Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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In December 2015, Apple filed two petitions for inter partes review of the 696 patent, challenging certain claims as obvious. VirnetX filed responses arguing that prior art reference RFC 2401 was not a printed publication under 35 U.S.C. 102(b) as of November 1998. The Patent Board found that RFC 2401 was a printed publication and concluded that the 696 patent was unpatentable as obvious. During the pendency of VirnetX’s appeal, the Federal Circuit decided another case between the parties (VirnetX I), upholding the Board’s decision that RFC 2401 was a printed publication as of November 1998. The Federal Circuit then held that VirnetX is collaterally estopped by the VirnetX I judgment from relitigating the printed publication issue. VirnetX did not preserve an issue of whether inter partes review procedures apply retroactively to patents that were filed before Congress enacted the America Invents Act. View "VirnetX Inc. v. Apple, Inc." on Justia Law

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Laerdal, which manufactures and distributes medical devices, filed a complaint at the International Trade Commission asserting violations of 19 U.S.C. 1337 by infringement of Laerdal’s patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights by importing, selling for importation, or selling within the U.S. certain medical devices. The Commission investigated Laerdal’s trade dress claims, one patent claim, two copyright claims, and one trademark claim, excluding all others. Despite being served with notice, no respondent responded. An ALJ issued the Order to Show Cause. Respondents did not respond. An ALJ issued an initial determination finding all respondents in default. Laerdal modified its requested relief to immediate entry of limited exclusion orders and cease and desist orders. The Commission requested briefing on remedies, the public interest, and bonding. The Commission's final determination granted Laerdal limited exclusion orders against three respondents and a cease and desist order against one, based on patent and trademark claims; it issued no relief on trade dress and copyright claims, finding Laerdal’s allegations inadequate. As to trade dress claims, the Commission found that Laerdal failed to plead sufficiently that it suffered the requisite harm, the specific elements that constitute its trade dresses, and that its trade dresses were not functional; despite approving the ALJ’s initial determination of default and despite requesting supplemental briefing solely related remedy, the Commission issued no relief on those claims. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Commission violated 19 U.S.C. 1337(g)(1) by terminating the investigation and issuing no relief for its trade dress claims against defaulting respondents. View "Laerdal Medical Corp. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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When the patent owner filed for the 772 patent, the law defined the patent term as 17 years from the date the patent issued. The law was later amended to define the patent term as expiring 20 years from the patent’s earliest effective filing date, Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994 (URAA), 108 Stat. 4983. The owner then filed for the related 990 patent. The change in law caused the second patent to expire earlier than the first patent. The owner concedes that the claimed inventions in the two related patents are obvious variants of each other. The district court invalidated the 772 patent based on obviousness-type double patent; the invalidating reference, the 990 patent, was filed and issued after, but expired before, the 772 patent. The Federal Circuit reversed. The patents are governed by different patent term statutory regimes; the correct framework is to apply the traditional obviousness-type double patenting practices extant in the pre-URAA era to the pre-URAA patent and look to that patent’s issuance date as the reference point for obviousness-type double patenting. Under this framework, and because a change in patent term law should not truncate the term statutorily assigned to the pre-URAA 772 patent, the 990 patent is not a proper double patenting reference. View "Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. v. Breckenridge Pharmaceutical, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ezra filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for a generic version of Novartis’s multiple sclerosis drug, Gilenya®. Novartis sued for infringement, asserting the 229 patent. Because the 229 patent was filed before the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), its patent term was 17 years. It was set to expire in 2014. Novartis secured a patent term extension (PTE) of five years, 35 U.S.C. 156. Section 156 was enacted to restore the value of the patent term that an owner loses because the product cannot be commercially marketed without regulatory, e.g., FDA, approval. Multiple patents may cover the same product, but only one patent’s term can be extended. Novartis also owned the 565 patent covering Gilenya® and sought PTE on the 229 patent, which now expires in February 2019. Because the 565 patent issued from an application filed after the URAA, its 20-year term expired in 2017. The court denied Ezra’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, where Ezra argued that the extension of the 229 patent’s term beyond the life of the 565 patent de facto extended the life of the 565 patent and rendered the 229 patent invalid for double patenting; the two patents' claims are not patentably distinct. Ezra stipulated that its ANDA product infringes and dropped the double patenting issues. The court found the 229 patent valid, unexpired, enforceable, and infringed, and enjoined Ezra’s ANDA product until the 2019 expiration. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Obviousness-type double patenting does not invalidate an otherwise valid PTE. View "Novartis AG v. Ezra Ventures LLC" on Justia Law

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Maxchief has its principal place of business in China and distributes one of the plastic tables it manufactures (UT-18) exclusively through Meco, which is located in Tennessee. Meco sells the UT-18 tables to retailers. Wok competes with Maxchief in the market for plastic folding tables, and also has its principal place of business in China. Wok owns patents directed to folding tables. Wok sued Maxchief’s customer, Staples, in the Central District of California, alleging that Staples’ sale of Maxchief’s UT-18 table infringed the Wok patents. Staples requested that Meco defend and indemnify Staples. Meco requested that Maxchief defend and indemnify Meco and Staples. The Staples action is stayed pending the outcome of this case. Maxchief then sued Wok in the Eastern District of Tennessee, seeking declarations of non-infringement or invalidity of all claims of the Wok patents and alleging tortious interference with business relations under Tennessee state law. The district court dismissed the declaratory judgment claim for lack of personal jurisdiction. With respect to the state law tortious interference claim, the district court concluded it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Wok lacked sufficient contacts with the forum state of Tennessee for personal jurisdiction as to both the declaratory judgment claim and the tortious interference claim. View "Maxchief Investments Ltd. v. Wok & Pan, Ind., Inc." on Justia Law

