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Collaterally Estopped: Do Not Re-Examine the Same Issues

In an appeal from an inter partes re-examination of a patent having both original and newly presented claims, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that a decision in earlier inter partes reexaminations of related patents had a preclusive effect that collaterally estopped the Patent Trial and Appeal Board from making new findings on the same issue that was determined in the prior re-examinations. SynQor, Inc. v. Vicor Corp, Case No. 19-1704 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 22, 2021) (Hughes, J.), (Dyk, J., dissenting).

Background

In 2011, SynQor asserted several patents, including the ‘190 patent, the ‘702 patent and the ‘290 patent, against Vicor. Vicor petitioned for reexamination of the ‘190, ‘702 and ‘290 patents, arguing that the claims of the ‘190 patent were unpatentable over two references: Steigerwald and Cobos. SynQor argued that an artisan would not have combined Steigerwald and Cobos because they taught circuits that operated at incompatible frequencies.

Past Appeals of Related Patents

On appeals from the reexaminations of the ‘702 and ‘290 patents, the Board affirmed that the challenged claims of the ‘702 patent were not unpatentable, because “there are incompatibilities in frequency between [Cobos and Steigerwald].” Similarly, after finding SynQor’s evidence that Steigerwald and Cobos operated at incompatible frequencies more credible than Vicor’s opposing evidence, the Board found the challenged claims of the ‘290 patent not unpatentable based on a combination of Steigerwald, Cobos and a third reference.

SynQor and Vicor had previously appealed the Board’s decisions in the reexaminations of the ‘702 and ‘290 patents to the Federal Circuit. As to the ‘290 patent, the Federal Circuit had affirmed the patentability of the challenged claims, holding that substantial evidence supported the Board’s finding that an artisan would not combine Steigerwald and Cobos because of their frequency incompatibility. The Court had also affirmed the Board’s decision finding the ‘702 patent not unpatentable, but did not (and was not asked to) reach the Board’s finding that Steigerwald and Cobos were incompatible.

Board Re-xamination of the ‘190 Patent

As to the ‘190 patent (at issue in this appeal), the Board found that Steigerwald and Cobos were not incompatible. In concluding that the challenged claims of the ‘190 patent were unpatentable over Steigerwald and Cobos, the Board was “not persuaded that the switching frequency differential is sufficient to render the combination unsuitable.” It found a new claim unpatentable based on a new ground of rejection, and SynQor opted to re-open prosecution of the new claim.

The ‘190 patent expired in January 2018. In February 2019, the Board issued its decision regarding the claims in the ‘190 reexamination, again rejecting SynQor’s argument that Steigerwald and Cobos had incompatible frequencies, and concluded that “the evidence points strongly to the lack of a frequency range discrepancy between Cobos and Steigerwald.” SynQor appealed.

Appeal as to the ‘190 Patent

On appeal, SynQor argued that common law issue preclusion arising from the ‘702 and ‘290 patent re-examinations should have collaterally estopped the Board from finding that an artisan would be [...]

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Doesn’t Scan: Skin Cancer Detection Device Just Combination of Familiar Elements

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a finding of non-obviousness of certain claims relating to a device for the detection of skin cancer, finding that the Patent Trial & Appeal Board erred in applying the law of obviousness. Canfield Scientific, Inc. v. Melanoscan, LLC, Case No. 19-1927 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 18, 2021) (Newman, J.)

Canfield Scientific filed a petition for inter partes review challenging the validity of claims of a Melanoscan patent as obvious in view of several prior art references. After the Board upheld the validity of the challenged claims, Canfield appealed.

The device disclosed in the patent is “an enclosure fitted with cameras and lights arranged in a manner that allows for imaging of [all or part] of non-occluded body surfaces in order to detect health and cosmetic disease.” The two challenged independent claims both required:

  • An enclosure configured to receive a person or portion thereof, wherein the enclosure defines a specified imaging position for placing the person or portion thereof within the enclosure
  • A plurality of imaging devices, wherein the plurality of imaging devices are vertically spaced relative to each other, a plurality of the imaging devices are located on opposite sides of the centerline of the specified imaging position
  • A plurality of light sources spaced relative to each other and peripheral to the plurality of imaging devices.

