Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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QuikTrip and Weigel operate gasoline-convenience stores. QuikTrip has sold food and beverages in its stores under the registered mark QT KITCHENS since 2011. In 2014, Weigel began using the stylized mark W KITCHENS. QuikTrip requested that Weigel stop using the mark on the basis that it was confusingly similar to QuikTrip’s QT KITCHENS mark. Weigel modified its mark by changing the plural “KITCHENS” to the singular “KITCHEN,” altering the font, and adding the words “WEIGEL’S” and “NOW OPEN.” QuikTrip objected to Weigel’s continued use of the word “KITCHEN” in its mark. In 2017, Weigel applied to register the mark, W WEIGEL’S KITCHEN NOW OPEN.QuikTrip filed an opposition, 15 U.S.C. 1052(d). The Patent and Trademark Office Board evaluated the likelihood of confusion between the marks, referencing the “DuPont” factors, and found that the parties’ identical-in-part goods and related services, overlapping trade channels, overlapping classes of customers, and similar conditions of purchase pointed to a likelihood of confusion but that the dissimilarity of the marks weighed against a likelihood of confusion. It determined that customers would not focus on the word “KITCHEN” for source indication and that Weigel did not act in bad faith in adopting the mark. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of QuikTrip’s opposition. The finding that the marks, in their entireties, differ in appearance, sound, connotation, and commercial impression is supported by substantial evidence. View "QuikTrip West, Inc. v. Weigel Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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In separate district court proceedings, several plaintiffs sued ABS and others for infringement of claims of six patents, including Cytonome’s 161 patent. Four months later, ABS sought inter partes review (IPR) of the 161 patent. The Patent Board invalidated certain claims of that patent while finding that ABS had failed to demonstrate that the remaining claims were unpatentable. Two weeks after the Board’s final IPR decision, the district court granted ABS partial summary judgment, concluding that ABS’s accused products did not infringe any of the 161 claims. Two months after that summary judgment decision, ABS appealed the IPR decision. The district court held a trial covering the patents remaining in the infringement case in September 2019. ABS filed its opening brief challenging the IPR decision in the Federal Circuit in November 2019. Cytonome “elected not to pursue an appeal of the district court’s finding of non-infringement,” then argued that, because it disavowed its ability to challenge that judgment, ABS lacked the requisite injury-in-fact required for Article III standing to appeal the IPR decision. Four months later, the district court entered a final judgment of noninfringement as to the patent claims. The district court has not yet ruled on ABS’s post-trial motions. The Federal Circuit then dismissed ABS’s appeal of the IPR decision as moot. Cytonome cannot reasonably be expected to assert the patent against ABS in the future. View "ABS Global, Inc. v. Cytonome/ST, LLC." on Justia Law

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SIMO’s patent deals with roaming charges on cellular networks and describes apparatuses and methods that allow individuals to reduce roaming charges on cellular networks when traveling outside their home territory. SIMO sued uCloudlink)for infringement, alleging that four uCloudlink products came within claim 8 of the patent. The district court granted SIMO summary judgment, concluding that claim 8 does not require a “non-local calls database.” and entered a final judgment of $8,230,654 for SIMO.The Federal Circuit reversed, rejecting the district court’s claim construction and holding that claim 8 requires two or more nonlocal calls databases. A “plurality of memory, processors, programs, communication circuitry, authentication data stored on a subscribed identify module (SIM) card and/or in memory and non-local calls database” requires “a plurality of” each component in the list, including “non-local calls database.” In responding to uCloudlink’s summary-judgment motion, SIMO did not identify a triable issue on the factual question of whether, as uCloudlink asserted, the accused products lack a nonlocal calls database; uCloudlink is entitled to summary judgment of noninfringement. View "SIMO Holdings Inc. v. Hong Kong uCloudlink Network Technology, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Simio’s patent, entitled “System and Method for Creating Intelligent Simulation Objects Using Graphical Process Descriptions,” describes different types of simulations, including those that are event-oriented, process-oriented, and object-oriented. In Simio’s infringement suit, the district court held that certain claims were ineligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. 101. The Federal Circuit affirmed, applying the two-step “Alice” analysis. The claims are closely aligned to the decades-old computer programming practice of substituting text-based coding with graphical processing; the focus of the claimed advance remains the abstract idea. Considering the claim elements both individually and as an ordered combination, FlexSim “met its burden of showing no inventive concept or alteration of computer functionality sufficient to transform the system into a patent-eligible application.” View "Simio, LLC v. FlexSim Software Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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Raytheon and GE compete in the market to supply propulsion engines to the commercial aviation industry. Raytheon’s patent, entitled “Gas Turbine Engine with Low Stage Count Low-Pressure Turbine,” claims a two-stage high-pressure turbine engine for commercial airplanes. The patent issued in 2014. In 2016, GE petitioned the Patent Trial and Appeal Board for inter partes review, asserting that certain claims were unpatentable as obvious based on the combination of two prior art references. The Board found five claims nonobvious. GE filed an unsuccessful request for rehearing challenging the Board’s application of the legal standard for both teaching away and motivation to combine. Raytheon moved to dismiss GE’s appeal for lack of standing.The Federal Circuit vacated. Having alleged sufficient facts to establish that it is engaging in an activity that creates a substantial risk of future infringement, GE has standing to bring its appeal. The Board lacked substantial evidence for its conclusions that prior art teaches away from using a two-stage high-pressure turbine and that GE did not establish a motivation to combine prior art. View "General Electric Co. v. Raytheon Technologies Corp." on Justia Law

