Forum Selection Clause
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Don’t Assume Sweet Success: Forum Selection Clause Doesn’t Preclude IPR

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction seeking to bar a petitioner from challenging certain patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) because of a forum selection clause in a settlement agreement. The Court found that the patent owner was unlikely to succeed on the merits based on the likelihood of success factor. DexCom, Inc. v. Abbott Diabetes Care, Inc., Case No. 23-1795 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 3, 2024) (Dyk, Hughes, Stoll, JJ.)

DexCom and Abbott are competing manufacturers of continuous glucose monitoring systems. In 2014, the parties entered into a settlement agreement that included a cross-license to certain patents, covenants not to sue or challenge the patents for a “Covenant Period,” and a forum selection clause identifying the US District Court for the District of Delaware as the exclusive jurisdiction “over any dispute arising from or under or relating to [the] Agreement, to the extent permitted by law.” After expiration of the Covenant Period, DexCom sued Abbott in the Western District of Texas. Abbott moved to transfer the case to the District of Delaware and added a breach of contract counterclaim, citing the settlement agreement’s forum selection clause. The case was transferred to Delaware, after which Abbott filed eight petitions for inter partes review (IPR) at the PTO. DexCom responded to the breach of contract counterclaim by alleging that Abbott had breached the forum selection clause by filing the IPR petitions. Until this point, DexCom had consistently taken the position that the asserted claims were not subject to the cross-license, rendering the forum selection clause inapplicable.

Six months after Abbott filed the IPR petitions, DexCom moved for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the IPRs from proceeding. The district court denied the preliminary injunction. In evaluating the four injunctive relief factors (i.e., likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable harm, balance of hardships and public interest), the district court simply assumed the likelihood of success in favor of DexCom. It nevertheless denied the injunction because DexCom waited six months to file the motion (suggesting there was no irreparable harm) and because DexCom had taken inconsistent legal positions with respect to whether the challenged patents were licensed, thus weighing against DexCom in the balance of hardships factor. DexCom sought interlocutory appeal of the district court’s order.

The Federal Circuit focused on the first factor, likelihood of success on the merits. While the district court assumed that this factor favored DexCom, the Federal Circuit disagreed. The Court noted that the agreement required that DexCom and Abbott “shall not Challenge” each other’s patents during the Covenant Period, with the exception that “each Party reserves its rights and is permitted to Challenge any of the patents of the other Party if there is a statute, regulation, or rule that sets a deadline to make the Challenge,” assuming certain conditions were met. The Court first explained that “challenge” includes IPRs of the patents and that nothing in the forum selection clause differentiated between the [...]

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And the Band Played On: Reviewing Rule 54(b) Partial Summary Judgment Based on Who Did What to Whom and When

In a case where the cast of characters on both sides of the v. evolved during the lead-up to the litigation as the litigants negotiated third-party deals and formed new entities, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (characterizing the matter as the “entrepreneurial equivalent of musical chairs”) affirmed a dismissal of a trade secret claim against a foreign defendant but not against the related US entity, and found that the case qualified under Rule 54(b) for the “narrow exception” to the finality rule. Amyndas Pharmaceutical, SA v. Zealand Pharma A/S, Case No. 21-1781 (1st Cir. Sept. 2, 2022) (Barron, Selya, Kayatta, JJ.)

Amyndas is a Greek company with a US affiliate. It is a biotechnology firm that researches and develops therapeutics targeting a part of the immune system known as the complement system. One area of Amyndas’s research deals with “complement inhibitors.”

Amyndas’s research yielded compstatin, a peptide that selectively inhibits the C3 protein (which plays a role in activating the complement system). Amyndas also developed a related peptide (AMY-101) that targets that protein. Amyndas owns trade secrets and confidential information related to this work.

Zealand Pharma, a Danish biotechnology firm, contacted Amyndas about a potential partnership for the development of complement-related therapeutics. The firms entered into a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) regarding information-sharing “for the purposes of evaluating a possible business/services relationship between the parties and their respective Affiliates.” Amyndas started giving Zealand Pharma access to confidential information (including confidential information about AMY-101). The firms also entered into a second CDA—with added protections—for “the evaluation or formation of a possible business and/or services and/or collaborative relationship.”