Canfield listed four references in support of its obviousness argument—Voigt, Hurley, Crampton and Daanen. Voigt disclosed an enclosure containing cameras and lights for analyzing and measuring images on the skin of a patient. Voigt did not disclose imaging devices (cameras) vertically and laterally spaced and on opposite sides of the center line. Instead, Voigt taught positioning the subject along the wall and positioning the cameras in a single direction.

Hurley, Crampton and Daanen each taught placement of a subject in the center of the enclosure, with cameras arranged vertically, laterally and on opposite sides of the centerline.

Canfield argued that the combined teachings of the prior art would have reasonably suggested the subject matter of the challenged claims. The Board found this argument unpersuasive, concluding that “Voigt’s rear wall would have blocked the view of the two rear-facing cameras, and Voigt’s horizontally adjustable sliders would have partially blocked the views of the remaining cameras.” Thus a person of skill in the art would not have been motivated to combine “the unmodified Voigt system with Hurley’s arrangement of imaging devices.” The Board did not discuss Crampton or Daanen.

The Federal Circuit disagreed with the Board’s conclusion and stated that the references showed the subject being imaged placed against a wall in Voigt, and centrally placed within the framework in Hurley, Crampton and Daanen. The references showed the cameras laterally and vertically spaced to each other about a center line. Citing the seminal Supreme Court KSR obviousness decision, the Federal Circuit noted that “[t]he combination of familiar elements according to known methods is likely to be obvious when it does no more than yield predictable [...]

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Impossible; Cloud Storage Patent Claims Invalid for Indefiniteness or Not Infringed

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s determination that three patents directed to data synchronization were indefinite as lacking sufficient disclosed structure to support a means plus function claim element, as impossible in terms of claim scope or not infringed. Synchronoss Technologies, Inc. v. Dropbox. Inc., Case Nos. 19-2196, -2199 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 12, 2021) (Reyna, J.)

Synchronoss filed suit against Dropbox for infringement of three patents relating to synchronizing data across multiple devices connected via internet, a synchronization agent management server, and transferring media data to a network coupled device. As to the first patent, the district court found that Dropbox did not infringe because the claims, as construed, required hardware, whereas Dropbox’s accused product existed entirely in software. The district court then found that all of the claims of the second patent were invalid as indefinite under § 112, paragraph 6, since various claim terms, including “user identifier module,” did not correspond to adequate structure in the specification. Finally, the district court found that the third patent was invalid under § 112 for including within its scope an impossibility, namely, “generating a [single] media file” that “compris[es] a directory of digital media files.” Synchronoss appealed all three findings.

The Federal Circuit first addressed the claim that the district court found to include impossible scope. The Court agreed with the district court, noting that Synchronoss’s expert admitted that it was impossible for a media file to contain a directory of media files. The Court rejected Synchronoss’s argument that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand that the invention actually meant something different, and noted that Synchronoss’s proposal would result in re-writing the claims to preserve their validity.

The Federal Circuit next addressed the claim including the means plus function element found to contain terms lacking adequate structure antecedent in the specification. The Court applied a two-step process to construe the “user identifier module” term, first identifying the claimed function and then determining whether the specification disclosed sufficient structure for performing the claimed function. Adopting Synchronoss’s position that the claimed function was “identifying a user,” the Court found that the specification did not disclose sufficient structure corresponding to the claimed user identifier module. The Court noted that although Dropbox’s expert identified more than 20 different possible structures that could perform the claimed function, “it is not enough that a means-plus-function claim term correspond to every known way of achieving the claimed function; instead, the term must correspond to ‘adequate’ structure disclosed in the specification such that a person of ordinary skill in the art would be able to recognize and associate the structure with the claimed function.”

Finally, the Federal Circuit addressed the district court’s finding of non-infringement. At the district court, Synchronoss proposed a construction of the claim term “device” to include “software . . . residing on . . . hardware” and conceded that its claims could not cover “software completely detached from hardware.” The Court concluded that the [...]

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The Future of Skinny Labeling in Patent Litigation Will be Reconsidered

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has now vacated its prior ruling finding induced infringement based on so-called skinny labeling on a pharmaceutical product. GlaxoSmithKline LLC v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Case no.18-1876 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 9, 2021) PER CURIAM. The case concerns communications regarding generic approvals and “skinny labels,” which permit companies to sell pharmaceutical products that omit certain patented uses.

