A Chicken in Every Pot, A Patent in Every Portfolio

So July 6 is National Fried Chicken Day.  Who decides such things?  Apparently no one, or perhaps more accurately anyone.  However, the people of National Day Calendar are happy to endorse your declaration and put it on their calendar, if you need outside validation.

Assuming the bona fides of National Fried Chicken Day, a patent lawyer’s mind turns to Colonel Harland Sanders, who obtained two patents on his methods and apparatus for preparing fried chicken: U.S. Patent No. 3,1 56,177 on Food Preheating, Cooking and Warming Device:

 and U.S. Patent No. 3245800 on Process of Producing Fried Chicken Under Pressure:

 

These are not just the patents of the day, but the patents of National Fried Chicken Day.

 

Have a Happy and Safe Fourth of July

Patented technology can improve the most mundane aspects of life and on July 4 we recognize some patents that inject an element of patriotism into our daily routine.  U.S. Patent No. D478,404 protects an American Patriotic Candy Cane:

U.S. Patent No. 7192168 protects a lighting display:

U.S. Patent No. D513768 protects Patriotic Themed Duct Tape:

U.S. Patent No. 8160936 protects a Patriotic American Shopping Network:

Finally, U.S. Patent No. D572517 protects a Patriotic Air Conditioner Cover:

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Third Time’s The Charm: Federal Circuit Remands for Third Damages Trial Because Patent Owner Did Not Prove Use of Entire Market Value was Appropriate

In Power Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc., [2016-2691, 2017-1875] (July 3, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirm the district court’s judgments of infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,212,079 and 6,538,908, but concluded that the entire market value rule cannot be used here to calculate damages and vacated the
damages award and remanded for further proceedings.

The patents in suit related to power supply controller chips used in power
supplies, such as chargers for electronic devices.  While the case was pending in the district court, the Federal Circuit in VirnetX, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc.,explained that simply identifying the smallest salable unit is not necessarily sufficient to satisfy a patentee’s obligation to apportion for multi-component products with significant unpatented features.  Because Power Integrations’ royalty calculation in the first trial did not apportion beyond the “smallest salable unit” and Power Integrations had disclaimed reliance on the entire market value rule, the district court granted a new trial on the
issue of damages.  The district court excluded Power Integrations’ expert testimony based on apportionment, but allowed its expert to present testimony based on the entire market value rule. The jury awarded $139.8 million in damages, based on damages
testimony that relied solely on the entire market value rule  The district court denied Fairchild’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative for a new trial.

The Federal Circuit affirmed infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,212,079 finding the verdict supported by substantial evidence, noting that the jury could have properly concluded that the claim terms “fixed frequency” and “non-varying” left open the
possibility for minor frequency variations due to operating conditions.

The Federal Circuit also affirmed infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,538,908 under the doctrine of equivalents, agreeing that adjusting a voltage limit of a power switch was an infringing equivalent of adjusting a current limit of a power switch.   The Federal noted that Circuit Power Integrations’ expert testified that a value of voltage qualifies as a “value of current” because under Ohm’s Law, current is equal to voltage divided by
resistance.  The Federal Circuit also affirmed that equivalence was not precluded by prosecution history, and in particular to arguments distinguishing current and voltage in another application sharing the same specification.  The Federal Circuit said that the claim language on its face is different than the language of the claims to which the prosecution argument was directed, and concluded that Fairchild failed to establish that the prosecution history is sufficiently clear as to create an estoppel.

On the issue of damages, the Federal Circuit agreed with Fairchild that the district court should have granted the new trial motion.  The Federal Circuit said that a  patentee is only entitled to a reasonable royalty attributable to the infringing features, and must
in every case give evidence tending to separate or apportion the defendant’s profits and the patentee’s damages between the patented feature and the unpatented features.  In the context of a utility patent, it is only the patented technology that is taken from the owner, so the value to be determined is only the value that the infringing features contribute to the value of an accused product.

Where multicomponent products are accused of infringement, the royalty base should not be larger than the smallest salable unit embodying the patented invention.  Use of the entire market value of a multi-component product that includes a patented
component cannot help but skew the damages horizon for the jury, regardless of the contribution of the patented component to this revenue. The Federal Circuit said that Admission of evidence of the entire market value only serves to make a patentee’s proffered damages amount appear modest by comparison, and to artificially inflate the jury’s damages calculation beyond that which is adequate to compensate for the infringement.

The Federal Circuit noted that the entire market value rule allows for the recovery of damages based on the value of an entire apparatus containing several features, when the feature patented constitutes the basis for consumer demand.  However if the product has other valuable features that also contribute to driving consumer demand—patented or unpatented—then the damages for patent infringement must be apportioned to reflect only the value of the patented feature.

