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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.

The America Invents Act (AIA) established a number of procedures for challenging a granted patent at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). While virtually anyone can challenge a patent using these procedures, not everyone has standing to appeal if the challenge does not go their way.

This issue was highlighted recently in a precedential decision from the Federal Circuit. In Phigenix Inc. v. ImmunoGen, Inc. (Fed. Cir. Jan. 9, 2017), the Federal Circuit held that a petitioner-appellant from an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding lacked standing to appeal the PTAB’s final written decision in federal court.

The United States Supreme Court today overturned a $400 million verdict in a highly-publicized and long-waged patent battle between Apple and Samsung. Samsung Elcs. Co., Ltd. v. Apple Inc., 580 U.S. __ (Dec. 6, 2016). In doing so, it addressed design patents for the first time in 130 years and held that damages in design patent cases do not necessarily need to be based upon the profits made from a whole end product sold to a consumer, but may be limited to a component of that product. Nonetheless, the Court’s unanimous opinion, penned by Justice Sotomayor, may raise more questions than it answers.

Since the Supreme Court decision in Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics came down earlier this year (as previously discussed here), district courts across the country have been grappling with the high court’s new standard for determining willful infringement and awarding enhanced damages in patent cases. In the District of Massachusetts, only one case to date has interpreted this new standard, Trustees of Boston University v. Everlight Electronics Co., Ltd.

The Federal Circuit this month issued another decision finding claims to a computer-implemented invention to be patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. In Amdocs (Israel) Ltd. v. Openet Telecom, Inc. (Fed. Cir. Nov. 1, 2016), the Federal Circuit held that claims directed to a distributed architecture for collecting and processing computer network data close to its source met the requirements of the Alice/Mayo framework, and therefore recited patent-eligible subject matter.

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McRO

As discussed in the latest memorandum, the Federal Circuit in McRO held that the claims at issue are patent eligible under 35 USC § 101 because they are not directed to an abstract idea under the first prong of the two-part Alice[4] test. Under Alice, all claims having an abstract idea are analyzed in two steps:

Earlier this year, we discussed the potential ramifications of the December 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the pleading standard of infringement following the decision in Rembrandt Patent Innovations LLC v. Apple Inc. In Rembrandt, the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California applied the Twombly/Iqbal standard of pleading to infringement contentions following the abrogation of Rule 84 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Form 18.

The public comments have been considered and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board rule changes proposed in April 2016 and summarized in this blog post have been confirmed with only minor exceptions. The new rules will be effective on January 14, 2017, and will apply to all opposition and cancellation proceedings active on that date or subsequently filed.

The Federal Circuit last week handed down the latest in a series of decisions finding computer-implemented inventions to be patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. In McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America, Inc. et al. (Fed. Cir. Sept. 13, 2016), the Federal Circuit held that claims directed to software for automatically animating lip synchronization and facial expressions of animated characters were not directed to an abstract idea under the first prong of the Alice test, and therefore recited patent-eligible subject matter. McRO joins a growing list of Federal Circuit cases that find computer-implemented inventions to be non-abstract, including DDR Holdings, Enfish, and BASCOM.

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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