Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

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Jawbone sued Google for patent infringement in the Western District of Texas after being assigned ownership of the nine asserted patents and seven months after being incorporated in Texas. Jawbone rents space in Waco to store documents relating to the patents, from which it conducts some distribution and sales activities. No Jawbone personnel work at any location in the Western District. Google moved under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) to transfer the action to the Northern District of California, arguing that: the relevant technical aspects of the accused earbuds, smartphones, speakers, displays, and software products were researched, designed, and developed at Google’s headquarters within Northern California; the technology underlying the asserted patents assigned to Jawbone was likewise developed and prosecuted in Northern California; witnesses and sources of proof (prototypes, Google’s key personnel, and four of the six named inventors) were primarily located in Northern California; no witnesses or sources of proof were located in Western Texas.The Federal Circuit ordered the district court to grant the motion. The center of gravity of this action, focusing on the “Volkswagen factors” and the overriding convenience inquiry, is clearly in the Northern District of California, not in the Western District of Texas. Four factors favor transfer and four factors are neutral. No factor weighs against transfer. View "In Re Google LLC" on Justia Law

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Block, Inc. appealed from an order granting in part H&R Block, Inc. and HRB Innovations, Inc.’s (collectively, “H&R Block”) motion for a preliminary injunction. H&R Block claims that the use of “Block” and a green square logo in connection with tax services: (1) is likely to cause confusion because H&R Block and Block, Inc. both offer overlapping services, including tax preparation and filing, other related financial services, and charitable services; (2) has confused consumers, the media, and investors; and (3) will cause irreparable harm, as it will undermine H&R Block’s ability to control its public image and perception and lead consumers to incorrectly believe Block, Inc’s tax service is connected to H&R Block or one of the “building blocks” in the Block, Inc. family of brands.   The Eighth Circuit reversed and vacated the preliminary injunction. The court explained that H&R Block failed to satisfy its burden because the evidence in the record is inadequate to establish substantial consumer confusion by an appreciable number of ordinary consumers, nor irreparable harm that is concrete and imminent. The court wrote that if there is, in fact, trademark infringement, H&R Block will have a full opportunity to demonstrate that infringement at a trial on the merits. View "H&R Block, Inc. v. Block, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2015, PMC sued Apple, alleging that Apple FairPlay, a digital rights management technology that Apple uses on its computers, mobile phones, and other devices to prevent users from unauthorized uses of content—such as illegally copying songs on iTunes–alleging infringement of its 091 patent. A jury found that Apple infringed at least one of claims and awarded PMC over $308 million in reasonable-royalty damages.The district court held a bench trial on remaining issues and found the 091 patent unenforceable based on prosecution laches. The court determined that laches required a challenger to prove that the applicant’s delay was unreasonable and inexcusable under the totality of the circumstances and that there was prejudice attributable to the delay. The Federal Circuit affirmed, agreeing that PMC engaged in an unreasonable and unexplained delay amounting to an egregious abuse of the statutory patent system. There was no clear error in the district court’s determination that PMC engaged in conduct causing delays at least through 2011. Apple began developing FairPlay in the early 2000s and launched it in 2003, so Apple necessarily invested in or worked on FairPlay before 2003, which is undisputedly during the period of delay. View "Personalized Media Communications, LLC v. Apple, Inc." on Justia Law

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Five months after being sued in Oregon for trademark infringement, Jacob Rieger & Co., LLC provided notice to its liability insurer, Cincinnati Insurance Company. Due to Rieger’s delay, Cincinnati refused to reimburse Rieger’s legal fees for the five months that Cincinnati was unaware of the lawsuit. The Oregon case was ultimately dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Instead of waiting to be sued in a court that did have jurisdiction, Rieger’s parent company, GSP Licensing LLC, filed a new suit in Missouri as the plaintiff. GSP was not named under Rieger’s insurance policy, so Cincinnati denied coverage for the Missouri case. Cincinnati then filed this lawsuit, seeking a declaration of coverage. The district court granted summary judgment to Cincinnati.   The Eighth Circuit reversed in part the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Cincinnati. The court affirmed the dismissal of Rieger’s tort claims and the imposition of sanctions. The court explained that under Missouri law, a tort claim is independent of a contract claim if the tort claim can succeed without regard to the outcome of the contract claim. In other words, the tort claim could succeed regardless of the outcome of the contract claim. Here, Rieger admits that its tort claims would fail if its contract claim succeeded. By Rieger’s own admission, the court found that the district court properly dismissed Rieger’s tort claims. View "Cincinnati Insurance Company v. Jacob Rieger & Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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FIC was founded and started using FOREMOST branded marks to market and sell its insurance products. After FIC operated independently for several decades, Farmers Insurance Group acquired FIC in 2000. Now a subsidiary of Farmers, FIC continues to sell insurance in the United States and Florida under its FOREMOST-branded marks. At issue is whether parties’ FOREMOST trademarks at issue could confuse consumers into thinking that a relationship exists between the parties. The district court found at summary judgment that there was no likelihood of confusion (and thus no trademark infringement) between the FOREMOST marks of Foremost Insurance Company (“FIC”), a multi-billion dollar insurance company, and Foremost Title and Escrow (“FT&E”), a shell company set up to sell title insurance for a law firm.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment on FIC’s trademark infringement claim. The court explained that while the district court implicitly decided this case under the Nunez framework, it never actually decided whether all the material facts had been “incontrovertibly proved.” A district court may not ignore the traditional summary judgment standard merely by invoking the specter of Nunez. The court wrote, in this case, the parties should have eschewed moving for summary judgment, informed the court that discovery was complete and that the case was ready for trial, and then held a bench trial. Thus because the court held a reasonable factfinder could determine that a likelihood of confusion exists, the court reversed  grant of summary judgment as to Count I of FIC’s complaint and remanded the case for trial on the merits. View "FCOA LLC v. Foremost Title & Escrow Services LLC" on Justia Law

