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A Goldilocks Dilemma: What is the “Right Amount” When Pleading Patent Infringement Cases?

Addressing the issue of pleading requirements for patent infringement cases, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit clarified that patentees need not prove their case at the pleading stage on an element-by-element basis but can plead themselves out of court by presenting facts that are inconsistent with their infringement claims. Bot M8 LLC v. Sony Corp. of Am., Case No. 20-2218 (Fed. Cir. July 13, 2021) (O’Malley, J.)

Bot M8 filed suit against Sony and alleged that Sony’s PlayStation 4 and PlayStation network infringed Bot M8’s asserted patents, which are all generally directed to casino, arcade and video games. The asserted patents describe an “authentication mechanism to verify that a game program has not been manipulated,” a “gaming machine [that stores] gaming information and a mutual authentication program on the same medium,” a “gaming device with a fault inspection system,” and a “gaming machine that changes future game conditions based on players’ prior game results.”

The district court sua sponte instructed Bot M8 to file an amended complaint, “specifying ‘every element of every claim that [Bot M8] say[s] is infringed’” and to reverse engineer Sony’s products to prove its case. Bot M8 did not challenge the district court’s order and agreed to file claim charts. Following Bot M8’s service of the first amended complaint, Sony filed a motion to dismiss, which the district court granted. On an unrelated patent, both parties filed summary judgment motions. The district court entered final judgment in favor of Sony, and Bot M8 subsequently appealed both the dismissals and the grant of summary judgment.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit emphasized that “patentees need not prove their case at the pleading stage” and thus found that the district court had erred by misapplying Iqbal and Twombly. Apparently exasperated by the need to reiterate the proper pleading standard, the Court emphasized that “[a] plaintiff is not required to plead infringement on an element-by-element basis.”

While reaffirming a standard favorable to patentees, the Federal Circuit explained that for a complaint to pass muster under Iqbal and Twombly, it still must provide sufficient factual allegations to “articulate why it is plausible that the accused product infringes the patent claim.” Thus, “a patentee may subject its claims to early dismissal by pleading facts that are inconsistent with the requirements of its claims.” The Court explained that Bot M8’s allegations conflicted with claim 1 of Bot M8’s patent. Whereas that claim required a motherboard separate from the authentication and game programs, Bot M8’s claim charts expressly alleged that “[t]he authentication program for the PlayStation 4 hard drive, operating system, and games is stored on PlayStation 4 . . . Serial Flash Memory” and that “[t]he PlayStation 4 motherboard contains flash memory.” According to the Court, it was “not even possible, much less plausible” for Bot M8 to prevail because of this inconsistency between Bot M8’s allegations and its patent with respect to the location of the authentication and game programs relative to the motherboard. By pleading “too much rather [...]

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Federal Circuit Puts Patent Infringement Award/Injunction Back in the Box

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, exploring the use of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(3) under Ninth Circuit law, affirmed a district court’s ruling setting aside a monetary damages judgment and an injunction for fraudulent misrepresentations by a corporate patent owner’s president concerning prior art. Cap Export, LLC, et al. v. Zinus, Inc., et al., Case No. 20-2087 (Fed. Cir. May 5, 2021) (Dyk, J.)

In 2016, Cap Export sued Zinus seeking a declaratory judgment that claims of a patent owned by Zinus were invalid and not infringed. Zinus countersued, alleging that Cap Export infringed its patent covering a bed frame that can be packed into the headboard for compact shipping (known as a “bed in a box”). Zinus filed a motion for partial summary judgment of no invalidity of certain claims, and the court allowed Cap Export to depose Zinus’s then-president and “testifying technical expert,” Colin Lawrie. During the deposition, Lawrie denied knowledge of the existence of prior art. The district court concluded that the claims were not invalid and entered a judgment and permanent injunction against Cap Export.

Shortly thereafter, Zinus sued another company for patent infringement, and Cap Export discovered an exhibit on the docket describing a sale to Zinus of a bed that had all of the components of the bed (except the headboard) packed inside a zippered compartment in the headboard. Cap Export contacted the third party that sold the prior art beds to Zinus and obtained an invoice bearing the signature of Lawrie, the same witness who denied knowledge of such beds during his deposition. Cap Export moved to vacate the judgment and injunction on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation under Rule 60(b)(3). After the district court granted the motion, Zinus appealed.

