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Only under Rare Circumstances Can the Patent Trial & Appeal Board Find Proposed Substitute Claims Unpatentable on Its Own

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit addressed, for the first time, the issue of when the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) may raise a ground of unpatentability that was not advanced by a petitioner in relation to proposed substitute claims. The Court upheld the standard defining the “rare circumstances” in which such a ruling is proper while questioning the Board’s reasoning and application of the standard. Hunting Titan, Inc. v. DynaEnergetics Europe GMBH, Case Nos. 20-2163; -2191 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 24, 2022) (Prost, C.J., Reyna, Hughes, JJ.) (Prost, C.J., concurring).

Hunting Titan challenged DynaEnergetics’ patent in an inter partes review (IPR) based on anticipation and obviousness grounds. The Board found all the original claims of the patent unpatentable as anticipated. DynaEnergetics moved to amend to add proposed substitute claims. Hunting Titan opposed the motion to amend but advanced only obviousness grounds against the proposed substitute claims. The Board determined sua sponte that the proposed substitute claims were unpatentable as anticipated and, therefore, denied the motion to amend. DynaEnergetics requested rehearing, and the Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) reversed the Board’s denial of the motion to amend and determined that Hunting Titan did not prove that the proposed substitute claims were unpatentable.

The POP decided that “only under rare circumstances” should the Board sua sponte raise a ground for unpatentability not advanced by the petitioner in relation to proposed substitute claims. The rare circumstances include only two situations:

  1. When the petitioner is not involved in the motion to amend, such as when a petitioner chooses not to oppose the motion or ceases to participate in the proceeding altogether
  2. When evidence of unpatentability is readily identifiable and persuasive, such as if the substitute claims are unpatentable for the same reasons as the original claims.

The POP stated that in most circumstances, it is best to rely on the adversarial system and expect the petitioner to raise the unpatentability grounds for consideration.

The Federal Circuit upheld the POP’s standard for when the Board may sua sponte find proposed substitute claims unpatentable but also found the POP’s reasoning “problematic” because it placed too much emphasis on the adversarial system. The Court noted that Board proceedings, such as IPRs, are fundamentally a review of an earlier administrative proceeding, as opposed to civil litigation, The POP’s rationale was based on the public interest being served by an adversarial system rather than on the public interest being served by maintaining integrity of the patent system.

The Federal Circuit also questioned the POP’s application of its new standard to the case at hand, noting that the readily identifiable evidence exception should have been applied when the Board found the proposed substitute claims unpatentable for the same reasons it found the original claims to be unpatentable.

In her concurring opinion, Chief Judge Prost noted that “[i]t makes little sense to limit the [Board], in its role within the agency responsible for issuing patents, to the petitioner’s arguments.” Instead, “the Board must determine whether the [...]

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Outlier? Split Federal Circuit Denies En Banc Review of Written Description Requirement

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied a patent owner’s request for en banc rehearing of a panel decision that invalidated a patent for lack of written description on the basis that a person of skill in the art would not be able to recognize the clinical efficacy of the claimed dose and thus would not recognize that the inventors were in possession of the claimed invention at filing. Biogen International GMBH, Biogen MA, Inc. v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc., Case No. 20-1933 (Fed. Cir. March 16, 2022) (per curiam) (Moore, C.J., Lourie, Newman, JJ., dissenting).

Biogen owns a patent relating to the drug Tecfidera®. The patent claims a method of treating multiple sclerosis with dimethyl fumarate (DMF) at a specific dose of 480 mg per day via oral administration (DMF480). In the written description, the patent describes a method for treating a neurological disease using DMF and states that the neurological disease can be multiple sclerosis. The patent discloses that an effective dose of DMF for oral administration can be “from about 0.1 g to 1 g per day, 200 mg to about 800 mg per day (e.g., from about 240 mg to about 720 mg per day, or from about 480 mg to about 720 mg per day; or about 720 mg per day).”

Biogen sued Mylan for infringement after Mylan submitted an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) for a generic version of Tecfidera®. Mylan challenged the validity of the patent based on lack of written description. The district court invalidated the patent, finding that the claimed method lacked written description support because the DMF480 dose was listed only once in the specification and finding that the specification’s focus on basic research and broad DMF-dosage ranges showed that the inventors did not possess a therapeutically effective DMF480 dose at the time of filing. Biogen appealed.

