Posts in Litigation

Post-Myriad Legal and Policy Considerations for Patenting Genetic Inventions

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics changed the landscape of what is considered patentable material in the context of genetic inventions. In the five years since Myriad, companies have pushed the boundaries of patenting certain types of genetic materials. Despite Myriad’s express statement that it was not considering “the patentability of DNA in which the order of the naturally occurring nucleotides has been altered,” the courts have not yet established the contours of how much nucleotide sequences need to be altered in order to “create something new” in order to be patentable. However, as we discuss in the next section, we expect the Court to address these questions as biotechnology companies increasingly invest resources into emerging, expensive technologies involving genes and seek to protect their investments through patents.

Other Barks & Bites for Friday, March 8

This week in Other Barks & Bites: The United Nations highlights the importance of women in innovation on International Women’s Day; Comments due today on USPTO Section 101 Guidance; FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigns; a Senate bill with six bipartisan co-sponsors would increase requirements on patent disclosures for biologics; USPTO Director Iancu speaks out on Alice; Apple announces its intention to increase its presence in San Diego while its patent battle with Qualcomm heats up; Chinese copyright registrations increased by double digit percentage points in 2018; Stanley Black & Decker faces off against Sears in a trademark infringement battle over branding for Craftsman tools; Amazon announces that it will close dozens of pop-up stores in the U.S.; and Democrats from both houses of Congress introduce a new net neutrality bill.

Congress is Trying to Fix 101: To Do So, They Must Overrule Mayo

The state of patent eligibility in America is shocking. Between the passage of the 1952 Patent Act and 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S.Ct. 1289 (2012), the patent eligibility threshold was an exceptionally low hurdle. A group of Senators and Representatives are currently considering a legislative fix to this patent eligibility debacle created by the Supreme Court and perpetuated by a Federal Circuit unwilling to define the contours of a sensible patent eligibility test. These talks, which are being held in closed-door roundtable format, will seek legislative language to introduce soon. It is anticipated that bills will be introduced in both the House and Senate sometime this summer. What those bills will look like seems to be genuinely up in the air—or perhaps it’s better to say open for discussion. If the discussion should turn to the one thing Congress could do that would have the most impact, the answer would be clear. In order to have the most immediate, positive impact Congress must expressly overrule Mayo. The root of all the patent eligibility evil lies with that single Supreme Court decision.

TC Heartland Two Years On: Waiting for Federal Circuit Panels to Get on the Same Page

In May of 2017, the United States Supreme Court delivered a unanimous decision in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Food Group Brands LLC that reversed the Federal Circuit and said that 28 U.S.C. 1400(b) remains the only applicable patent venue statute, that 28 U.S.C. 1391(c) did not modify or amend 1400(b) or the Court’s 1957 ruling in Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., and that the term “residence” in 28 U.S.C. 1400(b) means only the state in which a company is incorporated. Since TC Heartland, courts and plaintiffs have struggled to understand the real world application of this decision; most recently, the Federal Circuit in In re Google allowed a case to remain in the Eastern District of Texas because Google had servers there. Thus, while the decision has undoubtedly resulted in a shift away from the heyday of the Eastern District of Texas, the precise parameters of a “physical presence” sufficient to satisfy venue remain murky. To examine the effect TC Heartland has had so far, I recently sat down with Mike Oropallo of Barclay Damon, who has been out there litigating patent cases around the country. Among other observations, Oropallo says that—as usual—it all comes down to the Federal Circuit. Read on for more.

Federal Circuit Says Correction of Inventorship Claims Were Plausible, Vacates District Court Dismissal in Coda v. Goodyear

The Federal Circuit recently vacated a district court’s decision dismissing a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Coda Development S.R.O. v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., No. 2018-1028, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 5144 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 22, 2019) (Before Prost, C.J., Wallach, Hughes, J.) (Opinion for the Court, Prost, C.J.) Coda Development and Frantisek Hrabal (collectively “Coda”) sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company for trade secret misappropriation and correction of inventorship of 12 Goodyear patents directed to self-inflating tire (SIT) technology. Coda alleged that, during several confidential meetings held between the parties, Goodyear copied Coda’s inventions and filed patent applications based on those inventions without naming Coda as an inventor or co-inventor. The district court dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and denied the Plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend the complaint.

