On June 20, 2016, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee. One of the questions presented to the Court was the appropriate claim construction standard for inter partes review (IPR). The fundamental dispute, as framed by the Court, was the apparent intent of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) and the express rule-making authority it granted. Pursuant to the rule-making authority granted by the AIA, the Patent Office set forth the broadest reasonable interpretation (BRI) as the standard for construing claims under an IPR. This is the standard used during original examination of an application for a patent. The patent-owner argued that, since IPRs were intended to be an alternative to litigating validity in the courts, it should be subject to the same standard of claim construction used there, which is generally understood to be narrower. Ultimately, the Court held that the rule-making authority trumped any arguments about intent and consequences and affirmed the Patent Office’s application of the BRI standard.
Through its recent decision in Halo Elecs., Inc. v. Pulse Elecs., Inc., the Supreme Court discarded the mechanical two-part test governing enhanced damages fashioned by the Federal Circuit in Seagate, and gave district courts broad discretion to decide when to award enhanced damages in cases involving willful patent infringement. The Supreme Court also held that enhanced damages do not need to be proven by clear and convincing evidence, but only by a preponderance of the evidence. While this will make it easier for plaintiffs to obtain enhanced patent damages involving willful patent infringement, the high court made it clear that enhanced damages should still be reserved for cases involving egregious infringement behavior.
As most practitioners know, even a duly issued patent can be invalidated under 35 U.S.C. § 101 if the patent’s claims are directed to a “patent-ineligible concept,” such as an abstract idea. Yet, trying to anticipate whether a patent claim will actually be invalidated under § 101 remains as difficult as ever. The dispute between Global Cash Access, Inc. (“Global Cash”) and NRT Technology Corp. (“NRT”) involving U.S. Patent No. 6,081,792 (the “’792 Patent”) is illustrative.
On March 23, 2016, Glaser Weil Partner, Mieke Malmberg, along with co-presenter, Jason Angell of Freitas Angell & Weinberg, LLP, presented a one hour talk on changes in patent litigation to participants in a one day conference sponsored by the State Bar of California, in San Francisco. The program, entitled, "Patent Disputes for Our Time: New Realities, New Approaches", focused on patent litigation and management of patent disputes in today's changing landscape.
On February 11, 2016, Glaser Weil Partner, Mieke Malmberg, presented a one hour webinar sponsored by the State Bar of California on the use of the Federal Circuit’s Model order on electronic discovery in patent cases.
Although the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International has been hailed by some as an important development in the efforts to curb abusive patent litigation by non-practicing entities, others have raised concerns about unintended effects. For example, software companies have been particularly concerned about the long-term impact of Alice on the viability of patent protection for software. More generally, it is important to note that Alice is not limited to NPEs, but affects even competitor (B2B) disputes.
Hatch-Waxman Litigation in a NutshellHatch-Waxman litigation refers to pharmaceutical patent litigation between a brand drug manufacturer and a generic drug manufacturer under the Hatch-Waxman Act (“Act”). The Act was enacted to facilitate generic drug entry into the market while encouraging pioneer drug development. This is achieved by providing carefully balanced statutory incentives, such as a five-year data exclusivity to the brand firm and a 180-day market exclusivity to the first generic firm, and procedures for approval and marketing of generic drugs.
PTAB Issues First Precedential Opinion in an AIA Post-Grant Proceeding
By now, most patent practitioners are quite familiar with the post-grant patent proceedings (e.g., IPR, PGR, CBM) newly established by the AIA, and their key features, such as the stay and estoppel provisions. Numerous courts have addressed the issue of a stay of civil litigation during the pendency of a post-grant proceeding. The growing defense strategy, upon being sued for patent infringement, is to file a post-grant patent proceeding and seek a stay of the civil litigation, which allows the defendant to move the patent validity issue into a more favorable and usually less expensive forum. Most statistics show that courts in the various jurisdictions with active patent case dockets are quite willing to stay cases.