In the present case, both parties agreed that the accused products contained other valuable features as well, yet Power Integrations presented no evidence about the
effect of those features on consumer demand or the extent to which those features were responsible for the products’ value.

The Federal Circuit said that the entire market value rule is appropriate only when the
patented feature is the sole driver of customer demand or substantially creates the value of the component parts.  It is not enough to merely show that the patented feature is viewed as essential, that a product would not be commercially viable without the patented feature, or that consumers would not purchase the product without the
patented feature. The Federal Circuit said that when the product contains
other valuable features, the patentee must prove that those other features did not influence purchasing decisions.

Because the evidence presented by Power Integrations was insufficient as a matter of law to invoke the entire market value rule, the Federal Circuit vacated the award of damages and remand for a new trial.

 

 

Adidas and Nike Race Back to PTAB to Address Non-Instituted Grounds

In Adidas AG v. Nike, Inc., [2018-1180, 2018-1181] (July 2, 2018), the Federal Circuit granted Adidas’ motion to remand the appeal back to the PTAB to consider the non-instituted grounds in Adidas’ Petitions for inter partes review against Nike’s U.S. Patent Nos. 7,814,598 and  8,266,749.

The PTAB’s final written decision found that Nike’s patent were not unpatentable on the instituted grounds, but did not reach a second, non-instituted grounds.  After the Supreme Court’s decision in SAS, Adidas promptly moved to remand for the Board to consider the non-instituted ground.  The Federal Circuit agreed, as it had in several other cases, that remand was appropriate without first deciding the appeal of the claims and grounds already before it.

No-Harm, No-Foul: Board Denies Sanctions Where Patent Owner Suffered No Harm from Alleged Cross Examination Overreach

In Apple Inc. v. California Institute of Technology, IPR2017-00297, Paper 66, (June 29, 2018), the PTAB, en route to finding claims 19-21 of U.S. Patent No. 7,916,781 invalid, also denied the Patent Owner’s Motion for Sanctions.  Patent Owner’s Motion (Paper 40) complained that “[d][uring cross-examination of Caltech’s witnesses, Dr.
Mitzenmacher and Dr. Divsalar, Petitioner repeatedly failed to stay within the
proper scope” which “violated numerous Board rules and orders, and was an abuse of the discovery process.” The Patent Owner noted that the cross examination of Dr. Divsalar’s 16-page declaration generated over 280 pages, and a wide range of topics.  In sign of excellent witness preparation, “Dr. Divsalar reminded counsel over 100 times that questions were being directed to subject matter not discussed in his declaration.”  Patent Owner had similar, but not as extensive complaints about the cross examination of Dr. Mitzenmacher, who was Patent Owner’s primary witness and submitted four declarations.

The Board during a conference call, indicated that “a typical remedy is to give no weight to such improperly elicited testimony,” but Patent Owner correctly pointed out in its motion that without further sanctions, “future parties will not be deterred from flouting the Board’s rules when the only risk is not gaining an advantage.”

In its Final Written Decision, the Board found that sanctions were not warranted because petitioner’s attempts to elicit testimony “while inartful” did not rise to the level of sanctionable conduct because they were reasonably related to the direct testimony. Ultimately, the Board adopted a no-harm, no-foul policy, finding sanctions unwarranted because patent owner suffered no harm.

 

Federal Circuit Affirms Non-obvious Holding in “Close” Case, Declining to Disturb Factual Findings on Motiviation

In Impax Laboratories Inc. v. Lannett Holdings Inc., [2017-2020] (June 28, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court decision that claims 4, 11, 12, and 14 of U.S. Patent 6,760,237 and claims 6 and 14–
16 of U.S. Patent 7,220,767 were not shown to be invalid and entering an injunction.

The claims at issue are directed to pharmaceutical formulations, intranasal administration devices, or aqueous solutions, of zolmitriptan.  The Federal Circuit noted that all of the claims at issue rise and fall together with the issue of whether it would have been obvious to make zolmitriptan into a nasal spray.

In considering the asserted obviousness of the claimed invention, the Federal Circuit noted that while the reference mentioned the possible nasal administration of zolmitriptan (just once, and not in a claim or an example), the reference was not about administering zolmitriptan, but about the nasal administration of active ingredients generally.  The Federal Circuit also noted evidence in the record that a skilled artisan would have expected delayed or lower therapeutic effectiveness from
zolmitriptan if administered nasally because it would have been “absolutely counterintuitive to make a nasal spray when you have an active metabolite which is more potent . . . than the drug itself.”