On Oct. 2, 2020, a panel of the Federal Circuit (PROST, C.J ., NEWMAN and MOORE, JJ.) issued an opinion finding that Teva induced infringement of a patent covering GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK’s) drug Coreg® (carvedilol). In a per curiam Order, the Court has now vacated that opinion and set a new round of oral arguments that was held on February 23.

Teva had requested an en banc rehearing the case, which was denied in the Order vacating the Oct. 2, 2020 opinion while ordering panel rehearing limited to the following issue:

Whether there is substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict of induced infringement during the time period from January 8, 2008 through April 30, 2011.

Background

GSK’s patent covers a method of using carvedilol, the active ingredient in Coreg®, for the treatment of congestive heart failure. In 2007, the FDA approved Teva’s application to market generic carvedilol tablets. To obtain that approval prior to the expiration of the patent (or prevailing on noninfringement, invalidity, or unenforceability of the patent in litigation), Teva had “carved out” certain patent-protected left ventricular dysfunction uses and only included claims to treat hypertension, i.e., claims not covered by the GSK patent. That original patent expired in 2007, but it was reissued in 2008.

Teva had deliberately omitted congestive heart failure in its label until the FDA made it add that indication in 2011. In accordance with the Order, the February 23 oral argument focued on alleged infringement in the period before the label change, i.e., the period 2008 and 2011. The outcome is expected to turn on associated activities and statements made by Teva that went beyond the approval of the generic drug with skinny labeling, where Teva did not explicitly claim that their product was for the patent-protected uses.




2G or Not 2G: Patent License Applies to Future Generation Wireless Networks

In interpreting a patent license agreement originally drafted in the era of third generation (3G) cellular networks, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the license agreement covered subsequent wireless network generations, affirming a district court decision that infringement claims were barred by the license agreement and the doctrine of patent exhaustion. Evolved Wireless, LLC v. HTC Corp., Case Nos. 20-1335, -1337, -1339, -1340, -1363 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 26, 2021) (Dyk, J.) However, the Court vacated-in-part the district court’s decision and remanded for findings based on supplemental evidence of the license’s termination.

In order for cellular wireless networks to work properly, each component within the network must operate according to a shared set of standards. Early generation wireless networks were specific to a particular geographic location. Subsequent “generations” became harmonized according to global standards set by international organizations. Despite some harmonization, two separate 3G standards existed, known as WCDMA and CDMA2000. The fourth generation (4G) addressed this dichotomy by harmonizing newer technologies into a single standard known as Long Term Evolution (LTE). Nonetheless, devices exist that may be compatible with one or more 3G or 4G standards. These are referred to as “single-mode” or “multi-mode” devices depending on their compatibility characteristic. Patents that cover one or more technologies necessary for standards harmonization are referred to as standard-essential patents (SEPs) and must be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

LG Electronics developed a patent that describes a method for handing over a mobile device from one cell tower to another under the LTE standard. LG subsequently declared the patent to be essential to the LTE standard and granted a license to Qualcomm, a developer and supplier of wireless components. LG then sold the patent to TQ Lambda, which sold it to Evolved Wireless. Evolved filed infringement lawsuits against various mobile device manufacturers, all of which incorporated Qualcomm components in their accused products. Because the patent remained subject to the LG-Qualcomm license, the central question was whether the accused products fell within the scope of the license agreement.

The license agreement did not identify specific patents, but granted Qualcomm and its customers the right to use LG’s patents that are “technically or commercially necessary to make, sell, or use a ‘subscriber unit,'” defined in the license as “a Complete CDMA Telephone or a CDMA Modem Card, and any subsequent generation products.” The district court found that the accused products were covered by the license agreement and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants under the theory that the license agreement authorized Qualcomm’s use of the patent and that the doctrine of patent exhaustion precluded an infringement action against Qualcomm’s customers (i.e., the defendants). Evolved appealed.

On appeal, Evolved argued that the accused products did not meet the definition of “subscriber units” and that it had submitted supplemental evidence that the license had been terminated that the district court had ignored. Evolved argued that that term “subsequent generation products” in the license did not include products that [...]