Both CDAs included an identical “Governing Law” provision stipulating that the CDAs would “be interpreted and governed by the laws of the country (applicable state) in which the defendant resides” and a forum-selection clause stipulating that “any dispute arising out of th[e CDA] shall be settled in the first instance by the venue of the defendant.”

Zealand Pharma also began its own research program focused on complement therapeutics. It did not inform Amyndas of this initiative. Although negotiations continued, the firms ultimately decided not to collaborate. Amyndas later terminated its information-sharing relationship with Zealand Pharma.

Zealand Pharma later formed Zealand US, a Delaware corporation. Without Amyndas’s knowledge or consent, Zealand Pharma also filed two European patent applications for compstatin analogues and later an international patent application designating the United States and claiming priority to the earlier  EU applications.

After the international applications were published, Amyndas learned that they described “compstatin analogues that are capable of binding to C3 protein and inhibiting complement activation,” which had been the focus of Amyndas’s research and a subject of Amyndas’s confidential information-sharing with Zealand Pharma.

The other defendant, Alexion, is an established player in the complement therapeutics field and a proprietor of Soliris, a complement inhibitor that targets a protein in the complement system. Soliris is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and previously was the only FDA-approved and clinically available [...]

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NDA Forum Selection Clause Doesn’t Bar IPR in Response to Subsequent Infringement Suit

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction that would have forced the accused infringer to seek dismissal of its petitions for inter partes review (IPR) based on a forum-selection clause in an earlier nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Kannuu Pty Ltd. v. Samsung Elects. Co, Ltd., Case No. 21-1638 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 7, 2021) (Chen, J.) (Newman, J., dissenting).

Kannuu is a start-up that develops media-related products, including certain remote control search-and-navigation technology. Samsung explored licensing the technology and entered into an NDA with Kannuu. The NDA included a forum-selection clause, which stated that any legal action “arising out of or relating to this Agreement or the transactions contemplated hereby must be instituted exclusively” in a New York state or federal court. The negotiations were unsuccessful. Several years later, Kannuu sued Samsung for alleged infringement of five patents relating to the same technology and alleged breach of the NDA. Samsung petitioned for IPR of the five patents, and two of the petitions resulted in institution. Kannuu filed for a preliminary injunction to force Samsung to dismiss the IPRs that had been instituted. The district court denied the preliminary injunction. Kannuu appealed.

The Federal Circuit determined that the district court had not abused its discretion in denying the preliminary injunction, distinguishing between an NDA (which relates to confidentiality) and a patent license agreement (which relates to patent rights). The Court explained that because the forum selection clause was in an NDA, patent infringement defenses did not “arise out of or relate to this Agreement or the transactions contemplated thereby.” In other words, the patent infringement defenses were too attenuated from the subject matter of the NDA to be governed by the forum selection clause therein. The Court noted that whether any patent claim was held invalid would not affect Kannuu’s breach of contract claim arising from an alleged breach of the NDA.

In dissent, Judge Pauline Newman reasoned that a patent license was one of the “transactions contemplated” by the NDA. Therefore, she would have found that the patent infringement defenses were within the scope of the forum selection provision of the NDA.

Practice Note: The Federal Circuit noted how a failed licensing negotiation commonly leads to a subsequent infringement suit. Parties should craft provisions of the NDA regarding forum selection and related issues (e.g., choice of laws) to explicitly include or exclude potential infringement litigation from their scope.

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Where Should This Case Go? Appeals Court Tosses Venue Motion to Dismiss

Addressing for the first time whether a court must consider the adequacy of an alternative forum in its forum non conveniens analysis, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of a defendant’s motion to dismiss under forum non conveniens. In re Fortinet, Inc., Case No. 20-120 (Fed. Cir. May 1, 2020) (Dyk, J.).


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