The Old “Practicing the Prior Art” Defense

In 01 Communique Laboratory, Inc. v. Citrix Systems, Inc., [2017-1869] (April 26, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s Order denying 01 Communique a new trial on the issue of infringement.

The case involved U.S. Patent No. 6,928,479 on a System Computer Product and Method for Providing a Private Communication Portal.  The jury returned a split verdict.
It concluded that Citrix had not established that claims 24 and 45 were invalid, but that Communique had not established that Citrix’s GoToMyPC product infringed those claims.  01 Communique’s moved for a new trial because Citrix resorted to “a well-known defendant’s trick,” known as the “practicing the prior art defense.” which “was improper, misleading, and devastatingly prejudicial to the integrity of the trial.”

The Federal Circuit found that Citrix’s infringement defense was firmly rooted in a
limitation by limitation comparison between the asserted claims and the GoToMyPC product.  The Federal Circuit found that Citrix did argued that under the trial court’s claim construction claims 24 and 45 were valid, but not infringed, but that if Communique attempted to expand the scope of its claims to include Citrix’s systems, then the claims would be invalid in light of the prior art.  The Federal Circuit has previously stated that “there is no ‘practicing the prior art’ defense to literal infringement.  The problem with such a defense is that it can potentially allow a defendant to skirt evidentiary hurdles and conflate the infringement and invalidity inquiries.  While the issue of whether asserted claims read on the prior art is relevant to the question of invalidity, “accused infringers are not free to flout the requirement of proving invalidity by clear and convincing evidence by asserting a practicing prior art defense to literal infringement under the less stringent preponderance of the evidence standard.

 

While it is clear that an accused infringer cannot defeat a claim of literal infringement or establish invalidity merely by pointing to similarities between an accused product and the prior art, this does not preclude a litigant from arguing that if a claim term must be broadly interpreted to read on an accused device, then this same broad construction will read on the prior art.  The Federal Circuit found that Citrix did not rest on an improper “practicing the prior art” defense, but instead correctly recognized that claim terms must be construed the same way for both invalidity and infringement.

The Federal Circuit rejected the argument that comparisons between the accused device and the prior art is improper, and noted that any prejudice would be cured by the district court’s jury instructions.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of a new trial.

 

Anda Your Patent is Not Infringed

In Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC, [2017-1560] (February 9, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court, finding that it did not abuse its discretion in denying Merck’s request for additional samples and a new trial, that it did not err in finding that Merck failed to demonstrate that Amneal’s ANDA product, which formed the basis for the district court’s noninfringement finding, was not representative of Amneal’s final commercial product, and that district court did not clearly err in finding that three Raman peaks were required to prove infringement.

On the denial of additional discovery issue, the Federal Circuit reviews a district court’s denial of additional discovery under regional circuit law, and the Third Circuit will not disturb a denial of additional discovery
absent an abuse of discretion and “a showing of actual and substantial prejudice.  The Federal Circuit found the question “a close one.” The Federal Circuit noted that Amneal’s failure to abide by the standing discovery order resulted in a trial situation that was “less than ideal.”  However the Federal Circuit concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the additional discovery, noting that the district court took adequate steps to ensure that proceeding with trial would not prejudice Merck.

The Federal Circuit said that the ultimate determination of infringement is a question of fact, which is reviewed for  clear error. The Federal Circuit rejected Merck’s argument that the district court improperly determined infringement of an intermediate product, rather than the final product, as imposing a heightened evidentiary standard in ANDA cases not supported by case law.  The Federal Circuit said that regardless of the type of sample (e.g., commercial or batch), the critical inquiry is
whether it is representative of what is likely to be approved and marketed.

Finally, the Federal Circuit discerne no clear error in the district court’s
fact-finding of noninfringement.  The district court found Amneal’s expert
evidence “at least as consistent and credible” as Merck’s expert and concluded that Merck failed to prove infringement by preponderant evidence.  Amneal’s expert testified that although a single peak can be used at times, three Raman peaks are typically used to absolutely confirm the presence of molecules in complex mixtures like MFM. Because the noninfringement finding was supported by this evidence in the record, the Federal Circuit concluded that the district court did not clearly err in its noninfringement finding.

