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It’s Good to Be the Sovereign, Unless You Have an Exclusive Licensee

Addressing the interaction between state sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment and joinder under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a “fractured majority” of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined that an exclusive licensee could proceed with suit even though state sovereign immunity prohibited involuntary joinder of the patent owner. Gensetix, Inc. v. The Board of Regents of the University of Texas System, Case No. 19-1424 (Fed. Cir. July 24, 2020) (O’Malley, J.) (Newman, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (Taranto, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). In 2014, Gensetix indirectly licensed two patents covering cancer treatment methods from the University of Texas (UT), a state university. A subsequent confirmation between Gensetix and UT confirmed Gensetix’s exclusive license to the patents-in-suit, which required Gensetix to sue potential infringers and gave UT a secondary right to sue if Gensetix did not...

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PTAB May Reject Substitute Claims Under Any Basis of Patentability

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit considered for the first time whether a district court’s invalidity determination, when made final after all appeals are exhausted, divests the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of jurisdiction in a co-pending inter partes review (IPR) proceeding involving the same claims, and held that it does not. The Court also held that in an IPR proceeding, the PTAB is free to reject proposed substitute claims for failing to meet the subject matter eligibility requirements of § 101. Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Hulu, LLC, Case No. 19-1686 (Fed. Cir. July 22, 2020) (Wallach, J.) (Dyk, J., dissenting). Hulu filed an IPR petition challenging claims of Uniloc’s patent directed to adjustable software licensing for digital products. After the PTAB instituted review, Uniloc filed a motion for substitute claims, conditional on whether the PTAB found the original claims unpatentable. Before the PTAB issued its final determination and...

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Eighth Circuit Cools Off Antitrust Claims Based on Alleged Patent Fraud

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a grant of summary judgment dismissing antitrust and tortious interference claims based on fraudulent procurement of patents where the plaintiff failed to show a knowing and willful intent to deceive the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Inline Packaging, LLC v. Graphic Packaging International, LLC, Case No. 18-3167 (8th Cir. June 18, 2020) (Smith, J.). Inline Packaging and Graphic Packaging are manufacturers of susceptor packaging, a specialized food packaging used for microwaving frozen foods. Graphic developed the susceptor design in partnership with Nestlé in 2005. The packaging was redesigned from a prior patent obtained several years earlier. Although Graphic’s computer-aided design drafter was listed as the sole inventor of the redesigned packaging claimed in the asserted patent, Nestlé’s engineer provided feedback that was implemented into the design, including the addition and deletion of...

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Unnamed Respondent Has Standing to Seek Rescission of ITC General Exclusion Order

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a US International Trade Commission (ITC) decision denying a petition for rescission of a general exclusion order (GEO) prohibiting importation of products accused of patent infringement, because a post-investigation invalidity attack is not a changed condition warranting rescission. Mayborn Grp., Ltd. v. Int’l Trade Comm’n, Case No. 19-2077 (Fed. Cir. July 16, 2020) (Lourie, J.). Several parties filed a complaint at the ITC against several respondents, not including Mayborn Group, Ltd., and Mayborn USA, Inc. The complaint alleged infringement of a patent disclosing a self-anchoring beverage container that prevents spills. The complainants sought a GEO barring importation of infringing goods by any party, including unnamed respondents such as Mayborn. In contrast to GEOs, limited exclusion orders only prohibit infringing goods imported by named respondents in an investigation. The ITC instituted an...

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Independently Performed, Publicly Disclosed Prior Work Can Lead to Joint Inventorship

Addressing an inventorship decision that added two co-inventors to patents covering cancer treatments, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed that the co-inventors’ work constituted joint inventorship even though it was performed independently and publicly disclosed prior to conception of the claimed invention. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute v. Ono Pharma. Co., Ltd., Case No. 19-2050 (Fed. Cir. July 14, 2020) (Lourie, J.). In 2015, Dana-Farber filed an inventorship correction claim seeking to add two of its researchers as inventors to six patents covering cancer treatments that named inventors who had assigned the patents to Ono Pharmaceutical. After an eight-day bench trial, the district court judge issued a 111-page decision agreeing that Dana-Farber’s researchers were joint inventors for all six patents. Ono appealed. Ono first argued that, as a matter of law, the contributions from Dana-Farber’s researchers were too far removed from the...

