Planning to Request Discovery for a European Patent Office Proceeding? Not So Fast, Rules the District of Massachusetts

two flags of USA and European Union on a sky backgroundThe Hon. F. Dennis Saylor, IV of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts recently denied a petitioner’s request under 28 USC § 1782 to take discovery related to patent inventorship in connection with an Opposition proceeding pending before the European Patent Office (EPO). The court, in exercising its discretion under the U.S. Supreme Court’s so-called Intel factors set forth in Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 US 241, 264 (2004), denied the petitioner’s request for discovery because the EPO generally does not allow the type of discovery requested by the petitioner in an Opposition proceeding, thus the petitioner’s requested discovery would have no place in an EPO Opposition.

Key Takeaways

  • This case illustrates the need for inventors to be familiar with patent laws, procedures, and proceedings in foreign jurisdictions.
  • The District of Massachusetts will focus on Intel’s discretionary factors when making decisions about whether to allow discovery for use in foreign tribunals under 28 USC § 1782.

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Court Lacks Subject Matter Jurisdiction over Unasserted Claims

A party can raise lack of subject-matter jurisdiction at any time during a litigation. Illustrating this point, recently in Joao Control & Monitoring Systems, LLC v. Telular Corporation a patentee saved its unasserted patent claims from the Court’s invalidity order by arguing that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the unasserted claims.

In 2014, Joao Control & Monitoring Systems, LLC sued Telular Corporation for allegedly infringing two patents related to systems for remotely monitoring property. Joao’s complaint asserted that Telular infringed one or more claims from each patent, but did not identify any specific claims. Telular counterclaimed for declaratory judgment of invalidity for both patents.  Continue reading

PTAB Procedural Reform Initiative: Will the PTAB Become More Patent-Friendly?

Changes may be coming to Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced recently that it is launching an initiative to reform PTAB proceeding rules. The announcement stated that the USPTO will use nearly five years of historical data and user experiences to improve PTAB trials. In addition to input already received, the USPTO is seeking feedback from the public (ideas for reforming PTAB proceedings can be submitted via email to PTABProceduralReformInitiative@uspto.gov).

Introduced on September 16, 2012, PTAB proceedings were aimed at providing an efficient quality check on issued patents. However, PTAB proceedings have been criticized for being unfavorable to patent owners, especially due to high rates of petition institution and claim invalidation, as well as the low success rate for motions to amend by patent owners.

Since their introduction, PTAB proceeding rules have undergone two rounds of revisions (see here and here) that brought patent-friendly rule changes, including:

  • allowing patent owners the opportunity to submit new testimonial evidence with a preliminary response;
  • allowing a Phillips-type claim construction standard (rather than a Broadest Reasonable Interpretation standard) if the patent will expire within 18 months after filing of the petition; and
  • a new “Rule 11-type” certification guarding against submission of papers for any “improper purpose.”

For the current initiative, the USPTO intends to examine procedures relating to (but not limited to):
multiple petitions;

  • motions to amend;
  • claim construction; and
  • decisions to institute.

The current initiative raises the possibility of further patent-friendly revisions to the PTAB proceeding rules. Nutter will continue to track future developments and the final rule changes. Any practitioners with desired rule changes should consider taking advantage of the above-noted email address for suggestions from the public.

Oversimplifying Patent Claims Dooms Government’s Case in Federal Circuit Decision

motion

Defendants in patent litigation frequently mount an invalidity defense under 35 U.S.C. § 101 by arguing that asserted claims are directed to abstract ideas, which are not eligible for patent protection under the first step of the Alice[1] test. Often, these defendants fail to account for significant aspects of the asserted claims, resulting in an oversimplification that doesn’t accurately articulate what the claims are actually directed to. This was precisely the government’s error in Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States (Fed. Cir. 2017), where the Federal Circuit found, contrary to the government’s characterization of the claims (which the Claims Court adopted), the asserted claims were not directed to an abstract idea. Continue reading

TC Heartland v. Kraft: The Supreme Court Asks Tough Questions, Doesn’t Tip Its Hand After Oral Argument

Blue folder with the label Patent Law

On March 27, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in TC Heartland v. Kraft, a case that centers on where patent infringement lawsuits can be filed.