In a 2–1 panel decision, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court finding, explaining that “a skilled artisan would not have recognized, based on the single passing reference to a DMF480 dose in the disclosure, that DMF480 would have been efficacious in the treatment of MS, particularly because the specification’s only reference to DMF480 was part of a wide DMF-dosage range and not listed as an independent therapeutically efficacious dose.”

Judge O’Malley issued a dissenting opinion, questioning whether the district court erred in requesting clinical data showing efficacy of the claimed DMF480 dose under the written description context.

Biogen timely petitioned for en banc review, raising two questions:

  1. Must a “written description” prove the invention’s efficacy?
  2. Is there a need to repeatedly emphasize elements of the invention in order to satisfy the written description requirement?

The Federal Circuit issued a 6–3 decision denying the en banc petition. Judge Lourie wrote in dissent, joined by Chief Judge Moore and Judge Newman, calling this case “an outlier” at “the farthest end of the spectrum of cases where written description has not been found” given that every claim limitation was expressly described [...]

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Patent Venue Statute Doesn’t Apply to Third-Party Counterclaim Defendant; Acts in Furtherance of Partnership May Be Imputed to Partner for Venue Purposes

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s determination of proper venue, finding that the patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), does not apply to a third-party counterclaim defendant and that acts done by separate entities in furtherance of a partnership can be imputed to a partner for purposes of venue determination. The Federal Circuit also affirmed and reversed jury verdicts of adequate written description and patent co-ownership. BASF Plant Sci., LP v. Commonwealth Sci. and Indus. Rsch. Org., Case Nos. 20-1415; -1416; -1919; -1920 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 15, 2022) (Newman, Taranto, Chen, JJ.) (Newman, J., dissenting).

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), a research arm of the Australian government, owns six patents directed to the engineering of plants, particularly canola, to produce specified oils not native to the plants. BASF Plant Science is a plant biotechnology company. CSIRO and BASF each explored genetic modification of familiar oilseed crop plants, such as canola, to get them to produce omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs), commonly known as “fish oil,” that could be fed to farm-raised fish and are beneficial to human health. In 2007, CSIRO and BASF discussed a focused collaboration and in 2008 entered into a two-year Materials Transfer and Evaluation Agreement (MTEA) to advance that goal. In 2010, following the conclusion of the MTEA, CSIRO partnered with another Australian government entity, Grains Research and Development Corporation, and private company, Nuseed, to commercialize its products. CSIRO granted Nuseed an exclusive license to CSIRO’s LCPUFA technology and patents. In 2011, BASF entered into a commercialization agreement with Cargill. BASF developed a canola seed line that it used to apply for regulatory approvals, which Cargill used in cross-breeding work. As part of the joint project, BASF deposited seeds with the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) to support BASF’s patent applications.

During this period, BASF and CSIRO entered negotiations for BASF to take a license to CSIRO’s LCPUFA technology, but the negotiations broke down. In 2016, Nuseed sent Cargill a letter identifying multiple CSIRO patents and inviting Cargill to discuss CSIRO’s omega-3 patent portfolio. In April 2017, BASF sued Nuseed in the District of Delaware, seeking a declaratory judgment that BASF did not infringe certain CSIRO patents listed in the 2016 letter. The District of Delaware dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.

In 2017, BASF filed a declaratory judgment action in the Eastern District of Virginia against CSIRO, Nuseed and Grains Research (collectively, CSIRO). CSIRO filed an answer and counterclaims asserting infringement of the asserted patents against BASF and Cargill. BASF entered the case as a party and asserted co-ownership of the asserted patents under the MTEA. Cargill moved to dismiss the counterclaims for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. The district court denied the motion, determining that it had personal jurisdiction over Cargill and that venue was proper. Cargill did not dispute that it had a regular and established place of business in the Eastern District of Virginia but argued that it [...]

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Eighth Circuit Defends Use of Term “Patent Troll,” Vacates Injunction against Infringement Defendant

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated an injunction restraining defendants from engaging in certain allegedly harassing conduct because there was no evidence tying the defendants to the alleged misconduct and reassigned the case to a new district judge to obviate any doubts about the judge’s impartiality. Tumey v. Mycroft AI, Inc., Case No. 21-1975 (8th Cir. Mar. 4, 2022) (Erickson, J.)

