One for All, and All for One . . . Except When It Comes to Patent License Comparability

By on September 30, 2021
Posted In Patents

Examining whether portfolio patent licenses can be sufficiently comparable to a single-patent license for the purposes of supporting a patent damages verdict, a split panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded that, at least without accounting for distinguishing features, the answer is no. Omega Patents, LLC v. CalAmp Corp., Case No. 20-1793 (Fed. Cir., Sept. 14, 2021) (Prost, J.)

The most recent decision was the result of a second jury trial, after the Federal Circuit previously ordered a new trial. At issue in this appeal were certain direct-infringement findings, admission of technical expert testimony and the underlying damages determination. Multiple errors were raised regarding the latter, the most significant of which was the court’s apportionment analysis.

At trial, the jury awarded a royalty of $5 per unit to Omega for CalAmp’s infringement of a single patent that covered multi-vehicle tracking units. On appeal, CalAmp contended that patent damages law required apportionment, and that the evidence was insufficient to support apportionment. Judge Prost, joined by Judge Dyk, agreed, while Judge Hughes dissented in part.

First, the Federal Circuit rejected Omega’s argument that apportionment was unnecessary because all parts of the infringing units were covered by the claims. According to the Court, even where all elements of the infringing unit are claimed, a patentee still must approximate the value of the patented features as compared to the conventional, pre-existing elements. Thus, the jury could not, as a matter of law, merely value the entire unit.

Next, the Federal Circuit held that Omega could not rely on the entire-market-value rule to support its damages verdict. That rule permits a patentee to value the infringement where the patented feature drove demand for the entire product. But on the record here, it was undisputed that other conventional elements contributed to sales of the underlying product. At most, the record indicated that the patent technology was important or helpful—which was insufficient to show that it actually drove sales.

Lastly, Omega contended that its royalty was supported by licensing evidence, which included (1) Omega’s president’s testimony that its policy was to license its entire portfolio for a certain amount regardless of the number of patents included at the time of licensing, and (2) 18 license agreements consummated by Omega, some of which included the patent at issue. For both items, the Federal Circuit found evidence of apportionment lacking. To the first claim (i.e., that Omega would not have hypothetically licensed on a patent-by-patent basis), the Court concluded that crediting such testimony would serve as an end-run around the apportionment requirement because it did not approximate the value of the specific patent at issue. So too with the 18 license agreements, many of which identified a portfolio that included almost 50 additional patents. And although the damages expert identified the portfolio feature as distinguishing, the expert’s failure to explain how to separate out the value of the individually asserted patent was fatal.

In dissent, Judge Hughes would have permitted the conventional, more flexible analysis that allows a patentee to rely on comparable, although not identical, licenses to establish an appropriate royalty. Highlighting that the royalty calculation must be only reasonable, Judge Hughes found the record sufficient to uphold the jury’s royalty determination.

Practice Note: This case presents a challenge for patentees seeking to rely on portfolio licenses as comparable valuations for cases asserting less than a complete portfolio.

Christopher M. BrunoChristopher M. Bruno
Christopher M. Bruno focuses his practice on intellectual property litigation matters (i.e., patent, trade secrets, and related contract disputes) in the US Supreme Court, the US International Trade Commission, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as well as various district courts around the country. Read Christopher M. Bruno's full bio.

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