The Federal Circuit said that:

In view of the totality of the record evidence of the state of the prior art, we cannot find that the district court clearly erred in its findings. Far from disregarding the prior art’s discussion of zolmitriptan, the court specifically considered and acknowledged that zolmitriptan was mentioned in connection with nasal formulations and
sprays. However, the court also properly considered additional record evidence to make findings on the state of the prior art as a whole.

The Federal Circuit noted that the presence or absence of a motivation to combine references in an obviousness determination is a pure  question of fact, as is what a reference teaches and whether it teaches toward or away from the claimed invention.  Based on the record before it, the Federal Circuit could not find that the court clearly erred in concluding that at the time, zolmitriptan’s known significant reliance on its active metabolite would have, on balance, dissuaded a person of
skill in the art from making nasal formulations of zolmitriptan.  The Federal Circuit said that it does not and should not reweigh evidence or make factual findings anew on appeal.

Board’s Decision Did not Change Theories Simply Because it Used Different Language than the Petition

In Sirona Dental Systems GmbH v. Institut Straumann AG, [2017-1341, 2017-1403](June 19, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part, vacated-in-part, and remanded-in-part, the PTAB’s determination that claims 1-8 of U.S. Patent No. 6,319,006 were unpatentable, while claims 9-10 were patentable.

The patent related to a drill template, to precisely place a pilot hole for a tooth implant. The parties each provided their own translation of the primary references, and based upon these different translations disputed whether the reference digitally inputs structures of the mouth or movements of the mouth into the simulation.  Sirona focused on the references disclosure of a “recording bow,” which only measures movement of the jaw joint, not surface structures.  However, the Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that this was not dispositive in light of the reference’s other disclosures.

In addition to agreeing with the Board about the content of the prior art, the Federal Circuit also found substantial evidence also supported the Board’s finding that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have been motivated to combine the references, and affirmed the determination that claims 1-8 would have been obvious.

Sirona also complained that the Board violated the APA when it determined that Sirona’s recording bow argument was not relevant and put together its own obviousness theory based on Bannuscher’s input of “geometry data,” which
does not appear in the petition.  While the Federal Circuit agreed that it would not be proper for the Board to deviate from the grounds in the petition and raise its own obviousness theory, it held that the Board’s unpatentability determination did not
deviate from the grounds alleged in the petition.  The Federal Circuit noted that the Board cited the same portions of the reference as the Petition, and said the Board “did not change theories simply because the petition did not use the exact words.”  The Federal Circuit also noted that Sirona spent much of its response addressing the very argument that it complained was new.

Sirona also challenged the denial of its contingent motion to amend.  On this point, the Federal Circuit agreed. The final written decision, which issued prior to Aqua Products,
improperly placed the burden on Sirona to demonstrate that the proposed substitute claims were patentable. The Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s denial of Sirona’s contingent motion to amend and remand for the Board to reconsider in light of Aqua Products.

On the cross appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the finding that claims 9 and 10 were patentable, noting that there was no error in the Board’s decision not to decide grounds of unpatentability not raised in the petition.

10**7

U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 issued June 19, 2018 on Coherent LADAR Using Intra-Pixel Quadrature Detection.

At the current rate, we can expect utility patent number 11,000,000 in 2021.

Of course nerdy purists will point out that the 10,000,000 number does not take into account the X-patents — the 9957 (or so) patents that issued before it occurred to the Patent Office to begin numbering the patents in 1836.  The nerdiest of these purists will further point out that the 10,000,000 includes numbers for which patents were withdrawn from issue, and does not include a handful of “fractional” patents issued over the years.

Federal Circuit Denies Rehearing En Banc of Decision Federal Circuit Lacked Jurisdiction over Walker-Process Claim

In Xitronix Corp. v. KLA Tencor Corporation, [2016-2746] (June 15, 2018), the Federal Circuit denied rehearing en banc of a patent decision holding that the Federal Circuit did not have jurisdiction over the complaint alleging fraud or inequitable conduct in prosecution of the patent application were a violation of antitrust laws.  Judge Newman wrote in dissent that the jurisdictional ruling is contrary to the statute governing
the Federal Circuit, and contrary to decades of precedent and experience.

June 14, 2018, is Flag Day

Americans are proud of our flag, and the records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, document a wide array of creative ways we Americans have found to display the flag, including on decorative displays (U.S. Patent No. 89,270): on parking meters (U.S. Patent No. 2,686,029):on our SUV’s (U.S. Patent No. 6,860,047):

on our mailboxes (U.S. Patent No. 6,929,173):

on our beverages (U.S. Patent No. D695626):

and even on our bandages (U.S. Patent No. D516730):

Salute the flag, where ever you find it!