What Happens to Diagnostic Method Patents After Athena?

I am sure that the justices of the Supreme Court did not anticipate the confusion they created when they issued their controversial decision in Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank in 2014. That case effectively upended well-established precedence when the Court unanimously held that a computer-implemented scheme for mitigating settlement risk was not patent eligible subject matter because the claims were drawn to an abstract idea, and that merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform the claims to eligible subject matter. The Court itself said their holding was to be narrowly construed, but in providing a vague, two-step test to determine whether something is patent eligible, they unleashed a world of hurt on some of our domestic industries seeking patents in cutting-edge technologies. The application of the Alice test to some of our health-related industries is having disastrous effects. On February 6, 2019, in a split decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) found in Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services that diagnostic methods are not patent subject matter eligible unless they embody a separate technical improvement beyond the correlation of certain antibodies in bodily fluids to particular diseases. In a footnote, the majority lamented that they felt compelled by Supreme Court precedence to render their decision, but recognized that protection of diagnostic methods would be for good for society. The Athena case does not portend well for the CAFC adoption of the recent USPTO guidance on Section 101. The courts will eventually be able to either put their imprimatur on those guidelines or discard them. The sooner that is done, the better.

IPR Tax, Alice Shock, and the Dynamics of the Licensing Market as Reflected by the LES High-Tech Royalty Surveys

The Licensing Executives Society (LES) 2017 High Tech Deal Term & Royalty Rate Survey is a milestone event for at least three reasons. First, it was the third survey since the inaugural survey in 2011, and the three surveys fully covered the time period of a decade—from 2008 to 2017. Second, the 2017 Survey marked the fifth anniversary of Inter Partes Review (IPR) procedure and the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank. Third, at the time of the Survey, a new USPTO Director was nominated by the Trump Administration, bringing a fresh glut of uncertainties, anxieties, and hopes to the already jittery IP market.

Elgin v. Dept. of the Treasury and Preserving Constitutional Issues Before the USPTO

Those who practice in the field of patents tend to focus almost exclusively upon developments in patent law and pay less attention to developments in other areas of law. This is to be expected; patent cases don’t usually overlap with issues such as employment law or criminal law; so why bother reading up on those subjects? And yet, it can actually be useful to keep abreast of Supreme Court decisions that on their faces do not pertain to patent law. A few days ago, IPWatchdog Founder and CEO Gene Quinn discussed one such case. Though that case was not patent-related, he felt the decision may be of interest to patent practitioners, especially those dealing with patent eligibility under section 101. In that same vein, following is a discussion of a (less recent) decision from the United States Supreme Court, Elgin v. Department of the Treasury, 567 U.S. 1 (2012), that patent practitioners may have overlooked. On its face, the case deals with employment law, but it includes aspects of federal administrative practice that can affect patent practitioners.

Fourth Estate v. Wall-Street.com: Registration Required to Commence a Copyright Infringement Suit

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the opinion for a unanimous Supreme Court in Fourth Estate v. Wall-Street.com, et. al. Monday morning, March 4, holding that copyright registration occurs—and thus, an infringement action can only be brought—once the Copyright Office officially registers a copyright. The case considered whether “registration of [a] copyright claim has been made” within the meaning of Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act “when the copyright holder delivers the required application, deposit, and fee to the Copyright Office, as the Fifth and Ninth Circuits have held, or only once the Copyright Office acts on that application, as the Tenth Circuit and, in the decision below, the Eleventh Circuit have held.” In the end, the Court unanimously agreed that registration is a requirement to commence suit, but, once granted, the copyright owner can sue for infringement that occurred both before and after registration.