Tod Tumey is a lawyer who represents Voice Tech Corporation in patent litigation against Mycroft AI, an open-source network focusing on voice assistance technology. Tumey separately sued Mycroft on his own behalf, alleging that Mycroft retaliated against him for representing Voice Tech by launching or inspiring a series of cyberattacks, hacking attempts and harassing phone calls (“heavy-breathing phone calls”) against Tumey, his law firm and his family.

Mycroft had publicized its involvement in the underlying patent litigation and shared negative views about “bogus patents” and “patent trolls,” including statements that it is “better to be aggressive and ‘stab, shoot, and hang’ them, then dissolve them in acid.” Mycroft posted on its blog links to Tumey’s “confidential correspondence,” as well as documents in the underlying patent infringement lawsuit. Mycroft also posted updates on litigation developments with headlines such as “Mycroft Defeats Patent Trolls … Again … For Now.” The company cautioned patent trolls to “stay away” from Mycroft because “You’ll get your ass kicked,” and posted that “Rather than pay the troll toll, we decided to accept the fight.” In the underlying patent litigation, Voice Tech moved for an order requiring decorous and civil conduct by the parties, including a request that Mycroft cease using the term “patent troll.” The district court granted the order, which Mycroft viewed as sufficiently narrow and limited in scope such that it was willing to comply with the restrictions rather than appeal.

In the case brought on his own behalf, Tumey sought a temporary restraining order or, in the alternative, a preliminary injunction to prevent the cyberattacks, phishing and harassing phone calls that he and his family were experiencing and for which Tumey believed Mycroft was responsible. Mycroft opposed the proposed temporary restraining order (TRO), arguing that there was no evidence to attribute any of the alleged conduct to Mycroft. Mycroft also submitted sworn declarations averring that no one associated with Mycroft was involved in cyberattacks or harassment. The district court set a teleconference on the “Motion for Temporary Restraining Order.” About an hour before the set time for the hearing, Tumey circulated to the court and counsel a new proposed order, now styled as a preliminary injunction (PI). At the hearing, Mycroft objected to converting the request for a TRO to a PI hearing. The district court overruled the objection and heard testimony from several witnesses, including Tumey and that of an expert retained by Tumey who testified that he had not found any forensic evidence to attribute any of the cyberattacks or harassment to anyone associated with Mycroft. When Tumey was asked about the results of the expert’s [...]

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Federal Circuit Won’t Rescue Parachute Patent

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) decision that claims to a ballistic parachute were obvious over the prior art based on knowledge attributable to artisans and denying the patentee’s motion to substitute proposed amended claims, finding that they lacked written description. Fleming v. Cirrus Design Corp., Case No. 21-1561 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 10, 2022) (Lourie, Hughes, Stoll, JJ.)

Cirrus Design filed a petition for inter partes review on certain claims of Fleming’s patent related to ballistic parachute systems on an aircraft. The challenged claims relate to an autopilot system that increases the aircraft’s pitch, reduces the aircraft’s roll or changes the aircraft’s altitude when a ballistic parachute deployment request is made. Fleming moved to amend some of the challenged claims, effectively cancelling those claims. In its final written decision, the Board found the remaining original claims obvious over the prior art and found that the amended claims lacked written description and were indefinite. Fleming appealed both the obviousness determination and the denial of the motion to amend.

Fleming argued that the Board’s obviousness determination was incorrect because the prior art did not disclose the commands to the autopilot to alter the aircraft’s pitch, roll or altitude. The Board acknowledged that neither of the primary prior references included the claimed commands upon the receipt of a deployment request, but nevertheless, concluded that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have had the motivation to combine the prior art disclosures to arrive at the claimed invention. The Federal Circuit concluded that the Board’s findings were supported by substantial evidence, citing to the Supreme Court’s 2007 KSR decision for the proposition that it is appropriate to consider a person of ordinary skill in the art’s knowledge, creativity and common sense, so long as they do not replace reasoned analysis and evidentiary support. Here the Court noted with approval the Board’s finding that aircraft autopilots are programmable and can perform flight maneuvers and deploy a parachute. The Court also noted that an artisan would have understood that certain maneuvers, such as stabilizing at an appropriate altitude, should be performed prior to deploying a whole-aircraft parachute. The Board concluded that a person of ordinary skill in the art would be motivated to reprogram the autopilot to take Fleming’s proposed actions prior to releasing the parachute to improve safety outcomes.