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Old Dawg, New Tricks: Bankruptcy Successor Is Also Inter Partes Re-Exam Successor

Reversing the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded that because a plaintiff was a successor in bankruptcy, it was a successor in an inter partes re-examination. The Court held that the plaintiff should be substituted for the original requestor following the sale of the original re-examination requestor’s right, title and interest in, to and under its assets to a holding company, which further assigned such assets and interests to the plaintiff. Mojave Desert Holdings, LLC v. Crocs, Inc., Case No. 20-1167 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 11, 2021) (Dyk, J.)

The dispute originated in 2012 when Crocs sued Dawgs for patent infringement. Dawgs responded by filing a third-party request for inter partes re-examination, which the US Patent & Trademark Office granted. The examiner rejected Crocs’ challenged patent claim as anticipated, and Crocs appealed to the Board.

While the appeal was pending, Dawgs filed a petition under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Dawgs moved the bankruptcy court to approve the sale of all of its assets to a recently formed entity, Dawgs Holdings, free and clear of all liens, claims and encumbrances pursuant to Bankruptcy Code. The relevant provision of the Asset Purchase Agreement assigned Dawgs Holdings:

[a]ll of [Dawgs’] right, title and interest in, to and under all of the assets, properties and rights of every kind and nature, whether real, personal or mixed, tangible or intangible (including intellectual property and goodwill) . . . .

The sale order carved out from the free and clear language “any Claims [Crocs] . . . may hold for patent infringement occurring post-Closing.” Shortly after the closing, Dawgs Holdings assigned all rights, including explicitly the claims asserted by Dawgs in the district court action and the inter partes re-examination, to Mojave.

Months later, Mojave moved the Board to change the real party-in-interest from Dawgs to Mojave. The Board dismissed and expunged the request because:

  • The sale from Dawgs to Dawgs Holdings was silent with respect to the inter partes re-examination.
  • Mojave was not a party to the inter partes re-examination proceeding.
  • Mojave did not have standing to update the real party-in-interest.
  • Mojave did not file its submission within 20 days of any change of the real party-in-interest as required by 37 CFR § 41.8(a).

Subsequently, the Board reversed the examiner’s rejection of Crocs’ patent claim, which decision Dawgs appealed to the Federal Circuit, while simultaneously filing a motion to substitute Mojave.

In granting the substitution motion, the Federal Circuit noted the broad language describing the sale of all of Dawgs’ assets to Dawgs Holdings. The Court distinguished the sale language from the sale language in other cases where a buyer in bankruptcy may only acquire “substantially all” of the assets of another entity. Because the language describing the transfer from Dawgs to Dawgs Holdings was so broad, the Federal Circuit concluded that the transfer from Dawgs Holdings to Mojave included the interests in Dawgs’ claims and its successor-in-interest requestor status in the inter [...]

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Attempts to Appeal Institution Decision Is SIPCOed

Reinforcing the impact of the Supreme Court of the United States’ 2019 decision in Thryv v. Click-to-Call, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reiterated that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s threshold determination as to whether it will institute a proceeding under the America Invents Act (AIA), in this instance a Covered Business Method (CBM) review, is not appealable because it is closely tied to the institution decision. cxLoyalty, Inc. v. Maritz Holdings Inc., Case Nos. 20-1307, -1309 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2021) (Prost, C.J.)

cxLoyalty petitioned for CBM review of a patent owned by Maritz. The patent relates to a system and method for permitting a loyalty program customer to redeem loyalty points for rewards offered by vendors without human intervention. A participant (i.e., a customer) uses a graphical user interface (GUI) to communicate with a web-based vendor system (e.g., an airline reservation system). An application programming interface (API) facilitates information transfer between the GUI and the vendor system.

The Board instituted CBM review and concluded that the original claims in the patent were ineligible for patenting under 35 USC § 101, but that the proposed substitute claims were patent eligible. The Board found the original and substitute claims amounted “to a fundamental economic practice long prevalent in commerce” and therefore were directed to abstract ideas. However, the Board found that, unlike the original claims, the substitute claims contained an inventive concept. cxLoyalty appealed the Board’s ruling as to the substitute claims. Maritz cross-appealed the Board’s determination that the patent was eligible for CBM review and the Board’s ruling as to the original claims.