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Grace sued Chandler alleging infringement of its 877 patent, which concerns measuring the viscosity of the fluid in oil wells. The patent’s design is intended to eliminate measurement error because of sample mixing with pressurization fluid in a comparative viscometer. The district court construed the term “enlarged chamber” as indefinite and the term “means for driving said rotor to rotate located in at least one bottom section.” The parties then stipulated that 11 asserted claims were invalid and that certain claims were not infringed.The Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s determination that the term “enlarged chamber” is indefinite and remanded. Although “enlarged chamber” is not a term of art, the intrinsic record sufficiently guides a skilled artisan to the meaning of that term as used in the patent as “a chamber that is large enough to contain excess test sample prior to pressurization to prevent mixing of the test sample and pressurization fluid in the lower measurement zone when the test sample is pressurized to maximum rated pressure.” The court affirmed the construction of “means for driving said rotor to rotate located in at least one bottom section.” View "Grace Instrument Industries, LLC v. Chandler Instruments Co.," on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Hasbro, Inc. in this action alleging breach of an implied contract and other causes of action, holding that Appellants were not entitled to relief on appeal.Appellants, former Hasbro employees who now develop toy concepts, brought this complaint stemming from an action figure concept and play pattern that they developed, alleging that changes incorporated by Hasbro in its line of "Mashers" were virtually identical to the concept they had developed. Appellants brought this complaint alleging fraud, theft of intellectual property, and other causes of action. Judgment entered for Hasbro. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there existed no genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment. View "Wild Horse Concepts, LLC v. Hasbro, Inc." on Justia Law

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Stingray filed patent infringement suits in the Eastern District of Texas against TP-Link (organized and headquartered in China). TP-Link moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, alternatively, to transfer to the Central District of California (CDCA) under 28 U.S.C. 1406. TP-Link argued it was not subject to personal jurisdiction i Texas and that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2) “does not cure this jurisdictional defect because Defendants would be amenable to suit in the Central District of California.” TP-Link also moved for transfer under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). The court transferred the cases to the CDCA under section 1406, stating that its exercise of personal jurisdiction "would be unreasonable” and, “Defendants are amenable to suit in the CDCA” and have made affirmative representations that CDCA has proper jurisdiction and venue.The Federal Circuit granted a mandamus petition. TPLink’s unilateral, post-suit consent to personal jurisdiction in another state did not defeat the application of Rule 4(k)(2), which closed a pre-1993 loophole by which a nonresident defendant who did not have minimum contacts with any individual state sufficient to support the exercise of jurisdiction but did have sufficient contacts with the United States as a whole, could escape jurisdiction every state. The district court may assess whether TP-Link can satisfy Rule 4(k)(2)’s negation requirement on the grounds that Stingray “could have brought suit” in the CDCA, independent of TP-Link’s post-suit consent or may consider transfer under section 1404(a). View "In Re Stingray IP Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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Google’s 093 patent application discloses methods for filtering the results of an internet search query such that only results appropriate for the user (e.g., age-appropriate) are displayed.. According to the disclosed method, each result of a search query is assigned a “content rating class” indicating the suitability of the associated content (e.g., suitable for all ages). The Patent Trial and Appeal Board affirmed an examiner’s rejection of multiple claims of the application, citing 35 U.S.C. 103.The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded for further proceedings. The court rejected arguments that the claims were obvious in light of prior art because those arguments did not reflect the reasoning or findings the Board actually invoked. Although the Board concluded that modifying prior art to take into account query length would have been obvious, there was no discussion of how such a modification would be accomplished. The Board’s expressed reasoning cannot sustain its rejection of the claims. The prior art arguments rest on factual predicates unaddressed by the examiner or Board. View "In Re Google LLC" on Justia Law

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The parties copied one another’s claims and provoked an interference between Agilent’s and Dionex's patent applications. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board identified Dionex as the senior party, requiring that Agilent prove priority by a preponderance of the evidence. The Board defined a single count as claim 1 of Agilent’s patent application concerning a method of operating a liquid chromatography system. Dionex argued that Agilent’s claims were invalid based on a lack of written description support for the limitation: “determining a movement amount of the piston within the chamber from a first position to a second position to increase a pressure in the sample loop from an essentially atmospheric pressure to the pump pressure, based on the pump pressure.” The Board concluded that Agilent’s specification controlled, construed the disputed language in light of that specification, and found that the specification provided adequate written description support.The Board found that Agilent proved conception as of May 2007, and actual reduction to practice as of June 1, 2007, all before Dionex’s earliest alleged conception date in December 2007, crediting the testimony of one of Agilent’s two co-inventors, corroborated by two co-workers. The Board also denied Dionex’s requests to draw negative inferences from the lack of testimony from the other co-inventor, and the lack of contemporaneous documentary evidence. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Dionex Softron GmbH v. Agilent Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law