by
This trademark infringement action concerned whether Walmart's use of the mark "Backyard Grill" on its grills, and grilling supplies infringed on Variety's use of its registered mark, "The Backyard," and unregistered marks, "Backyard" and "Backyard BBQ." Variety appealed the district court's calculation of disgorged profits and denial of its request for a jury trial, and Walmart cross-appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Variety and award of profit disgorgement, costs, and attorneys' fees. The court held that the district court improperly granted summary judgment in Variety's favor because there were genuine disputes of material fact as to whether a likelihood of confusion exists. The court vacated the district court's order granting Variety's motion for partial summary judgment and affirmed the order denying Walmart's motion for summary judgment; vacated every order entered subsequent to the summary judgment rulings; vacated the award of profit disgorgement, costs, and attorneys' fees; and dismissed the parties' respective cross-appeals pertaining to disgorgement, denial of jury trial, and award of costs and fees. View "Variety Stores, Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

by
SAS sought inter partes review (35 U.S.C. 311(a)) of ComplementSoft’s software patent, alleging that all 16 of the patent’s claims were unpatentable. The Patent Office instituted review on some of the claims and denied review on the rest. The Federal Circuit rejected SAS’s argument that section 318(a) required the Board to decide the patentability of every claim challenged in the petition. The Supreme Court reversed. When the Patent Office institutes an inter partes review, it must decide the patentability of all of the claims the petitioner has challenged. Section 318(a), which states that the Board “shall issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner” is mandatory and comprehensive. The Director’s claimed “partial institution” power (37 CFR 42.108(a)) appears nowhere in the statutory text. The statute envisions an inter partes review guided by the initial petition. While section 314(a) invests the Director with discretion on whether to institute review, it does not invest him with discretion regarding what claims that review will encompass. The Director’s policy argument—that partial institution is efficient because it permits the Board to focus on the most promising challenges and avoid spending time and resources on others—is properly addressed to Congress. View "SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu" on Justia Law

by
Oil States sued Greene's Energy for infringement of a patent relating to technology for protecting wellhead equipment used in hydraulic fracturing. Greene’s challenged the patent’s validity in court and petitioned the Patent Office for inter partes review, 35 U.S.C. 311-319. The district court issued a claim-construction order favoring Oil States; the Board concluded that Oil States’ claims were unpatentable. The Federal Circuit rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of inter partes review. The Supreme Court affirmed. Inter partes review does not violate Article III. Congress may assign adjudication of public rights to entities other than Article III courts. Inter partes review falls within the public-rights doctrine. Patents are “public franchises” and granting patents is a constitutional function that can be carried out by the executive or legislative departments without “judicial determination.’ Inter partes review involves the same basic matter as granting a patent. Patents remain “subject to [the Board’s] authority” to cancel outside of an Article III court. The similarities between the procedures used in inter partes review and judicial procedures does not suggest that inter partes review violates Article III. The Court noted that its decision “should not be misconstrued as suggesting that patents are not property for purposes of the Due Process Clause or the Takings Clause.” When Congress properly assigns a matter to adjudication in a non-Article III tribunal, “the Seventh Amendment poses no independent bar to the adjudication of that action by a nonjury factfinder.” View "Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene's Energy Group, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of copyright infringement claims brought by a monkey over selfies he took on a wildlife photographer's unattended camera. Naruto, a crested macaque, took several photos of himself on the camera, and the photographer and Wildlife Personalities subsequently published the Monkey Selfies in a book. PETA filed suit as next friend to Naruto, alleging copyright infringement. The panel held that the complaint included facts sufficient to establish Article III standing because it alleged that Naruto was the author and owner of the photographs and had suffered concrete and particularized economic harms; the monkey's Article III standing was not dependent on the sufficiency of PETA; but Naruto lacked statutory standing because the Copyright Act did not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits. Finally, the panel granted defendants' request for attorneys' fees on appeal. View "Naruto v. Slater" on Justia Law

by
The patent, which lists Rieley and Muller as inventors and for which they applied for in 1997, describes the conversion of an incoming facsimile or voicemail message into a digital representation, which is then forwarded to an email address. The patent was originally assigned to JFAX, which was owned by Rieley and Muller. It is now assigned to AMT; j2 has an exclusive license. The patent expired in 2017. James alleges that in 1995 Rieley asked James to develop software that would provide “Fax-to-Email, Email-to-Fax, and Voicemail-to-Email” functions. In 1996, James and Rieley signed a contract that does not mention patent rights, but expressly requires the assignment to JFAX of “all copyright interests” in the developed “code and compiled software.” The system was complete in 1996. James assigned all copyrights in code and compiled software to JFAX, but “did not assign any patent ownership or inventorship rights.” He claims that he was not aware of the patent until 2013 when he was contacted by attorneys representing a defendant in an infringement suit. James brought a claim for correction of inventorship under 35 U.S.C. 256, with state-law claims for unjust enrichment, conversion, misappropriation, and unfair competition. Finding James had no Article III standing, the district court dismissed. The Federal Circuit reversed, finding that the agreement could be read as not assigning patent rights and as not establishing a hired-to-invent relationship. View "James v. J2 Cloud Services, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Verified’s patent is directed to “auto-verification” of a voter’s ballot. In 2009, Verified sued Election Systems, which markets automated voting systems, for infringement. Election counterclaimed that the patent's claims were invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101, 102, 103, and 112. The court determined that claims 1–93 were not infringed and claim 94 was invalid under section 112. No further analysis of section 101 was provided; claim 49 was invalid under section 103, but not infringed, while claims 1–48, 50–84, and 86–92 were not invalid under sections 102 and 103. The Federal Circuit affirmed the invalidity of claim 49 and upheld that claims 1–48, 50–84, and 86–92 were not proven invalid because, in failing to respond to these arguments in its summary judgment briefing, Election had not met its burden to prove its invalidity counterclaims. In 2016, Verified again sued Election for infringement, asserting that issue preclusion, or collateral estoppel, precludes Election from relitigating the section 101 issue. The district court dismissed, concluding that the Supreme Court's 2014 “Alice” decision constituted a “substantial change” in the law such that “the issue of patent validity is not precluded from further litigation.” The court determined that the patent was based on the abstract idea of “vote collection and verification” and that the voting system was made up of “generic computer components performing generic computer functions,” insufficient to transform the abstract idea into patent-eligible subject matter. The Federal Circuit affirmed. While “Alice” did not constitute a substantial change in law and the section 101 issue was not actually litigated, the claims are patent-ineligible. View "Voter Verified, Inc. v. Election Systems & Software LLC" on Justia Law

