MVS Filewrapper® Blog: Copyright 3-year Statute of Limitations Trumps Laches Defense

PETRELLA v. METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER, INC.

 

Frank Petrella wrote two screenplays and one book based on the life of boxing champion Jake LaMotta.  One of the screenplays, registered in 1963, identifies Patrella as the sole author, written in collaboration with LaMotta.  LaMotta and Patrella assigned their rights in the screenplay, including renewal rights, to Chartoff-Winkler Productions, Inc. in 1976, who in turn sold the motion picture rights to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. (MGM).  MGM released the motion picture portrayal of Jake LaMotta in 1980:  Raging Bull, staring Robert DeNiro and directed by Martin Scorcese. 

 

Patrella died in 1981, during the original term of the copyright in the screenplay.  Under the Supreme Court's decisions in Stewart v. Abend and Miller Music Corp. v. Charles N. Daniels, Inc., the right to renewal of the copyright reverted to Patrella's heirs, unencumbered by any of the assignments previously made by Patrella.  Patrella's daughter filed a renewal of the copyright in the screenplay in 1991.  In 1998, Patrella's daughter notified MGM that she owned the copyright in the screenplay, and any further exploitation of any derivative work, including Raging Bull, infringed that copyright.  A copyright infringement suit was not filed, however, until 2009.

 

Section 507(b) of the Copyright Act establishes a three-year limitation on claims seeking relieve for copyright infringement.  The 2009 complaint sought monetary and injunctive relief for violation of the copyright in the 1963 screenplay by using, producing, and distributing Raging Bull.  However, the complaint only sought such relief for acts occurring on or after January 6, 2006—three years prior to filing the suit.  MGM moved for summary judgment based on the doctrine of laches, asserting that even though the three-year limitations period set out in the statute had not run out, the claim was still barred under the equitable principle of laches— the 18 year delay between obtaining the copyright and filing suit was unreasonable and prejudicial.  The district court granted the motion, which was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.     

 

On ultimate appeal, the Supreme Court held that a copyright infringement suit seeking relief solely for conduct occurring within the limitations period cannot be precluded by a claim of laches, so long as the claim for damages is brought within the three-year window.  The Court highlighted that laches is an equitable defense, applicable to claims for which the legislature has not provided a limitation period.  Although laches may not preclude an infringement claim made within the limitations period, the Court made clear that other doctrines such as estoppel may limit the relief awarded.   

 

The full opinion is available here. 

MVS Filewrapper® Blog: Jury Returns Verdict for Apple in Patent Infringement Suit

On Friday, May 2, 2014 a jury found Samsung Electronics Co. ("Samsung") liable for infringing two patents owned by Apple, Inc. ("Apple").  The two patents are U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647, which is directed to systems and methods that analyze text for things that can be hyperlinked, e.g., email addresses, websites, and phone numbers, and then provides quick link options; and U.S. Patent No. 8,046,721, which is directed to the touch-screen function of sliding a finger across the screen to unlock the display. The jury also concluded that Samsung did not infringe two other Apple patents—U.S. Patent No. 6,847,959 (directed at a search function that allows a user to search both a device and the internet at the same time, also known as universal search) and U.S. Patent No. 7,761,414 (directed at the data syncing functions capable of syncing data while the user is performing other tasks on the device)—and found Apple infringed one Samsung patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,226,449 (directed at camera and folder organization displayed in a gallery format). 

 

In total, Apple was awarded only $119 million of the approximately $2 billion in damages it had sought in this suit, and the majority of Apple's damage award (approximately $99 million) was from infringement of the '647 patent.  Samsung was awarded $158,400 for Apple's infringement of the ' 449 patent.  Thus, many commentators are arguing that despite Samsung's liability, the case was a victory for Samsung as it avoided a judgment nearing or greater than that awarded in August 2012 ($929 million, which is currently on appeal).  It is expected that both Apple and Samsung will file post-verdict motions or appeal parts of this verdict.