Software Innovations Make Non-Abstract Improvements to Computer Technology

In Finjan, Inc., v. Blue Coat Systems, Inc., [2016-2520] (January 10, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed subject matter eligibility of U.S. Patent No. 6,154,844; affirmed infringement of the U.S. Patent Nos. 6,154,844 and 7,418,731;  affirmed the award of damages of $ 6 million for U.S. Patent No. 7,418,731 and $1.6 million for U.S. Patent No. 7,647,633,  reversed the denial of JMOL of non-infringement of U.S. Patent No.  6,965,968 and vacated the corresponding damage award.

Regarding subject matter eligibility of U.S. Patent No. 6,154,844, the Federal Circuit started at Step 1 of the Alice test, finding that the ’844 patent is directed to a method of providing computer security by scanning a downloadable and attaching the results of that scan to the downloadable itself in the form of a “security profile.”  While the Federal Circuit noted that in Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Symantec Corp. it held that virus screening is well-known and constitutes an abstract idea, the Federal Circuit said that in the present case “the claimed method does a good deal more.”  The Federal Circuit framed the question as “whether
this behavior-based virus scan in the ’844 patent constitutes an improvement in computer functionality,” and found that it does.  The Federal Circuit said that its cases confirm that software-based innovations can make “non-abstract improvements to computer technology” and be deemed patent-eligible subject matter at
step 1.

The Federal Circuit also rejected the challenge that even if the claimed idea is new, it is still abstract, noting that the claims recite more than a mere result. Instead, the Federal Circuit found that they recite specific steps—generating a security profile that identifies suspicious code and linking it to a downloadable—that accomplish the desired result.

Regarding infringement of the ’844 and ’731 patents, the Federal Circuit found that the JMOL of non-infringement for the first time raised issues of claim construction, which it cannot do: “it is too late at the JMOL stage to argue for or adopt a new and more detailed interpretation of the claim language and test the jury verdict by that new and more detailed interpretation.” The Federal Circuit found the verdict of infringement of these patent was supported by substantial evidence.  Regarding the ‘968 the Federal Circuit agreed with the defendant that the patentee failed to introduce substantial evidence of infringement.

Regarding damages for infringement of the ’844 patent, the Federal Circuit agreed that the patentee failed to apportion damages to the infringing functionality, stating that “[w]hen the accused technology does not make up the whole of the accused product, apportionment is required.”  The Federal Circuit said that the patentee must give evidence
tending to separate or apportion the infringer’s profits and the patentee’s damages between the patented feature and the unpatented features, and such evidence must be reliable and tangible, and not conjectural or
speculative.  The patentee argued that it based the royalty on the “smallest, identifiable technical component” but the Federal Circuit held that this does not insulate them from the essential requirement that the ultimate reasonable royalty award must be based on the incremental value that the patented invention adds to the end product.  Noting that reversal of the denial of JMOL could result in a situation in which Finjan receives no compensation for Blue Coat’s infringement of the ’844 patent, the Federal Circuit remanded to the district court to determine whether Finjan has waived the right to establish reasonable royalty damages under a new theory and whether to order a new trial on damages.  This aspect of the decision caused the district judge in the middle of a trial relating to the same patent to declare a mistrial, and reschedule the infringement and damages cases.

Regarding damages for infringement of the ’731 and ’633 patents, the Federal Circuit held that the awards were supported by substantial, if conflicting, evidence.

This is a rare Step 1 victory for a software inventor, and although the decision will no doubt be cited by hopeful applicants and patent owners, it does not bring any clarity to what it means to claim an abstract idea.

