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.
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.
Most patent owners are aware that under 35 U.S.C. § 154(d), publication of a United States patent application confers provisional rights to the patent owner. The provisional rights allow an owner to collect damages for infringement of issued claims dating back to the date of publication provided that the claims are substantially similar to the claims that are included in the published application. It can often be difficult for a patent owner to prove that issued claims are substantially similar to published claims. However, even if a patent owner is able to prove claim similarity from publication to issuance, a further obstacle to collect pre-issuance damages was solidified by the Federal Circuit recently in Rosebud LMS v. Adobe Systems—the statutory requirement of actual notice. In the recent Federal Circuit decision, the Court found that constructive notice was insufficient to meet the actual notice requirement under 35 U.S.C. § 154(d), and that instead a patent owner must prove the infringer was actually aware of the patent at issue.
Bikram Choudhury, one of the most famous names in modern yoga, sought copyright protection in 2002 on a series of twenty-six yoga poses and two breathing exercises he developed and later called “the Sequence.” On October 8, 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Sequence is not entitled to copyright protection because it is an “unprotectable idea.” The judges noted that the Sequence is akin to cooking recipes or surgical procedures. Accordingly, yoga studios that are not owned or operated by Choudhury are able to practice and teach the Sequence without concern for copyright infringement claims.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week issued a decision with implications for owners of music and audiovisual works. The court ruled that copyright owners first must assess whether a use of their content is in fact lawful “fair use” before sending a takedown notification under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Considering fair use involves a balancing of subjective factors, this newly-clarified requirement may make it logistically more difficult and time consuming for content owners to evaluate whether a use of their content discovered online qualify for takedown notices.
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.