Family Matters, but Only Sometimes if Claim Construction Is Involved

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a district court’s claim construction, explaining that the use of a restrictive term in a definition in an earlier application does not reinstate that term in a later patent that purposely deletes the term, even if the earlier patent is incorporated by reference. Finjan LLC v. ESET, LLC, Case No. 21-2093 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 1, 2022) (Prost, Reyna, Taranto, JJ.)

Finjan filed a lawsuit against ESET for infringement of five patents directed to systems and methods for detecting computer viruses in a “downloadable” through a security profile. Each of the asserted patents was part of the same family, and each claimed priority to the same provisional application. The term “downloadable” appeared in the claims of all the asserted patents but was defined slightly differently in the various patents in the family. The original provisional application defined “downloadable” as “an executable application program which is automatically downloaded from a source computer and run on the destination computer.” Two of the non-asserted patents in the family defined “downloadable” as “applets” and as “a small executable or interpretable application program which is downloaded from a source computer and run on a destination computer.” Two of the asserted patents defined “downloadable” as “an executable application program, which is downloaded from a source computer and run on the destination computer.” The two asserted patents incorporated by reference one of the non-asserted patents. The other three asserted patents did not include a definition of “downloadable,” but they incorporated by reference one of the asserted patents and one of the non-asserted patents that defined “downloadable.”

The district court construed the term “downloadable” as used in the asserted patents to mean “a small executable or interpretable application program which is downloaded from a source computer and run on a destination computer.” The district court based its construction on the incorporation by reference of one of the non-asserted patents, reasoning that although the patent family contained “somewhat differing definitions,” these definitions “can be reconciled.” In particular, the district court found that based on the definitions and examples included throughout the various patents in the family tree, the term “downloadable” in the asserted patents should be construed to include the word “small” as defined in the non-asserted patent. ESET moved for summary judgment of invalidity due to indefiniteness based on the word “small” as used in the adopted construction of “downloadable.” The district court granted the motion. Finjan appealed.

The Federal Circuit began by reciting the well-known maxim that claims must be read in light of the specification, which includes any patents incorporated by reference since those patents are “effectively part of the host patents as if they were explicitly contained therein.” However, the Court explained that “incorporation by reference does not convert the invention of the incorporated patent into the invention of the host patent.” Instead, the disclosure of the host patent provides context to determine what impact, if any, the patent incorporated by reference will have on the [...]

Continue Reading




Supreme Court to Consider Whether Lanham Act Reaches Foreign Defendants’ Extraterritorial Conduct

The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to review the geographic scope of the Lanham Act and the extent to which trademark owners can use US trademarks to police foreign sales. Abitron Austria GmbH et al. v. Hetronic International Inc., Case No. 21-1043 (Supr. Ct. Nov. 4, 2022) (certiorari granted). The question presented is as follows:

Whether the court of appeals erred in applying the Lanham Act extraterritorially to petitioners’ foreign sales, including purely foreign sales that never reached the United States or confused U.S. consumers.

In the underlying case, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a damages award for Hetronic International based on its conclusion that the Lanham Act can affect conduct that substantially affects US commerce, such as the products Hetronic Germany and others sold to European customers.

The US Solicitor General suggested that the case is “a suitable vehicle” to clarify the Lanham Act’s geographic scope, noting that the Lanham Act provides a remedy for a foreign defendant’s use of a US trademark abroad only if that use is likely to cause confusion within the United States.




Supreme Court to Consider Enablement Requirement

The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to consider how much a patent must disclose in order to meet the enablement requirement under 35 U.S.C. § 112. Amgen Inc., et al. v. Sanofi, et al., Case No. 21-757 (Supr. Ct. Nov. 4, 2022) (certiorari granted). The question presented is as follows:

Whether enablement is governed by the statutory requirement that the specification teach those skilled in the art to “make and use” the claimed invention, 35 U.S.C. § 112, or whether it must instead enable those skilled in the art “to reach the full scope of claimed embodiments” without undue experimentation—i.e., to cumulatively identify and make all or nearly all embodiments of the invention without substantial time and effort.