MVS Filewrapper® Blog:Supreme Court Revises Standards for Sanctions in Exceptional Patent Cases

Two U.S. Supreme Court opinions issued today—Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. and Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Management System, Inc.—have changed the framework for which exceptional cases are analyzed under § 285 of the Patent Act.  For years, the controlling case with regard to § 285 of the Patent Act was Brooks Furniture Mfg., Inc. v. Dutailier Int'l, Inc.  In Brooks Furniture, the Federal Circuit defined an "exceptional case" as one which involves either "material inappropriate conduct" or is both "objectively baseless" and "brought in subjective bad faith."  Under this framework, the determination is a mixed question of law and fact.  Accordingly, the objective-baselessness determination is reviewed de novo on appeal without any deference to the determinations made by the district court.

 

The two Supreme Court decisions in Octane Fitness and Highmark specifically reject the Brooks Furniture framework as "unduly rigid and inconsistent with the text of § 285."  Instead, the word "exceptional" in § 285 should be "interpreted in accordance with its ordinary meaning." In its opinion, the Supreme Court characterized the Brooks Furniture framework as taking away a district court's power to award fees in exceptional cases due to overly restrictive standards.  Justice Sotomayor, writing for the Court in the Octane Fitness opinion, sums up Brooks Furniture as a "formulation [that] superimposes an inflexible framework onto statutory text that is inherently flexible."

 

The Octane Fitness framework that now controls exceptional case determinations states that an "'exceptional' case . . . is simply one that stands out from others with respect to the substantive strength of a party's litigating position (considering both the governing law and the facts of the case) or the unreasonable manner in which the case was litigated." Additionally, litigants are no longer required to establish their entitlement to fees under § 285 by clear and convincing evidence, as § 285 does not provide any specific evidentiary burden.

MVS Filewrapper® Blog: New and Useful - July 10, 2013

·         In Convolve v. Compaq Computer the Federal Circuit affirmed in part the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruling that Compaq Computer Corp., Seagate Technology, LLC., and Seagate Technology, Inc. did not misappropriate 11 of 15 alleged trade secrets from Convolve, Inc.  In addition, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment that 8 claims of U.S. Patent No. 4,916,635 (“the ’635 patent”) are invalid.  However, the Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s ruling that Compaq did not infringe several claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,314,473 (“the ’473 patent”), and remanded the case for further proceedings relating to that patent. 

Convolve and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”) sued Compaq and Seagate for both trade secret misappropriation and patent infringement, all related to technology developed by Dr. Neil Singer while a graduate student at MIT.  The technology involves seeks in computer hard drives, and minimizing the vibrations created by those seeks—the ’635 patent discloses a method “for generating an input to a system to minimize unwanted dynamics in the system response and to reduce energy consumed by the system during moves,” and an apparatus for shaping commands to a system “to reduce endpoint vibration.” The ’473 patent covers the same type of technology, but relating specifically to data storage devices such as computer disk drives.  The ’473 patent is owned by Convolve, a company owned by Dr. Singer, and the ’635 patent is owned by MIT.  Convolve is the exclusive licensee of MIT software motion control technology called Input Shaping, which Convolve alleges is covered by the trade secrets and patents involved in the case. 

Convolve entered into licensing discussions with Compaq, which included a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) signed by both parties and covering confidential information disclosed between August 13, 1998 and October 15, 2000, but explicitly excluding any information that: (1) the recipient possessed prior to disclosure; (2) was a matter of public knowledge; (3) was received from a third party without a duty of confidentiality attached; (4) was independently developed by the recipient; (5) was disclosed under operation of law; or (6) was disclosed by the recipient with the discloser’s prior written approval.  The NDA further stated that any confidential material or presentations must be particularly identified as confidential.  Compaq sought to include Seagate as the potential designer and manufacturer of hard disk drives incorporating Convolve’s technology to include in Compaq’s computers.  Convolve then disclosed its technology to Compaq and Seagate, but Convolve and Compaq/Seagate never entered into a licensing agreement.

Convolve filed suit alleging breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, patent infringement of the ’473 patent, ’635 patent and breach of good faith and fair dealing.  The district court granted Compaq and Seagate’s motions for summary judgment, dismissing Convolve’s claims of breach of contract, infringement of the asserted claims of the ’473 and ’635 patents, and misappropriation of a subset of the trade secrets asserted against Compaq and Seagate; and granting Seagate’s motion for summary judgment for invalidity of the ’635 patent.  

