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03.19.16

Patents Roundup: The Eastern District of Texas, Jurisdiction Changes, Dubious Patents, and Even Sanctions

Posted in America, Apple, Courtroom, Patents, Samsung at 12:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Delaware stop

Summary: Texas patent cases, patent reform prospects, Delaware cases, and some updates on high-profile patent cases

Eastern District of Texas

BASED on the latest numbers from Lex Machina, whose figures are typically used to oppose excessive litigation and support patent reform (just look who’s behind Lex Machina), indicate that there’s a reduction/decline in prospects for patent litigation. The patent maximalists interpreted this as follows: “We know that new cases in the US were back up again last year, not hitting the heights of 2013 but still the second busiest on record. We also know that activity in November was unprecedented thanks to new, tougher pleading standards coming into effect in December. And it has also been widely reported that even by its standards it was a standout year for the Eastern District of Texas, where almost 44% of new cases were filed, and East Texas judge Rodney Gilstrap, who chalked up an incredible 1686 new lawsuits.”

“Some believe that jurisdiction-based patent reform alone would help mitigate/limit the problem.”The Eastern District of Texas, the capital of patent trolls, is quite a cesspool. It even advertises itself as such (low patent bar in the courts).

Based on this new article from Heather Greenfield (at CCIA): “Senators Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have introduced a bill aimed at patent trolls filing abusive patent cases in the Eastern District of Texas, considered friendly territory for those whose main business is patent lawsuits rather than making products. The Eastern District of Texas took 44 percent of all patent cases filed in 2015. Judge Gilstrap of the Eastern District is based in Marshall, Texas, which has a population of 24,000 people, yet he hears about one-fifth of all patent cases in the United States.”

They both use the same statistics and talking points: “The Eastern District of Texas took 44 percent of all patent cases filed in 2015.”

Some believe that jurisdiction-based patent reform alone would help mitigate/limit the problem.

Texas Trials and Jurisdiction Questions

We previously wrote about the Metaswitch/Genband case and it is back in the headlines again [1, 2, 3, 4]. Real (practicing) companies from Europe are being hurt, so we’re left wondering what takes US Congress so long to take action. One suggested kind of reform pertains to jurisdiction/venue shifting, or sanctions on it. A better solution would identify the pattern in the patents themselves (software patents) and work towards squashing them.

“One suggested kind of reform pertains to jurisdiction/venue shifting, or sanctions on it.”See the new article titled “Venue and Personal Jurisdiction Updates” and also “ANDA filing creates Nationwide Personal Jurisdiction”, which precedes it. It’s about generics, it involves CAFC, and it says: “The facts here involve Mylan seeking FDA approval to market its generic drugs that will eventually be sold in Delaware (as well as every other state in the Union). In considering that action, the court found it sufficient for personal jurisdiction for cases steming from the ANDA approval application.”

Here is the part about jurisdiction: “In this personal jurisdiction case, the Federal Circuit has affirmed the Delaware Court’s ruling that the court has specific jurisdiction over Mylan in two parallel cases. In a super-broad holding, the court here finds that when a generic company files a new drug application (ANDA) with the FDA, that the filing opens the door to personal jurisdiction in any state where the Generic Company will market the drug if approved. This effectively means that the generic company could be sued in any state in the Union.”

“A better solution would identify the pattern in the patents themselves (software patents) and work towards squashing them.”Speaking of Delaware, see this new update about another Delaware case (it’s behind a paywall). The publicly-accessible part says: “Wireless technology company Novatel and a patent holding company that accused it of infringing two communications patents have agreed to dismiss their case, one week after a Delaware federal judge narrowed the claims in the suit and threw out experts from both sides.”

Delaware, unlike Texas, is up north, and it is not as friendly as Texas when it comes to plaintiffs.

Dubious Patents

An article by Timothy Geigner covers a topic which we touched here twice before. “It’s often claimed,” Geigner writes, “that patent and trademark litigation is chiefly employed as a measure to simply lock out otherwise fair competition.” That’s exactly what we have here. To quote his article:

The founder of Global Archery, John Jackson, on the other hand, appears perfectly willing to come out and describe his motivation for filing a patent and trademark infringement suit against a LARPing hobbyist that sells some non-lethal foam arrows on the side.

But first some background. LARP stands for live action role play, for those of you who didn’t know that already. To aid in the roleplaying of battles, LARPers will use non-lethal “weapons”, such as foam swords and arrows, and the like. Larping.org is a hobby site for LARPers, featuring interviews, how-to videos, etc. In their shop, they also sell LARPing gear, all of which I believe is resold from third party manufacturers. Now, Global Archery has patents on specific foam-arrow designs, which chiefly revolve around the way the foam arrowhead is secured to the shaft. One half of the company’s claim against Larping.org is for infringement on those patents.

Why were such patents granted in the first place? How much would it cost the defendant to prove them to be bogus?

Sanctions

Apple has relied on embargoes, or threats of embargoes, in order to get companies to pay Apple for Android devices and/or remove basic features (like a slider that unlocks a screen). The ITC has been used by Apple for this and Microsoft has done so too. They’re both attacking Linux (especially on devices) using software patents. This new article serves reinforce time estimates that say it will be Monday when we finally know if Apple [cref 89542 can take Android (Samsung actually) to the Supreme Court). To quote:

Decisions in the Apple v. Samsung patent infringement cases have swung widely to both sides, suggesting the courts are unable to make clear rulings for the fast-moving high tech sector. But two experts advise taking a broader perspective about historic shifts in intellectual property law, some of them probably still ahead.

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide as early as Monday (Mar. 21) whether or not to hear an appeal on design patents involved in the case. “Not a lot of design cases have percolated to the top…[but] we have seen the profile of design rights come out of the backwaters and into the limelight,” said Christopher V. Carani, a partner at McAndrews Held & Malloy Ltd. (Chicago) who specializes in design patents.

Apple is still trying hard to extract billions of dollars out of Samsung, under intense pressure of embargoes and whatnot. Apple used HTC as precedence against Samsung. If Samsung falls, who’s next in Apple’s path of destruction? Also consider the following new article:

ZTE set to appeal US export ban

CHINA’S ZTE Corp will appeal tough US export restrictions imposed last week, according to a person familiar with the matter, after the telecom equipment maker’s costly lobbying effort failed to allay concerns about its business.

The US Commerce Department imposed restrictions on US suppliers providing crucial components to ZTE for alleged Iran sanctions violations, a move likely to disrupt its global supply chain.

“The US Department of Commerce and ZTE Corp are in ongoing discussions,” a senior Commerce Department official said. “These discussions have been constructive, and we will continue to seek a resolution.”

Who benefits from such political embargoes? Surely Apple must be in favour. This case was mentioned earlier this month by IAM, which believes it indirectly relates to patents-induced embargoes. How far will the US system go? Embargo or sanctions cannot help costumers; when will this be realised and when will the public realise that patents excess generally harms everyone?

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