Amgen owns two patents that describe antibodies that bind to PCSK9 protein and lower LDL cholesterol levels by blocking PCSK9 from binding to LDL receptors. After a jury determined that Sanofi failed to prove that the asserted claims were invalid for lack of enablement, the district court granted Sanofi’s post-trial motion for invalidity based on lack of enablement. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that the scope of the claims encompassed millions of antibodies and that the patent thus did not meet the enablement requirement because practicing the full scope of the claims would require “undue experimentation.”

The Supreme Court declined to consider the first question presented in Amgen’s petition: whether enablement should be a question of law (under current Federal Circuit precedent) or be designated a question of fact to be decided by a jury. In granting certiorari, the Supreme Court proceeded contrary to the recommendation of the US Solicitor General.




Don’t Stand for It—Collateral Estoppel and Standing

In a series of related cases, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed two decisions from the US District Court for the District of Delaware regarding collateral estoppel on standing issues and reversed a decision from the US District Court for the Northern District of California regarding the effect of license termination on standing. Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Google LLC, Case No. 21-1498 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 4, 2022) (Lourie, Dyk, Hughes, JJ.); Uniloc USA, Inc. v. Motorola Mobility LLC, Case No. 21-1555 & Uniloc LLC v. Blackboard Inc., Case No. 21-1795 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 4, 2022) (Lourie, Dyk, Hughes, JJ.)

These actions arose out of a series of patent suits filed by various Uniloc entities against tech companies in the Eastern District of Texas, the Western District of Texas and the District of Delaware involving several different patents. The Eastern District of Texas case against Google was transferred to the Northern District of California, and the Western District of Texas case against Blackboard was transferred to the District of Delaware. All three cases were dismissed for lack of standing due to a prior license agreement.

In 2014, a Uniloc entity entered into a Revenue Sharing and Note and Warrant Purchase Agreement with Fortress regarding a loan Fortress made to Uniloc. Under the terms of this agreement, if Uniloc defaulted, Fortress would receive a royalty-free license with the ability to sublicense. Uniloc defaulted in March 2017. In May 2018, Uniloc and Fortress entered into a Payoff and Termination Agreement, which explicitly terminated the patent licenses.

Uniloc sued several companies, including Motorola, Blackboard and Apple, in the period between the default and the Termination Agreement. In the Apple case, the district court found Uniloc lacked standing because it had granted a royalty-free license with the ability to sublicense to Fortress. The cases involving Motorola and Blackboard were subsequently dismissed for lack of standing. Uniloc appealed the decision in the Apple case but later settled with Apple. The settlement did not address vacatur of the district court decision. When Uniloc appealed the Motorola and Blackboard decisions, Motorola and Blackboard raised collateral estoppel. Given the virtually identical factual circumstances, the Federal Circuit held that collateral estoppel applied and that Uniloc could not relitigate the standing issues.

Unlike the cases involving Motorola and Blackboard, Uniloc filed the action against Google after it entered into the Termination Agreement with Fortress. At the district court, Google argued that Uniloc lacked standing because the Termination Agreement could not terminate the irrevocable license provision and that as a consequence of the grant under the Termination Agreement Uniloc lacked standing. Applying New York law (as the law governing the contract), the district court held that the Termination Agreement could not terminate the irrevocable license and therefore dismissed the case for lack of standing. The Federal Circuit, reviewing the issue of law de novo, held that “irrevocable” referred to whether Uniloc could unilaterally terminate an agreement, and not to whether the parties could mutually agree to terminate the [...]

Continue Reading




PTO Extends Deadline for Comments on Initiatives to Ensure Patent Robustness, Reliability

On November 3, 2022, the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) announced that it is extending the deadline for public input on its proposed initiatives aimed at ensuring the robustness and reliability of patent rights from January 3, 2023, to February 1, 2023.

For further details about the extension of the deadline, check out the notice here.




BLOG EDITORS

STAY CONNECTED

TOPICS

ARCHIVES