The Federal Circuit analyzed the issue under Ninth Circuit law, which requires evidence that the verdict was obtained through fraud, misrepresentation or other misconduct, and that the conduct prevented the losing party from fully and fairly presenting its defense. Ninth Circuit law further requires that the fraud was not discoverable by due diligence before or during the proceedings. Zinus argued that Cap Export’s counsel should have discovered the emails if they had exercised due diligence and propounded standard document requests for a patent case. Cap Export did not dispute that its written discovery served on Zinus did not specifically seek prior art and that it did not depose the inventor of the patent. Cap Export also did not dispute that although Lawrie’s deposition was taken, it was not taken under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6).

The Federal Circuit explained that the issue was not whether Cap Export’s conduct fell below the standard of care for attorneys practicing patent litigation, but rather whether a reasonable company in Cap Export’s position should have had reason to suspect the fraud—i.e., that Lawrie had testified falsely—and, if so, whether it took reasonable steps to investigate. The Court found no showing that there was reason to suspect that Lawrie’s statements were [...]

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Bad Faith Required to Prevent Speech Regarding Potential Patent Infringement

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that a district court abused its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction enjoining a patent holder from making claims of patent infringement without finding that those infringement claims were made in bad faith. The Federal Circuit reversed, vacated and remanded the district court’s decision. Myco Indus., Inc. v. BlephEx, LLC, Case No. 2019-2374 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 3, 2020) (O’Malley, J.).

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A Mixed Bag on New Rules – Juggling Copyright Preclusion and Patent Infringement

Addressing issues of copyright and patent infringement, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act did not preempt copyright protection and that patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(g) does not require that the claimed process be performed by a single entity. Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC v. Willowood, LLC, Case Nos.18-1614, -2044 (Fed. Cir., Dec. 18, 2019) (Reyna, J.).

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Notice Under § 287 Means Knowledge of Infringement, Not Knowledge of Patent

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a district court’s finding of liability for infringement that occurred prior to the filing of the action, explaining that notwithstanding the defendant’ admission that it was aware of the asserted patent, the actual notice requirement of § 287(a) is only satisfied when the recipient is informed of the identity of the patent and the activity that is believed to be an infringement. Lubby Holdings LLC v. Chung, Case No. 19-2286 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 1, 2021) (Dyk, J.) (Newman, J., dissenting in part).

Lubby Holdings sued Henry Chung for infringement of its patent relating to leak-resistant vaping products. Lubby sought damages for alleged pre-filing sales based on alleged compliance with the marking requirement of § 287. Chung raised the issue of whether Lubby’s products were properly marked as required by § 287(a), pointing to one of Lubby’s products as an example. At trial, Chung moved for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 50(a), arguing that Lubby did not meet its burden to show that it complied with the § 287 marking requirement. The jury ultimately found Chung liable for direct infringement and awarded Lubby almost $900,000. Chung renewed his motion for JMOL under Rule 50(b) and moved for a new trial under Rule 59(a). After both motions were denied, Chung appealed.

Chung argued that there was no evidence that Lubby complied with the marking or notice requirements of § 287. Lubby argued that Chung did not meet his initial burden to point to products that were sold unmarked.

The Federal Circuit explained that under § 287(a), a patentee must properly mark its articles that practice its own invention, or the patentee is not entitled to damages for patent infringement that occurred before “actual notice” was given to an alleged infringer. The Court noted that once Chung met the “low bar” burden bar under Artic Cat to “articulate the products he believed were unmarked patented articles, the burden of proving compliance with the marking requirement is on the patentee.” The Court explained that Chung met this burden by specifically pointing to Lubby’s J-Pen Starter Kit. The Court continued that the burden shifted to Lubby, and Lubby failed to present any evidence that its products were properly marked or that its products did not practice its invention. As a result, Lubby could only recover damages for the period after Chung was provided with “actual notice.”

The Federal Circuit explained that actual notice under § 287(a) requires that the recipient be informed “of the identity of the patent and the activity that is believe to be an infringement, accompanied by a proposal to abate the infringement.” The Court further explained that it is irrelevant whether the defendant knew of the patent or knew of its own infringement. As applied to this case, the Court found that it was not relevant that Lubby told Chung that he could not use the patented technology, or that Chung [...]

