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Federal Circuit Issues Errata: IPR Estoppel Applies Only to Challenged Claims

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an errata to its opinion in California Institute of Technology v. Broadcom Limited, clarifying that inter partes review (IPR) estoppel under 35 USC § 315(e) does not apply to unasserted claims. California Institute of Technology v. Broadcom Limited, Case Nos. 20-2222; 21-1527 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 22, 2022).

In its original opinion, the Court stated that estoppel applies “to all claims and grounds not stated in the IPR but which reasonably could have been included in the petition” (emphasis added). The “claims” portion of this statement appeared to be at odds with the scope of § 315(e), which only applies to patent claims subject to a final written decision (i.e., it does not apply to patent claims that were not subject to the IPR proceeding). To quell any confusion, the Court modified its opinion by deleting the term “claims” from the statement. The Court also made this point clear in its follow-on IPR estoppel decision in Intuitive Surgical, Inc. v. Ethicon LLC, in which the Court advised that a petitioner could file separate petitions on a claim-by-claim basis to avoid § 315(e)(1) estoppel.

The full change to the Court’s Caltech opinion is as follows:

Accordingly, we take this opportunity to overrule Shaw and clarify that estoppel applies not just to claims and grounds asserted in the petition and instituted for consideration by the Board, but to all claims and grounds not stated in the IPR petition but which reasonably could have been included in the petition asserted. In a regime in which the Board must institute on all grounds asserted challenged claims and the petition defines the IPR litigation, this interpretation is the only plausible reading of “reasonably could have been raised” and “in the IPR” that gives any meaning to those words.




Too Much to Say? Word Limits Don’t Prevent Estoppel

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) did not err in finding that a petitioner was estopped from maintaining a third inter partes review (IPR) of a patent claim after a final determination of two other IPRs challenging the same claim on different grounds. The Federal Circuit also found that it did not have jurisdiction to review the merits decision of the third IPR because the petitioner lacked statutory authorization to appeal as of the issuance of the prior two final written decisions. Intuitive Surgical, Inc. v. Ethicon LLC, Case No. 20-1481 (Fed. Cir. Feb 11, 2022) (O’Malley, Clevenger, Stoll, JJ.)

Intuitive Surgical concurrently filed three separate IPR petitions for a patent owned by Ethicon relating to a robotically controlled endoscopic surgical instrument. All three petitions challenged a single claim of the patent, relying on different combinations of prior art references. The Board instituted on two of the petitions at the same time and on the third petition one month later. The Board issued simultaneous final written decisions in the first two IPRs, upholding the patentability of the challenged claim. As the third IPR remained ongoing, Ethicon filed a motion to terminate Intuitive as a party to the IPR, arguing that it was estopped from proceeding under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(1). The Board agreed, terminating Intuitive as a party and issuing a decision upholding the patentability of the challenged claim. Intuitive appealed.

Intuitive argued that § 315(e)(1) should not apply to simultaneously filed petitions. Section § 315(e)(1) precludes a petitioner from maintaining a proceeding before the Board on any ground that it “raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review.” Intuitive argued that it could not have reasonably raised all of its grounds in one petition because of the 14,000-word limit, and that simultaneously filed petitions do not conflict with the purpose of § 315(e)(1)—to prevent abusive IPR conduct. The Federal Circuit disagreed, finding that § 315(e)(1) estops a petitioner as to grounds it reasonably could have raised in another IPR, even if the petitions are filed on the same day. The Court went on to note multiple ways around the word limit issue, none of which Intuitive attempted. Intuitive could have sought to consolidate the proceedings or divided its petitions on a claim-by-claim basis instead of by grounds (something which the Court noted is not prohibited by § 315(e)(1)). Intuitive also argued that, under the Court’s decision in Shaw, it was only estopped from raising instituted grounds, but the Court cited its recent decision in California Institute of Technology v. Broadcom Limited, which overruled Shaw, explaining that estoppel applies to all grounds that could have been reasonably included in the petition.

The Federal Circuit also considered whether Intuitive was authorized to pursue an appeal given the termination. Intuitive argued that it had the right to appeal the Board’s decision in the third IPR because it was once a party to the IPR. [...]

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Federal Circuit Tosses Shaw: IPR Estoppel Applies to All Grounds That Reasonably Could Have Been Raised

March 2022 Update: The Federal Circuit has issued an errata to this decision. Read about it here.

