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.
In last week’s 6-5 decision in SCA Hygiene Prod. v. First Quality Baby Prod., LLC, No. 2013-1564, 2015 WL 5474261 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 18, 2015), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, reaffirmed that laches remains a viable defense in patent infringement lawsuits. The decision was reached despite the relatively recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1962 (2014), where the high court struck laches as an available copyright infringement defense. However, the Federal Circuit’s sharp divide on this issue suggests that further review by the U.S. Supreme Court may be on its way.
We have previously addressed the Supreme Court’s decision in Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., 12-1184, Slip Op. at 7 (2014), which relaxed the standard for awarding attorney’s fees under Section 285 of the Patent Act (“§285”) and ruled that decisions on §285 are entitled to deference on appeal. In the patent litigation realm, the Octane Fitness decision does not seem to have led to an overwhelming trend toward awarding fees. It does, however, beg the question: how has this impacted the standard for awarding attorney’s fees in other types of intellectual property cases, such as trademarks and trade secrets?
Co-owning any piece of property can lead to unwanted and unexpected headaches. And as demonstrated by the Federal Circuit in STC.UNM v. Intel Corp., Fed. Cir. No. 2013-1241, this is especially true with respect to co-ownership of patents. Here, the Federal Circuit held that STC lacked standing to bring its patent infringement lawsuit against Intel because Sandia Corp., a co-owner of the patent-in-suit, refused to voluntarily join the lawsuit, and could not be involuntarily joined under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a).