Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

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Zinus’s patent is directed to “[a]n assemblable mattress support” that “can be shipped in a compact state with all of its components compactly packed into the headboard.” Cap sought a declaratory judgment that the patent was invalid and not infringed. Zinus counterclaimed, alleging infringement and unfair business practices under California state law. The district court granted summary judgment that claims 1 and 3 were invalid as obvious over prior art. The Federal Circuit vacated. The district court subsequently granted partial summary judgment that claims 1–3 were not invalid, in part because Cap had abandoned the “bed in a box” prior art reference that the court had relied on in its previous determination. Cap stipulated to the entry of a final judgment in favor of Zinus, with $1.1 million in damages and a permanent injunction.Thereafter, Cap discovered evidence (in an unrelated suit) that the deposition testimony of Zinus's then-president had been false concerning the prior art. Cap successfully moved to vacate the judgment and injunction under Rule 60(b)(3), which provides grounds for relief for “fraud . . . , misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. The court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the misrepresentations prevented Cap from fully and fairly presenting its case and that Cap satisfied the due diligence requirement. View "Cap Export, LLC v. Zinus, Inc." on Justia Law

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10X filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission, alleging that Bio-Rad’s importation and sale of microfluidic systems and components used for gene sequencing or related analyses violated the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. 1337, which prohibits importation and sale “of articles that . . . (i) infringe a valid and enforceable United States patent.”An ALJ determined that Bio-Rad violated the statute with respect to all three patents finding that Bio-Rad infringed the patent claims and that 10X practiced the claims, satisfying the requirement of a domestic industry “relating to the articles protected by the patent.” The ALJ rejected Bio-Rad’s defense that it could not be liable for infringement because it co-owned the asserted 10X patents under assignment provisions that two of the named inventors signed when they were employees of BioRad (and its predecessor), even though the inventions were not made until after the employment.The Commission and Federal Circuit affirmed. Substantial evidence supports findings that Bio-Rad infringed the asserted claims and that 0X’s domestic products practice the asserted claims. The court rejected Bio-Rad’s indefiniteness challenge. The assignment provisions did not apply to a signatory’s ideas developed during the employment solely because the ideas ended up contributing to a post-employment patentable invention in a way that supports co-inventorship of that eventual invention. View "Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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Design Basics is a copyright troll and holds registered copyrights in thousands of floor plans for suburban, single-family tract homes. Its employees trawl the Internet in search of targets for strategic infringement suits of questionable merit, hoping to secure “prompt settlements with defendants who would prefer to pay modest or nuisance settlements rather than be tied up in expensive litigation.” The Seventh Circuit has previously (Lexington Homes) held that Design Basics’ copyright in its floor plans is thin. The designs consist mainly of unprotectable stock elements—a few bedrooms, a kitchen, a great room, etc. Much of their content is dictated by functional considerations and existing design conventions for affordable, suburban, single-family homes. When copyright in an architectural work is thin, only a “strikingly similar” work gives rise to a possible infringement claim.Design Basics sued Signature Construction for copying 10 of its registered floor plans for suburban, single-family homes. The district court granted Signature summary judgment based largely on the reasoning of Lexington Homes. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. For this category of claims, only extremely close copying is actionable as unlawful infringement. That standard is not satisfied in this case. View "Design Basics, LLC v. Signature Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ironhawk filed suit against Dropbox for trademark infringement and unfair competition, alleging that Dropbox's use of the name Smart Sync intentionally infringes on Ironhawk's SmartSync trademark and is likely to cause confusion among consumers as to the affiliation of Ironhawk's product with Dropbox. After the district court concluded that Ironhawk could not prevail because a reasonable trier of fact could not find a likelihood of consumer confusion, Ironhawk appealed based on a theory of reverse confusion.The Ninth Circuit held that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to the likelihood of consumer confusion under a reverse confusion theory of infringement and thus reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Dropbox, vacating the judgment, and remanding for trial. The panel first concluded that a reasonable jury could find that Ironhawk's potential consumers include commercial customers. Applying the Sleekcraft factors, the panel then concluded that a reasonable trier of fact could find a likelihood of confusion. Therefore, Dropbox has not met its high burden of establishing that no genuine disputes of material fact exist as to the likelihood of confusion between Smart Sync and SmartSync. View "Ironhawk Technologies, Inc. v. Dropbox, Inc." on Justia Law