Addressing inter partes review (IPR) estoppel after the Supreme Court of the United States’ 2018 decision in SAS Institute, Inc. v. Iancu, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overruled its decision in Shaw Industries Group v. Automated Creel Systems, stating that the only plausible reading of 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2) estops a party from raising all claims and grounds that reasonably could have been included in the party’s petition for IPR. The Court also rejected the district court’s two-tier damages model as contrary to customary patent damages calculations. California Institute of Technology v. Broadcom Limited, Case Nos. 20-2222; 21-1527 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 4, 2022) (Lourie, Linn, Dyk, JJ.) (Dyk, J., dissenting in part).

Background

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) filed suit against Broadcom and Apple, alleging patent infringement directed to the generation and repetition of information in a wireless data transmission system. Wireless transmission systems generally use data repetition so that the transmitted information may be decoded even when data loss occurs. The patented circuitry discloses a form of irregular data repetition in which portions of the information bits may be repeated a varying number of times.

Apple filed multiple IPR petitions challenging the validity of the claims at issue. The Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) concluded in all cases that Apple failed to show that the challenged claims were unpatentable as obvious. At the district court, Apple and Broadcom raised new arguments of obviousness not asserted in the IPR proceedings. The district court granted Caltech’s motion for summary judgment of no invalidity, precluding Apple and Broadcom from raising arguments at trial that they reasonably could have raised in their IPR petitions.

At trial, the district court instructed the jury that “repeat” means “generation of additional bits, where generation can include, for example, duplication or reuse of bits.” Apple and Broadcom argued that the Broadcom chips (which were integrated into Apple devices) did not infringe the asserted claims because they did not repeat information at all. With respect to one of the asserted patents, the district court did not provide a jury instruction relating to its construction that the claim language “information bits appear in a variable number of subsets” requires irregular information bit repetition. The jury found infringement of all asserted claims. Apple and Broadcom filed post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) and a new trial, both of which the district court denied.

The district court adopted Caltech’s proposed two-tier damages theory, explaining that Broadcom and Apple’s products were different and therefore possessed different values simply because they were “different companies at different levels in the supply chain.” The district court ultimately entered judgment against Broadcom for $288 million and against Apple for $885 million. Broadcom and Apple appealed.

The Appeal

Broadcom and Apple argued that the district court’s construction of “repeat” was inconsistent with the claim language and specification. The Federal Circuit [...]

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The Skinny Label That Wasn’t—Federal Circuit Reinstates Induced Infringement Verdict

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) of non-infringement where substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict of induced infringement by an attempted “skinny label” that nonetheless encouraged doctors to engage in a patented use. GlaxoSmithKline LLC v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Case Nos. 18-1876, -2023 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 5, 2021) (Moore, C.J.) (Prost, J., dissenting).

GlaxoSmithKline LLC (GSK) sells a drug called carvedilol (brand name Coreg®), which is approved for three indications: Hypertension, congestive heart failure (CHF) and left ventricular dysfunction following a myocardial infarction (post-MI LVD). In 2002, Teva filed an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) for US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of its generic carvedilol for all three indications. At that time, GSK’s patent on the carvedilol compound was still in force; Teva certified that it would not launch its product until the patent expired in 2007. GSK also had a second patent on a method of treating CHF using carvedilol and a second agent. In 2002, Teva sent GSK a Paragraph IV notice contending that the claims of that patent were invalid over prior art. Rather than sue Teva, GSK applied for reissue of the patent. In 2004, Teva received FDA “tentative approval” for its ANDA “for the treatment of heart failure and hypertension,” which was to become effective at the expiry of the compound patent in 2007.

In January 2008, the method-of-use patent reissued with claims directed to a method of decreasing mortality caused by CHF by administering carvedilol with at least one other therapeutic agent. Just before its launch in 2007, Teva certified to the FDA that its label would not include the indication listed in the Orange Book as covered by the original method-of-use patent (i.e., “decreasing mortality caused by congestive heart failure”), and thus included only the hypertension and post-MI LVD indications. Teva’s press releases stated that its generic carvedilol was “indicated for treatment of heart failure and hypertension.” In 2011, the FDA asked Teva to revise its labeling to be identical with GSK’s. Teva obliged (listing again the CHF indication) and took the position that it did not need to provide certification for the reissued patent because it received final approval of its ANDA before the patent reissued. GSK sued.