Regarding the alleged trade secrets, the Federal Circuit upheld the district courts findings and judgment that Compaq and Seagate had not misappropriated 7 of the asserted trade secrets because Convolve disclosed the information in the absence of a written confidentiality follow-up memorandum mandated by the NDA.  The Federal Circuit also affirmed the district court’s ruling that 6 of the asserted trade secrets were either generally known before any disclosure by Convolve or were not used by Seagate following any disclosure by Convolve.  Further, the court rejected Convolves argument that Seagate’s actions constituted trade secret misappropriation under the California Uniform Trade Secret Act notwithstanding the NDA, concluding that where the parties have contracted the limits of their confidential relationship regarding a particular subject matter, one party should not be able to circumvent its contractual obligations or impose new ones over the other via some implied duty of confidentiality.

The Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Seagate and Compaq for non-infringement of the asserted claims of the ’473 patent, concluding that there were material issues of fact that precluded a grant of summary judgment  as to direct or indirect infringement.  The court also concluded that there was sufficient evidence to preclude summary judgment for induced infringement on the basis of the court’s recent holding in Toshiba Corp. v. Imation Corp. that when an alleged infringer instructs users to use a product in an infringing way, there is sufficient evidence for a jury to find direct infringement.

·         The Federal Circuit in Wyeth v. Abbott Laboratories upheld the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey's grant of summary judgment that claims 1 and 2 of U.S. Patent No. 5,516,781 and claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 5,563,146 are invalid for nonenablement.  The patents relate to the use of rapamycin for the treatment of restenosis.  The patents disclosed use of the rapamycin species sirolimus to reduce thickening of arterial walls.  Wyeth sued the defendants for patent infringement for their products that elute everolimus and zotarolimus.  These compounds fall under the umbrella of rapamycin, but are not mentioned in the specification of the Wyeth patents.

The main issue on appeal was whether practicing the full scope of the claims requires excessive experimentation.  The specification describes assays used to determine whether a potential rapamycin compound exhibits the desired characteristics of immunosuppressive and antirestenotic effects.  Wyeth argued that even though millions of compounds would meet these criteria, one of skill in the art would know that an effective compound had to be small enough to permeate cell membranes.  However, that still leaves tens of thousands of compounds to test and the specification gave no indication of which types of rapamycin compounds would be preferable over others, leaving scientists to synthesize and screen each and every compound. 

While synthesizing and screening compounds is considered routine experimentation, the Court noted in Cephalon, Inc. v. Watson Pharm., Inc. that routine experimentation is "not without bounds."  One indication of excessive experimentation is length of time that would be spent to do the experiments.  Wyeth's expert admitted that it would take technicians weeks to complete each of the assays. 

A final indicator that the invention is not enabled is the unpredictability of the field.  Simply offering a starting point for further research in field like organic chemistry does not properly enable an invention.  Due to the uncertainty, there needs to be more concrete guidance given in the specification in order to avoid undue experimentation.

Ultimately, the Federal Circuit determined that synthesizing and screening tens of thousands of candidate compounds constituted undue experimentation.  While they did not draw a definitive line between routine experimentation and undue experimentation, the Court did provide some guidance on what could be considered excessive experimentation in organic chemistry.

·         In Commil USA v. Cisco Systems, Cisco Systems appealed a district court final judgment in favor of Commil, asserting that the district court gave erroneous jury instructions, improperly precluded Cisco from presenting evidence of good-faith belief of invalidity, and abused its discretion by granting a new partial trial.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit found that the district court gave erroneous instructions to the jury with respect to indirect infringement and that evidence of a good-faith belief of invalidity may negate the intent required to show induced infringement.  The Court determined that the district court did not err in granting the partial new trial.

In regard to the issue of indirect or induced infringement, the jury had been instructed in part that to show induced infringement, "Cisco knew or should have known that its actions would induce actual infringement."  In light of the Supreme Court's decision in Global-Tech Applicances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., which held that induced infringement "requires knowledge that the induced acts constitute patent infringement," a finding of induced infringement may no longer be based on recklessness or negligence.  As such, the Federal Circuit concluded that the jury instructions were erroneous as a matter of law.  The Court found that this erroneous instruction could have changed the result of the trial.  Due to the prejudicial effect of the jury instruction, the Court vacated the verdict of induced infringement and remanded for a new trial. 

