Articles Posted in Intellectual Property

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Ancora’s 941 patent, entitled “Method of Restricting Software Operation Within a License Limitation,” describes and claims methods of limiting a computer’s running of software not authorized for that computer to run. It issued in 2002, and the patentability of all claims was confirmed in a reexamination in 2010. Ancora sued HTC, alleging infringement of the 941 patent. The district court dismissed, concluding that the patent’s claims are invalid because their subject matter is ineligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C 101, as directed to, and ultimately claiming no more than, an abstract idea. The Federal Circuit reversed. The claimed advance is a concrete assignment of specified functions among a computer’s components to improve computer security, and this claimed improvement in computer functionality is eligible for patenting. The asserted innovation of the patent relates to where the license record is stored in the computer and the interaction of that memory with other memory to check for permission to run a program that is introduced into the computer. View "Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. HTC America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The patent, entitled “Rinseable splash shield and method of use,” discloses a vessel for containing contents to be mixed that is positioned in a mixing machine and a splash shield that is positioned to shield the opening of the vessel. After the material within the vessel is mixed by a mixing element, the splash shield is separated from the vessel and rinsed by a nozzle on the mixing machine. The patent describes how the invention “provide[s] a drink mixer having a splash shield that may be automatically rinsed following mixing of each batch or beverage, preferably without disassembly or removal of any components or disposable covers.” The Patent Trial and Appeal Board upheld the patentability of claim 21 under 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Board changed claim construction theories midstream without providing the parties an opportunity to respond, and erred in construing the “nozzle” terms so as to require that the nozzles be prepositioned. Substantial evidence supports the Board’s decision ’s that Hamilton Beach did not persuasively establish a motivation to combine the prior art references to arrive at claim 21. View "Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. v. f'real Foods, LLC" on Justia Law

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Around 1959, the company started doing business as Omaha Steaks. It has multiple trademark registrations that include the words “Omaha Steaks" and spent over $50 million in 2012 and 2013, on domestic advertising of its beef products through national radio, television, and freestanding print campaigns. It has been featured in national newspapers, magazines, television shows, and movies. It promotes its products via catalog and direct mail, a daily blast email, customer calls, and on social media. Omaha Steaks has 75 stores and two airport kiosks and sells via Amazon. In 1920, Greater Omaha Packing Company was formed; it sells boxed beef to wholesalers, such as hotels, restaurants, and food service institutions and has sold beef to Omaha Steaks since 1966. GOP sought to register the mark “GREATER OMAHA PROVIDING THE HIGHEST QUALITY BEEF” with a design for: “meat, including boxed beef primal cuts.” The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board dismissed Omaha Steak’s opposition, finding no likelihood of confusion between the opposed mark and Omaha Steaks’ registered trademarks. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board’s fact-findings confirm that due to Omaha Steaks’ sales and marketing, the consuming public has been regularly exposed to its marks on a nationwide scale; the Board’s conclusion that Omaha Steaks did not provide any context for its “raw” sales figures and ad expenditures lacks substantial evidence. The Board’s findings regarding third-party use improperly relied on marks found on dissimilar goods not directed to the relevant public. View "Omaha Steaks International, Inc. v. Greater Omaha Packing Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s asserted RE940 patent, a reissue of its 805 patent, relates to boron steel sheets with an aluminum-based coating that, when hot-stamped, become highly mechanically resistant. In 2010, plaintiff sued AK Steel for infringement. The primary issue was whether steel sheets produced by AK met the mechanical resistance limitation of the 805 patent after thermal treatment. While the 2010 case was on remand, Plaintiff filed the complaint related to this appeal, asserting the RE940 patent. According to AK, the accused products in this case—steel sheets marketed and sold under the trade name ULTRALUME—are the same as the AXN steel sheets in the 2010 case. The district court granted AK summary judgment, citing collateral estoppel. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded. Evidence indicates a material difference in the accused products, so collateral estoppel does not apply. Differences with respect to the claimed limitations constitute changes in controlling facts. Discovery is necessary to determine whether and to what extent AK supplied auto manufacturers with steel sheets with ultimate tensile strength in excess of 1,500 megapascals after thermal treatment, its knowledge and intent in doing so, and the relationships between AK, the hot-stampers, and the auto manufacturers during the relevant timeframe. View "Arcelormittal Atlantique v. AK Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Oath in the Eastern District of New York, alleging patent infringement. Oath conducts business in New York, but is incorporated in Delaware; it does not have “a regular and established place of business” in the Eastern District as defined in the patent statute venue provision, 28 U.S.C. 1400(b) In 2016, Oath moved under FRCP 12(b)(6) to dismiss for failure to state a claim but did not object to venue. Oath withdrew its motion and filed an answer, admitting the complaint’s venue allegations but expressly reserving the right to challenge venue based upon any change in law, including the Supreme Court’s "TC Heartland" decision. The Supreme Court subsequently issued that decision, holding that, under section 1400(b), “a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation,” rejecting Federal Circuit precedent that a domestic corporation “resides” in any judicial district in which the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction. Oath moved to dismiss. Plaintiffs argued that Oath had waived the venue defense because it was “available” in 2016. The district court agreed. In November 2017, the Federal Circuit held (Micron) that “TC Heartland changed the controlling law ... making the waiver rule ... inapplicable” but that venue rights might be forfeited by delay in asserting them in some circumstances. On reconsideration, the district court again denied Oath’s motion. The Federal Circuit remanded with instructions to either dismiss or transfer the case. The district court provided no analysis of why these circumstances supported a finding of forfeiture under section 1406(b) and erred in failing to apply the Micron precedent. View "In re: Oath Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Cisco’s 597 patent, titled “Method and Apparatus for Securing a Communications Device using a Logging Module,” relates generally to ensuring network device security by using a logging module with restricted configurability to detect and communicate changes to a network device’s configuration. Arista petitioned for an inter partes review (IPR) of certain claims of the patent. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board upheld some of those challenged claims as patentable but invalidated others. On appeal, Arista argued that the Board erred in construing the term “broadcast,” and that this error caused the Board to improperly reject Arista’s obviousness challenge to five claims. Cisco’s cross-appeal concerned the Board’s refusal to apply the doctrine of assignor estoppel. The Federal Circuit reversed as to Arista’s appeal, finding that the Board applied incorrect claim construction, and affirmed Cisco’s cross-appeal. While the issue of assignor estoppel was reviewable, section 311(a), by allowing “a person who is not the owner of a patent” to file an IPR, unambiguously dictates that assignor estoppel has no place in IPR proceedings. View "Arista Networks, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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The patents at issue are directed to a broadcast technique in which a broadcast channel overlays a point-to-point communications network. The communications network consists of a graph of point-to-point connections between host computers or “nodes,” through which the broadcast channel is implemented. Blizzard filed six inter partes review (IPR) petitions regarding the three patents based principally on two different prior art references: one set of IPRs challenged claims based on the Shoubridge article 2 alone or combined with a prior art book DirectPlay3 and another set of IPRs challenged claims based on the Lin article 4 alone or combined with DirectPlay. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board held that multiple claims were unpatentable but upheld others and held that the Lin article is not a printed publication under 35 U.S.C. 102(a). The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the Board erred by construing the term “participant” according to its plain meaning; that the terms “game environment” and “information delivery service,” appearing in two patents should have been given patentable weight; and that the Board failed to identify a broadcast channel in Shoubridge in its anticipation and obviousness analyses. The Board’s finding that Lin was not publicly accessible before the critical date was supported by substantial evidence. View "Acceleration Bay, LLC v. Activision Blizzard Inc." on Justia Law