Fleming also appealed the Board’s rejection of his argument that the prior art taught away from claimed invention because a person of ordinary skill in the art would deem the combination unsafe. He argued that the prior art taught that autopilot systems should not be used in the sort of emergency situations that would lead to the deployment of a ballistic parachute. The Board rejected that argument, and the Federal Circuit found that the substantial evidence supported the Board’s determination that the prior art did not teach that a person of ordinary skill in the art would never use an autopilot system during [...]

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Apply That Formulation: Presumption of Obviousness Based on Overlapping Ranges

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found a method of treatment claims pertaining to topical formulations to be obvious, applying the presumption of obviousness of overlapping ranges theory. Almirall, LLC v. Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC & Amneal Pharmaceuticals of New York, LLC, Case No. 020-2331 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 14, 2022) (Lourie, Chen, Cunningham, JJ.)

Almirall’s patent generally claims methods of treating acne or rosacea with formulations containing certain concentrations or concentration ranges of dapsone and acryloyldimethyl taurate (a type of thickening agent known as A/SA). The claims also contain a negative claim limitation of “wherein the topical composition does not comprise adapalene.”

In a final written decision, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) relied on three main references in its finding that the challenged claims would have been obvious. One reference (Garrett) disclosed dapsone formulations with a different type of thickening agent (Carbopol®). Garrett did not disclose any formulations that contained adapalene. Another reference (Nadau-Fourcade) described formulations containing exemplary types of thickeners, including both Carbopol® and A/SA agents. The last reference (Bonacucina) disclosed dispersions containing sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate that can be used for topical administration. All three references disclosed formulations with thickening agents within the claimed ranges.

The Board applied a presumption of obviousness based on the overlapping ranges of the thickening agents and ultimately concluded that it would have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art (POISTA) to substitute the A/SA agents taught in either Nadau-Fourcade or Bonacucina for the Carbopol® agent disclosed in Garrett. The Board found that the claimed range of thickening agents overlapped with Garrett, Nadau-Fourcade and Bonacucina. The Board also relied on an expert presented by Amneal who testified that a POSITA would have appreciated that the different gelling agents are interchangeable to find a reasonable expectation of success in terms of a rationale for combing the prior art.

Almirall appealed, contending that the Board erred in presuming obviousness based on the overlapping ranges found in the prior art references. Almirall argued that the presumption of obviousness only applies when a single reference discloses all the claimed ranges, whereas the Board relied on different references to create the presumption (Garrett with either Nadau-Fourcade or Bonacucina). Citing the evidence showing the interchangeability of the two different types of thickeners, the Federal Circuit found that the Board did not err in applying the presumption, citing to its 2018 case of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Synvina: “[t]he point of our overlapping range cases is that, in the absence of evidence indicating that there is something special or critical about the claimed range, an overlap suffices to show that the claimed range was disclosed in—and therefore obvious in light of—the prior art.” The Court also noted that this case did not turn on the presumption, since the combination of prior art was simply involved the substitution of one known thickening agent for another as there was no evidence to challenge the substitutability.

The Federal Circuit [...]

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Hypothetical Device Doesn’t Meet Domestic Industry Requirement

In a consolidated appeal from the International Trade Commission (Commission) and two inter partes review (IPR) proceedings before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Commission’s findings that a hypothetical device does not meet the domestic industry requirement, as well as findings by the Board and the Commission that asserted claims of the involved patents were invalid as obvious. Broadcom Corp. v. ITC, Case Nos. 20-2008; 21-1260, -1362, -1511 (Mar. 8, 2022) (Lourie, Hughes, Stoll, JJ.)

Broadcom filed a complaint at the Commission alleging a violation of 19 U.S.C. § 1337 based on products imported by many respondents, including Renesas Electronics, that allegedly infringed two patents. The first patent is directed to reducing power consumption in computer systems, and the second patent is directed to a memory access unit that improves upon conventional methods of requesting data located at different addresses within a shared memory. The Commission’s administrative law judge issued an initial determination that Broadcom failed to satisfy the technical prong of the domestic industry requirement for the power consumption patent and that one of the asserted claims of the memory access patent was obvious over the prior art. The Commission affirmed both findings.