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Knowledge of Patent, Evidence of Infringement Are Necessary, but Not Sufficient, to Establish Willfulness

Addressing claim construction, enablement, damages and willfulness, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that evidence of a defendant’s knowledge of the asserted patent and proof of infringement were, by themselves, legally insufficient to support a finding of willfulness. Bayer Healthcare LLC v. Baxalta Inc., Case No. 19-2418 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 1, 2021) (Stoll, J.)

Bayer owns a patent on certain recombinant forms of human factor VII (FVIII), a protein that is critical for blood coagulation. Recombinant FVIII is useful as a treatment for coagulation disorders, primarily Hemophilia A. Natural FVIII has a short half-life, making therapeutic administration expensive and inconvenient. Adding polyethylene glycol (a process known as PEGylating) to FVIII at random sites was found to increase the protein’s half-life but reduce its function. Bayer invented FVIII that is PEGylated in a specific region (the B-domain) so that it retains its function and maintains the longer half-life.

After Baxalta developed a PEGylated FVIII therapeutic, Adynovate®, Bayer sued Baxalta for infringement of its patent. During claim construction, the district court construed the claim preamble “an isolated polypeptide conjugate” to mean “a polypeptide conjugate where conjugation was not random,” finding that Bayer had disclaimed conjugates with random PEGylation. The district court also construed “at the B-domain” to mean “attachment at the B-domain such that the resulting conjugate retains functional FVIII activity,” rejecting Baxalta’s proposal of “at a site that is not any amine or carboxy site in FVIII and is in the B-domain” because Bayer had not disclaimed PEGylation at amine or carboxy sites. Before trial, Baxalta moved for clarification of the term “random” in the construction of the preamble, but the district court “again” rejected Baxalta’s argument that Bayer defined “random” conjugation as “any conjugation at amines or carboxy sites.”

Before trial, Baxalta moved to exclude the testimony of Bayer’s damages expert regarding his proposed reasonable-royalty rate. The expert had defined a bargaining range and proposed to testify that the royalty rate should be the midpoint of the range based on the Nash Bargaining Solution. The district court permitted the expert to testify as to the bargaining range but excluded the opinions regarding the midpoint as insufficiently tied to the facts of the case.

After trial, the district court granted Baxalta’s pre-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) of no willful infringement. Subsequently, the jury returned a verdict that the claims were infringed and not invalid for non-enablement, and awarded damages based on an approximately 18% royalty rate for the period for which the parties had presented sales information. Baxalta moved for JMOL or a new trial on infringement, enablement and damages. Bayer moved for pre-verdict supplemental damages for the period between the presented sales data and the date of judgment, and for a new trial on the issue of willfulness. The district court denied all of Baxalta’s motions and Bayer’s motion for new trial, but granted Bayer’s motion for supplemental damages, applying the jury’s ~18% rate to sales data for the later period. [...]

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Patent Owner’s Disavowal of Appeal from District Court’s Noninfringement Judgment Moots IPR Appeal

Addressing the standard for mootness in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings following a district court noninfringement judgment, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that a petitioner’s IPR appeal was moot after the patent owner decided not to appeal the final judgment of noninfringement. ABS Global, Inc. v. Cytonome/ST, LLC, Case No. 19-2051 (Fed. Cir., Jan. 6, 2021) (Stoll, J.) (Prost, C.J., dissenting in part).

In June 2017, Cytonome/ST filed a complaint against ABS asserting infringement of six patents, including the patent of interest in this case. ABS filed a petition for IPR of all claims of the patent. In April 2019, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB, the Board) issued its final written decision invalidating certain claims of the patent. Two weeks later, the district court granted ABS partial summary judgment, holding that the accused products did not infringe any of the asserted patent’s claims. In June 2019, ABS appealed the PTAB’s final written decision. In a briefing before the Federal Circuit, Cytonome/ST’s counsel filed an affidavit stating that Cytonome/ST “has elected not to pursue an appeal of the district court’s finding of non-infringement as to the patent and hereby disclaims such an appeal.” In June 2020, the district court entered final judgment, including as to non-infringement of the patent.

