Written opinions of counsel are gaining renewed interest as a valuable tool for avoiding enhanced damages for willful patent infringement following the Halo decision. A written opinion may set forth the factual and legal basis for finding a third party patent not infringed, invalid, and/or unenforceable. However, to be effective, the timing of the opinion may be critical.
On June 12, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Oil States Energy Services LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC to decide whether the AIA (America Invents Act) patent review program for challenging the validity of issued patents is constitutional. Specifically, the Court will decide the question of “whether inter partes review – an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to analyze the validity of existing patents – violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury.”
According to a recent Supreme Court decision, when it comes to the applicability of patent exhaustion, “restrictions and location are irrelevant; what matters is the patentee’s decision to make a sale.” In Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., the Supreme Court confirmed that the authorized sale of a patented article by a patentee exhausts all patent rights in that article, even where the patentee and the buyer agree to post-sale restrictions on the use and resale of the article. The Court also held that the authorized sale of a patented product abroad triggers patent exhaustion, just as a sale in the U.S. does.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
In another decision applying the two-step framework for determining patent eligible subject matter laid out in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit addressed the patent eligibility of claims to an Internet content filtering system. In BASCOM Global Internet Services, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, the Federal Circuit held that BASCOM’s U.S. Patent 5,987,606 (“the ‘606 patent) was not invalid as a matter of law, vacated a district court’s order to dismiss, and remanded for further proceedings.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc., once again changing patent law by loosening the standard by which district courts may award enhanced damages under 35 U.S.C. § 284. In so doing, the Court discarded the two-part test set forth by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in In re Seagate Technology, LLC, 497 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2007). The so-called Seagate test first requires that the patentee show by clear and convincing evidence that an infringer’s actions were objectively unreasonable. If this burden is met, the patentee must then prove that the infringer subjectively knew or should have known that its actions risked infringing a valid patent. If a patent holder is able to meet both prongs of the test, any enhancement of damages is subject to the discretion of the district court. Appellate review of such determinations involves a tripartite standard, in which the determination of objective recklessness is reviewed de novo, the determination of subjective knowledge is reviewed for substantial evidence, and any award of enhanced damages is reviewed for abuse of discretion.
To date, the Supreme Court has granted certiorari (commonly referred to as cert) to five patent-related cases this term, which will result in three oral arguments likely to be decided before the end of the term. Two of the cases were consolidated into a single argument, while another case was subject to a Grant-Vacate-and-Remand (GVR) order, meaning the previous decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has been vacated by the Supreme Court and the case must be reconsidered by the CAFC. There are also over 20 pending Petitions for Writ of Certiorari, which may result in additional patent matters being heard by the Court this term.
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.