Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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Dr. Islam, a tenured electrical and computer engineering professor at University of Michigan, received an additional appointment at UM’s medical school. Upon joining the faculty, he executed an employment agreement and agreed to abide by UM’s bylaws, which provide that patents issued or acquired as a result of or in connection with administration, research, or other educational activities supported directly or indirectly by funds administered by the University and all revenues derived therefrom are the property of the University. Property rights in computer software resulting from activities that received no support are the property creator. In cases involving both University-supported activity and independent activity, property rights in resulting work products are owned as agreed upon before any exploitation thereof.In 2012, Islam took an unpaid leave-of-absence from UM to start a new Biomedical Laser Company. During his leave, Islam filed provisional patent applications. Upon returning to UM, he filed non-provisional applications claiming priority to those provisional applications. Islam later assigned the patent rights to Omni. Those patents are ancestors of the patents-in-suit, which are not directly related to Islam’s teaching. UM refused to confirm Islam’s ownership of his inventions, noting the expenditure of medical school funds to support the cost of Islam’s space, time required to process Islam’s appointment to the medical school, and “medical school faculty partners who have helped springboard ideas.”In 2018, Omni sued Apple, asserting infringement. The district court denied Apple’s motion to dismiss for lack of standing. The Federal Circuit affirmed. UM’s bylaws did not effectuate a present automatic assignment of Islam’s patent rights. View "Omni Medsci, Inc. v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Yu sued for infringement of the 289 patent, titled “Digital Cameras Using Multiple Sensors with Multiple Lenses.” The district court dismissed the suit with prejudice after concluding that each asserted claim was patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101. The court found that the asserted claims were directed to “the abstract idea of taking two pictures and using those pictures to enhance each other in some way.” The court explained that “photographers ha[ve] been using multiple pictures to enhance each other for over a century” and that the asserted claims lack an inventive concept, noting “the complete absence of any facts showing that the[] [claimed] elements were not well-known, routine, and conventional.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. The claimed hardware configuration itself is not an advance and does not itself produce the asserted advance of enhancement of one image by another, which is an abstract idea. View "Yu v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2006 Heat On-The-Fly began using a new fracking technology on certain jobs. Heat’s owner later filed a patent application regarding the process but failed to disclose 61 public uses of the process that occurred over a year before the application was filed. This application led to the 993 patent. Heat asserted that patent against several parties. In 2014, Phoenix acquired Heat and the patent. Chandler alleges that enforcement of the 993 patent continued in various forms. In an unrelated 2018 suit, the Federal Circuit affirmed a holding that the knowing failure to disclose prior uses of the fracking process rendered the 993 patent unenforceable due to inequitable conduct.Chandler filed a “Walker Process” monopolization action under the Sherman Act, which required that the antitrust-defendant obtained the patent by knowing and willful fraud on the patent office and maintained and enforced that patent with knowledge of the fraudulent procurement, and proof of “all other elements necessary to establish a Sherman Act monopolization claim.” The Federal Circuit transferred the case to the Fifth Circuit, which has appellate jurisdiction over cases from the Northern District of Texas. The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction because this case does not arise under the patent laws of the United States. View "Chandler v. Phoenix Services LLC" on Justia Law

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SpeedTrack’s 360 patent discloses a “computer filing system for accessing files and data according to user-designated criteria.” The patent explains that prior-art systems “employ a hierarchical filing structure” and “emulate[] commonly[ ]used paper filing systems” in that they “organize[] data into files (analogous to papers in a paper filing system) and directories (analogous to file folders and hanging files).” According to the patent, such systems could “become[] very cumbersome.” According to the patent, prior-art solutions presented additional drawbacks. The 360 patent discloses a method that uses “hybrid” folders, which “contain those files whose content overlaps more than one physical directory” and “allows total freedom from the restrictions imposed by hierarchical and other present-day computer filing systems.”SpeedTrack sued various retail website operators, alleging infringement of the patent. The Federal Circuit affirmed the stipulated judgment of noninfringement based on the district court’s construction of the term “hierarchical limitation.” View "SpeedTrack, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Until 1995, a patent’s term was 17 years from the date of issuance, which incentivized certain patentees to delay by abandoning applications and filing continuing applications in their place to obtain patents at a financially desirable time. In 1995, changes in the law triggered a patent application rush. Hyatt, the named inventor on 399 patent applications, bulk-filed 381 applications during that "bubble," each a photocopy of an earlier application. Four applications relate to computer technologies, claim priority to applications filed in the 1970s and 1980s, and are atypically long and complex. Hyatt filed multiple amendments. From 2003 to 2012, the PTO stayed the examination of many of Hyatt’s applications pending litigation. The Board of Patent Appeals affirmed the rejection of the four applications.Hyatt filed suit under 35 U.S.C. 145. The district court ordered the PTO to issue the patents.The Federal Circuit vacated. Prosecution laches may “render a patent unenforceable when it has issued only after an unreasonable and unexplained delay in prosecution that constitutes an egregious misuse of the statutory patent system under a totality of the circumstances” and is a defense available to the PTO in an action to obtain a patent. The district court erred in concluding that the PTO failed to prove prosecution laches. Rather than analyze the evidence of Hyatt’s conduct, the court repeatedly placed blame on the PTO. The court held the issues invalidity for anticipation and lack of written description.in abeyance. View "Hyatt v. Hirshfeld" on Justia Law

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Bio-Rad’s patents relate to the generation of microscopic droplets, contiguous fluid that is encapsulated within a different fluid, by using a microfluidic chip. Typically, the inner fluid is water-based, while the outer fluid is oil. The patents arise out of research conducted by inventors at QuantaLife. In 2011, Bio-Rad purchased QuantaLife, acquiring QuantaLife’s patent rights. The inventors became employees of Bio-Rad and executed assignments of their rights to applications that later issued as the 664, 682, and 635 patents. Soon after Bio-Rad acquired QuantaLife, three inventors left Bio-Rad to start 10X, which has developed technology and products in the field of microfluidics, with the goal of achieving DNA and RNA sequencing at the single-cell level. Bio-Rad alleged that 10X violated the Tariff Act, 19 U.S.C. 1337, by importing into the U.S. certain microfluidic chips. The Trade Commission concluded that 10X did not infringe the 664 patent by importing its “Chip GB” but infringed the 664, 682, and 635 patents by importing its “GEM Chips.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. The construction of the term “droplet generation region” is consistent with the intrinsic evidence; substantial evidence established that the use of 10X’s GEM chips directly infringes the asserted claims. Bio-Rad proved the elements of induced and contributory infringement of the 682 and 635 patents with respect to the GEM Chips. View "Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. v. United States International Trade Commission" on Justia Law