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.
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.
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.”
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.
“Infringement, whether direct or contributory, is essentially a tort,
and implies invasion of some right of the patentee.”
Louis D. Brandeis took his seat on the bench of the United States Supreme Court for the first time on Monday, October 9, 1916. That opening day of the new term included the swearing in of Associate Justice John H. Clark and oral argument on several motions. It also marked the beginning of Justice Brandeis’s twenty-three-year tenure (1916-1939) on the high court, which is now considered one of the most important in American jurisprudence. Justice Brandeis was not only the first Jewish jurist to sit on the Supreme Court, but he impressed upon his colleagues that the law had to reflect economic and societal realities. In essence, he brought the principles that guided him in the practice of law to the bench.
Nutter was co-founded by Justice Brandeis in 1879 and his legacy continues as a source of pride and inspiration for us today. To honor the hundredth anniversary of Justice Brandeis’s first session, we have summarized several of the patent opinions he authored below.
In view of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Alice, Myriad, and Mayo, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued a series of guidance documents on patent subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101. These documents are collected on the Subject Matter Eligibility page of the USPTO website. The USPTO’s “May 2016 Subject Matter Eligibility Update” (88 Fed. Reg. 27381), announced the newest in this series of guidance, including new life science examples, a memorandum to the patent examining corps with instructions on formulating subject matter eligibility rejections, an index of eligibility examples, and an appendix of subject matter eligibility court decisions.
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.
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office has recently become a more dangerous place.
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board—usually referred to by its acronym “TTAB,” which is spoken (most often) as four separate letters (tee, tee, ay, bee) rather than the obvious and more concise vocalization of “tee-tab”—is the tribunal where you can go on appeal if you do not like the examiner’s rejection of your trademark application. It is also the tribunal that hears and adjudicates “Oppositions” filed by third party “opposers” against “applicants” seeking registration and “Petitions for Cancellation” where third party “petitioners” proceed against “respondents” registrations they feel were improvidently granted.
Last week the Federal Circuit denied Sequenom’s petition for rehearing en banc to review patent eligibility of their cell-free fetal DNA patent, U.S. Pat. No 6,258,540 (the ’540 Patent). The District Court found the ’540 Patent invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 for being directed to ineligible subject matter under the U.S. Supreme Court precedent in Mayo v. Prometheus Laboratories, 132 S. Ct. 1298 (2012). The Federal Circuit affirmed and Sequenom filed the petition for rehearing en banc.
On October 19, 2015, the Supreme Court consolidated and granted certiorari in Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc., et al. and Stryker Corporation, et al. v. Zimmer, Inc., et al., both of which concern enhanced patent infringement damages under 35 U.S.C. § 284. At issue in both cases is the question of whether the Federal Circuit is correct in requiring a willfulness finding under the rigid, two-part Seagate test to award enhanced damages. Under Seagate, finding willfulness requires the patentee to prove that an infringer acted “despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement” and that such risk was known, or should have been known, to the infringer. The question of this test’s propriety is particularly ripe given the Supreme Court’s decision in Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc. during its last term, where a similarly rigid test for imposing an award of attorney’s fees was rejected in favor of a more flexible and discretionary determination.
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.