Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries
Klayman v. Judicial Watch, Inc.
Klayman founded Judicial Watch in 1994 and served as its Chairman and General Counsel until 2003. Klayman claims he left voluntarily. Judicial Watch (JW) claims it forced Klayman to resign based on misconduct. During negotiations over Klayman’s departure, JW prepared its newsletter, which was mailed to donors with a letter signed by Klayman as “Chairman and General Counsel.” While the newsletter was at the printer, the parties executed a severance agreement. Klayman resigned; the parties were prohibited from disparaging each other. Klayman was prohibited from access to donor lists and agreed to pay outstanding personal expenses. JW paid Klayman $600,000. Klayman ran to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate. His campaign used the vendor that JW used for its mailings and use the names of JW’s donors for campaign solicitations. Klayman lost the election, then launched “Saving Judicial Watch,” with a fundraising effort directed at JW donors using names obtained for his Senate run. In promotional materials, Klayman asserted that he resigned to run for Senate, that the JW leadership team had mismanaged and the organization, and that Klayman should be reinstated.Klayman filed a complaint against JW, asserting violations of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)(1), by publishing a false endorsement when it sent the newsletter identifying him as “Chairman and General Counsel” after he had left JW. Klayman also alleged that JW breached the non-disparagement agreement by preventing him from making fair comments about JW and that JW defamed him. During the 15 years of ensuing litigation, Klayman lost several claims at summary judgment and lost the remaining claims at trial. The jury awarded JW $2.3 million. The D.C. Circuit rejected all of Klayman’s claims on appeal. View "Klayman v. Judicial Watch, Inc." on Justia Law
Qualcomm Inc. v. Intel Corp.
Qualcomm’s patent relates to techniques for generating a power tracking supply voltage for a circuit that processes multiple radio frequency signals simultaneously, using one power amplifier and one power tracking supply generator. Intel petitioned for six inter partes reviews, proposing “a plurality of carrier aggregated transmit signals” means “signals for transmission on multiple carriers at the same time to increase the bandwidth for a user.” Qualcomm proposed the following construction: “signals from a single terminal utilizing multiple component carriers which provide extended transmission bandwidth for a user transmission from the single terminal.” The signals were required to increase user bandwidth. In a parallel proceeding, the International Trade Commission’s construction of the term also included the increased bandwidth requirement.The Patent Board issued six final written decisions concluding that all challenged claims were unpatentable as obvious, construing the term “a plurality of carrier aggregated transmit signals” in each asserted claim to mean “signals for transmission on multiple carriers,” omitting any requirement that the signals increase or extend bandwidth. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board violated Qualcomm’s procedural rights. Qualcomm was not afforded notice of, or an adequate opportunity to respond to, the Board’s construction of “a plurality of carrier aggregated transmit signals.” View "Qualcomm Inc. v. Intel Corp." on Justia Law
Chemours Co. FC, LLC v. Daikin Industries, Ltd.
Daikin sought inter partes review of claims 1–7 of the 609 patent and of claims 3 and 4 of the 431 patent. The 609 patent relates to a unique polymer for insulating communication cables formed by pulling wires through melted polymer to coat and insulate the wires, a process called “extrusion.” Specifically, Chemours’s patents relate to a polymer with unique properties such that it can be formed at high extrusion speeds while still producing a high-quality coating on the communication cables. The claims provide that the polymer has a specific melt flow rate range, an indicator of how fast the melted polymer can flow under pressure, i.e., during extrusion. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board found all challenged claims of both patents to be unpatentable as obvious in view of the “Kaulbach” patent.The Federal Circuit reversed. The Board’s decision on obviousness is not supported by substantial evidence and the Board erred in its analysis of objective indicia of nonobviousness. The Board apparently ignored the express disclosure in Kaulbach that teaches away from the claimed invention and relied on teachings from other references that were not concerned with the particular problems Kaulbach sought to solve. View "Chemours Co. FC, LLC v. Daikin Industries, Ltd." on Justia Law
Gilkyson v. Disney Enterprises, Inc.
