Assignor Estoppel
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Supreme Court to Consider Doctrine of Assignor Estoppel in Patent Cases

The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to review assignor estoppel in patent cases. Minerva Surgical, Inc. v. Hologic, Inc., et al., Case No. 20-440 (Supr. Ct. Jan. 8, 2021) (certiorari granted). The question presented is:

Whether a defendant in a patent infringement action who assigned the patent, or is in privity with an assignor of the patent, may have a defense of invalidity heard on the merits.

Csaba Truckai is the inventor of two patents relating to endometrial ablation that were ultimately acquired by Hologic. Truckai later founded Minerva and developed a system that competed with Hologic’s system. The district court ruled that Minerva could not challenge the validity of the patents because Truckai was barred by assignor estoppel from attacking his own patents. A jury found that Minerva infringed both patents and awarded Hologic more than $4.7 million. On appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed, confirming that assignor estoppel bars an assignor from asserting invalidity of an assigned patent in district court, and “declined Minerva’s invitation to ‘abandon the doctrine’ of assignor estoppel entirely.”




Assignor Estoppel Does Not Apply to AIA Challenges

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reiterated that while assignor estoppel prevents a party that assigned a patent to another party from later challenging the validity of the assigned patent in district court, it does not preclude the party from challenging the validity of the assigned patent in an America Invents Act inter partes review (IPR) proceeding. Hologic, Inc. v. Minerva Surgical, Inc., Case Nos. 19-2054; -2081 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 22, 2020) (Stoll, J.) (Stoll, J., additional views).

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