GSK won a jury verdict that the challenged patents had not been shown to be invalid and that Teva was liable for induced infringement. At trial, GSK contended—and the jury heard evidence—that post-MI LVD is a form (and fell within the Court’s construction) of CHF such that Teva’s attempted skinny label nonetheless encouraged doctors to engage in a patented use. After trial, however, the district court granted JMOL of non-infringement because the CHF and post-MI LVD indications were different. On appeal, the Federal Circuit found that substantial evidence supported the implied jury, finding that post-MI LVD is a form of CHF such that the label with the post-MI LVD indication induced infringement of the reissued [...]

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Ninth Circuit Still Signals Shift in Arbitration Landscape for Non-Signatories

In a decision substantively the same as the now-withdrawn opinion entered on January 20, 2021, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit once again affirmed denial of a non-signatory’s motion to compel arbitration. Setty v. Shrinivas Sugandhalaya LLP, Case No.18-35573 (9th Cir. July 7, 2021) (Nelson, J.) (Bea, J., dissenting).

Following the June 8, 2021, withdrawal of its original decision, the Ninth Circuit again found that federal rather than Indian law should apply, this time focusing on the New York Convention and its implementing legislation’s emphasis on “the need for uniformity in the application of international arbitration agreements.” The Court further reasoned that it applies “federal substantive law” in cases involving the New York Convention when determining the arbitrability of federal claims by or against non-signatories. The Ninth Circuit then pointed back to GE Energy, the decision that prompted the initial remand, stating that although the Supreme Court of the United States “specifically concluded” that “the New York Convention does not conflict with enforcement of arbitration agreements by non-signatories under domestic-law equitable estoppel doctrines,” the Supreme Court did not determine whether GE Energy could enforce the arbitration clauses under principles of equitable estoppel, nor did it determine which body of law governed.

The Ninth Circuit concluded that while “a non-signatory could compel arbitration in a New York Convention case,” the facts presented here did not implicate the agreement that contained the arbitration clause. Clarifying its prior holding, the Ninth Circuit stated explicitly that the claims here had “no relationship with the partnership deed containing the arbitration agreement at issue in this appeal.” Repeating its earlier ruling, the Court reasoned that the subject matter of the dispute was not intertwined and thus the doctrine of equitable estoppel was not applicable.

Judge Carlos Bea again dissented on the choice of law issue. Although most of his opinion was similar to his prior analysis, Judge Bea indicated that he disagreed with the majority’s notion that federal substantive law is applied in cases involving the arbitrability of federal claims by or against non-signatories under the New York Convention. Judge Bea argued that there was no basis to make such a choice of law analysis for a motion to compel dependent on whether the plaintiff’s claims sounded in federal or state law, and that whether an arbitration agreement is otherwise governed by the New York Convention is irrelevant to the choice of law for an equitable estoppel claim.

Practice Note: The Setty decision appears to demonstrate a shift in the US arbitration landscape, and parties may begin to see an increase in the use of equitable estoppel theories by non-signatories. Practitioners should keep in mind that non-signatories may use this theory affirmatively to attempt to compel arbitration, but it may open the door to enforcement of an obligation to arbitrate against non-signatories as well.




Ninth Circuit Withdraws Opinion That Signaled Shift in Arbitration Landscape for Non-Signatories

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an order withdrawing its opinion in Setty v. Shrinivas Sugandhalaya, where the Court affirmed the denial of a non-signatory’s bid to arbitrate its claims for trademark infringement against one of the signatories to a contract under Indian law. Setty v. Shrinivas Sugandhalaya LLP, Case No. No. 18-35573 (9th Cir. June 8, 2021). The Court did not provide any reasoning for the withdrawal but indicated that a new disposition will be filed in due course.




No Estoppel in the Name of Different Interests and Claims

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that 35 USC § 314(d) did not bar its review of a Patent Trial & Appeal Board determination that a petitioner was not estopped from maintaining inter partes review (IPR) proceedings since the alleged estoppel-triggering event occurred post-institution. Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Facebook Inc., Case Nos. 19-1688, -1689 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 9, 2021) (Chen, J.)

Facebook and WhatsApp (collectively, Facebook) filed two IPR proceedings challenging certain claims of Uniloc’s patents. Apple also filed a petition challenging a subset of claims of the patent. Facebook subsequently filed a third petition that was substantively identical to Apple’s petition and also filed a motion to join Apple’s IPR. LG Electronics filed petitions identical to Facebook’s three petitions and also filed motions to join Facebook’s IPRs. The Board instituted Facebook’s third petition and granted Facebook’s motion to join Apple’s IPR. The Board then instituted Facebook’s original IPRs and ordered the parties to “brief the applicability, if any, of 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(1)” against Facebook, in light of the soon-to-be-issued final written decision for Apple’s IPR. At the time, LG’s petition and motion to join Facebook’s IPRs had not been decided.

