2020 IP Law Year in Review: Patents

Posted In Patents

Executive Summary

In 2020, the US Supreme Court and Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit continued to refine key aspects of intellectual property law on issues that will have an impact on litigation, patent prosecution and business strategy. This Special Report discusses some of the most important decisions.

The Federal Circuit issued several panel decisions clarifying the bounds of patent-eligible subject matter in the area of life sciences and computer technology. In the life sciences space, the court found several patents satisfied the conditions for patent eligibility. For example, the Federal Circuit found patent-eligible claims directed to preparing a fraction of cell-free DNA enriched in fetal DNA, claims directed to a method of operating a flow cytometry apparatus with a number of detectors to analyze at least two populations of particles in the same sample to be patent eligible, and claims directed to a method of treating type 2 diabetes mellitus using a DPP-IV inhibitor. In the area of computer technology, the court clarified that claims directed to an improvement to computer networks were patent eligible, but that claims directed to applying longstanding commercial practices to generic computer components remain ineligible. Given the uncertainty of patent eligibility law, questions surrounding life sciences and computer-related technology will continue to be raised in cases.

The Supreme Court issued one decision in 2020, in which it found that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s application of the time bar for filing a petition for inter partes review (IPR) is not appealable. The Federal Circuit issued two en banc decisions, including one decision confirming discussing the use of the phrase “consisting essentially of” in patent claims and patent eligibility of mechanical inventions.

Following on the heels of the Supreme Court’s 2017 TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods decision addressing patent venue, the Federal Circuit addressed patent venue in Hatch-Waxman litigation. The court explained that for the purposes of determining venue, infringement occurs only in judicial districts where actions related to the submission of an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) occur, and not in all locations where future distribution of the generic products specified in the ANDA is contemplated. This ruling may have far-reaching consequences, including the ability for ANDA defendants to effectively control venue for litigation.

Patents

  1. § 101 Decisions in 2020
  2. 2020 at the Supreme Court
  3. Arthrex Decision
  4. En Banc at the Federal Circuit – Two Contentious Denials
  5. The Federal Circuit Limits Venue for Hatch-Waxman Litigation

2021 Outlook

The Supreme Court is set to hear at least two patent cases and one copyright case this term. In The United States of America v. Arthrex, Inc., the Court will consider whether PTAB judges are unconstitutionally appointed and the other addressing whether assignor estoppel and in Minerva Surgical, Inc. v. Hologic, Inc., et al., the Court will consider whether the doctrine of assignor estoppel bars an assignor from asserting invalidity of an assigned patent in district court. A decision is also expected in Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc. on the issue of copyright ownership of application programming interfaces used in computer technology. We also expect to see many patent trials occurring toward the middle and end of 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a backlog of cases that were set to be tried and parties are likely to face pressure from Court to narrow the issues to be tried. Judge Alan Albright has also made headlines and has attracted case to the filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas. We expect even more cases to be filed this year.

Read the full report.

Amol ParikhAmol Parikh
Amol Parikh concentrates his practice on intellectual property litigation, counseling and procurement. He draws on his trial and litigation experience in combination with his engineering training to quickly identify intellectual property issues and develop creative strategies to address them. Amol’s work on behalf of clients has earned him recognition in many industry publications. Most recently, Amol was recognized in February 2019 with the International Law Office’s “2019 Client Choice Award” for Intellectual Property in Illinois. The award recognizes “excellent client care” and the “ability to add real value to clients’ business above and beyond the other players in the market,” and winners may only be nominated by corporate counsel. Read Amol Parikh's full bio.


Cecilia Choy, Ph.D.Cecilia Choy, Ph.D.
Cecilia Choy, Ph.D., focuses her practice on intellectual property matters and is a certified patent agent. Read Cecilia Choy's full bio.


Amy Mahan, PhDAmy Mahan, PhD
Amy Mahan focuses her practice on intellectual property matters in the life sciences, pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. She works on a variety of patent infringement litigation cases involving monoclonal antibody biologics, cell-based immunotherapies and small molecule drugs. Read Amy Mahan's full bio. 


Hala MouradHala Mourad
Hala Mourad focuses her practice on intellectual property litigation matters in federal district court and the US International Trade Commission. She works with clients to litigate patent cases spanning various technologies including consumer electronics, telecommunications, medical and surgical devices, materials engineering, and biotechnology. She has experience in all phases of litigation from pre-litigation investigations through trial and appeal. Read Hala Mourad's full bio.


Colin J. StalterColin J. Stalter
Colin J. Stalter focuses his practice on patent litigation, client counseling, and prosecution. He has experience working with large technology companies on complex intellectual property matters including strategic acquisitions, claim chart drafting, portfolio valuation, freedom to operate opinions, and inter partes review. Colin holds a BS in systems engineering and design, and has particular experience in the consumer electronics, telecommunications, and content delivery industries. Read Colin Stalter's full bio.


Elizabeth TeterElizabeth Teter
Elizabeth (Liz) Teter focuses her practice on complex intellectual property litigation matters. She has experience drafting pleadings, motions and appellate briefs, and discovery requests and responses and preparing clients for depositions and trials. She also maintains an active pro bono practice. Read Elizabeth Teter's full bio.

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