With respect to invalidity, Cisco had provided evidence to support its good-faith belief that the patent at issue was invalid.  However, the district court granted Commil's motion in limine to exclude that evidence.  Federal Circuit case law has shown that evidence of a good-faith belief of non-infringement tends to show that an accused inducer of infringement lacked the requisite intent.  Similarly, the Court in this case found that a good-faith belief of invalidity serves the same purpose as a good-faith belief of non-infringement as far as specific intent is concerned.  The Court noted that "one could be aware of a patent and induce another to perform the steps of the patent claim, but have a good-faith belief that the patent is not valid.  Under those circumstances, it can hardly be said that the alleged inducer intended to induce infringement."  The Federal Circuit ultimately held that a good-faith belief of invalidity can negate the specific intent required for induced infringement.

Judge Newman dissented with regard to this portion of the ruling, finding that the Court had changed the law of induced infringement.  She stated that a good-faith belief in invalidity does not avoid liability for infringement because infringement in fact does not depend on the belief of the accused infringer.  Judge Newman relied on tort theory to support her position that "A mistake of law, even if made in good faith, does not absolve a tortfeasor."

With respect to the decision to grant a partial new trial on the issues of indirect infringement and damages, the Federal Circuit determined that it did not violate the Seventh Amendment because the issues were distinct and separable.  The jury in the partial trial was asked to determine whether Cisco possessed a good-faith belief of invalidity, but not whether the patent was in fact invalid.  Cisco argued that these issues are intertwined, but the Court determined that they could be separate issues. 

Judge O'Malley disagreed with this part of the decision, believing that Cisco was deprived of its right to a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment.  She noted that because statements by Cisco's counsel were prejudicial towards the Jewish inventors of Commil, the entire trial was affected.  As a result, Commil was entitled to an entire retrial of all of the issues instead of a partial new trial.

MVS Filewrapper® Blog: Federal Circuit affirms importance of secondary indicia of non-obviousness

The Federal Circuit has recently decided the case of Power Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc.  Power Integrations, Inc. (Power) sued Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc.  (Fairchild) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging infringement of Power’s four patents covering chargers for mobile phones.   In a bifurcated trial, the claims of the patents were found valid, and Fairchild was found to have willfully infringed and assessed $33 million in damages, which was subsequently remitted to $12 million.  Fairchild appealed to the Federal Circuit, arguing that the district court’s claim construction of two terms—“frequency variation signal” and “soft start circuit”—was erroneous, and that the district court’s denial of its JMOL of non-obviousness was in error.  Power cross-appealed the district court’s determination that the jury’s original damages award of was contrary to law, seeking the original $33 million in damages. 

           

Claim Construction

Fairchild argued on appeal that the district court’s construction of the “frequency variation signal” language improperly imported limitations from the preferred embodiments provided in the patent specification.  Fairchild sought a much broader construction, based on what it argued was the plain and ordinary meaning, thereby eliminating any need to turn to the disclosures of the patent.  The Federal Circuit concluded that the testimony of Power’s expert that there was no plain and ordinary meaning and in the absence of contrary evidence from Fairchild, the expert opinion was dispositive.  The court then confirmed the district court’s reading of the specification, ultimately concluding the construction of “frequency variation signal” was proper.

           

Fairchild also argued that the district court’s construction of “soft start circuit” as a means-plus-function limitation was erroneous because the claim did not use the term “means” and provided sufficient structure to preclude application of 35 U.S.C. § 112, paragraph 6.  The court concluded that the recitation of a “circuit” in conjunction with a sufficiently definite structure for performing the identified function was adequate to bar means-plus-function claiming. 

           

Obviousness

With respect to obviousness, Fairchild argued that the Power patents were obvious in light of the prior art, because the only difference compared to the patents-in-suit was that the prior art included erasable programmable read only memory (EPROM) absent from the patents and it would have been obvious to a person of skill in the art to simply remove the EPROM.  The court found that a person of skill in the art would understand that the EPROM in the prior art was used to achieve a different result than, and was thus unnecessary for, the “frequency-jittering” achieved by the claimed invention of the patent-in-suit.   However, the court also found that there was substantial evidence of “objective considerations of non-obviousness”—that is, secondary indicia—to support the jury’s verdict that Power’s patent would not have been obvious to the ordinarily skilled artisan.  Specifically, the court focused on:

(1) testimony that the EPROM in the prior art added expense and imposed design constraints as “a good indication that removing the EPROM provided otherwise unexpected benefits”;

(2) testimony that “each and every one of [the prior art] references . . . included [EP]ROMs,”

(3) more than 11 years having passed between issuance of the obviousness reference and the filing of the patent-in-suit without anyone disclosing removing the EPROMs;

(4) testimony that no one in the industry was able to come up with the patented invention;

(5) evidence of commercial success; and significantly (6) Fairchild competed with Power by reverse engineering and copying of Power Integrations’ products.  

