Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

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Voip-Pal’s patents, titled “Producing Routing Messages for Voice Over IP Communications,” describe the field of invention as “voice over IP communications and methods and apparatus for routing and billing” and relate to routing communications between two different types of networks—public and private. Voip-Pal sued Apple for infringement. Apple petitioned for inter partes review (IPR) of several claims of the asserted patents in two separate proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which determined that the claims not invalid for obviousness. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s non-obviousness determinations as to certain claims and its sanctions ruling, based on a finding that Voip-Pal engaged in sanctionable ex parte communications. The Board’s decision to allow Apple to petition for rehearing before a new panel, and provide Apple with a meaningful opportunity to respond to VoipPal’s letters was a reasonable course of action. The court vacated with respect to 19 claims, on grounds of mootness. View "Apple Inc. v. Voip-Pal.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Network-1’s 930 patent, titled “Apparatus and Method for Remotely Powering Access Equipment over a 10/100 Switched Ethernet Network,” issued in 2001. Network-1 sued HP for infringement. A jury found the patent not infringed and invalid. Following post-trial motions, the district court denied Network-1’s request for a new trial on infringement but granted Network-1’s motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on validity, holding that HP was estopped from raising certain validity challenges under 35 U.S.C. 315(e)(2) based on HP’s joinder to an inter partes review (IPR) before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.The Federal Circuit vacated in part and remanded. The district court correctly construed “low-level current” but erred in its construction of “main power source,” and as a result of that error, Network-1 is entitled to a new trial on infringement. Network-1 was prejudiced by the incorrect claim construction. HP was not statutorily estopped from challenging the asserted claims of the patent based on prior art, which was not raised in the IPR and which could not have reasonably been raised by HP. The court affirmed that certain asserted claims were not improperly broadened. View "Network-1 Technologies, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co." on Justia Law

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In 1999, Hiller, the largest home-services company in Tennessee, became a paying “member” of Success Group, which offers management advice and customer-service training to home-services companies. Clockwork owned Success, which conducted training courses using manuals copyrighted by Clockwork. Hiller sent its employees to those courses; they had access to the Manuals. In 2014, Clockwork sold Success to Aquila. Clockwork retained ownership of the Manual copyrights but granted Aquila a perpetual license. In 2015, Hiller hired the Pike Group to create the Guide for use in place of the Manuals to train its technicians. Pike had no expertise in the home-services industry; to learn what Hiller wanted, Pike conducted a workshop attended by Hiller employees and representatives of Aquila and Success. The participants referred to at least one of the Manuals.The resulting Guide included some content taken directly from the Manuals. In 2016, Success conducted a class using a workbook that closely resembled the Guide. Hiller ended its Success membership, demanded that Success stop using the workbook, registered its copyright in the Guide, and sued Success for copyright infringement. Clockwork was allowed to intervene.A jury concluded that Hiller had a valid copyright in the Guide and that the Success workbook copied protected elements of the Guide. Clockwork’s request for declaratory relief invalidating Hiller’s copyright was rejected. The Third Circuit affirmed. The jury reasonably concluded that Hiller created enough original material to gain copyright protection and the jury was correctly instructed that the Guide’s incorporation of some Clockwork-copyrighted content did not invalidate Hiller’s copyright in the Guide’s original parts. View "Hiller, LLC v. Success Group International Learning Alliance, LLC" on Justia Law

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Paul Batiste, a local jazz musician, brought a copyright infringement action against the world-famous hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. After the district court found no evidence of copyrighting, it granted summary judgment for defendants and then ordered both Batiste and his attorney to pay defendants' attorneys' fees.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court acted well within its discretion in denying Batiste's motion for leave to supplement his summary-judgment opposition. The court also held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment for defendants on the copyright infringement claims where Batiste failed to produce evidence for a reasonable jury to infer that defendants had access to his music or to find striking similarities between his songs and those of defendants. Therefore, he cannot prove factual copying and his copyright claims fail. The court further held that, given the objective unreasonableness of Batiste's claims, his history of litigation misconduct, and his pattern of filing overaggressive copyright actions, the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding fees to defendants under the Copyright Act. Finally, the court lacked jurisdiction to review Batiste's challenge to the district court's decision to hold his attorney jointly and severally liable for the fee award as a sanction. View "Batiste v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Royal employed Kraft and Matthews (Defendants) in its sales team. Royal’s employee handbook prohibited using company equipment for personal activities; unauthorized use, retention, or disclosure of any of Royal’s resources or property; and sending or posting trade secrets or proprietary information outside the organization. Royal’s “GPS Tracking Policy” stated, “[e]mployees may not disable or interfere with the GPS (or any other) functions on a company-issued cell phone,” nor may employees “remove any software, functions or apps.” The Defendants resigned to become employed with one of Royal’s competitors. Royal discovered that, shortly before his resignation, Kraft forwarded from his Royal email account to his personal one quotes for Royal customers and Royal paystubs; contacted a Royal customer through Royal’s email server to ask the customer to send “all the new vendor info” to Kraft’s personal email account; then deleted and reinstalled the operating system on his company-issued laptop, rendering its data unrecoverable. Matthews did much the same and announced her resignation on social media, sharing a link to the song, “You Can Take This Job and Shove It.”Royal sued, citing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. 1030, which refers to one who “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains . . . information from any protected computer.” The district court concluded that the Defendants did not “exceed[]” their “authorized access,” under CFAA. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. While their conduct might violate company policy, state law, perhaps another federal law, the employees were authorized to access the information in question. View "Royal Truck & Trailer Sales & Service, Inc. v. Kraft" on Justia Law