In response to the Board’s order, Facebook argued that it should not be estopped under § 315 from challenging the patentability of any claim upon the issuance of a final written decision in Apple’s IPR. Facebook argued that if the Board did find it estopped, Facebook should be able to continue as a petitioner against one of the claims, which it never challenged, in Apple’s IPR. Facebook also argued that if LG’s IPR petition was granted and LG was joined as a party to its first IPR, the IPR should proceed as to all challenged claims (regardless of whether Facebook was found estopped) because LG was not a party in Apple’s IPR. Uniloc responded, arguing that once the Board issued a final written decision in Apple’s IPR, Facebook would be estopped as to all claims challenged in its first IPR and the Board must terminate that proceeding. Uniloc also argued that allowing LG to join the IPR would create inefficiency and confusion.

The Board ultimately instituted LG’s IPR petitions and granted LG’s motion to join Facebook’s IPRs. In its Patent Owner Responses to the original Facebook IPR petitions, Uniloc argued that LG should be barred from maintaining the first Facebook IPR once the Board issued a final written decision in the Apple IPR because LG was estopped as a real party in interest (RPI) or privy to Facebook. A few months later, the Board issued a final written decision in the Apple IPR upholding the patentability of all challenged claims. The Board’s decision in the first Facebook IPR found that Facebook was estopped under § 315(e)(1) as to claims also challenged in Apple’s IPR, but not other claims since § 315(e)(1)’s estoppel provisions apply only to grounds that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised “with respect to that claim.”

In its final [...]

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In Setty, Ninth Circuit Signals Shift in Arbitration Landscape for Non-Signatories

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit tackled the question of whether non-signatories to an agreement may use state law doctrines to compel arbitration. Holding that the claims were insufficiently “intertwined” to permit equitable estoppel and had to be analyzed under federal law (and not state or foreign law), the Court affirmed denial of a non-signatory’s bid to arbitrate its claims for trademark infringement against one of the signatories to a contract governed by Indian law. Setty v. Shrinivas Sugandhalaya LLP, Case No. 18-35573 (9th Cir. Jan. 20, 2021) (Nelson, J.) (Bea, J., dissenting).

The dispute arose from a business partnership between brothers. Balkrishna and Nagraj Setty formed in order to continue their late father’s Indian incense business. The brothers signed a partnership deed that included an arbitration provision stating:

All disputes of any type whatsoever in respect of the partnership arising between the partners either during the continuance of this partnership or after the determination thereof shall be decided by arbitration as per the provision of the Indian Arbitration Act, 1940 or any statutory modification thereof for the time being in force.

In 2014 the brothers’ relationship fell apart, with each brother starting his own company. Balkrishna Setty and his company, Shrinivas Sugandhalaya (BNG) (SS Bangalore), brought suit against Nagraj Setty’s company, Shrinivas Sugandhalaya (SS Mumbai), for several claims, including trademark infringement. Nagraj Setty was not named in the action. SS Mumbai sought to compel the plaintiffs to participate in arbitration pursuant to the deed. The district court denied SS Mumbai’s motion, finding that only one party to the lawsuit, Balkrishna Setty, was a party to the deed and that the companies, SS Bangalore and SS Mumbai, were non-signatories. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that SS Mumbai could not equitably estop SS Bangalore from avoiding arbitration. In June 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari, vacated the judgment and remanded for further consideration based upon its decision in GE Energy Conversion France SAS v. Outokumpu Stainless USA, LLC, 140 S. Ct. 1637 (2020).

On remand, the Ninth Circuit affirmed denial of the motion to compel arbitration. First addressing choice of law, the Court found that federal rather than Indian law should apply. SS Mumbai argued that pursuant to the deed, the Indian Arbitration Act—which provides non-signatories the right to compel arbitration—should apply. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, finding that “whether SS Mumbai may enforce the Partnership Deed as a non-signatory is a ‘threshold issue’ for which we do not look to the agreement itself.” The Court acknowledged that the deed provided exclusively for disputes “arising between the partners,” not third parties. Thus, based on the federal nature of the claims and federal question jurisdiction, the Court applied federal law, opening the door to arguments concerning equitable estoppel.

Second, discussing SS Mumbai’s equitable estoppel argument, the Ninth Circuit stated that in order “[f]or equitable estoppel to apply, it is ‘essential . . . that the subject matter of the dispute [is] intertwined with the contract providing [...]

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