The court concluded that this evidence was sufficient to support the verdict of non-obviousness.

           

Damages

The court also considered the “underlying question [of] whether Power Integrations is entitled to compensatory damages for injury caused by infringing activity that occurred outside the territory of the United States.”  The court answered that question with an emphatic “No.” 

Finally, the court considered whether the district court improperly precluded Power from introducing evidence of price erosion that occurred prior to notifying Fairchild of its infringing activity.  The court held that the district court’s decision to exclude the evidence was incorrect because “a price erosion analysis relating to damages arising from post-notice infringement must measure price changes against infringement-free market conditions, and thus the proper starting point of such a price erosion analysis is the date of first infringement.”

The court remanded the case for the district court to construe those claims and determine what effects the new constructions have on validity and infringement, and for a new trial on damages resulting from Fairchild’s direct infringement.

MVS Filewrapper® Blog: New and Useful - April 5, 2013

·         In Power Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc. the Federal Circuit clarified several points relating to claim construction, determinations of non-obviousness, and calculation of damages.   The court confirmed that claiming a “circuit” in conjunction with a sufficiently definite structure for performing the identified function is adequate to bar means-plus-function claiming.  The court also confirmed that secondary considerations of non-obviousness could constitute evidence sufficient to support a finding of non-obviousness.  Finally, the court held that plaintiffs are not entitled to compensatory damages for injury caused by infringing activity that occurred outside the territory of the United States, regardless of any foreseeability of world-wide damages.  A more in-depth analysis of this case will be posted shortly.

·         In Rubin v. The General Hospital Corp., Dr. Berish Y. Rubin and Dr. Sylvia L. Anderson (collectively, Rubin) sued The General Hospital Corporation (GH Corp.) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts requesting correction of inventorship of two patents assigned to GH Corp., or alternatively invalidation of the two patents.  Rubin alleged that the inventors named in the patents used confidential information—from a manuscript and abstract submitted by Rubin to the American Journal of Human Genetics—to complete the inventions described and claimed in the patents.   The district court granted summary judgment to GH Corp.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment, reasoning that the dispute was fundamentally a question of priority of the invention.  The court ultimately agreed with the district court, concluding that Rubin and Anderson could not be added as joint inventors or be substituted for the named inventors of the patents because they did not meet the requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 116 for joint invention or §256 for correction of inventorship, and that the issue of priority is appropriately determined by PTO interference proceedings.    

·         The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of N.Y. has handed down its decision in Capitol Records, llc. V. ReDigi Inc.  ReDigi considers itself the "world's first and only online marketplace for digital used music."   ReDigi's website "invites users to sell their legally acquired digital music files, and buy used digital music from others at a fraction of the price currently available on iTunes."   ReDigi's website sold various records belonging to Capitol Records.  Capitol Records brought an action against ReDigi, alleging direct copyright infringement, inducement of copyright infringement, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.  In its defense, ReDigi asserted that the “first sale” doctrine precluded a finding of copyright infringement.  The district court disagreed, however, holding that the very nature of transferring digital files over the internet constituted copyright infringement because in order to transfer a file, a copy of the file must be made on the transferring computer.  Because the “first sale” doctrine does not protect against reproduction of copyrighted material, ReDigi could not successfully assert the defense for the present action.   

