it ruled that it was the singular test to determine whether an invention is patentable subject matter. Delivering the opinion for the Court was Justice Kennedy. There were no dissents, only concurring opinions, which is in and of itself a little surprising. In any event, Kennedy explained that the Federal Circuit decision ignored well established rules of statutory interpretation, and further explained that there is no ordinary, contemporary common meaning of the word “process” that would require it to be tied to a machine or the transformation of an article. Nevertheless, the machine or transformation test may be useful as an investigative tool, but it cannot be the sole test.