Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

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During frying, cooking oil gradually degrades and loses its cooking capacity, generating impurities called total polar materials (TPMs). Frymaster’s patent describes a system for measuring the state of cooking oil degradation with a TPM sensor. When the sensor detects that TPM levels are too high, the system instructs the fryer operator to change the oil. On inter partes review, the Patent and Trademark Office Patent Trial and Appeal Board found multiple claims not unpatentable as obvious under 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit affirmed, agreeing that industry praise is probative of nonobviousness even if it was not precisely limited to the point of novelty of the claimed combination. Substantial evidence supports the Board’s finding of no motivation to combine prior references and Frymaster’s evidence of secondary considerations supports nonobviousness. View "Henny Penny Corp. v. Frymaster LLC" on Justia Law

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Curver’s 946 patent, filed in 2011, entitled “Pattern for a Chair” claims an “ornamental design for a pattern for a chair” with an overlapping “Y” design. The design patent’s figures, however, merely illustrate the design pattern disembodied from any article of manufacture. Curver sued Home Expressions, alleging that Home Expressions made and sold baskets that incorporated Curver’s claimed design pattern and infringed the 946 patent. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The accused baskets could not infringe because the asserted design patent was limited to chairs only. The scope of the design patent was limited to the illustrated pattern applied to a chair. View "Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc." on Justia Law

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The Intellectual Ventures (IV) patents are directed to tracking and storing information relating to a user’s purchases and expenses; methods and systems for providing customized Internet content to a user as a function of user-specific information and the user’s navigation history; and methods of scanning hardcopy images onto a computer. IV unsuccessfully sued Capital One for infringement in the Eastern District of Virginia and in the District of Maryland. Capital filed antitrust counterclaims, alleging monopolization and attempted monopolization (Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2) and unlawful acquisition of assets (Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18), claiming that IV is principally engaged in the business of acquiring patents and asserting them in litigation. IV acquired approximately 3,500 patents relating to commercial banking and attempted to obtain large licensing fees from banks by threatening infringement suits. Capital alleged that IV concealed the identity of its patents and insisted that banks license IV’s entire portfolio of financial services patents, knowing that many were invalid, unenforceable, and not infringed. The Virginia court dismissed the antitrust counterclaims for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The Maryland district court granted summary judgment against Capital on all the antitrust claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Maryland holding, citing collateral estoppel. The Virginia decision that Capital failed to plausibly allege a proper relevant antitrust market and failed to plausibly allege that IV wields monopoly power within that market was conclusive in the Maryland action. View "Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Capital One Financial Corp." on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from the parties' longstanding dispute over the literary works of John Steinbeck. In this case, a federal jury in Los Angeles unanimously awarded plaintiff, as executrix of Elaine's estate (Elaine was the widow of Steinbeck), compensatory damages for slander of title, breach of contract, and tortious interference with economic advantage, and punitive damages against defendants. Determining that it had jurisdiction, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the orders granting summary judgment and striking defendants' defenses to tortious interference on grounds of collateral estoppel. Furthermore, the panel explained that it follows that the district court's decisions to exclude evidence related to defendants' different understanding of the agreement at issue or the validity of the prior court decisions were not abuses of discretion. The panel affirmed the compensatory damages award, holding that the record contained substantial evidence to support the awards on each cause of action independently. Furthermore, the compensatory damages were not speculative. The panel held that there was more than ample evidence of defendants' malice in the record to support the jury's verdict, thus triggering entitlement to punitive damages. However, the panel vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss the punitive damages claims against Gail, Steinbeck's daughter-in-law, based on lack of meaningful evidence of Gail's financial condition and her ability to pay. View "Kaffaga v. The Estate of Thomas Steinbeck" on Justia Law