The Federal Circuit quickly disposed of Maritz’s challenge to the CBM-eligibility of the patent, citing to its 2020 SIPCO v. Emerson decision. In SIPCO, the Court held that Thryv made clear that the Board’s threshold determination as to whether a patent qualifies for CBM review is a non-appealable decision. Whether CBM review is an available mechanism is conditioned on whether the patent qualifies, since patents that are directed to “technological inventions” are excluded from CBM review. Because the determination of whether a patent qualifies for CBM review is inextricably tied to the decision to institute, it is not appealable. SIPCO was decided after briefing but before oral argument of this case. Indeed, Maritz’s counsel acknowledged during oral argument that SIPCO foreclosed Maritz’s CBM eligibility challenge.

As to the merits, the Federal Circuit agreed with the Board that both the original and substitute claims were directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under § 101. Maritz argued that the claim features of permitting a participant to redeem points for rewards “without knowing that the actual transaction is a currency transaction at less than the perceived price” saved the claims from being merely abstract ideas. The Court disagreed. After applying the Alice/Mayo two-step analysis, the Court found that 1) the claims were directed to abstract ideas, and 2) the claims merely recited generic and conventional computer components or functionality for carrying out the abstract [...]

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Patent Extension Requires Board or Court Reversal, Multiple Examiner Actions Not Enough

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a grant of summary judgment for the Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), holding that the statutory language authorizing so-called “C-delay” patent term adjustment requires an adverse patentability finding that is reversed by a court or the Patent Trial & Appeal Board. Chudik v. Hirshfeld, Case No. 20-1833 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2021) (Taranto, J.) C-delay adds to a patent’s term to account for delay experienced during appellate review of an adverse patentability finding. C-delay does not apply when the examiner reopens examination after final rejection (in this case, four times over an 11-year period) because appellate review is not triggered when an examiner, and not the Board or a court, undoes a final unpatentability decision by reopening examination.

Chudik filed a patent application, and the examiner rejected all pending claims as unpatentable. Chudik declined to appeal, instead filing a request for continued examination. Over the next eight years, the examiner issued four more final rejections. After each rejection, Chudik filed a notice of appeal and opening brief, and after each notice of appeal, the examiner reopened prosecution rather than answering the appeal. The patent finally issued more than 11 years after Chudik filed the application. The PTO added time to the term of the patent for A-delay (where the PTO fails to meet certain prescribed deadlines) and B-delay (each day that the patent application’s pendency extends beyond three years), but not C-delay.

The C-delay provision of the Patent Act provides for a patent term adjustment where the delay is due to “appellate review by the [Board] or by a Federal Court in a case in which the patent was issued under a decision in the review reversing an adverse determination of patentability.” Chudik challenged the PTO’s calculation of the patent extension, arguing that he was entitled to C-delay patent term adjustment for the time his four notices of appeal were pending in the PTO. Chudik argued that the C-delay provision’s “appellate review” included the examiner’s decision to undo her final action through a reopening of prosecution. The PTO rejected that argument, concluding that the C-delay provision did not apply because the Board’s jurisdiction over the appeals never attached and no Board or reviewing court reversed an adverse determination of patentability.

Chudik then sued the PTO director in federal district court, again arguing that “appellate review” referred to the Board’s entire review process, starting when the notice of appeal is filed. Chudik also argued that “a decision in the review reversing an adverse determination of patentability” covered an examiner’s own decision, through a reopening of prosecution. Although characterizing it as “based on a reasonable construction of statutory text,” the court rejected Chudik’s challenge. Applying Chevron, the district court held that the PTO’s position must be affirmed because that position was reasonable. Chudik appealed to the Federal Circuit.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, finding that the PTO’s interpretation of the C-delay provision’s statutory language was [...]

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Stick to the Fax: Conflicting Statements Made During Prosecution Lead to Indefiniteness

In deciding whether use of the term “passive link” to define a connection between a computer terminal and a fax machine rendered a patent claim indefinite, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding of invalidity based on conflicting statements made by the patent owner during prosecution. Infinity Computer Products, Inc. v. Oki Data Americas, Inc., Case No. 20-1189 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 10, 2021) (Prost, C.J.)

Infinity owns a patent directed to providing a circuit for interfacing a personal computer with a facsimile machine to enable the facsimile to be used as a scanner or a printer for a personal computer. The patent seeks to accomplish all of the objectives of a scanner or a printer in a simple, straightforward manner through the use of a circuit of highly simplified design and low cost. The patent claims recite that this functionality is accomplished “through a bi-directional direct connection via a passive link between the facsimile machine and the computer.” Infinity asserted the patent against Oki in district court.

