Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

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Chamberlain's patent discloses improved “movable barrier operators,” such as garage door openers. The patent describes a need for “a passive infrared detector for controlling illumination from a garage door operator which could be quickly and easily retrofitted to existing garage door operators” and discloses as its invention “a passive infrared detector for a garage door operator,” contained in a wall control unit, along with an ambient light comparator and a microcontroller. The International Trade Commission determined, 19 U.S.C. 1337, that the Appellants’ importation of garage door opener products infringed the patent and entered limited exclusion orders and cease and desist orders. The Federal Circuit vacated the orders, concluding that the Commission erred in its construction of “wall console,” a term in each of the patent claims. Although claim terms are normally given their ordinary and customary meaning, as understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art in view of the specification and prosecution history, Chamberlain disavowed coverage of wall consoles without a passive infrared detector. The term is properly construed as a “wall-mounted control unit including a passive infrared detector.” The parties agree that the Appellants do not infringe the patent under that construction. View "Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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The Patent Act provides two methods for challenging an adverse decision by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO): direct appeal to the Federal Circuit, 35 U.S.C. 141, or a new civil action against the PTO Director in the Eastern District of Virginia, section 145. Under section 145, the applicant must pay “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings.” NantKwest filed a section 145 civil action after its patent application was denied. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the PTO, which moved for reimbursement of expenses, including the pro-rata salaries of PTO attorneys and a paralegal who worked on the case. The Federal Circuit and the Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion, concluding that the statutory language referencing expenses was not sufficient to rebut the “American Rule” presumption that parties are responsible for their own attorney’s fees. Reading section 145 to permit an unsuccessful government agency to recover attorney’s fees from a prevailing party “would be a radical departure from longstanding fee-shifting principles adhered to in a wide range of contexts.” The phrase “expenses of the proceeding” would not have been commonly understood to include attorney’s fees at the time section 145 was enacted. The appearance of “expenses” and “attorney’s fees” together across various statutes indicates that Congress understands the terms as distinct and not inclusive of each other. View "Peter v. NantKwest, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two non-competing Midwestern companies operated by brothers used marks containing the family name, Fabick. The owner of the registered mark (FI), a small manufacturer of sealants, sued JFTCO, a larger distributor of Caterpillar equipment, for trademark infringement. A jury found that JFTCO had violated the Lanham Act but had not committed common law infringement. The district court entered limited injunctive relief requiring that JFTCO issue, for five years, disclaimers clarifying that it is not associated with FI. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting FI’s claim that it was entitled to a broad permanent injunction and should have been allowed to recover JFTCO’s profits, lacking evidence that the defendants were unjustly enriched by consumers assuming that Fabick’s sealants and coatings business is the same or related to JFTCO’s business. The court also rejected JFTCO’s challenged to a jury instruction: “[D]efendant JFTCO used the FABICK mark in a manner that is likely to cause confusion as to the source or origin of plaintiff’s product or that plaintiff has somehow become connected to JFTCO.” When read in context, the language regarding whether “plaintiff has somehow become connected to JFTCO” clearly refers to the parties’ products and/or services, and is not impermissibly vague. View "Fabick, Inc. v. JFTCO, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ericsson owns patents essential to practicing standards (SEPs) that enable mobile devices from different manufacturers and different networks to communicate with each other using the same communication protocol. Ericsson is a member of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the organization responsible for developing 2G, 3G, and 4G standards. ETSI’s acceptance of a member’s patent as "SEP" forms a contract between ETSI and its members. SEP owners wield significant power over implementers during licensing negotiations, so the ETSI contract imposes an obligation to license (FRAND obligation). Ericsson and TCL have been negotiating licensing terms for over a decade. There was litigation. The parties agreed to binding court adjudication of terms for a worldwide portfolio license. The district court imposed a prospective FRAND royalty rate for practicing each standard, and a “release payment” computed based on a closely related, retrospective FRAND rate for “TCL’s past unlicensed sales.” The court rejected both parties’ proposed methodologies and employed its own modified version of TCL’s proposed “top-down” approach in combination with comparable license evidence to compute both the prospective and retrospective FRAND rates. The Federal Circuit vacated in part. Ericsson had a Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial on the adjudication of the “release payment” term; the release payment is in substance compensatory relief for TCL’s past patent infringing activity. View "TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltc. v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson" on Justia Law