A jury awarded plaintiffs, the adult children and heirs of songwriter Terry Gilkyson, $350,000 based on its finding that Disney, and its music publishing subsidiary Wonderland, had failed to pay contractually required royalties in connection with certain limited uses of "The Bare Necessities" and several other Gilkyson-composed songs in home entertainment releases of Walt Disney Productions's 1967 animated film The Jungle Book. The trial court then awarded an additional $699,316.40 as damages for the period subsequent to the jury's verdict through the duration of the songs’ copyrights. Both parties appealed.The Court of Appeal agreed with Disney that interpretation of its agreements with Gilkyson is subject to de novo review; Gilkyson's right to receive royalties from exploitation of the mechanical reproduction rights in "The Bare Necessities" and other songs he wrote for The Jungle Book was dependent on Wonderland receiving payment for such exploitation; and the express language of the contracts granted Disney sole discretion to decide how to exploit the material, including whether a fee should be charged for Disney's own use of the material in home entertainment releases. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter a judgment in favor of Disney. View "Gilkyson v. Disney Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
Spectrum Association Management of Texas, LLC v. Lifetime HOA Management LLC
Spectrum filed suit against Lifetime and Jay Tuttle for trademark violations under the Lanham Act over a domain name. After Spectrum was awarded statutory damages, the district court declined to award attorneys' fees to Spectrum.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's admission of certain deposition testimony at trial and agreed with the Fourth Circuit that the plain text of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a)(4)(B) is clear that "the place of trial" is the courthouse where trial takes place. In this case, the Lifetime Defendants were not prejudiced by the transfer of trial venue from San Antonio to Waco, and the court rejected the Lifetime Defendants' contention that the witness was not an unavailable trial witness. The court affirmed the district court's statutory damages award, concluding that the district court did not abuse its broad discretion, under 15 U.S.C. 1117(d), in awarding $100,000 for the Infringing Domain. However, the court reversed the district court's finding that Spectrum was not entitled to attorneys' fees in this exceptional case where the record confirms that the Lifetime Defendants engaged in willful, bad-faith infringement of Spectrum's trademarks, justifying an award of maximum statutory damages. The court remanded for a determination of reasonable attorneys' fees. View "Spectrum Association Management of Texas, LLC v. Lifetime HOA Management LLC" on Justia Law
Social Technologies LLC v. Apple Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Apple in a trademark infringement action brought by Social Tech over the use of the MEMOJI mark. The panel held that mere adoption of a mark without bona fide use in commerce, in an attempt to reserve rights for the future, is insufficient to establish rights in the mark under the Lanham Act. The panel explained that Social Tech failed to put forward evidence that the release of its Memoji application to the public was for genuine commercial purposes warranting trademark protection and thus it failed to establish a triable issue regarding whether it engaged in a bona fide use of the mark in commerce within the meaning of the Lanham Act.The panel considered the totality of the circumstances and concluded that, while at the time of its original intent-to-use filing, Social Tech may have had some commercial intent to develop the Memoji application, at the time it filed its Statement of Use, its use of the MEMOJI mark was made merely to reserve a right in the mark. Because Social Tech did not engage in bona fide use of the MEMOJI mark in commerce, its registration is invalid, and Apple is entitled to cancellation of Trademark Registration No. 5,566,242. View "Social Technologies LLC v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law
Bot M8 LLC v. Sony Corp. of America
Bot sued Sony, alleging infringement of six patents related to gaming. The district court held a case management conference, during which Bot agreed to file an amended complaint. The district court dismissed Bot's amended complaint as to the 540, 990, 988, and 670 patents and denied Bot’s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. As to the 363 patent, the district court granted Sony summary judgment, finding claim 1 invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101.The Federal Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. To the extent the district court characterized its colloquy with counsel during the case management conference as “directing” Bot to file a first amended complaint, there was no abuse of discretion, nor in dismissing Bot’s claims as to the 540 and 990 patents for failure to state a plausible claim of infringement. A plaintiff is not required to plead infringement on an element-by-element basis but there must be some factual allegations that, when taken as true, articulate why it is plausible that the accused product infringes the patent claim. With respect to the 988 and 670 patents, the district court erred in finding the infringement allegations insufficient. Claim 1 of the 363 patent is invalid under section 101. View "Bot M8 LLC v. Sony Corp. of America" on Justia Law
In re Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Ikorongo Texas was formed as a Texas LLC and, a month later, filed patent infringement complaints in the Western District of Texas. Although "Texas" claims to be unrelated to Ikorongo Tech, a North Carolina LLC, both are run out of the same North Carolina office; as of March 2020, the same five individuals “own[ed] all of the issued and outstanding membership interests” in both. "Tech" owns the patents at issue. Days before the complaints were filed, Tech assigned to Texas exclusive rights to sue for infringement and collect damages for those patents within specified parts of Texas while retaining those rights in the rest of the country. First amended complaints named both entities as co-plaintiffs and do not distinguish between infringement in the Western District of Texas and infringement elsewhere.The defendants moved under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) to transfer the suits to the Northern District of California, arguing that three of the five accused third-party applications were developed in and potential witnesses and sources of proof were located in Northern California while no application was developed or researched in and no sources of proof were in Western Texas. The court denied the motions, reasoning that Ikorongo Texas’s rights could not have been infringed in California.The Federal Circuit directed the lower court to grant the transfer motions. The case “might have been brought” in California; the presence of Ikorongo Texas is recent, ephemeral, and artificial—a maneuver in anticipation of litigation. The district court here assigned too little weight to the relative convenience of California and overstated concerns about judicial resources and inconsistent results; other public interest factors favor transfer. View "In re Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd." on Justia Law
Minerva Surgical, Inc. v. Hologic, Inc.