The Federal Circuit dismissed ABS’ appeal of the PTAB’s final written decision on the ground that the appeal was moot in view of the district court’s non-infringement judgment. The Court characterized the question as one under the voluntary-cessation doctrine. In the context of intellectual property infringement cases, the voluntary-cessation doctrine requires the property owner claiming mootness to prove that the “allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur,” i.e., that it will not assert the intellectual property right against the same accused products again. If it does, the burden shifts to the accused infringer to show that it “engages in or has sufficiently concrete plans to engage in activities” that would not be covered by the property owner’s non-assertion decision.

Applying the doctrine, the Federal Circuit concluded that Cytonome/ST could not reasonably be expected to assert infringement of the patent against ABS because ABS had already secured a district court judgment that the accused products do not infringe and Cytonome/ST disclaimed any appeal of the non-infringement judgment. In effect, ABS was insulated from liability for infringement, including for future infringement for products that are “essentially the same” as ABS’ currently accused products pursuant to the Kessler doctrine. Further, the Court found that ABS had not demonstrated it could reasonably expect Cytonome/ST to sue it for infringement of the patent in the future as ABS had not shown it had current or concrete future plans to engage in activities not covered by Cytonome/ST’s disavowal: “Cytonome’s disavowal of its right to appeal the summary judgment of noninfringement ‘estops Cytonome from asserting liability against ABS for infringement of the…patent claims in connection with the accused products, thereby allowing ABS to make, use, and sell those products [...]

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NDA Forum Selection Clause Doesn’t Bar IPR in Response to Subsequent Infringement Suit

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction that would have forced the accused infringer to seek dismissal of its petitions for inter partes review (IPR) based on a forum-selection clause in an earlier nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Kannuu Pty Ltd. v. Samsung Elects. Co, Ltd., Case No. 21-1638 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 7, 2021) (Chen, J.) (Newman, J., dissenting).

Kannuu is a start-up that develops media-related products, including certain remote control search-and-navigation technology. Samsung explored licensing the technology and entered into an NDA with Kannuu. The NDA included a forum-selection clause, which stated that any legal action “arising out of or relating to this Agreement or the transactions contemplated hereby must be instituted exclusively” in a New York state or federal court. The negotiations were unsuccessful. Several years later, Kannuu sued Samsung for alleged infringement of five patents relating to the same technology and alleged breach of the NDA. Samsung petitioned for IPR of the five patents, and two of the petitions resulted in institution. Kannuu filed for a preliminary injunction to force Samsung to dismiss the IPRs that had been instituted. The district court denied the preliminary injunction. Kannuu appealed.

The Federal Circuit determined that the district court had not abused its discretion in denying the preliminary injunction, distinguishing between an NDA (which relates to confidentiality) and a patent license agreement (which relates to patent rights). The Court explained that because the forum selection clause was in an NDA, patent infringement defenses did not “arise out of or relate to this Agreement or the transactions contemplated thereby.” In other words, the patent infringement defenses were too attenuated from the subject matter of the NDA to be governed by the forum selection clause therein. The Court noted that whether any patent claim was held invalid would not affect Kannuu’s breach of contract claim arising from an alleged breach of the NDA.

In dissent, Judge Pauline Newman reasoned that a patent license was one of the “transactions contemplated” by the NDA. Therefore, she would have found that the patent infringement defenses were within the scope of the forum selection provision of the NDA.

Practice Note: The Federal Circuit noted how a failed licensing negotiation commonly leads to a subsequent infringement suit. Parties should craft provisions of the NDA regarding forum selection and related issues (e.g., choice of laws) to explicitly include or exclude potential infringement litigation from their scope.




Failing to Address All Reasons for Noninfringement Renders Appeal Moot

In deciding whether the district court correctly interpreted various claim terms in four patents related to communication techniques used in computer gaming technology, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that rendering a decision as to the terms for at least two of the patents would be moot. Accordingly, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on noninfringement. Acceleration Bay LLC v. Take-Two Interactive Software (Oct. 4, 2021) (Reyna, J.)

Acceleration Bay is the owner of four unrelated patents that are generally directed to communication techniques associated with computer gaming. In particular, certain of the patents teach that an originating computer sends a message to its neighbors on a broadcast channel using point-to-point connections, and that the neighboring computers then sends the message to only their neighboring connections. This reduces the number of connections that each computer must maintain and improves efficiency in the system.