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Omnium sued Donghee, asserting infringement of eight patents, including the 921 and 812 patents, which generally relate to manufacturing plastic fuel tanks formed by blow molding. The fuel tanks are formed in a way that allows accessory components to be installed inside the fuel tank without cutting holes in the tank wall, which could compromise the structural integrity of the wall. The parties disputed the meaning of the term “parison.” Donghee argued that it should be given its plain and ordinary meaning of “hollow plastic tube exiting the die of an extrusion head.” Omnium argued that the patentee had acted as its own lexicographer and that the patents do not use the term in its conventional, ordinary meaning. The district court reasoned that “the patents specify that the ‘parison’ is cut in two as it leaves the die at the end of the extrusion head” and so “this ‘parison’ cannot be strictly limited to a fully-formed tubular structure existing in its entirety outside the extrusion head/die.” It recognized that “the principal disagreements between the parties [were] identifying the point at which the molten plastic within the extrusion head becomes a ‘parison.’ The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment of noninfringement, upholding the claim construction as supported by undisputed facts. View "Plastic Omnium Advanced Innovation and Research v. Donghee America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The challenged patents relate to certain improvements to electronic communications systems that lower the peak-to-average power ratio (PAR) of the transmitted signals. Lowering the PAR of a communications system is desirable because it reduces power consumption and the likelihood of transmission errors. The challenged patents specifically address a PAR problem that arises in the transmission of digital data using multicarrier communications systems, such as digital subscriber line (DSL) systems. In inter partes review proceedings, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board invalidated all claims of the two related patents as obvious in view of prior art, 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit reversed. The fact findings underlying the Board’s obviousness determinations are not supported by substantial evidence. The Board based its findings on the assertions in Cisco’s petition, which the Board expressly adopted as its own findings and conclusions. No reasonable factfinder could find, based on Cisco’s petition and supporting expert declaration, that a person of ordinary skill would have recognized prior art’s disclosure of phase scrambling as a solution to reduce the PAR of other prior art. View "TQ Delta, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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IPR’s 244 patent recognizes two types of wireless networks: a wireless local area network, which allows a user to wirelessly connect a portable electronic device to an access point, e.g., a router, that is in turn connected to a network and a cellular network, in which geographic regions are divided into “cells” that each contain a “base station.” The 244 patent claims a “subscriber unit,” e.g., a mobile device, that can automatically select the best available wireless network and then connect to it. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board found multiple claims obvious based on prior art references. The Federal Circuit remanded as to claim 8, finding insufficient record support for the determination that claim 8 is invalid as obvious. The court concluded that the evidence to which the Board pointed failed—either individually or collectively— to support the conclusion that there would have been a motivation to combine the relevant prior art references. On remand, the Board again found claim 8 unpatentable. The Federal Circuit again remanded. The only additional evidence the Board cited in support of its conclusion on remand was not part of the record before the Board and the decision remains unsupported. View "In re IPR Licensing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Pharma Tech sued LifeScan for infringement of two patents that concern blood glucose monitoring systems for home use by individuals with diabetes. The shared specification of Pharma Tech’s patents states that the claimed inventions improve on prior art blood glucose monitoring systems by “eliminat[ing] several of the critical operator depend[e]nt variables that adversely affect the accuracy and reliability” of these systems. The specification explains that the invention accomplishes this objective by performing multiple Cottrell current measurements and comparing the results. “In a system that is operating correctly, the results should agree within reasonable limits.” The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment of noninfringement. Pharma Tech agreed that the accused products do not literally infringe the claim. Prosecution history estoppel bars the claims for infringement under the doctrine of equivalents; the accused system falls within the claim scope surrendered by the inventors during prosecution of the patent. View "Pharma Tech Solutions, Inc. v. LifeScan, Inc." on Justia Law

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GPP employed Le, a scientist, and disclosed to Le the proprietary formula for its trade secret product (a film that preserves lettuce) and the identity of an organic acid used in the product. Le signed a confidentiality agreement. After leaving GPP, Le formed a company and competed with GPP. In 2006, GPP and Le agreed to a stipulated permanent injunction to “fully and finally resolve all existing and potential differences” arising from Le’s use of GPP’s trade secret. In 2016, Le moved to modify or dissolve the stipulated permanent injunction, arguing that newly discovered facts—that citric acid was the previously undisclosed organic acid—demonstrated that GPP’s trade secret did not possess a commercial advantage; that GPP’s trade secret was previously publicly disclosed in a patent; and that the injunction’s language was overly broad and failed to provide adequate notice of the specific actions that were enjoined. The court of appeal affirmed a denial of relief. Le did not meet the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 533. There is sufficient evidence to support an implied determination that GPP has a valid trade secret. The injunction did not identify the precise formula or ingredients used in GPP’s trade secret, but its failure to do so did not mean that GPP’s description of its trade secret was not sufficiently clear. View "Global Protein Products, Inc. v. Le" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's rulings in two consolidated actions alleging that various Disney corporate entities infringed on plaintiff's "Lots of Hugs" trademark by using the "Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear" (aka "Lotso") in the Toy Story 3 movie and in the sale of merchandise. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff may obtain review of the adversary interlocutory rulings in its current appeal from the adverse final judgment in case No. 2:14-CV-00070. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiff lacked personal jurisdiction over the IP entities, because plaintiff's arguments were based on two novel theories that were without merit. The court set aside the district court's order pertaining to the third amended complaint and remanded, holding that the district court abused its discretion, by sua sponte and without hearing, vacating its order granting plaintiff leave to file the third amended complaint. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's decision striking the fourth amended complaint, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in striking the complaint. View "Diece-Lisa Industries, Inc. v. Disney Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law