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Mazur discovered a process for creating “black silicon” by irradiating a silicon surface with ultra-short laser pulses to create a textured surface; the resulting black silicon has electronic properties different from traditional silicon. Several patents issued, including the 467 patent, from a 2001 patent application. SiOnyx was formed to commercialize black silicon. In 2006, SiOnyx met with Hamamatsu, which produces silicon-based photodetector devices. The parties entered into a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), providing that a party receiving confidential information shall maintain the information in strict confidence for seven years after the expiration of the agreement and acknowledges that the disclosing party claims ownership of the information and all patent rights. While the NDA was in effect, SiOnyx provided to Hamamatsu proposed architectures and a manufacturing process for a photodetector device, which were marked as confidential. Hamamatsu ultimately represented that it wished to develop its products alone. The NDA expired in 2008. In 2009, Hamamatsu notified SiOnyx that Hamamatsu intended to introduce a new photodiode that it did not believe infringed SiOnyx’s intellectual property or breached Hamamatsu’s confidentiality obligations. Hamamatsu filed patent applications in several countries. In 2010, Hamamatsu began releasing the accused products. SiOnyx began selling its own photodetector products. In 2014 a customer alerted SiOnyx to Hamamatsu’s patents.The Federal Circuit affirmed that Hamamatsu breached the NDA and infringed the 467 patent. SiOnyx is entitled to sole ownership of the disputed U.S. Patents. The district court erred in failing to grant SiOnyx sole ownership of the Disputed Foreign Patents. View "Sionyx LLC v. Hamamatsu Photonics K.K." on Justia Law

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VidStream’s patent, titled: “Recording and Publishing Content on Social Media Websites,” has a priority date of May 2012. Twitter filed two petitions for inter partes review (IPR), with method claims 1–19 in one petition, and medium and system claims 20–35 in the other. Twitter cited the Bradford book as the primary reference for both petitions, combined with other references. With the petitions, Twitter filed copies of several pages of the Bradford book and explained their relevance to the claims. Twitter also filed a Bradford 2011 copyright page and copies of archived webpages from the Internet Archive, showing the Bradford book listed on a publicly accessible website bearing a November 2011 website date and website pages dated December 6, 2011, showing the Bradford book available for purchase from Amazon.The Patent Trial and Appeal Board held that claims 1–35 are unpatentable as obvious. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s holding that Bradford is prior art. The Board permitted both sides to provide evidence concerning the reference date of the Bradford book; the evidence well supports its finding that Bradford was published and publicly accessible before the patent’s 2012 priority date. With Bradford as the primary reference, VidStream did not appeal the unpatentability of claims 1–35. View "VidStream LLC v. Twitter, Inc." on Justia Law

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Alleshouse and Yeh are named as the inventors on the 685 and 189 patents, which claim water-park attractions that individuals may ride as if surfing, and on the 433 patent, which claims nozzle configurations for regulating water flow in such attractions. Pacific, the company Alleshouse and Yeh formed to develop and market such attractions, is the assignee of the patents. Whitewater is the successor of Wave, which employed Alleshouse until just before he went into business with Yeh and the patented inventions were conceived. Whitewater sued Alleshouse, Yeh, and Pacific, claiming that Alleshouse had to assign each of the patents to Whitewater, as Wave’s successor, under the terms of Alleshouse’s employment contract with Wave. Whitewater also claimed that Yeh, who had not been employed by Whitewater or its predecessors and therefore was not under any alleged assignment duty, was improperly listed as an inventor on each of the patents.The district court held that Alleshouse breached the employment agreement, so Whitewater was entitled to an assignment of the patent interests, and Yeh was improperly joined as an inventor. The Federal Circuit reversed, The contract’s assignment provision is void under California law, (Labor Code 2870, 2872; Business and Professions Code 16600), so Whitewater lacks standing to contest inventorship. View "Whitewater West Industries Ltd. v. Alleshouse" on Justia Law

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Vectura sued GSK in 2016, alleging direct infringement of claim 3 of the 991 patent, which concerns the production of “composite active particles” for use in pulmonary administration, such as in dry-powder inhalers. The composite active particles described in the patent consist of additive material that is adhered to particles of the active ingredient. The active ingredient produces the desired chemical or biological effect, while the additive particles promote the dispersion and delivery of the active ingredient into the lungs when the inhaler is activated.The Federal Circuit affirmed holdings that the patent was infringed and not invalid. The court rejected arguments that Vectura failed to present substantial evidence that the accused inhalers use additive material that “promotes the dispersion” of the active material, that the district court’s construction of the term “composite active particles” was erroneous, that there were flaws in the calculation of the royalty proposed by Vectura’s damages expert, and that Vectura made prejudicial references to GSK’s sales and advanced an improper “pennies on the dollar” argument in comparing Vectura’s royalty request to GSK’s sales. View "Vectura Ltd. v. GlaxoSmithKline, LLC" on Justia Law

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SIPCO’s patent explains communicating information from a previously unconnected, remote device to a central location by setting up a two-step communication path through intermediate nodes to use the nodes’ already-provided link (e.g., a public-switched telephone network) to the central location. The remote device communicates wirelessly to an intermediate node. The Patent Board found that the patent was not exempt from covered business method (CBM) review under the “technological invention” exception and found five claims patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101 and unpatentable for obviousness under section 103. The Federal Circuit vacated.The Supreme Court remanded for further consideration in light of the Court’s 2020 “Thryv” decision. The Federal Circuit then affirmed the Board’s obviousness determination and did not address the Board’s patent-ineligibility decision under section 101. The Thryv decision makes clear that the threshold determination that the patent qualifies for CBM review is non-appealable under 35 U.S.C. 324(e); SIPCO’s challenge is nothing more than a contention that the agency should have refused to institute CBM review View "SIPCO, LLC v. Emerson Electric Co." on Justia Law