Acceleration Bay filed a patent infringement suit claiming that Take-Two Interactive Software, a software designer for various video games, including Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K15 and NBA 2K16, directly infringed the four asserted patents. As part of the district court proceedings, multiple terms recited in the claims of the four patents were construed. In particular, the court construed the claim term “m-regular” to mean “a state that the network is configured to maintain, where each participant is connected to exactly m neighbor participants.” Additionally, the court effectively embedded this definition of “m-regular” into other construed claim terms, including “fully connected portal computer” and “each participant being connected to three or more other participants.”

After claim construction, the district court granted summary judgment of noninfringement in favor of Take-Two on all asserted patents. In granting summary judgment, the court observed that Take-Two makes software, not computer networks or broadcast channels, and therefore its customers must introduce those elements. As such, direct infringement is inappropriate because multiple entities, not just Take-Two, contribute to the allegedly infringing system. The court rejected Acceleration Bay’s argument under Centrak, Inc. v. Sonitor Techs., Inc. that Take-Two was actually the “final assembler” because it installed the software for its customers. The court additionally identified multiple reasons why the “m-regular” limitation was not met in the accused products, including the fact that Acceleration Bay identified no source code to support its theory. Acceleration Bay appealed.

With respect to two of the four patents on appeal, Take-Two argued that Acceleration Bay’s appeal is moot because it only addressed one of the two reasons the district court granted summary judgment of noninfringement. Specifically, the court granted summary judgment on these two patents because (1) the accused products do not meet the “m-regular” limitation and (2) Acceleration Bay’s “final assembler” theory fails as a matter of law. On appeal, Acceleration Bay addressed only the “final assembler” theory. As such, the Federal Circuit found that a ruling on this issue would not affect the court’s summary judgment ruling, and the appeal of these two patents is [...]

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Induced Infringement Finding May Support Willfulness Finding

In a redux visit, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the record compelled reversal of a district court’s refusal to reinstate a jury’s willful infringement verdict and enhanced damages award but affirmed an attorneys’ fees award, taking into account the finding of willful infringement. SRI International, Inc. v Cisco Systems, Inc., Case Nos. 20-1685; -1704 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 28, 2021) (Stoll, J.)

This is the second appeal in the case. In the first appeal, the Federal Circuit found that the record was insufficient to establish that Cisco’s conduct before May 2012 (when Cisco became aware of the asserted patents) rose to the level of wanton, malicious and bad faith behavior required for willful infringement. In view of the finding, the Court concluded that Cisco could not have willfully infringed and therefore vacated the district court’s enhancement of damages for pre-May 2012 conduct. As for post-2012 conduct, the Court remanded the case to the district court to decide in the first instance whether the jury’s finding of willful infringement after May 8, 2012, (the date Cisco received notice) was supported by substantial evidence. The Court also vacated the district court’s decision to award SRI its attorneys’ fees and remanded for recalculation. On remand, the district court interpreted the original Federal Circuit opinion as requiring a more stringent standard willful infringement and concluded that substantial evidence did not support the jury verdict of willful infringement after May 8, 2012. SRI appealed.

In the second appeal, the Federal Circuit determined whether the record demonstrated that substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict of willful infringement after May 2021. In analyzing willful infringement, the Court reviewed the instructions provided to the jury on induced infringement:

“Defendant is liable for active inducement only if plaintiff proves by a preponderance of the evidence” that, among other things, (1) “Defendant took some action intending to encourage or instruct its customers to perform acts that you, the jury, find would directly infringe”; and (2) “Defendant was aware of the asserted patents at the time of the alleged conduct and knew that its customer’s acts (if taken) would constitute infringement of an asserted patent.”

The Federal Circuit found that the jury considered the evidence provided by SRI in view of the instructions on induced infringement and that Cisco induced infringement of the asserted claims. Acknowledging that the standard for induced infringement is different than that for willful infringement, the Court nevertheless found that the jury’s unchallenged finding related to induced infringement (i.e., Cisco did not challenge the jury’s findings on appeal) and, combined with Cisco’s lack of reasonable defenses to infringement, was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict of post-2012 willful infringement. Since Cisco was found to have willfully infringed on the asserted patents, the Court determined that SRI was entitled to enhanced damages.




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