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Four Seasons front man Frankie Valli and other defendants associated with Jersey Boys did not infringe Rex Woodard's copyright in the autobiography of Tommy DeVito, now owned by Donna Corbello, Woodard's surviving wife.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, after a jury trial in favor of defendants, on the sole ground that Jersey Boys did not infringe DeVito's biography, and so the panel did not reach the district court's fair use rationale. The panel rests its decision primarily on the unremarkable proposition that facts, in and of themselves, may not form the basis for a copyright claim. In this case, each of the alleged similarities between the Play and the Work are based on historical facts, common phrases and scenes-a-faire, or elements that were treated as facts in the Work and are thus unprotected by copyright, even though now challenged as fictional. The panel explained that neither Valli nor the other defendants violated Corbello's copyright by depicting in the Play events in their own lives that are also documented in the Work. Therefore, because the Play did not copy any protected elements of the Work, there was no copyright infringement. View "Corbello v. Vallli" on Justia Law

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Egenera sued, alleging that Cisco’s enterprise server systems infringed the 430 patent. Before claim construction, and with Cisco’s inter partes review (IPR) petition pending, Egenera separately petitioned the Patent and Trademark Office to remove one of the 11 listed inventors from the patent. Egenera realized that all claim limitations had been conceived before one listed inventor, Schulter, had started working there. The Patent Board declined to institute IPR; Schulter was removed as an inventor. Following the district court’s claim construction of a “logic to modify” limitation and a trial on inventorship, Egenera asked the district court to add Schulter back to the patent. The court determined that judicial estoppel prevented Egenera from relisting Schulter and found the patent invalid for failing to name all inventors.The Federal Circuit affirmed the claim construction but vacated the invalidity judgment based on judicial estoppel. Egenera advanced no “clearly inconsistent” positions. Inventorship can depend on claim construction. Egenera’s inventorship petition was consistent with the underlying presumption was that Egenera’s claim terms, lacking “means,” were not means-plus-function. Schulter likely would not be an inventor under Egenera’s preferred construction but inventorship under that construction was not decided. Once claim construction issues were decided, it was entirely consistent for Egenera to request an accompanying formal correction of inventorship. In addition, Egenera did not succeed in persuading a court or court-like tribunal to accept its first position. View "Egenera, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Neville’s 708 patent and its parent 236 patent relate to foundation piles, which are tubular structures placed into the ground to provide stability for the foundations built over them. Such foundation piles can be driven into the ground through direct application of force or through rotational torque. The claimed inventions are directed to the screw-type foundation pile. The specification explains that rotational torque is applied through a “helical flight” at the tip of the foundation pile, which “draws the pile into a soil bed,” which is depicted in the figures as a structure similar to the helical structure of a screw.The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment, finding that Foundation’s accused products do not infringe. The district court properly construed the terms “end plate having a substantially flat surface,” and “protrusion extending outwardly from the end plate.” View "Neville v. Foundation Constructors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Baxalta sued Genentech, asserting that Genentech’s Hemlibra® product used to treat the blood clotting disorder hemophilia infringes claims of its 590 patent. The 590 patent relates to preparations used to treat hemophilia patients who have developed factor VIII inhibitors. After the district court issued a claim construction order, construing the terms “antibody” and “antibody fragment,” the parties stipulated to non-infringement of the asserted claims. The Federal Circuit vacated, finding that the district court erred in construing the terms by selecting a narrower construction, which is inconsistent with the written description and the plain language of the claim. View "Baxalta Inc. v. Genentech, Inc." on Justia Law

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Christy applied for a patent on its “ambient air backflushed filter vacuum” invention. The patent claiming that invention issued in 2006. Christy paid the patent's $1,000 issuance fee and the $490 3.5-year, $1,800 7.5-year, and $3,700 11.5-year maintenance fees. Christy and its licensee sued competitors for patent infringement. One competitor filed petitions for inter partes review (IPR). The Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s invalidity decision. Aggrieved by the cancellation of 18 claims of the patent, Christy filed a class-action suit, seeking compensation from the government, with a Fifth Amendment takings claim and, alternatively, an illegal exaction claim, seeking compensation amounting to the issuance and maintenance fees, Christy’s investments made in the technologies, and attorney fees spent in defending the IPR.The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The cancellation of patent claims in an IPR does not amount to a compensable taking. Christy’s argument regarding the fees fails because the law requires payment of the fees without regard to any later result of post-issuance proceedings, 35 U.S.C. 41, 151. Christy identifies no statute, regulation, or constitutional provision compelling the fees’ refund if claims are later canceled in post-issuance proceedings. Without showing how the PTO’s actions contravened the Constitution, a statute, or a regulation, Christy cannot state an illegal exaction claim. View "Christy, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law