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Saint Louis Brewery (SLB), a craft brewery founded in 1989 by Thomas Schlafly and Daniel Kopman, began selling beer with the SCHLAFLY logo in 1991 and asserts that it “has continuously sold beer under its SCHLAFLY trademark” ever since. In 2011, SLB applied for trademark registration for the word mark “SCHLAFLY” for use with various types of beer. The application drew opposition from Phyllis Schlafly, Thomas’s aunt and a well-known conservative activist (now deceased), and Bruce Schlafly (Opposers). The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denied the opposition. The Federal Circuit affirmed the registration, rejecting an argument that the Board did not recognize that the mark was “primarily merely a surname,” and improperly accepted that the mark has acquired secondary meaning although the applicant did not provide survey evidence. The court also rejected claims of violation of the Opposers’ First Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and Due Process rights and protections. A trademark registration does not constitute a “taking” and the trademark opposition procedure, of which the Opposers have availed themselves, provides an appropriate process of law. View "Schlafly v. Saint Louis Brewery, LLC" on Justia Law

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Seoul's asserted patents are directed to methods of backlighting display panels, particularly LED displays used in televisions, laptop computers, and other electronics. The 209 patent teaches, “uniform illumination is difficult to achieve, and prior art devices frequently fail[ed] to provide a sufficiently uniform source of illumination for LCD displays.” The invention claimed in the patent purports to solve this problem by providing a light source that uniformly backlights the rear surface of the display panel. The district court entered summary judgment that claim 20 is not anticipated and awarded damages. The Federal Circuit affirmed that claim 20 of the 209 patent and the asserted 554 patent claims are not anticipated and upheld the denial of judgment as a matter of law of no induced infringement. The evidence, while not overwhelming, provides at least circumstantial evidence that would allow a jury to reasonably find that Emplas had knowledge of the patents and of its customers’ infringing activity and that it intended to induce their infringement. 35 U.S.C. 271(b), The court upheld the $70,000 award for infringement of the 209 patent but vacated the $4 million damages award for infringement of the 554 patent, as not supported by substantial evidence. View "Enplas Display Device Corp. v. Seoul Semiconductor Co." on Justia Law

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Ancora’s 941 patent, entitled “Method of Restricting Software Operation Within a License Limitation,” describes and claims methods of limiting a computer’s running of software not authorized for that computer to run. It issued in 2002, and the patentability of all claims was confirmed in a reexamination in 2010. Ancora sued HTC, alleging infringement of the 941 patent. The district court dismissed, concluding that the patent’s claims are invalid because their subject matter is ineligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C 101, as directed to, and ultimately claiming no more than, an abstract idea. The Federal Circuit reversed. The claimed advance is a concrete assignment of specified functions among a computer’s components to improve computer security, and this claimed improvement in computer functionality is eligible for patenting. The asserted innovation of the patent relates to where the license record is stored in the computer and the interaction of that memory with other memory to check for permission to run a program that is introduced into the computer. View "Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. HTC America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The patent, entitled “Rinseable splash shield and method of use,” discloses a vessel for containing contents to be mixed that is positioned in a mixing machine and a splash shield that is positioned to shield the opening of the vessel. After the material within the vessel is mixed by a mixing element, the splash shield is separated from the vessel and rinsed by a nozzle on the mixing machine. The patent describes how the invention “provide[s] a drink mixer having a splash shield that may be automatically rinsed following mixing of each batch or beverage, preferably without disassembly or removal of any components or disposable covers.” The Patent Trial and Appeal Board upheld the patentability of claim 21 under 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Board changed claim construction theories midstream without providing the parties an opportunity to respond, and erred in construing the “nozzle” terms so as to require that the nozzles be prepositioned. Substantial evidence supports the Board’s decision ’s that Hamilton Beach did not persuasively establish a motivation to combine the prior art references to arrive at claim 21. View "Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. v. f'real Foods, LLC" on Justia Law

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Around 1959, the company started doing business as Omaha Steaks. It has multiple trademark registrations that include the words “Omaha Steaks" and spent over $50 million in 2012 and 2013, on domestic advertising of its beef products through national radio, television, and freestanding print campaigns. It has been featured in national newspapers, magazines, television shows, and movies. It promotes its products via catalog and direct mail, a daily blast email, customer calls, and on social media. Omaha Steaks has 75 stores and two airport kiosks and sells via Amazon. In 1920, Greater Omaha Packing Company was formed; it sells boxed beef to wholesalers, such as hotels, restaurants, and food service institutions and has sold beef to Omaha Steaks since 1966. GOP sought to register the mark “GREATER OMAHA PROVIDING THE HIGHEST QUALITY BEEF” with a design for: “meat, including boxed beef primal cuts.” The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board dismissed Omaha Steak’s opposition, finding no likelihood of confusion between the opposed mark and Omaha Steaks’ registered trademarks. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board’s fact-findings confirm that due to Omaha Steaks’ sales and marketing, the consuming public has been regularly exposed to its marks on a nationwide scale; the Board’s conclusion that Omaha Steaks did not provide any context for its “raw” sales figures and ad expenditures lacks substantial evidence. The Board’s findings regarding third-party use improperly relied on marks found on dissimilar goods not directed to the relevant public. View "Omaha Steaks International, Inc. v. Greater Omaha Packing Co." on Justia Law