On January 10, 2014 the Supreme Court agreed to review a variety of intellectual property cases in the upcoming session, including two patent cases, a copyright case, and a trademark case (including Lanham Act claim). A brief overview of these cases is provided and more detail will be available once decisions are entered by the Court.
Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc. (U.S., No. 12-786.)
Question Presented to the Supreme Court: Whether the Federal Circuit erred in holding that a defendant may be held liable for inducing patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b) even though no one has committed direct infringement under § 271(a).
The Federal Circuit dismissed the “single-entity” rule for finding induced infringement of a method/process claim, finding that steps taken by multiple parties can result in induced infringement. The Federal Circuit stated, “To be clear, we hold that all the steps of a claimed method must be performed in order to find induced infringement, but that it is not necessary to prove that all the steps were committed by a single entity.” If the Supreme Court upholds the Federal Circuit’s ruling, a patentee has increased opportunity to assert induced infringement for method/process claims in the marketplace.
Nautilus, Inc., v. Biosig Instruments, Inc. (U.S., No. 13-369)
Question Presented to the Supreme Court: Does the Federal Circuit’s acceptance of ambiguous patent claims with multiple reasonable interpretations—so long as the ambiguity is not “insoluble” by a court—defeat the statutory requirement of particular and distinct patent claiming? Does the presumption of validity dilute the requirement of particular and distinct patent claiming?
The Federal Circuit reversed a district court decision that a patent claim to a heart rate monitor was invalid for indefiniteness as a matter of law because of its use of the claim term “spaced relationship” in describing the positioning of two electrodes with respect to each other. The Court held that this claim term was not one that is “insolubly ambiguous” when the intrinsic evidence is considered from the perspective of a person of skill in the art. It considered the functionality of the claimed monitor, as described in the specification, as did the USPTO when the claim was under reexamination. “[T]he claims provide inherent parameters sufficient for a skilled artisan to understand the bounds of ‘spaced relationship.’” Judge Schall concurred in the result but would have used a more narrow analysis, explaining that he would not have used the functional limitation to address the definiteness issue.
POM Wonderful LLC v. The Coca-Cola Company, U.S. (No. 12-761)
Question Presented to the Supreme Court: Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that a private party cannot bring a Lanham Act claim challenging a product label regulated under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
The case arising out of the 9th Circuit resulted in affirming judgment in favor of Coca-Cola, finding that POM's Lanham Act challenge to Coca-Cola’s “Pomegranate Blueberry” name was barred under the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Applicability of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a) (authorizing actions of false/misleading description of goods), The FDCA and/or state law claims will be addressed.
American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc. (U.S., No. 13-461)
Question Presented to the Supreme Court: Does a company “publicly perform” a copyrighted television program when it retransmits a broadcast of that program to thousands of paid subscribers over the Internet?
The Second Circuit denied reviewal of a panel decision that online streaming of TV programs to individual subscribers is not an infringing public performance. The panel found that the creation of a copy of a broadcast that is transmitted to individual subscribes failed to establish infringement as streaming “to the public.”