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The 753 trademark, issued to Converse in 2013, describes the trade-dress configuration of three design elements on the midsole of Converse’s All Star shoes. Converse filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC), alleging violations of 19 U.S.C. 337 by various companies in the importation into the U.S., the sale for importation, and the sale within the U.S. after importation of shoes that infringe its trademark. The ITC found the registered mark invalid and that Converse could not establish the existence of common-law trademark rights, but nonetheless stated that various accused products would have infringed Converse’s mark if valid. The Federal Circuit vacated. The ITC erred in failing to distinguish between alleged infringers who began infringing before Converse obtained its trademark registration and those who began afterward. With respect to the pre-registration period, Converse, as the party asserting trade-dress protection, must establish that its mark had acquired secondary meaning before the first infringing use by each alleged infringer. In addition, the ITC applied the wrong legal standard in its determination of secondary meaning. On remand, the ITC should reassess the accused products to determine whether they are substantially similar to the mark in the infringement analysis. View "Converse, Inc. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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Roche’s 723 patent, titled “Detection of a Genetic Locus Encoding Resistance to Rifampin in Microbacterial Cultures and in Clinical Specimens,” is directed to methods for detecting the pathogenic bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a major cause of tuberculosis. In 1994, before the priority date of the 723 patent, the general method of MTB detection in a tuberculosis patient was known as sputum examination by the acid-fast bacilli smear. The diagnostic test of the 723 patent involves subjecting DNA extracted from a biological sample taken from a patient to amplification by polymerase chain reaction using a short, single-stranded nucleotide sequence that can hybridize (bind) to at least one of the eleven position-specific signature nucleotides in the MTB rpoB gene. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment, holding that the patent’s claims are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter and are therefore invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101. Roche’s discovery of the signature nucleotides on the MTB rpoB gene and the designing of corresponding primers are valuable contributions to science and medicine, allowing for faster detection of MTB in a biological sample and testing for rifampin resistance but groundbreaking, innovative, or even brilliant discovery does not by itself satisfy the section 101 inquiry. The primers can be found in nature. View "Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. v. Cepheid" on Justia Law

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The district court entered judgment on the pleadings, finding the Tab Patents, titled “System and Methods for Improved Spreadsheet Interface With User-Familiar Objects,” patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101, as directed to abstract concepts and failing to provide an inventive concept. The patents claim systems and methods for making complex electronic spreadsheets more accessible by providing familiar, user-friendly interface objects—specifically, notebook tabs—to navigate through spreadsheets while circumventing the arduous process of searching for, memorizing, and entering complex commands. The Federal Circuit reversed in part, finding all but one claim to be patent eligible. The claims are not abstract, but rather are directed to a specific improved method for navigating through complex three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets. The asserted claims of one patent, reciting methods for tracking changes to data in spreadsheets, are directed to the abstract idea of collecting, recognizing, and storing changed information; nothing in these claims that provides an inventive concept sufficient to render the claims patent eligible. View "Data Engine Technologies LLC v. Google LLC" on Justia Law