Packet Intelligence LLC v. Netscout Systems Inc.
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When Is It Really Over? If Additional Proceedings Are Needed, Judgment Is Not Final

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, factually distinguishing the concept of finality in this case from its earlier decision in Fresenius USA v. Baxter Int’l, vacated and remanded a district court’s amended final judgment with instructions to dismiss the case as moot in view of parallel proceedings that had found all patent claims invalid. Packet Intelligence LLC v. NetScout Systems, Inc., Case No. 22-2064 (Fed. Cir. May 2, 2024) (Lourie, Hughes, Stark, JJ.)

This dispute was originally before the Federal Circuit in 2020 when NetScout appealed a district court’s judgment that it willfully infringed multiple patents and that none of the patent claims were shown to be unpatentable or invalid. NetScout also appealed the district court’s damages award, which included enhancements. In the first appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed the damages award, vacated the enhanced damages and affirmed the remainder of the decision (Packet I). While the case was on remand to the district court, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board issued final written decisions in a series of inter partes reviews (IPRs) that had been initiated by third parties, finding all claims to be unpatentable as obvious. Packet appealed the Board’s decisions to the Federal Circuit. The district court issued an amended decision on May 4, 2022, after the Federal Circuit’s first decision remanding the case and after the Board’s final written decisions in the IPRs.

NetScout appealed again, arguing that if the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s findings invalidating the patents at issue, then the claims at issue in the litigation would all be unpatentable, which would trigger an immediate issue preclusion that would leave Packet unable to collect on any outstanding monetary damages awarded by the district court. Therefore, the question before the Federal Circuit was whether the decision in Packet I rendered the case sufficiently final such that it would be immune to the Board’s subsequent determination of unpatentability.

The Federal Circuit determined that Packet’s infringement judgment was not final before the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s unpatentability judgments. The Court discussed its prior decisions on finality, focusing on its 2013 decision in Fresenius in which the Court considered a different concept of finality. In Fresenius, the Court explained that the finality at issue was not the potential res judicata effect on another litigation. Rather, Fresenius was concerned with “whether the judgment in this infringement case is sufficiently final so that it is immune to the effect of the final judgment in the PTO proceedings, as affirmed by this court.” The Federal Circuit stated that in accordance with this concept of finality (also the one at issue in NetScout’s appeal), a litigation is sufficiently final when it is “entirely concluded” so that the cause of action is merged into a final judgment and the final judgment leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.

Applying this standard to the facts of the case at issue, the Federal Circuit found that Packet’s cause of action remained pending and [...]

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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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