Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Intellectual Property
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Jawbone sued Google for patent infringement in the Western District of Texas after being assigned ownership of the nine asserted patents and seven months after being incorporated in Texas. Jawbone rents space in Waco to store documents relating to the patents, from which it conducts some distribution and sales activities. No Jawbone personnel work at any location in the Western District. Google moved under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) to transfer the action to the Northern District of California, arguing that: the relevant technical aspects of the accused earbuds, smartphones, speakers, displays, and software products were researched, designed, and developed at Google’s headquarters within Northern California; the technology underlying the asserted patents assigned to Jawbone was likewise developed and prosecuted in Northern California; witnesses and sources of proof (prototypes, Google’s key personnel, and four of the six named inventors) were primarily located in Northern California; no witnesses or sources of proof were located in Western Texas.The Federal Circuit ordered the district court to grant the motion. The center of gravity of this action, focusing on the “Volkswagen factors” and the overriding convenience inquiry, is clearly in the Northern District of California, not in the Western District of Texas. Four factors favor transfer and four factors are neutral. No factor weighs against transfer. View "In Re Google LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2015, PMC sued Apple, alleging that Apple FairPlay, a digital rights management technology that Apple uses on its computers, mobile phones, and other devices to prevent users from unauthorized uses of content—such as illegally copying songs on iTunes–alleging infringement of its 091 patent. A jury found that Apple infringed at least one of claims and awarded PMC over $308 million in reasonable-royalty damages.The district court held a bench trial on remaining issues and found the 091 patent unenforceable based on prosecution laches. The court determined that laches required a challenger to prove that the applicant’s delay was unreasonable and inexcusable under the totality of the circumstances and that there was prejudice attributable to the delay. The Federal Circuit affirmed, agreeing that PMC engaged in an unreasonable and unexplained delay amounting to an egregious abuse of the statutory patent system. There was no clear error in the district court’s determination that PMC engaged in conduct causing delays at least through 2011. Apple began developing FairPlay in the early 2000s and launched it in 2003, so Apple necessarily invested in or worked on FairPlay before 2003, which is undisputedly during the period of delay. View "Personalized Media Communications, LLC v. Apple, Inc." on Justia Law

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Grace sued Chandler alleging infringement of its 877 patent, which concerns measuring the viscosity of the fluid in oil wells. The patent’s design is intended to eliminate measurement error because of sample mixing with pressurization fluid in a comparative viscometer. The district court construed the term “enlarged chamber” as indefinite and the term “means for driving said rotor to rotate located in at least one bottom section.” The parties then stipulated that 11 asserted claims were invalid and that certain claims were not infringed.The Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s determination that the term “enlarged chamber” is indefinite and remanded. Although “enlarged chamber” is not a term of art, the intrinsic record sufficiently guides a skilled artisan to the meaning of that term as used in the patent as “a chamber that is large enough to contain excess test sample prior to pressurization to prevent mixing of the test sample and pressurization fluid in the lower measurement zone when the test sample is pressurized to maximum rated pressure.” The court affirmed the construction of “means for driving said rotor to rotate located in at least one bottom section.” View "Grace Instrument Industries, LLC v. Chandler Instruments Co.," on Justia Law

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Stingray filed patent infringement suits in the Eastern District of Texas against TP-Link (organized and headquartered in China). TP-Link moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, alternatively, to transfer to the Central District of California (CDCA) under 28 U.S.C. 1406. TP-Link argued it was not subject to personal jurisdiction i Texas and that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2) “does not cure this jurisdictional defect because Defendants would be amenable to suit in the Central District of California.” TP-Link also moved for transfer under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). The court transferred the cases to the CDCA under section 1406, stating that its exercise of personal jurisdiction "would be unreasonable” and, “Defendants are amenable to suit in the CDCA” and have made affirmative representations that CDCA has proper jurisdiction and venue.The Federal Circuit granted a mandamus petition. TPLink’s unilateral, post-suit consent to personal jurisdiction in another state did not defeat the application of Rule 4(k)(2), which closed a pre-1993 loophole by which a nonresident defendant who did not have minimum contacts with any individual state sufficient to support the exercise of jurisdiction but did have sufficient contacts with the United States as a whole, could escape jurisdiction every state. The district court may assess whether TP-Link can satisfy Rule 4(k)(2)’s negation requirement on the grounds that Stingray “could have brought suit” in the CDCA, independent of TP-Link’s post-suit consent or may consider transfer under section 1404(a). View "In Re Stingray IP Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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Google’s 093 patent application discloses methods for filtering the results of an internet search query such that only results appropriate for the user (e.g., age-appropriate) are displayed.. According to the disclosed method, each result of a search query is assigned a “content rating class” indicating the suitability of the associated content (e.g., suitable for all ages). The Patent Trial and Appeal Board affirmed an examiner’s rejection of multiple claims of the application, citing 35 U.S.C. 103.The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded for further proceedings. The court rejected arguments that the claims were obvious in light of prior art because those arguments did not reflect the reasoning or findings the Board actually invoked. Although the Board concluded that modifying prior art to take into account query length would have been obvious, there was no discussion of how such a modification would be accomplished. The Board’s expressed reasoning cannot sustain its rejection of the claims. The prior art arguments rest on factual predicates unaddressed by the examiner or Board. View "In Re Google LLC" on Justia Law