Truckai invented NovaSure to treat abnormal uterine bleeding using a moisture-permeable applicator head to destroy targeted cells. Truckai filed a patent application and assigned the application and future continuation applications, to his company, Novacept. Novacept and its patents and patent applications were acquired by Hologic. Truckai founded Minerva and developed a supposedly improved device to treat abnormal uterine bleeding, using a moisture-impermeable applicator head to remove cells. The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) issued a patent; the FDA approved the device for sale. Hologic filed a continuation application, seeking to add claims to its NovaSure patent--one claim encompassed applicator heads generally, without regard to whether they are moisture permeable. The PTO issued the altered patent.Hologic sued Minerva for infringement. Minerva argued that Hologic’s patent was invalid because the new claim did not match the written description. Hologic invoked the assignor estoppel doctrine: Because Truckai had assigned the original application, he and Minerva could not impeach the patent’s validity. The Federal Circuit agreed.The Supreme Court vacated. Assignor estoppel is a valid defense, based on the need for consistency in business dealings, but applies only when the assignor’s claim of invalidity contradicts explicit or implicit representations made in assigning the patent. Concerns with the assignor taking contradictory positions do not arise when an assignment occurs before an inventor can make a warranty as to specific claims, such as when an employee assigns to his employer patent rights in future inventions; when a later legal development renders irrelevant the warranty given at the time of assignment; and when a post-assignment change in patent claims can remove the rationale for applying assignor estoppel. The Federal Circuit failed to recognize these boundaries, deeming “irrelevant” the question of whether Hologic had expanded the assigned claims. If Hologic’s new claim is materially broader than what Truckai assigned, Truckai could not have warranted its validity. View "Minerva Surgical, Inc. v. Hologic, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Arthrex, Inc.
Administrative Patent Judges (APJs) conduct adversarial proceedings for challenging the validity of an existing patent before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), 35 U.S.C. 6(a), (c). The Secretary of Commerce appoints PTAB members, including APJs, except the Director, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. APJs concluded that Arthrex’s patent was invalid. The Federal Circuit concluded that the APJs were principal officers who must be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate; their appointment was unconstitutional. To remedy this violation, the court invalidated the APJs’ tenure protections, making them removable at will by the Secretary.The Supreme Court vacated. The unreviewable authority wielded by APJs during patent review is incompatible with their appointment by the Secretary to an inferior office. Inferior officers must be “directed and supervised at some level by others who were appointed by Presidential nomination with the advice and consent of the Senate.” While the Director has administrative oversight, neither he nor any other superior executive officer can directly review APJ decisions. A decision by the APJs under his charge compels the Director to “issue and publish a certificate” canceling or confirming patent claims he previously allowed. Given the insulation of PTAB decisions from executive review, APJs exercise power that conflicts with the Appointments Clause’s purpose “to preserve political accountability.”Four justices concluded that section 6(c) cannot constitutionally be enforced to prevent the Director from reviewing final APJ decisions. The Director may review final PTAB decisions and may issue decisions on behalf of the Board. Section 6(c) otherwise remains operative. Because the source of the constitutional violation is the restraint on the Director’s review authority not the appointment of APJs, Arthrex is not entitled to a hearing before a new panel. View "United States v. Arthrex, Inc." on Justia Law