MVS Filewrapper® Blog: StoneEagle v. Gillman – Patent Inventorship, Authorship, and Ownership

In StoneEagle Services, Inc.,v. Gillman the Federal Circuit confirmed that assistance in reducing an invention to practice generally does not contribute to inventorship. In this case, the issue centered on whether there was a sufficient controversy regarding inventorship for the case to remain in federal court.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had "falsely claimed that it is his patent, that he wrote the patent, that it is on his computer, and that he ‘authored’ or ‘wrote’ it, or words to that effect.” 

 

The court determined that the most favorable possible inference in favor of the plaintiff only indicated that the defendant assisted in constructively reducing an invention to practice by drafting the patent application.  The court confirmed that those activities confer no more rights of inventorship than activities in furtherance of an actual reduction to practice, which is usually insufficient to rise to the level of inventorship.  As the court concluded, if they were to hold otherwise, "patent attorneys and patent agents would be co-inventors on nearly every patent. Of course, this proposition cannot be correct."

 

The full decision is available here.

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.   

MVS Filewrapper® Blog: New and Useful - January 31, 2013

·       In Soverain Software LLC v. Newegg Inc. the Federal Circuit vacated in part and reversed in part an Eastern District of Texas decision finding Newegg Inc. liable for infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,715,314, 5,909,492, and 7,272,639, all relating to electronic commerce.  The Federal Circuit offered clarifying insight on the obviousness doctrine.  The background facts are as follows:  Soverain Software purchased three software patents through bankruptcy proceedings and then proceeded to sue seven different entities for infringing the patents.  Six of the defendants settled and entered paid up license agreements with Soverain.  The seventh defendant, Newegg, refused to settle and argued that the asserted patents are all invalid and even if valid, Newegg’s system is different and non-infringing.  At trial, the district court refused to permit Newegg to present its obviousness argument to the jury and ruled that the patents were valid as a matter of law.  The jury found that Newegg had infringed two of the patents but not the third; the district court, however, entered judgment as a matter of law that Newegg infringed the third patent.  Newegg appealed and the Federal Circuit found all three patents obvious.  The federal circuit had three major discussion points:  (1) each element of the disputed claims was found in the prior art, (2) combining those elements would be obvious to one of skill in the art, and (3) licenses entered in settlement to a lawsuit do not constitute evidence of commercial success. 

 

·       In Rexnord Industries, LLC v. Kappos the Federal Circuit reversed a BPAI decision holding claims for a mechanical conveyor belt patentable.  The patent in question was asserted by Habasit Belting, Inc. against Rexnord Industries in an infringement suit in Delaware district court.  Rexnord filed a request for inter partes reexamination.  The examiner in the reexamination found all of the claims to be unpatentable for anticipation or obviousness. Habasit appealed the examiner’s findings, and the BPAI reversed, concluding that the claims of the patent were not anticipated by any of the references cited in the reexamination, and were unobvious over the cited references.  Rexnord appealed the BPAI decision to the Federal Circuit, arguing that the BPAI erroneously refused to review all of the arguments that Rexnord had presented as grounds for unpatentability.  The PTO countered that the BPAI only needed to consider the issue raised by Habasit on appeal, and had no obligation to consider other grounds that had been presented during reexamination, relying on a BPAI rule that “bars the presentation of new arguments outside appellant’s opening brief.”  The Federal Circuit noted that Rexnord was not the appellant before the BPAI since Habasit appealed the examiner’s decision, and concluded that the alternative bases for obviousness raised in the reexamination were properly raised on appeal to the Federal Circuit because they were fully raised in the reexamination and were not an issue for patentability until after the Board reversed the examiner.  The court then found the claims obvious on these additional grounds.

       

·       In Hall v. Bed Bath & Beyond, the Federal Circuit affirmed a Southern District of New Your district court’s dismissal of counts against Bed Bath & Beyond (BB&B) executives and counterclaims filed by BB&B, but concluded that the district court’s dismissal of Hall’s design patent infringement, unfair competition, and misappropriation claims for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).  BB&B argued in its motion to dismiss, and the district court agreed, that the complaint was insufficient because if failed to include any claim construction, but the Federal Circuit held the complaint met the requirements for pleading design patent infringement previously set out by the court in Phonometrics, Inc. v. Hospitality Franchise Systems, Inc.  Specifically, the court found the complaint (i) alleged ownership of the patent, (ii) named each defendant, (iii) cited the patent that was allegedly infringed, (iv) stated the means by which the defendant allegedly infringed, and (v) pointed to the sections of the patent law invoked, and in doing so met its burden to withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Twombly and Iqbal. 

