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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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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 Packet Intelligence was not entitled to pre-suit damages, which the district court denied. Following a bench trial, the district court held that the claims of the patents-in-suit were not invalid under 35 USC § 101. Netscout appealed.

Netscout challenged the district court’s § 101 decision and the denial of Netscout’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on pre-suit damages. In a split panel decision, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s determination on subject matter eligibility under § 101. Netscape specifically argued that the claims were directed to an abstract idea because the claims were merely directed to the collection, comparison and classification of information.

The majority reiterated that the Federal Circuit has recognized that software-based innovations may be deemed patent-eligible subject matter at Alice step 1. For example, in Enfish, the Court held that software claims were valid at step 1 because the claims were directed to a technical improvement over conventional systems. Similarly, in SRI International, the Court held that software claims were valid because the claims at issue were “necessarily rooted in computer technology in order to solve a specific problem in the realm of computer networks.” Applying these principles, the majority found that the claims were patent eligible because they presented a technical solution to a technical problem. Notably, the majority relied on the patent specification’s disclosures regarding the invention’s improvements over conventional systems.

Judge Reyna dissented. In his view, the claims were directed to an abstract idea because they lacked specific technological means for the collection, analysis and display of data. Because a concrete technical solution was absent, Reyna argued that the claims were distinguishable from the SRI International case on which the majority relied. He would have found the claims invalid under step 1 and remanded the case to the district court to fully address Alice step 2.

Regarding pre-suit damages, the Federal Circuit unanimously held that Packet Intelligence was not entitled to such damages. The primary issue was whether a Packet Intelligence licensee had properly complied with the marking requirements in order to provide the required constructive notice to [...]

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