Vacatur
Subscribe to Vacatur's Posts

What Preclusion? Post-IPR Reexam Moves Forward

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit revived a petitioner’s validity challenge seeking ex parte review at the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO), reversing a district court decision dismissing its complaint seeking Administrative Procedures Act (APA) review of the PTO Director’s vacatur decision. The Federal Circuit concluded that the petitioner was not subject to inter partes review (IPR) estoppel from pursuing reexamination after receiving IPR final written decisions concerning the same claims of the same patents. Alarm.com Inc. v. Hirshfeld, Case No. 21-2102 (Fed Cir, Feb 24, 2022) (Taranto, Chen, Cunningham, JJ.)

This case explores the tension between the ex parte reexam statute and the IPR estoppel statute. Under 35 U.S.C. § 302, “any person at any time may file a request for reexamination . . . of any claim of a patent on the basis of any prior art cited under [§ 301].” If the PTO Director determines “pursuant to [§ 303(a)] that no substantial new question of patentability is raised,” that determination “will be final and nonappealable.” § 303(c). If a substantial new question is deemed to have been raised, “the determination will include an order for reexamination of the patent for resolution of the question.” § 304. Under § 315(e)(1), a petitioner in an IPR that results in a final written decision is estopped from requesting or maintaining a proceeding before the PTO “with respect to that claim on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review.”

Alarm.com filed several IPR petitions that resulted in three final written decisions holding that Alarm.com had not carried its burden of proving that the challenged claims at issue were unpatentable. The Federal Circuit affirmed all three decisions in its 2018 ruling in Vivint, Inc. v. Alarm.com. Alarm.com subsequently filed three requests for ex parte reexamination of the same claims under 35 U.S.C. § 302 and 37 C.F.R. § 1.510, presenting different grounds than were presented in the IPRs. Instead of rendering a § 303(a) decision on the issue of whether petitioner presented a substantial new questions of patentability, the Director vacated the requests, finding that Alarm.com reasonably could have raised its reexamination grounds in the IPRs and, therefore, was estopped under § 315(e)(1) from submitting the requests. Alarm.com filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia against the Director and the PTO under 5 U.S.C. § 702, stating that the Director’s actions were arbitrary and capricious. Following dismissal of the complaint, Alarm.com appealed.

The PTO argued that the overall ex parte reexamination scheme precluded judicial review of the Director’s vacatur decision based on § 315(e)(1) estoppel, which brought Alarm.com’s challenge within the exception to APA review, i.e., where “statutes preclude judicial review.” 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(1). The PTO did not raise any other arguments as to why judicial review would not be available under the APA.

The Federal Circuit explained that “[t]he only portion of the ex parte reexamination statutory scheme that expressly precludes judicial review is § [...]

Continue Reading




One for All, and All for One . . . Except When It Comes to Patent License Comparability

Examining whether portfolio patent licenses can be sufficiently comparable to a single-patent license for the purposes of supporting a patent damages verdict, a split panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded that, at least without accounting for distinguishing features, the answer is no. Omega Patents, LLC v. CalAmp Corp., Case No. 20-1793 (Fed. Cir., Sept. 14, 2021) (Prost, J.)

The most recent decision was the result of a second jury trial, after the Federal Circuit previously ordered a new trial. At issue in this appeal were certain direct-infringement findings, admission of technical expert testimony and the underlying damages determination. Multiple errors were raised regarding the latter, the most significant of which was the court’s apportionment analysis.

At trial, the jury awarded a royalty of $5 per unit to Omega for CalAmp’s infringement of a single patent that covered multi-vehicle tracking units. On appeal, CalAmp contended that patent damages law required apportionment, and that the evidence was insufficient to support apportionment. Judge Prost, joined by Judge Dyk, agreed, while Judge Hughes dissented in part.

First, the Federal Circuit rejected Omega’s argument that apportionment was unnecessary because all parts of the infringing units were covered by the claims. According to the Court, even where all elements of the infringing unit are claimed, a patentee still must approximate the value of the patented features as compared to the conventional, pre-existing elements. Thus, the jury could not, as a matter of law, merely value the entire unit.

Next, the Federal Circuit held that Omega could not rely on the entire-market-value rule to support its damages verdict. That rule permits a patentee to value the infringement where the patented feature drove demand for the entire product. But on the record here, it was undisputed that other conventional elements contributed to sales of the underlying product. At most, the record indicated that the patent technology was important or helpful—which was insufficient to show that it actually drove sales.

Lastly, Omega contended that its royalty was supported by licensing evidence, which included (1) Omega’s president’s testimony that its policy was to license its entire portfolio for a certain amount regardless of the number of patents included at the time of licensing, and (2) 18 license agreements consummated by Omega, some of which included the patent at issue. For both items, the Federal Circuit found evidence of apportionment lacking. To the first claim (i.e., that Omega would not have hypothetically licensed on a patent-by-patent basis), the Court concluded that crediting such testimony would serve as an end-run around the apportionment requirement because it did not approximate the value of the specific patent at issue. So too with the 18 license agreements, many of which identified a portfolio that included almost 50 additional patents. And although the damages expert identified the portfolio feature as distinguishing, the expert’s failure to explain how to separate out the value of the individually asserted patent was fatal.

In dissent, Judge Hughes would have permitted the conventional, more [...]

Continue Reading




BLOG EDITORS

STAY CONNECTED

TOPICS

ARCHIVES