 

·       In LG Display Co. v. Obayashi Seikou Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10785 (D.D.C. 2013) The district court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling in a case between LG and Obayashi Seikou Co., LTD that goes back nearly a decade, centering on LG’s allegations that a former employee stole proprietary information and passed it along to Obayashi Seikou Co., who then obtained several patents on the technology.  Prior to the U.S. litigation, the parties had entered into a settlement agreement, and after the settlement failed, litigated the settlement agreement in the Korean courts.  In the Korean litigation LG secured a judgment from Korea’s highest court holding that the settlement agreement was valid, and the defendants were required to transfer their patents to LG, under the terms of the agreement.  LG then filed suit in the District of Columbia seeking recognition of the Korean judgment, as well as claiming misappropriation of trade secrets, conversion, and unjust enrichment.  The district court granted in part LG’s motion for partial summary judgment, recognizing the Korean judgment, but concluded that ownership of two related patents involved factual disputes and was not ready for summary judgment. 

Explanation of prior art element in dependent claim insufficient to confer inventor status

In a decision Thursday, the Federal Circuit reversed a summary judgment of dismissal for lack of standing by the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.  The district court held that one of the defendant's employees was a coinventor of the patent-in-suit, and because he had not joined as a plaintiff, the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue. 

The Federal Circuit reversed, holding the allegedly missing coinventor was not actually a coinventor.  Specifically, the only contribution made to the invention by this individual was limited to a single dependent claim, and the limitation added by that claim was a feature well-known in the art.  However, an inventor "may use the services, ideas, and aid of others in the process of perfecting his invention without losing his right to a patent."  As such, the Federal Circuit held the alleged co-inventor's contribution to the invention was merely the "exercise of ordinary skill in the art," and therefore did not rise to the level of inventiveness.  As a result, the failure to join this individual as a plaintiff did not defeat standing.

More detail of Nartron Corp. v. Schukra U.S.A., Inc. after the jump.

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Purported inventor who waited eight years to file suit could not overcome presumption of laches

In a decision yesterday, the Federal Circuit upheld a district court's grant of summary judgment due to laches and applicable state statute of limitations in an inventorship case. The plaintiff, having waited more than eight years after finding out about the patents to file suit, claimed that an intervening reexamination should have reset the time for determining laches and that the defendant's "unclean hands" in failing to include the plaintiff as an inventor precluded the application of laches. The court held that "there is no rule that the issuance of a reexamination certificate automatically resets the six-year clock for the presumption of laches" and that a plaintiff relying on "unclean hands" to defeat laches must show that "the defendant's misconduct was responsible for the plaintiff's delay in bringing suit."

More detail of Serdarevic v. Adv. Med. Optics, Inc. after the jump.

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Ninth Circuit: Patent law terms in employment agreement should be given patent law definitions

In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit held a district court's jury instructions regarding construction of the patent ownership provisions of an employment agreement erred in applying contract law rather than patent law.  

The court determined that jury instructions defining the terms "conceive," "reduce to practice," and "Work of Dr. Yu" (a possible coinventor) required application of patent law to determine whether co-inventorship existed for both conception and reduction to practice of an invention, and whether conception and/or reduction to practice took place while using the employer's facilities.  The Ninth Circuit held the district court erred in applying agency law to determine whether a second researcher's actions triggered the patent ownership provisions of the "employed" researcher.  The court remanded the case and ordered a new trial with proper jury instructions.

More detail of Los Angeles Biomedical Res. Inst. v. White after the jump.

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Equitable inventorship correction claim must be resolved after factually-overlapping fraud claim

The Federal Circuit issued a ruling Friday addressing the right to a jury trial in a case involving combined equitable (in the form of a correction of inventorship claim under 35 U.S.C. § 256 ) and legal (in the form of various tort claims) issues. The court held that the jury trial on the legal issues must precede the bench trial on inventorship when the legal issues have a common issue of fact with the inventorship claim.

More detail of Shum v. Intel Corp. after the jump.

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