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University of Texas System (UT) sued BSC for patent infringement in the Western District of Texas. The patents resulted from research conducted at UT and are directed to implantable drug-releasing biodegradable fibers. BSC is a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Massachusetts. BSC does not own or lease any property or maintain a business address in the Western District of Texas but has 46 employees in the District; all maintain home offices and do not work in spaces that are owned or controlled by BSC. UT asserted that venue was proper because UT has sovereign immunity. The district court transferred the case to the District of Delaware. The Federal Circuit affirmed, first holding that it had jurisdiction to hear the appeal under the collateral order doctrine. State sovereignty principles do not grant UT the right to bring suit in an otherwise improper venue; 28 U.S.C. 1400(b) is the sole and exclusive provision controlling venue in patent infringement actions and venue is proper where a defendant resides or has a regular and established place of business. Sovereign immunity is a shield, not a sword. There was no claim or counterclaim against UT that placed it in the position of a defendant. View "Board of Regents of the University of Texas System v. Boston Scientific Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2014, BioDelivery filed three petitions for inter partes review (IPR) of Aquestive’s 167 patent. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board instituted review on a single ground in each petition. For the 14 non-instituted grounds, the Board found that BioDelivery failed to establish a reasonable likelihood of prevailing on the merits. The Board sustained the patentability of the three claims. The Supreme Court then issued its SAS Institute (2018) holdings that IPR proceedings must proceed in accordance with the petition including the grounds on which the challenge to each claim is based. On remand, the Board modified the institution decisions, denied the petitions, and terminated the proceedings, emphasizing its discretion to institute IPR under 35 U.S.C. 314(a) even upon a showing of a reasonable likelihood of prevailing on at least one challenged claim. The Board considered the merits of the previously noninstituted grounds, finding that BioDelivery had not “establish[ed] a reasonable likelihood of success in relation to those claims and grounds.” The Federal Circuit dismissed BioDelivery’s appeals as barred by 35 U.S.C. 314(d). In following the remand order to “implement SAS,” the Board corrected its partial institution errors by revisiting its institution decisions and properly exercising its discretion not to institute review at all. Nothing in the order divested the Board of that discretion. View "BioDelivery Sciences International, Inc. v. Aquestive Therapeutics, Inc." on Justia Law

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Allergan’s patents, entitled “Combination of Brimonidine and Timolol for Topical Ophthalmic Use,” the Patents-in-Suit share a common specification that relates “to the topical ophthalmic use of brimonidine in combination with timolol . . . for treatment of glaucoma or ocular hypertension.” Allergan sued Sandoz, asserting that Sandoz’s Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for a generic version of Allergan’s ophthalmic drug Combigan® infringed those patents. The district court granted Allergan a preliminary injunction. The Federal Circuit affirmed, limiting a number of “wherein” clauses in the patents. Both Allergan and the Examiner explicitly relied on the “wherein” clauses to distinguish the claimed methods over the prior art during prosecution. The “wherein” clauses were neither unnecessary nor irrelevant. View "Allergan Sales, LLC v. Sandoz, Inc." on Justia Law

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When the existence of a license is not in question, a copyright holder must plausibly allege that the defendant exceeded particular terms of the license. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Scholastic in an action brought by Yamashita for copyright infringement. The court held that, although Yamashita stands in this suit not as a party to the contract that set the limits now allegedly breached, and more as a beneficiary of that contract, the Corbis‐Scholastic license still sets the terms that provide the foundation for Yamashita's complaint. The court held that the speculative, indefinite allegations made in this case as to all photographs, except the ones in Row 80, were insufficient to state a claim. Furthermore, the court's decision was not in conflict with Arista Records, LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110 (2d Cir. 2010). Finally, because the proposed amendment would not cure the complaint's defects, leave to amend was futile. View "Yamashita v. Scholastic Inc." on Justia Law

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Guangdong is a foreign manufacturer of aerogel insulation products currently subject to a limited exclusion order entered by the U.S. International Trade Commission following an unfair competition investigation. The exclusion order is based in part on the Commission’s final determination that Alison’s products infringe Aspen’s 359 patent, 19 U.S.C. 1337. The Commission found that certain claims of the 359 patent are not indefinite based on their use of the term “lofty . . . batting” and that certain claims of the patent are not invalid on anticipation and obviousness grounds. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The written description of the 359 patent informs the meaning of “lofty . . . batting” with reasonable certainty and the Commission’s factual findings regarding anticipation are supported by substantial evidence View "Guangdong Alison Hi-Tech Co. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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Sullivan, a graphic design artist, produced 33 illustrations for Flora, an herbal supplement company, to use in two advertising campaigns. Upon noticing that Flora was using the illustrations in other ads, Sullivan brought suit for copyright infringement and opted to pursue statutory damages to maximize her potential payout by classifying each of her 33 illustrations as “one work” within the meaning of section 504(c)(1) of the Copyright Act. Flora argued that the illustrations were part of two broader compilations. The district court instructed the jury that Sullivan could recover separate awards of statutory damages for 33 acts of infringement on 33 separate illustrations. The jury returned a statutory damages award of $3.6 million. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court committed error in permitting separate awards of statutory damages unaccompanied by any finding that each or any of the 33 illustrations constituted “one work” within the meaning and protection of section 504(c)(1). View "Sullivan v. Flora, Inc." on Justia Law