by
The patent is directed to improving the efficiency by which messages are sent from a receiver to a sender in a telecommunications system to advise the sender that errors occurred in a particular message.The patent is concerned with organizing the information contained in Status Protocol Data Units efficiently, to minimize the size of the S-PDUs, thus conserving bandwidth. The patent discloses several methods for encoding the sequence numbers of missing packets in S-PDUs. In inter partes review, the Patent Board found, and the Federal Circuit affirmed, that various claims were anticipated and that the petition for review was not time-barred. After an en banc court vacated the decision, addressing only the appealability of the Board’s time-bar determination under 35 U.S.C. 315(b), the panel reaffirmed the determinations left unaffected by the en banc court’s decision. With respect to the time-bar claim, the panel affirmed the decision of the Board. In making that determination, the Board did not apply a legally erroneous standard in deciding the “real party in interest, or privy” issue and based its decision on substantial evidence. View "Wi-Fi One, LLC v. Broadcom Corp." on Justia Law

by
This case stemmed from the parties' dispute over adjudicating rights associated with The Sloppy Tuna, a restaurant in Montauk, NY. On appeal, Montauk challenged the district court's dismissal of its Lanham Act claims and motion for preliminary injunction under the first-filed rule. Montauk also challenged the district court's order to pay costs, including attorneys' fees, that Associates incurred in responding to a previous action Montauk brought against Associates in Georgia state court that Montauk voluntarily dismissed. The Second Circuit held that, because New York law allowed for derivative representation on the facts presented, the district court correctly rejected Montauk's request to hold Associates in default. Nonetheless, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of the complaint and preliminary injunction motion in favor of a first-filed federal Georgia action because the Georgia suit was transferred to the Eastern District of New York, so the reasoning behind the first-filed ruling no longer applied. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's award of costs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(d), including attorneys' fees, incurred by Associates in the Georgia state action. View "Montauk U.S.A., LLC v. 148 South Emerson Associates LLC" on Justia Law

by
John Bean’s patent, directed to a chiller for cooling poultry carcasses, issued in 2002. Morris is the only other U.S. poultry chiller manufacturer. Weeks after the patent issued, Morris sent a letter stating that Bean had been contacting Morris’s customers and claiming that the equipment being sold by Morris infringed the patent. That Demand Letter notified Bean that Morris believed the patent to be invalid based on prior art and claimed unfair competition. Bean never responded. Morris continued to sell its chillers. In 2013, Bean requested ex parte reexamination. The Patent Office rejected both claims of the 622 patent as anticipated or obvious. Bean amended the two original claims and added six claims. The Patent Office issued a reexamination certificate under 35 U.S.C. 307 allowing the amended and newly added claims. Bean sued, alleging infringement from the date the reexamination certificate issued. In 2016, the district court granted Morris summary judgment, finding the infringement action barred by laches and equitable estoppel based on the 2002 Demand Letter. The Federal Circuit reversed, noting the Supreme Court holding in SCA Hygiene Products (2017), that laches cannot be asserted as a defense to infringement occurring within the six-year period before the filing of an infringement complaint as prescribed by 35 U.S.C. 286. Tthe allegedly infringing activity for which Bean sought damages started in 2014, and Bean filed its infringement complaint in 2014; SCA Hygiene bars Morris’s laches defense. View "John Bean Technologies Corp. v. Morris & Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Droplets’s 115 Patent, describing a system “for delivering interactive links for presenting applications and second information at a client computer from remote sources in a network-configured computer processing system,” was filed in 2009, copending with the application leading to the 838 Patent, filed in 2003. The 838 Patent was copending with the application leading to the 745 Patent, filed in 2000; the 745 Patent was copending with the 917 Provisional, filed in 1999. A Patent Cooperation Treaty application was filed in 2000, and published in 2001. The specification of the 115 Patent includes a priority claim that specifically refers to the 838 Patent and incorporates its disclosure by reference and includes a cross reference to the 917 Provisional. The 115 Patent properly claims priority from the 838 Patent and is entitled to the benefit of the 2003 filing date; the 838 patent is entitled to the benefit of the 917 Provisional's 1999 filing date. The Patent Board found the 115 Patent invalid as obvious under 35 U.S.C. 103, reasoning that it failed to enumerate a priority claim sufficient to avoid fully-invalidating prior art; incorporation by reference is insufficient to satisfy a patentee’s burden of providing notice of the asserted priority date under 35 U.S.C. 120. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Because the 115 Patent expressly claims priority only to an immediately preceding application, and not the preceding provisional application, an earlier-filed reference (international publication with the same specification) invalidated it. View "Droplets, Inc. v. E*Trade Bank" on Justia Law