Key Takeaways

  • If the Supreme Court sides with TC Heartland, patent infringement hotbeds like the Eastern District of Texas would likely see a drastic reduction in filings because cases would be limited to the state of incorporation of the defendant, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.
  • Because many corporations select Delaware as their state of incorporation, a ruling in favor of TC Heartland would likely cause a sharp increase in patent infringement filings in that district.
  • Switching the heavy patent infringement case load from the Eastern District of Texas to the District of Delaware will not solve TC Heartland’s concern about one judicial district handling a disproportionate majority of patent infringement cases.
  • If the Supreme Court sides with Kraft Foods, the status quo will be maintained and patent owners will have flexibility in selecting venue for infringement actions.

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The Supreme Court Strikes Down Laches as a Defense to Patent Infringement

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion, SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, in which it held that laches cannot be used as a defense to a claim of patent infringement. The opinion had been anticipated ever since the Court’s decision in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 572 U.S. ___ (2014) struck down the defense in copyright cases, using reasoning that appeared to apply to all federal actions involving causes of action subject to statutes of limitations. Continue reading

Will the Supreme Court Reform Patent Venue Law in TC Heartland v. Kraft?

United States Supreme Court in Washington D.C.

Q: Why is the technology industry following TC Heartland v. Kraft so closely?

Paul Cronin: The Supreme Court recently agreed to take up TC Heartland, a case that will address the issue of where patent infringement lawsuits can be filed. The tech industry wants the Supreme Court to end the practice of “forum shopping,” or filing lawsuits in venues that are historically favorable to patent owners. The technology industry wants the law changed so patent infringement lawsuits must be filed in the accused infringer’s state of incorporation or where its headquarters is located. If this change occurs, “home court” advantage will shift from the patent owner to the accused infringer. Software, smart phones, and other technology companies have been among the hardest hit in terms of fighting patent litigation. The industry is looking to shut down the patent-friendly venues by forcing patent owners to file suit in the home district of the accused infringer. Continue reading

5 Must-Ask IP Due Diligence Questions in Corporate Transactions

Check box- IP InventoryWhen would a company undergo intellectual property due diligence?
Konstantin Linnik: Any corporate transaction involving IP assets necessitates diligence: merger, acquisition, IPO, investment (such as a venture capital financing), in-license, partnering, co-development, or distribution agreements. The buyer who is evaluating the Target could be a licensee, business partner, investor, banker, or underwriter. IP due diligence analyzes patent issues, trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights, freedom to operate, IP litigation, licensing, reps, warranties, disclosures, and even employment agreements. The process will examine the Target’s IP, such as how well the existing and potential IP protects the Target, what projected revenues will be based on the exclusivity period and geographic scope, and the current and projected expenses, including prosecution, maintenance, royalties, and enforcement. Because the diligence is expensive and is typically charged off as the overall transactional cost, the diligence is conducted as close to pre-closing as possible. Continue reading

The Supreme Court Chooses Quantity over Quality – Supplying a Single Component of a Multicomponent Invention Does Not Constitute an Infringing Act

On February 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention qualifies as an infringing act under 35 USC §271(f)(1) of the U.S. Patent Act. In its decision in Life Technologies Corp. v. Promega Corp., the Court found that “a single component does not constitute a substantial portion of the components that can give rise to liability under §271(f)(1).” In doing so, the Court overturned the Federal Circuit’s prior holding that a single component could be sufficiently important to the invention to meet the criteria for being a “substantial portion.” Continue reading

Zircore v. Straumann: A Method of Manufacturing a Physical Object Is Not an Abstract Idea

In Zircore, LLC v. Straumann Manufacturing, Inc. (E.D. Tex. 2017), as in many patent litigations since Mayo, Myriad, and Alice, the defendant moved to dismiss the infringement allegations contending that the patents in suit are ineligible subject matter under 35 USC § 101. Here, despite Straumann’s assertion that Zircore’s U.S. Patent No. 7,967,606 was invalid under § 101 as directed to an abstract idea, the court found that the claims were patent eligible under § 101 as directed to a method of manufacturing a physical object.

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