During the course of the Commission investigation, Renesas petitioned for IPR of both patents. The Board found that two asserted claims of the power consumption patent were obvious but Renesas failed to show that six other asserted claims would have been obvious. The Board also found that all petitioned claims of the memory access patent would have been obvious over the cited art.

Both parties appealed. Renesas appealed the Board’s ruling that six claims of the power consumption patent would not have been obvious in light of the cited art, and Broadcom appealed the Board’s ruling that two claims of the power consumption patent and five claims of the memory access unit patent would have been obvious. Broadcom also appealed the Commission’s decision that there was no violation with respect to the power consumption patent and that the asserted claims of the memory access unit patent would have been obvious.

The Federal Circuit first addressed the Commission’s decision that there was no domestic industry for the power consumption patent. Citing its 2013 decision in Microsoft Corp. v. ITC, the Court explained that a complainant must show that a domestic industry product exists that actually practices at least one claim of the asserted patent. Broadcom identified its System on a Chip (SoC) as a domestic industry article, but there was no dispute that the SoC did not contain a “clock tree driver” required by the asserted claims. To overcome this admitted deficiency, Broadcom argued that a domestic industry existed because Broadcom collaborates with customers to integrate the SoC with external memory to enable retrieval and execution of the clock tree driver feature. The Court rejected this argument, finding that Broadcom posited only a hypothetical device and failed to identify a specific integration [...]

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Count On It, Plural Term Means More Than One

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) patentability decisions after determining that the Board did not err in construing multiple terms within the challenged patents. Apple Inc. v. MPH Technologies Oy, Case Nos. 21-1532; -1533; -1534 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 9, 2022) (Moore, C.J.; Prost, Taranto, JJ.)

MPH owns three patents related to a method for forwarding a message from a first computer to a second computer via an intermediate computer via a network and provides secure message forwarding without relying on any extra encapsulation overhead. Apple petitioned for inter partes review (IPR) of MPH’s patents, challenging the claims in the three patents as obvious over a combination of non-patent literature (RFC3104) and a US patent (Grabelsky). During the proceedings, a series of claim construction disputes were raised. The Board issued final written decisions, finding that Apple failed to show that some claims would have been obvious over the combination of RFC3104 and Grabelsky. Apple appealed.

In seeking to overturn the Board’s decision, Apple raised four claim construction disputes. First, Apple argued that the Board erred in finding that the claim limitation “information fields” requires “two or more fields.” Apple argued that “a plural term covers one or more items” and thus the claim limitation was taught by Grabelsky, which uses a single field. Apple further argued that a word such as “plurality” must be used to clarify that the limitation requires more than one item. The Federal Circuit rejected Apple’s argument, explaining that common English usage presumes that a plural term refers to two or more items. The Court found that the Board did not err in construing the claim limitation because the term “information fields” is plural, thus requiring more than one field, and nothing in the claim language or written description suggested otherwise.

Second, Apple argued that the Board’s interpretation that the message was sent from the mobile computer directly to the first address was inconsistent with the claim limitation “intermediate computer configured to receive from a mobile computer a secure message sent to the first network address” in one of MPH’s patents. Apple argued that the passive language of the claim limitation suggested that “the mobile computer need not send the message to the first network address so long as the message is sent there eventually,” and thus the claim limitation was taught by RFC3104, in which a message sent to a first network address is received at another address before being forwarded to the first network address. The Federal Circuit rejected Apple’s arguments, finding that the Board did not err in construing the claim limitation because the plain language established direct sending of the message from the mobile computer to the first address, and nothing in the remainder of the claims or written description suggested otherwise.

Third, Apple argued that the Board erred in construing the term “substitute” in the claim limitation “substitute the unique identity read from the secure message with another unique identity prior to [...]

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Judge Albright Issues Another Round of Updated Patent Rules for WDTX

As previously reported, Judge Albright issued standing orders for his patent cases. On March 7, 2022, Judge Albright issued another set of rules applicable to his large portfolio of patent cases in the Western District of Texas, with some modifications to his prior rules.

