Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

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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

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GAT’s 243 patent discloses a “method and system for providing an online game, in which ability information of a unit associated with a pilot is enabled to change as ability information of the pilot changes.” In July 2015, GAT filed a complaint accusing Wargaming and its affiliate, Wargaming.net, of infringing the patent. GAT's process server served Wargaming.net’s registered United Kingdom agent in December 2015; the summons was not signed by the clerk of court and did not bear the court’s seal. GAT’s attorney also mailed a copy of the complaint and summons to Wargaming's Cyprus office. In February 2016, Wargaming indicated that it did not believe that service was properly effected on either Wargaming entity but that Wargaming would waive service in exchange for an agreement to have until April to respond to the complaint. No formal waiver was filed. In March 2016, Wargaming appeared at a scheduling conference. In April 2016, Wargaming moved to dismiss. On March 13, 2017, Wargaming filed its petition for inter partes review (IPR), asserting that it was not barred by 35 U.S.C. 315(b)'s one-year limitation from requesting IPR because it had not been served. The Patent Board concluded that neither the UK service nor the Cyprus service triggered the time bar and that several claims would have been obvious over prior art. The Federal Circuit affirmed. GAT did not preserve its specific arguments for why service was proper or that Wargaming’s counsel waived service. The court upheld the Board’s construction of the terms “unit,” “pilot,” and “ability” in making its findings of obviousness. View "Game & Technology Co., Ltd. v. Wargaming Group Ltd." on Justia Law

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KPN sued Gemalto for infringement of its 662 patent, which concerns “systemic error” in the physical transmission of information over the air, The district court found four claims patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101, as reciting no more than mere abstract data manipulation operations, such as “reordering data and generating additional data.” The Federal Circuit reversed. These claims are directed to an improved check data generating device that enables a data transmission error detection system to detect a specific type of error that prior art systems could not. The 662 patent solves prior art problems by varying the way check data is generated by varying the permutation applied to different data blocks. Varying the permutation for each data block reduces the chances that the same systematic error will produce the same defective check data across different data blocks. Claims 2–4 thus replace the prior art check data generator with an improved, dynamic check data generator that enables increased detection of systematic errors that recur across a series of transmitted data blocks. The appealed claims represent a nonabstract improvement in the functionality of an existing technological process and not simply an abstract idea of manipulating data. View "Koninklijke KPN N.V. v. Gemalto M2M GMBH" on Justia Law

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Columbia’s 270 patent is a utility patent directed to materials that use a pattern of heat-directing elements coupled to a base fabric to manage heat through reflection or conductivity. Figures in the patent depict the material’s use in cold weather and camping gear. Its 093 patent is a design patent drawn to the “ornamental design of a heat reflective material.” In an infringement suit against Seirus, the jury found two claims in the 270 patent invalid as anticipated and obvious. The court entered summary judgment fining the 093 patent infringed. The Federal Circuit affirmed that the claims were invalid but reversed the summary judgment of infringement. In evaluating the prior art, the court erroneously compared Columbia’s design, Seirus’s product’s design, and a prior art patent design side-by-side before concluding that “[t]he overall visual effect of the Columbia and Seirus designs are nearly identical and if the logo was removed from the Seirus design, an ordinary observer would have great difficulty distinguishing between" the designs.” In evaluating prior art and wave thickness, the district court made a finding of fact—whether an element of Seirus’s design would give an ordinary observer a different visual impression than Columbia’s design—over a disputed factual record. Such questions should be resolved by a jury. View "Columbia Sportswear North America, Inc. v. Seirus Innovative Accessories, Inc." on Justia Law