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Website or information “service providers” who in the past have made hard-copy filings to designate agents to take advantage of the “safe harbor” liability shield provision under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) must re-register electronically by December 31, 2017 to maintain their status.

Q: What are the central issues in Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group?

Rory P. Pheiffer: The central issue is whether inter partes reviews (IPRs) are constitutional as administrative proceedings or if patent invalidity necessarily must be decided in accordance with Article III of the Constitution, and thus must be decided by the judicial branch. The constitutionality inquiry extends further to the Seventh Amendment—whether questions of fact related to patent invalidity should be decided by a jury. An underlying central issue used to support the respective positions for and against IPRs is whether a patent constitutes a private or public right. Oil States, the patentee who is arguing against the constitutionality of IPRs, considers patents to be private property, leaving questions of law and fact for the judiciary and jury, respectively. Greene, on the other hand, considers patents to be a public right, meaning Congress has the power to authorize an administrative body, like the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), to grant patents and conduct IPRs as a mechanism to correct any errors that may have occurred in granting patents.

Earlier this week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) finalized a new rule, extending the attorney-client privilege to communications between clients and their non-attorney patent agents and foreign practitioners in proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The rule, which largely codifies the Federal Circuit’s 2016 decision in In re Queen’s University at Kingston, will go into effect on December 7, 2017.  

Key Takeaway: One critical question to ask when deciding whether to protect your invention using patents or trade secrets is how well the invention can be kept secret. Ease of reverse-engineering, risk of independent duplicate creation, and the ease of maintaining the invention secret in a commercial setting are factors that should be considered.

In a recent decision denying defendants’ motion for Rule 11 sanctions, the District of Massachusetts interpreted its local rule regarding the district’s filing deadline. The decision gives guidance to litigators regarding the use of the court’s electronic filing system.

Key Takeaway

  • Despite the fact that no Local Rule for the District of Massachusetts expressly addresses the question of after-hours electronic service, the 6:00 p.m. filing deadline provides a “useful—and sensible—analogy for timeliness of electronic service.” Service on opposing parties should generally be filed by 6:00 p.m. of the due date.

On May 22, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important and long-awaited Opinion in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, a case that centered on where a patent infringement suit can be filed. In a resounding 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court put an abrupt end to the decades-old practice of forum shopping in patent cases.

For almost 30 years, patent venue law allowed patent owners to file infringement suits in federal judicial districts in which the accused infringer is subject to the district court’s personal jurisdiction. This flexibility opened the doors to a patent owner’s home court and to distant courts that are perceived to be friendly to patent owners. Observers believe that this flexibility was being abused, especially by non-practicing entities or “patent trolls.” Non-practicing entities generate revenue by licensing and enforcing their patents as opposed to making or selling their own products.

The 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.

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.

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.

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.

Maximizing the protection and value of intellectual property assets is often the cornerstone of a business's success and even survival. In this blog, Nutter's Intellectual Property attorneys provide news updates and practical tips in patent portfolio development, IP litigation, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and licensing.

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