The term “passive link” does not appear in the patent specification. Infinity introduced this term during prosecution to overcome rejections based on a prior art patent to Perkins. During prosecution, Infinity unsuccessfully argued that unlike Perkins, the claimed invention permits uninterrupted transfer of signals between the facsimile and the computer without the use of intervening circuitry. Infinity engaged in multiple rounds of amendment and response with the examiner before finally overcoming the rejections based on Perkins by arguing that the invention “creates a passive link between the facsimile machine and the computer [and] therefore does not require any intervening apparatus as does Perkins.” Perkins used a modem, characterized by Infinity as the “intervening apparatus,” internal to the computer. Infinity argued that the modem “should be regarded as a peripheral device to the computer which processes data before it is transmitted to the I/O bus of the computer,” effectively drawing the boundary of the “passive link” at the I/O bus of the computer.

After allowance, the patent was the subject of three ex parte re-examination proceedings. The patent was a continuation-in-part of a parent application, and in order to overcome a prior art reference asserted in the re-examination proceeding, Infinity argued that the claimed “passive link” element was entitled to the priority date of an earlier parent application. Infinity specifically noted that the patent’s description of “the RJ11 telephone cable and use thereof in communicating data between the fax machine 30 and the PC computer 40 meets the definition of ‘passive link.'” In doing so, Infinity pointed to certain figures in the parent application specification that disclosed fax modem circuitry internal to the computer, effectively drawing the boundary of the “passive link” at the computer’s external port—before the I/O bus.

The district court found that there was a discrepancy on the boundary of the “passive link” because during prosecution it was defined as at the I/O bus of the computer, but during the ex parte re-examination it [...]

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If You Seek or Browse and Can Find, It’s Publicly Available, but Anticipation Isn’t Obvious and Requires Notice

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that facilitating browsing of documents on a website was sufficient to support public accessibility of prior art references, but that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board cannot sua sponte invalidate a claim as anticipated under § 102 unless that specific statutory ground had previously been noticed. M & K Holdings, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Case No. 20-1160 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 1, 2021) (Bryson, J.)

In response to M & K Holdings’ suit for patent infringement, Samsung filed an inter partes review (IPR) petition seeking cancellation of all claims of the asserted patent as obvious. The patent is directed to an efficient method for compressing video files by “decoding a moving picture in inter prediction mode,” using a motion vector to quantify where “reference pictures are used to estimate motion of a current block” over the video duration. Samsung’s petition relied on references generated in connection with the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC), which established industry standards for high-efficiency video coding (HEVC). All three prior art references were uploaded to JCT-VC’s website before the critical date.

After the Board held all claims of the patent unpatentable, M & K appealed, arguing that the Board erred by relying on references that do not qualify as prior art printed publications under 35 USC § 102, and by finding claim 3 anticipated when the petition for IPR asserted only obviousness as to that claim.

Public Accessibility and Printed Publications

M & K argued that a person of ordinary skill could not have located two of the three prior art references by exercising reasonable diligence, and therefore the Board’s holding that those references were publicly accessible was erroneous. Specifically, M & K argued that the structure and search capabilities of the JCT-VC website (requiring navigating to the JCT-VC landing page, clicking on the “All meetings” link and selecting a particular meeting in order to access documents, without any explanation that the “All meetings” label contains a document repository, and with no search functionality on the landing page or the “All meetings” page) meant that even if a user happened to navigate to a meeting page of the website, the user could not search documents by content, but could search only by date, title and number.

The Federal Circuit disagreed, explaining that public accessibility does not require a website’s landing page to have search functionality. Instead, “given the prominence of JCT-VC, the dispositive question is whether interested users of the JCT-VC website could have located [the references] through reasonable diligence.” The Court agreed that substantial evidence supported that interested users could have done so.

Regardless of whether the website described itself as a document repository, the Federal Circuit noted that a skilled artisan browsing the JCT-VC website would understand that it was structured to serve the JCT-VC’s purpose of developing HEVC standards through member meetings and communications. Therefore, a skilled artisan browsing the JCT-VC website would have realized that documents are hosted [...]

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