New and Useful - January 23, 2013

·         In Wax v. Amazon Techs., the Federal Circuit upheld the TTAB’s denial of registration of the mark AMAZON VENTURES.  Applicant filed and intent-to-use application to register the mark for “investment management, raising venture capital for others, . . . and capital investment consultation.”  Amazon Technologies, Inc.—online retailer and owner of several AMAZON.COM marks—opposed the registration.  The TTAB concluded that Amazon Technologies, Inc. had priority in the AMAZON.COM marks, and that there was a likelihood of confusion between Amazon Technologies’ marks and those of the applicant.  The Applicant challenged the TTAB’s findings that (1) Amazon Technologies’ marks are famous, (2) the similarity of Amazon Technologies’ mark to AMAZON VENTURES, and (3) the similarity of the parties' services and channels of trade.  The Federal Circuit confirmed the TTAB’s findings, based in part on the wide latitude of protection afforded to Amazon Technologies’ on account of its fame within the buying public.  

·         The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s judgment and damages for Hallmark Cards, Inc. against a former employee for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets.  The district court entered the jury’s award of damages in the amount of $860,000.  The Eight Circuit affirmed $735,000 of the damages as they related to breach of contract and disclosure of trade secrets, but overturned $125,000 the former employee earned in compensation from a competitor. 

·         The Federal Circuit has dismissed as moot an appeal from a patent infringement suit.  Allflex U.S.A., Inc. sued Avid Identification Systems, Inc. seeking a declaratory judgment that six of Avid’s patents were unenforceable due to inequitable conduct.  The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Allflex, at which time the parties entered into a settlement agreement that resolved all of the claims and issues between the parties upon payment of $6.55 million from Avid to Allflex, except for a provision that allowed Avid to appeal three specific issues.  The agreement further provided that Allflex could contest any appeal on the merits, but could not dispute the existence of a live case or controversy, and that if Avid were successful on any issue on appeal, the payment to Allflex would be reduced by $50,000.  The district court accepted the settlement agreement and entered a stipulated order of final judgment that stated the case was dismissed with prejudice with the exception of findings the court considered “final and ripe for appellate review.”  Avid then appealed to the Federal Circuit, but Allflex declined to file a brief defending the judgment of the district court. 

The Federal Circuit concluded that the appeal was moot.  Avid argued that, although the case would be moot if it were not for the $50,000 contingency payment, that payment ensured that there was a real controversy between the parties.  The court dismissed Avid’s argument, concluding that while the district court’s decision was effectively final and therefore appealable, Allflex no longer had a legally cognizable interest in any of the issues in the case, and the payment was insufficient to create any interest

·         The USPTO has announced the new fee schedule.  The changes, initiated under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, are set to take effect March 19, 2013.  Among the notable changes are:

o   A 75% reduction in most fees for micro entities, including Universities.

o   Increase in basic filing fee:  $1,600 (large entity); $800 (small entity); $400 (micro entity)

o   Increase in appeal fees, due in large part to a new “Appeal Forwarding Fee for Appeal in Examination or Ex Parte Reexamination Proceeding or Filing a Brief in Support of an Appeal in Inter Partes Reexamination”:  $2,800 (large entity); $1,400 (small entity); $700 (micro entity)

o   Decrease in issue fees:  $960 (large entity); $480 (small entity); $240 (micro entity)

o   Increase in maintenance fees:

§  First (3.5 years):  $1,600 (large entity); $800 (small entity); $400 (micro entity)

§  Second (7.5 years):  $3,600; $1,800; $900

§  Third (11.5 years):  $7,400; $3,700; $1,850

o   Decrease in supplemental examination fees:  $16,500 (large entity); $8,250 (small entity); $4,125 (micro entity)

The complete finalized rules are available here.

New and Useful - Janurary 14, 2013

·         The Supreme Court handed down its decision in Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc.  The Court held that Nike’s covenant not to sue Alreadyfor alleged infringement of Nike’s AIR FORCE 1 trademark—entered into after Nike had filed suit and Already had filed a counterclaim challenging the mark’s validity—rendered both Nike’s claims and Already’s counterclaims moot.  The Court held that because Already failed to show that it engages in or has sufficiently concrete plans to engage in activities that would arguably infringe Nike’s trademark yet not be covered by the covenant not to sue, its claims could not survive Nike’s motion to dismiss. 