Rimini Street v. Oracle USA: Kavanaugh Frowns on Broad Interpretation of ‘Full Costs’ Under Copyright Act

On Monday, March 4, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued the decision for a unanimous Supreme Court in Rimini Street, Inc. v. Oracle USA, Inc., which asked whether the meaning of “full costs” under 17 U.S.C. § 505 of the U.S. Copyright Act extends to damages outside of the six categories of costs that U.S. district courts can award against a losing party as outlined in 28 U.S.C. § 1821 and 28 U.S.C. § 1920. In siding with petitioner Rimini Street, the Supreme Court held that “full costs” in the copyright litigation context are limited to Sections 1821 and 1920, reversing the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision to award $12.8 million to Oracle covering litigation expenses outside of the statutory schedule of costs.

Ten Things to Avoid When Doing Trademark Surveys

Surveys to prove or disprove trademark infringement or likelihood of confusion have been used by attorneys for many years. Unfortunately, many attorneys using surveys can weaken a survey’s impact by failing to avoid some crucial pitfalls. Here are 10 important things to avoid and correct when developing surveys for litigation purposes.

Other Barks & Bites for Friday, March 1

This week in Other Barks and Bites: the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to go after drug patents to promote access to generic medications; Apple faces another patent suit in the Eastern District of Texas in the midst of attempts to remove its business presence from the district; China enacts a code of conduct for patent agents; Samsung and Huawei enter into an agreement to terminate their multi-year legal battle in the Android sector; the makers of Fortnite face yet another copyright suit over dance moves; Warner Bros. strikes down a Kickstarter campaign intending to distribute edited versions of The Departed; and a Delaware jury upholds cholesterol treatment patents owned by Amgen.

Federal Circuit Rules Momenta Has No Standing after Ceasing Development of a Biosimilar

Earlier this month, the Federal Circuit dismissed an appeal from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) where the Board upheld the patentability of a biologics patent. After Momenta Pharmaceuticals petitioned the Board for an inter partes review (IPR) of the patentability of Orencia® (abatacept), the Board sustained patentability and Momenta appealed. During the course of the appeal, Momenta ceased development of an abatacept biosimilar. The Federal Circuit held that the cessation of potential infringement mooted the injury and removed Momenta’s standing to maintain the appeal. Momenta Pharm., Inc. v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., No. 2017-1694, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3786 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 7, 2019) (Before Newman, Dyk, and Chen, Circuit Judges) (Opinion for the Court, Newman, Circuit Judge).

District Court Denies FRAND Breach of Contract and Sherman Act Summary Judgment Motions by ASUS and InterDigital

In a decision published in redacted form on January 29, Judge Beth Labson Freeman of the Northern District of California denied ASUSTek Computer Inc.’s and ASUS Computer International’s (collectively, ASUS’s) motion for summary judgment that InterDigital, Inc.’s (InterDigital’s) standard essential patent (SEP) licensing practices breached its FRAND obligations. The court also granted-in-part and denied-in-part InterDigital’s motion for summary judgment, rejecting a request to dismiss ASUS’s Sherman Antitrust Act claim but granting summary judgment as to issues relating to judicial and promissory estoppel and as to a California competition law claim. ASUS Computer Int’l v. InterDigital, Inc., Case No. 5:15-cv-01716-BLF, ECF No. 367 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 29, 2018). The court’s ruling comes as the case is progressing toward a jury trial, presently scheduled for May 2019. Several of the issues addressed are fact-specific to the case, but the rulings relating to breach of contract, most favorable licensees, and the Sherman Act are of particular interest for SEP licensing and illustrate how the legal landscape continues to evolve.

Internet Companies File Latest Brief in Support of Google in Fight with Oracle at Supreme Court

Mozilla, Mapbox, Medium, Patreon, Etsy, and Wikimedia have filed an amicus brief in support of Google in its case against Oracle at the U.S Supreme Court. The platforms disagree with the Federal Circuit’s March 27, 2018, ruling that Google’s use of Oracle’s Java application programming interface (API packages) was not fair as a matter of law, reversing the district court’s decision on the matter. The brief is the latest of 14 that have been filed in the last week in support of granting the petition.