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The parties copied one another’s claims and provoked an interference between Agilent’s and Dionex's patent applications. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board identified Dionex as the senior party, requiring that Agilent prove priority by a preponderance of the evidence. The Board defined a single count as claim 1 of Agilent’s patent application concerning a method of operating a liquid chromatography system. Dionex argued that Agilent’s claims were invalid based on a lack of written description support for the limitation: “determining a movement amount of the piston within the chamber from a first position to a second position to increase a pressure in the sample loop from an essentially atmospheric pressure to the pump pressure, based on the pump pressure.” The Board concluded that Agilent’s specification controlled, construed the disputed language in light of that specification, and found that the specification provided adequate written description support.The Board found that Agilent proved conception as of May 2007, and actual reduction to practice as of June 1, 2007, all before Dionex’s earliest alleged conception date in December 2007, crediting the testimony of one of Agilent’s two co-inventors, corroborated by two co-workers. The Board also denied Dionex’s requests to draw negative inferences from the lack of testimony from the other co-inventor, and the lack of contemporaneous documentary evidence. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Dionex Softron GmbH v. Agilent Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The District of Utah uses a “Standard Protective Order.” Pursuant to that order, Alaska designated certain source code files as “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION – ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY,” which precluded MFA’s in-house counsel from accessing those materials. MFA challenged Alaska’s designations and moved to amend the Standard Protective Order, seeking to permit its in-house counsel to access “all disclosed information,” including documents designated Attorneys’ Eyes Only, and to add additional designations to the Standard Protective Order specific to source code.The magistrate granted Alaska’s motions to maintain its protective order designations and denied MFA’s motion to amend, finding that Alaska had established that its source code contained trade secrets and merited “heightened protection.” The magistrate concluded that MFA’s in-house counsel was a “competitive decisionmaker” because of his licensing activities and because MFA’s “entire business model revolves around the licensing of patents through litigation with the assistance of its in-house counsel.” The district court affirmed, explaining that MFA had failed to support its argument that it should not bear the burden of proof to modify the Order and that the magistrate had appropriately cited cases “for their relevance to in-house counsel’s involvement in licensing making it a competitive decisionmaker.” The Federal Circuit rejected an interlocutory appeal for lack of jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine. It is reviewable after a final judgment. View "Modern Font Applications LLC v. Alaska Airlines Inc." on Justia Law

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Pirfenidone is a drug used to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic, irreversible lung disease. There is no cure for IPF. Patients living with the disease face an average survival of two-five years. The FDA has approved two drugs for the treatment of IPF, pirfenidone, and nintedanib; differences center on side effects and metabolism. Pirfenidone was first studied as an investigational new drug in 1973. In 2004, the FDA granted pirfenidone orphan drug status for treatment of IPF. In 2014, pirfenidone was approved to treat IPF in the U.S. as Esbriet®, sold by Genentech. Sandoz submitted two Abbreviated New Drug Applications, seeking FDA approval to market a generic version of pirfenidone. Genentech then brought this Hatch-Waxman suit, asserting that Sandoz’s generic product would induce the infringement of its patents. The asserted patents do not claim pirfenidone itself, or the use of pirfenidone to treat IPF but claim methods for managing side effects when using pirfenidone to treat IPF.The Federal Circuit affirmed district court holdings that the claims of Genentech’s Liver Function Test patents are unpatentable as obvious, sales of Sandoz’s generic product would not induce infringement of the LFT patents, and sale of Sandoz’s generic product would not directly infringe Genentech’s Drug-Drug Interaction patents. View "Genentech, Inc. v. Sandoz Inc." on Justia Law

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Mosaic manufactures a money-clip wallet called the Smart Money Clip II (SMCII). Ridge makes the Ridge Wallet, which is nearly identical to the SMCII. Each company accused the other of patent infringement. Mosaic also claimed infringement of trade dress. Following claim construction of the terms “lip,” and “of varying thickness,” the parties stipulated that Mosaic cannot prove infringement of its patent. The district court then granted summary judgment of invalidity of Ridge’s patent, based on anticipation, and denied Mosaic’s motion for summary judgment that Ridge had obtained its patent through inequitable conduct. The district court also granted Ridge summary judgment on Mosaic’s trade dress claim, finding the trade dress invalid on multiple grounds.The Federal Circuit upheld the claim construction and affirmed the dismissal of Mosaic’s infringement claim. The court found genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Mosaic’s SMCII product is prior art to Ridge’s patent and reversed the grant of summary judgment of invalidity of Ridge’s patent. The court vacated the denial of summary judgment on Mosaic’s inequitable conduct defense and affirmed the grant of summary judgment that Mosaic’s trade dress is invalid because the design is functional. View "Mosaic Brands, Inc. v. Ridge Wallet LLC" on Justia Law

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Plastipak’s patents, each entitled “Lightweight Plastic Container and Preform” claim priority to U.S. Application 11/749,501, filed in 2007, which was a continuation-in-part of Application 11/368,860, filed in 2006. Each patent lists Darr and Morgan as inventors. Plastipak sued Premium Waters for infringement. Premium argued that the patents should have included a third co-inventor, Falzoni, an employee of SACMI, an Italian company. Darr had communicated with Falzoni in 2005.The district court entered summary judgment, rejecting the suit as invalid for nonjoinder under pre-AIA (America Invents Act) 35 U.S.C. 102(f). The Federal Circuit reversed, finding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. A reasonable fact-finder, taking the evidence in the light most favorable to Plastipak as the nonmoving party, could reject Premium’s position on Falzoni’s status as a joint inventor. View "Plastipak Packaging, Inc v. Premium Waters, Inc." on Justia Law