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Raytheon’s patent is directed to gas turbine engines, which generally consists of a fan section, a compressor section, a combustor section, and a turbine section. On inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found two claims unpatentable as obvious in view of the Knip reference, which discloses the claimed power density limitation for a geared gas turbine engine. During the proceeding, Raytheon submitted unrebutted evidence establishing that Knip’s disclosure of highly aggressive performance parameters for a futuristic turbine engine relied on the use of nonexistent composite materials. The petitioner never supplied any evidence suggesting a skilled artisan could have made a turbine engine with the power density recited in the claims.The Federal Circuit reversed. The relied-upon prior art fails to enable a skilled artisan to make and use the claimed invention. There is no absolute requirement for a relied-upon reference to be self-enabling in the section 103 context if the overall evidence of what was known at the time of invention establishes that a skilled artisan could have made and used the claimed invention. If an obviousness case is based on a non-self-enabled reference, and no other prior art reference or evidence would have enabled a skilled artisan to make the claimed invention, the invention cannot be said to have been obvious. View "Raytheon Technologies Corp. v. General Electric Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Heinz for trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, false designation of origin, and for violations of various Louisiana trademark laws. Heinz filed a counterclaim to have plaintiff's Metchup trademark registration canceled for abandonment or nonuse. The claims relate to plaintiff's mayonnaise and ketchup product and Heinz's Mayochup product. The district court dismissed plaintiff's claims because it found that there was no likelihood of confusion between Mayochup and Metchup and no confusion caused by Heinz's fleeting use of Metchup in advertising. The district court also canceled plaintiff's trademark registration after concluding that he failed to prove that he had made lawful, non-de minimis use of the Metchup mark in commerce.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against Heinz, agreeing with the district court that there is little chance that a consumer would confuse plaintiff's Metchup with Heinz's Mayochup or be confused by Heinz's use of Metchup in advertising. However, the court vacated the district court's cancelation of plaintiff's trademark and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that because plaintiff sold some Metchup and testified that he hoped to sell more, a finder of fact should determine whether his incontestable trademark should be deemed abandoned and canceled. View "Perry v. H. J. Heinz Company Brands, LLC" on Justia Law

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Qualcomm sued Apple in the Southern District of California for infringing claims of two patents. Apple sought inter partes review. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board held Apple did not prove that claims in the two patents would have been obvious. Before the filing of appeals, Apple and Qualcomm settled all litigation between the two companies worldwide. Based on that settlement, the parties jointly moved to dismiss Qualcomm’s district court action with prejudice, which the district court granted.The Federal Circuit dismissed appeals from the inter partes review for lack of standing. Apple has not alleged that the validity of the patents will affect its contract rights (ongoing royalty obligations) in the settlement. The possibility of a future suit is too speculative to confer standing, as is the likelihood that 35 U.S.C. 315(e) would estop Apple from arguing that the patents would have been obvious in future disputes. Apple has failed to show an injury in fact based on potential future allegations that its products infringe the patents. View "Apple Inc. v. Qualcomm Inc." on Justia Law

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Wi-LAN’s 654 patent concerns “methods to display interlaced video on [a] noninterlaced monitor” Interlaced video. Television sets use interlaced video formats to prevent a “flicker” effect that results from the difference in the frame rate of the television set and the frame rate in which a program was filmed. Wi-LAN’s 250 patent, “relates generally to multimedia encoders and specifically [to] an integrated multimedia stream multiplexer,” which receives separate audio and video data streams and combines them into a single multimedia data stream. The 250 patent is directed to a system for dynamically adjusting the bit rates of the input audio and video data streams to obtain a combined multimedia data stream with an optimal bit rate. Vizio and Sharp sold “smart” television sets. Wi-LAN alleged direct and induced infringement of the patents against both.For the 250 patent, the district court construed the terms “output multimedia data stream” and “a multimedia processor, coupled to the data rate analyzer” and entered a stipulated judgment of noninfringement. The court reasoned that Wi-LAN knew that it could not establish infringement without establishing that the source code of Sharp’s and Vizio’s systems actually practiced the patented method and lacked sufficient admissible evidence to prove direct infringement of the 654 patent. The Federal Circuit affirmed, upholding the construction of the claim terms. With respect to the 654 patent, a source code printout did not constitute a business record admissible under Rule 803(6). View "Wi-LAN Inc. v. Sharp Electronics Corp." on Justia Law

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Oracle owns a copyright in Java SE, a computer platform. Google acquired Android and sought to build a new software platform for mobile devices. To allow millions of programmers familiar with Java to work with its new platform, Google copied roughly 11,500 lines of code from Java SE. The copied lines allow programmers to call upon prewritten computing tasks for use in their own programs. The Federal Circuit held that the copied lines were copyrightable and reversed a jury’s finding of fair use.The Supreme Court reversed. Google’s copying of code lines needed to allow programmers to put their talents to work in a transformative program was fair use as a matter of law. Copyright protection cannot extend to “any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery,” 17 U.S.C. 102(b), and a copyright holder may not prevent another from making a “fair use” of a copyrighted work.Assuming that the copied lines can be copyrighted, the Court focused on “fair use.” The “right of trial by jury” does not include the right to have a jury resolve a fair use defense. Unlike other types of code, much of the copied material's value derives from the investment of users (computer programmers) who have learned the system; application of fair use here is unlikely to undermine the general copyright protection for computer programs. The “purpose and character” of this use is transformative. Google copied only about 0.4 percent of the entire program at issue and that was tethered to a valid, transformative, purpose. Google’s new smartphone platform is not a market substitute for Java SE; the copyright holder would benefit from the reimplementation of its interface into a different market. Enforcing the copyright on these facts risks causing creativity-related harms to the public. View "Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Foundation on its complaint for a declaratory judgment of fair use and the district court's dismissal of defendant's counterclaim for copyright infringement. This case involves visual art works by Andy Warhol based on a 1981 photograph of the musical artist Prince that was taken by defendant, Lynn Goldsmith, in her studio, and in which she holds copyright.The court concluded that the district court erred in its assessment and application of the fair-use factors and that the works in question do not qualify as fair use as a matter of law. In this case, the court considered each of the four factors and found that each favors defendant. Furthermore, although the factors are not exclusive, the Foundation has not identified any additional relevant considerations unique to this case that the court should take into account. The court likewise concluded that the Prince Series works are substantially similar to the Goldsmith Photograph as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith" on Justia Law