 

·        The USPTO has issued a Request for Comments and Notice of Roundtable Events for Partnership for Enhancement of Quality of Software-Related Patents.  The notice provides two separate roundtable events with the same agendas, one occurring in Silicon Valley on Tuesday February 12, 2013, beginning at 9 a.m. and the second occurring in New York City on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 beginning at 9 a.m. (both local time).  Topics on the agenda include: (1) how to improve clarity of claim boundaries that define the scope of patent protection for claims that use functional language; (2) identification of additional topics for future discussion by the Software Partnership; and (3) opportunity for oral presentations on the Request for Comments on Preparation of Patent Applications. Written comments are requested in response to the first two discussion topics. Written comments on the third discussion topic must be submitted as directed in the forthcoming Request for Comments on Preparation of Patent Applications.  Registration for the events is requested by February 4, 2013.  For additional information see the official notice.

·       The USPTO has also extended a pilot program allowing an applicant to request a twelve-month time period to pay the search fee, the examination fee, any excess claim fees, and the surcharge (for the late submission of the search fee and the examination fee) in a nonprovisional application, under specific conditions.  The program has been extended until December 31, 2013, with the possibility of further extension.  To qualify, the applicant must satisfy the following conditions: (1) Applicant must submit a certification and request to participate in the Extended Missing Parts Pilot Program with the nonprovisional application on filing, (2) the application must be a nonprovisional utility or plant application filed within the duration of the pilot program; (3) the nonprovisional application must directly claim the benefit under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) and 37 CFR 1.78 of a prior provisional application filed within the previous twelve months (the specific reference to the provisional application must be in an application data sheet); and (4) applicant must not have filed a nonpublication request. Additional information is available here.

 

·       The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and remanded in part a decision by the Southern District of New York finding willful infringement on the part of a retailer for infringing the Fendi trademark by selling allegedly counterfeit Fendi-branded products.  The district court awarded $12,324,062.66 in trebled damages, prejudgment interest, costs, and attorneys' fees, including disgorgement of Ashley Reed's based on a finding of willful infringement.  The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding of infringement and willfulness, but remanded for clarification of the period of disgorgement. 

 

·        The Federal Circuit has issued a new opinion on determining obviousness.  A more thourough examination of the dicision in The C.W. Zumbiel Company, Inc. v. Kappos will be available soon here at Filewrapper. 

Another Billion Dollar Patent Verdict

Another billion dollar verdict has been handed out in a patent case.  Read the verdict in Carnegie Mellon University v. Marvell Technology Group, LTD. here.  This latest case continues a string of billion dollar verdicts highlighted by Jonathan Kennedy in the latest edition of MVS Briefs. 

Carnegie Mellon brought suit alleging infringement of two of its patents, Patent No. 6,201,839 and Patent No. 6,438,180, relating to integrated circuits for computer memory systems.  Marvell asserted that it did not infringe the patents, and in the alternative, the patents were invalid because they were anticipated or rendered obvious by the prior art.

The jury in the case found for Carnegie Mellon on all counts of infringement—including indirect infringement—and invalidity.  In addition to the large damages award, the jury determined that Marvell had engaged in willful infringement of two patents held by Carnegie Mellon because Marvell knew of the asserted patents before the lawsuit, had no reasonable defense for its actions, and knew or should have known that its actions would infringe the asserted patents.  The determination of willfulness by the jury could allow the presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Norra Barry Fischer, to triple the damages award. 

 A final judgment in the case is expected in May 2013, pending post-trial motions from both sides.  Marvell has already announced its intent to appeal the verdict should its post-trial motions prove unsuccessful. 

Remittitur without new trial requires legal error, not error as a matter of law

In a recent decision, the Federal Circuit reversed a district court's reduction of the jury's damages award, remanding the case for a new trial on damages, and affirmed the jury's verdict of willful infringement and the district court's award of attorney fees under § 285.

The district court held there was insufficient evidence as a matter of law to support the jury's damages award, so it reduced the award from over $1 million down to just over $50,000. However, the court did not offer the patentee the option of a new trial. The Federal Circuit held this violated the Seventh Amendment, which requires a new trial unless the award was based on legal error, not present here.

Further, the Federal Circuit held the district court's jury instruction on the issue of actual notice under § 287 was legally incorrect, as it improperly foreclosed a finding of actual notice before the discovery of the defendant's infringement. As a result, the Federal Circuit remanded the case for a new trial on damages to address both the amount and the date from which damages should be calculated.

More detail of Minks v. Polaris Indus., Inc. after the jump.

 

[More]

More Entries

BlogCFC was created by Raymond Camden. This blog is running version 5.8.001.