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08.07.18

Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Precedents Might Make District Courts (Outside Texas) More Sceptical of Patents

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 4:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Related: US Patent Trolls Are Leaving and the Eastern District of Texas Sees Patent Cases Falling by More Than Half

Some poker cards

Summary: As patent lawsuits scatter around the United States (not as concentrated around Texas anymore) there’s a real chance of turnaround in terms of outcomes; we look at some recent cases

IN our previous post about the Federal Circuit (CAFC) we said that it had come under attacks from patent maximalists — similar to attacks on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and inter partes reviews (IPRs). Basically, everything which leads to higher patent quality is seen as “evil”. The USPTO certainly doesn’t mind granting as many patents as possible (the same is true for EPO management, which judges itself based on the wrong yardsticks as though it’s a factory).

“Litigation should always be the last resort and if the underlying patents are found to be invalid (or the lawsuit lacking merit), then it is frivolous. “What we didn’t notice before was the involvement of Chief Judge Sharon Prost in the aforementioned CAFC case, which was covered a week prior by Steve Brachmann. Boston University becomes precedence. To quote: “On Wednesday, July 25th, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a precedential opinion in Trustees of Boston University v. Everlight Electronics Co., reversing a lower court’s denial of a motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) that challenged the validity of the asserted patent. The Federal Circuit panel of Chief Judge Sharon Prost and Circuit Judges Kimberly Moore and Jimmie Reyna found that the asserted claim targeted in the JMOL motion wasn’t enabled as a matter of law.”

Boston University has a tradition of patent aggression. What about Boston Scientific Corporation, which was brought up last week in relation to Nevro Corp. v Boston Scientific Corporation et al?

As Docket Navigator put it: “The court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment that it did not infringe plaintiff’s chronic pain treatment patents because the post-trial use of the accused systems fell within the safe harbor provision of 35 U.S.C. § 271(e).”

There have been quite a few patent trolls and complaints about them in Massachusetts lately (Boston is in Massachusetts); a giant law firm focused on the District of Massachusetts some days ago, having chosen to push out its wrap-up into lawyers’ sites [1, 2].

Litigation should always be the last resort and if the underlying patents are found to be invalid (or the lawsuit lacking merit), then it is frivolous. Such is the danger of patent maximalism. Generally speaking, do they need patents on everything? How about this new article about a “US patent on 3D printing mashed potato” (still under examination)? To quote:

A team of Chinese researchers has recently applied for a US patent on 3D printing mashed potato. This application builds on an earlier Chinese patent for 3D printing mashed potatoes. The Jiangnan University team has a wide array of patients between them from the improvement of vegetable paper, to improve the flavor of mushroom paste, to unlocking systems for screen doors, backlight displays, and software testing systems. These three inventors Min Zhang Zhenbin Liu and Chaohui Yang have indeed been very busy one has nine patents for 2018 alone. The 3D printing potato patent goes on to reference a number of other patents that 3D print candy or face masks. Specifically, this patent notes that one adds pectin or xanthan gum to a mashed potato mixture and then you add chocolate.

Notice that China — being China (SIPO) — already granted such a ridiculous patent. A win for patent maximalism, that’s for sure.

Managing IP, a patent maximalism platform, is meanwhile amplifying patent trolls, speaking to the plaintiff in the Apple case (same for IBM) rather than the defendant. Because this is what this site stands for…

From the summary:

WiLAN got “every penny we asked for,” WiLAN counsel Mike McKool tells Managing IP, “because we were reasonable.” By estimating damages too low, Apple may have poisoned its case

A Southern District of California jury awarded Canadian IP licensing company WiLAN $145.1 million in damages for Apple’s infringement of two of its patents relating to voice-over LTE wireless communication technology on August 1.

The real danger here is that WiLAN, a patent troll, will use the money (if received) to pursue companies less wealthy and aggressive than Apple. Apple’s patent on virtual keyboards, as mentioned the other day (it’s still being promoted as recently as yesterday, e.g. in “Apple won’t make a touchscreen MacBook, but a virtual keyboard might be coming”), is likely a software/abstract patent.

Docket Navigator also covered Global Tubing LLC v Tenaris Coiled Tubes LLC et al last week. To quote the summary:

The court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s declaratory judgment claim for lack of an actual case or controversy.

There are signs of litigation in the District of Kansas, but Texas isn’t dominant anymore. TC Heartland has changed a lot of things.

Suing in improper districts over patents, knowing that most courts would reject patents on software, isn’t unusual. Now in Nevada, for example, there’s this dispute (Voip-Pal.com, Inc. v Twitter, Inc.):

The court granted defendant’s motion to transfer for improper venue and rejected plaintiff’s argument that In re Cray’s three-part definition for “regular and established place of business” should not apply to web-based businesses.

And the ruling said (quoted by Docket Navigator): “These facts demonstrate that Defendant [Twitter] maintains no place of business in Nevada, much less one that is both regular and established.”

Over the weekend we showed how Google’s reliance on a third party with operations in Texas made it incapable of leaving Texas, in spite of TC Heartland.

Last but not least, Docket Navigator wrote about Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals Inc. v Biogen Idec Inc.

The new ‘daddy’ of Monsanto (Bayer) is suing rivals, using patents of questionable validity, not too shockingly in the home state of Monsanto where many chemicals are being made, causing infamous pollution levels. “The court denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment,” it said, “that defendant was not entitled to lost profits damages for infringement of its interferon therapy patent on the ground that only defendant’s subsidiary sold treatments in the U.S.”

This case — like many others — isn’t about patent scope, but it’s worth noting that district court cases are all over the place, more so after TC Heartland. Will that make district courts statistically similar to CAFC? Time will tell…

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