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Delicate Balance: Details of Parallel Proceeding Tip Scales for Discretionary Denial

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) designated two decisions informative as they relate to weighing factors for determining how a parallel district court proceeding may impact the Board’s determination of whether to discretionarily deny institution under § 314(a). In Apple Inc. v. Fintiv, Inc., Case No. IPR2020-00019, Paper 15 (USPTO May 13, 2020) (Horner, APJ) (designated informative on July 13, 2020), the Board had previously requested supplemental briefing in a pre-institution order in this case (itself now designated by the Board as precedential) regarding six factors for weighing the impact of the parallel district court proceeding on whether to discretionarily deny institution. As to factor (1), whether the district court action is stayed or evidence exists that a stay may be issued, the Board weighed this factor as neutral because neither party had requested a stay and the district court had given no indication as to whether it would entertain a...

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Joined Parties Have Rights Too

In vacating an unpatentability decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the rights of a joined party to an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding applies to the entirety of the proceedings and includes the right of appeal. Fitbit, Inc. v. Valencell, Inc., Case No. 19-1048 (Fed. Cir. July 8, 2020) (Newman, J.). Apple petitioned the Board for IPR of certain claims of a patent owned by Valencell. The Board granted the petition in part, instituting review of certain claims and denying review of other claims. After institution of the Apple IPR, Fitbit filed an IPR petition for the instituted claims and moved for joinder with Apple’s IPR. The Board granted Fitbit’s petition, granted the motion for joinder and terminated Fitbit’s separate proceeding. After the Apple/Fitbit IPR hearing, but before any Final Written Decision was issued, the Supreme Court decided SAS Institute v. Iancu (IP Update,...

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Third Parties Not Responsible for Defective Motion to Seal

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that a district court did not abuse its discretion in denying reconsideration of a previous order denying a litigant’s defective motion to seal  with regard to the litigant’s own information, but vacated and remanded for further consideration with regard to third-party information. Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Apple, Inc., Case Nos. 19-1922, -1923, -1925, ‑1926 (Fed. Cir. July 9, 2020) (Mayer, J.). Uniloc sued Apple for patent infringement in the Northern District of California. Apple moved to dismiss. The briefing on the motion included material that Uniloc had designated as highly confidential. Both parties filed motions to seal. Uniloc’s motions to seal covered quotations from published opinions and matters of public record, among other things. Uniloc’s supporting declarations included only boilerplate assertions of harm from disclosure. Non-party Electronic Frontier Foundation asked Uniloc to narrow its...

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Technical Issues Affirm Patent Validity but Preclude Pre-Suit Damages

In a split decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the subject matter eligibility of claims directed to collection, comparison and classification of information. The Court also unanimously found that the patent owner was not entitled to pre-suit or enhanced damages because it failed to prove pre-suit patent marking by its licensees. Packet Intelligence LLC v. Netscout Systems, Inc., Case No. 19-2041 (Fed. Cir. July 14, 2020) (Lourie, J.) (Reyna, J., dissenting in part). This dispute began when Packet Intelligence sued Netscout for infringing three of its patents that were directed to a system and method for monitoring packets exchanged over a computer network. The case was tried before a jury, which found the patents-in-suit valid and infringed. The jury further determined that Packet Intelligence was entitled to pre-suit and post-suit damages, as well as enhanced damages. Netscout filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law that...

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Patent Owners Beware: Serial Filings, Rent-Seeking May Be Grounds for Adverse Fee Award

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded a district court’s denial of attorney’s fees to an accused infringer, finding the district court did not properly consider the Patent Owner’s manner of litigation, including the history of plaintiff’s actions in other jurisdictions and the broader context of its litigation practices. Elec. Commc'n Techs., LLC v. ShoppersChoice.com, LLC, Case No. 19-2087 (Fed. Cir. July 1, 2020) (Wallach, J.). Following a finding by a Florida district court that a patent asserted by Electronic Communication Technologies (ECT) was ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101, ShoppersChoice filed a motion for attorney’s fees, citing ECT’s use of standardized demand letters and repeated infringement actions seeking nuisance-value settlements. ShoppersChoice also informed the district court of a recent award of attorney’s fees against ECT in the Central District of California (the True Grit decision) for conduct relating to...

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