This round of new orders includes the following:

  • In the “Amended Standing Order Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Other Court Proceedings,” Judge Albright stated that all non-pretrial conference hearings will default to video conference unless otherwise requested by the parties.
  • Under the “Standing Order Governing Proceedings (OGP) 4.0—Patent Cases,” defendants must serve preliminary invalidity contentions seven weeks after the case management conference, with the below requirements:
    • The contentions must be in chart form identifying where in the prior art references each element of the asserted claims is found.
    • The contentions must identify limitations that defendants contend are indefinite or lack written description under § 112.
    • The contentions must identify any claims that defendants contend are directed to ineligible subject matter under § 101. This requirement has additional sub-requirements. The § 101 contentions must “(1) identify the alleged abstract idea, law of nature, and/or natural phenomenon in each challenged claim; (2) identify each claim element alleged to be well-understood, routine, and/or conventional; and (3) to the extent not duplicative of 102/103 prior art contentions, prior art for the contention that claim elements are well-understood, routine, and/or conventional.” The defendants must also produce all prior art referenced in the invalidity contentions and technical documents (which includes software) sufficient to show the operation of the accused products.
  • If there is a discovery dispute, the new rules require the requesting party to send an email with a maximum of 500 words for one issue, or a combined 1,000 words for multiple issues, to opposing counsel. The responding party has three business days to respond with an email with the same word limitations. Judge Albright encouraged use of a table to organize the disputed issues and provided an example.
  • The orders include additional rules for venue discovery, including a requirement that venue or jurisdictional discovery be completed no later than 10 weeks after the filing of an initial venue motion. The Federal Circuit recently decided against Judge Albrights’ justification of venue using car dealerships.
  • A separate “Standing Order Regarding Notice of Readiness for Patent Cases” provides an example Case Readiness Status Report with further guidelines on timing.



Dude, Where’s My Venue? Texas Car Dealerships Aren’t Distributor Agents

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated a district court’s denial of motions made by two car distributors to transfer cases out of the Western District of Texas for improper venue, finding that the patent owner failed to establish that franchised car dealerships in the judicial district were agents of the manufacturers for venue purposes under § 1400(b). In re Volkswagen Grp. of Am., Inc., Case Nos. 22-108; -109 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 9, 2022) (Dyk, Reyna, Chen, JJ.) (per curiam).

StratosAudio filed complaints in the Western District of Texas against Volkswagen and Hyundai, asserting infringement of infotainment-related patents. Volkswagen and Hyundai are car distributors incorporated in New Jersey and California, respectively. Both distributors moved to dismiss or transfer their cases for improper venue under § 1406(a). The district court denied the motions, concluding that venue was proper because independently owned Volkswagen and Hyundai car dealerships operated in the district. The district court found that franchise agreements gave the car distributors sufficient control over their respective dealerships such that they constituted regular and established places of business in the district. The district court reached this finding despite the fact that Texas law prohibited direct or indirect operation or control of a franchise by a car manufacturer or distributor. Volkswagen and Hyundai petitioned the Federal Circuit for writ of mandamus to vacate the district court’s order or transfer for improper venue.

The Federal Circuit first considered whether mandamus review was appropriate. The Court explained that it may only issue a writ if the petitioner has no other means adequate to attain the desired relief. In contrast to a motion to transfer to a more convenient venue under § 1404(a), denial of a motion to dismiss or transfer for improper venue under § 1406(a) can be remedied on appeal from final judgment. The Court explained that mandamus relief is therefore only available for a ruling on a § 1406(a) motion where the issue presented doing so is important to “proper judicial administration.” Citing to its ruling in In re. Google LLC, the Court explained that this condition may be met when there are a significant number of district court decisions that adopt conflicting views on a basic legal issue. The Court described the disagreement among district courts over whether independent car dealerships establish venue over vehicle manufacturer and distributors and determined that the situation warranted immediate review.

The Federal Circuit turned to the merits to analyze the factors for determining whether a defendant has a “regular and established place of business” for the purposes of establishing proper venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). There was no dispute that the car dealerships were physically located in the Western District of Texas, and that the defendants did not have any employees at these locations. The Court thus identified the three operative statutory requirements that StratosAudio had the burden of establishing:

  • Whether the dealerships were the agents of the defendants
  • Whether the dealerships conducted the defendants’ [...]

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