Whether Third Party Acts are Attributable to Infringer in a Divided Infringement Situation is Question of Fact

Travel Sentry, Inc. v. Tropp, [2016-2386, 2016-2387, 2016-2714, 2017-1025] (December 19, 2017), the Federal Circuit vacated summary judgment of non-infringement, finding genuine disputes of material fact regarding whether Travel Sentry directs or controls the performance of certain steps of the claimed methods.

The case involved U.S. Patent Nos. 7,021,537 and 7,036,728 directed to
methods of improving airline luggage inspection through the use of dual-access locks.  The infringement claim hinged on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Travel Sentry in the TSA.  The district court found that this did not evidence sufficient control by Travel Sentry to constitute infringement.

The Federal Circuit noted that in Akamai V, it affirmed the principle that “[d]irect infringement under § 271(a) occurs where all steps of a claimed method are performed by or attributable to a single entity,” and held that an entity is responsible for others’ performance of method steps where
that entity directs or controls others’ performance or where the actors form a joint enterprise.  The Federal Circuit further noted that liability under § 271(a) could be found when an alleged infringer ‘conditions participation in an activity or receipt of a benefit upon performance of a step or steps of a
patented method and establishes the manner or timing of that performance.

The Federal Circuit said that the district court reasoned that summary judgment was appropriately awarded to Travel Sentry and its licensees
because there was simply no evidence that Travel Sentry had any influence whatsoever on the third and fourth steps of the method carried out by the TSA, let alone that it masterminded the entire patented process.  In so doing the district court incorrectly found that Akamai V did not expand the scope of direct infringement under § 271(a), and did “not disturb the BMC Res./Muniauction test.”

The Federal Circuit reiterated that under Akamai V, “liability under § 271(a) can also be found when an alleged infringer conditions participation in an activity or receipt of a benefit upon performance of a step or steps of a patented method and establishes the manner or timing of that  performance,”  and reiterated that whether a single actor directed or controlled the acts of one or more third parties is a question of fact.

The Federal Circuit pointed to its recent application of § 271(a)  in Eli Lilly v. Teva Parenteral Medicines.  Based upon the reasoning in Akamai V and Eli Lilly, the Federal Circuit said that a reasonable jury could conclude that TSA’s performance of the final two claim steps is attributable to Travel
Sentry such that Travel Sentry is liable for direct infringement under § 271(a).  The Federal Circuit found that the district erred in three respects:

First, it misidentified the relevant “activity” at issue, broadly defining it as “the luggage screening mandated by Congress,” rather than more specifically as “screening luggage that TSA knows can be opened
with the passkeys provided by Travel Sentry.”  Second, the district court misapprehended what types of “benefits” can satisfy Akamai V’s first prong, noting that the jury could find that the ability to open identifiable luggage using a master key, which would obviate the need to break open the lock, was a sufficient benefit.  Third, the court mischaracterized what is required for one to “condition” a third party’s participation in an activity or receipt of a benefit on the third party’s performance of one or more claim steps.

Under the second Akamai prong, the Federal Circuit also found that, drawing all justifiable inferences in Tropp’s favor, a reasonable jury could find that Travel Sentry has established the manner or timing of TSA’s performance.

Is Patent Infringement a High Crime or Misdemeanor?

In addition to all the other wild accusations against him, Donald J. Trump has been accused of patent infringement.  In a suit filed on December 12 in the Norther District of California, Lathan Lycurgus Smith alleges President Trump and the Secret Service and the entire country of patent infringement.  Apparently Mr. Smith is some sort of polymath, with inventions ranging from automobiles to toilet paper.   Mr. Smith’s prayer for relief goes a little beyond 35 USC §§ 283-284, seeking:

  • issuance of all of his patents
  • all the money made from the patents (they must be design patents)
  • an exemption from taxes “for the rest of time”
  • an injunction against making “anything that the Patents are on or involved with”
  • a “full body massage the rest of my life dayly [sic].”

Today’s question is: Is patent infringement a high crime or misdemeanor?

Amendment of Claims in Parent Application Do Not Apply to Continuation Claims that do not have the Amended Language

In Sanofi v Watson Laboratories, Inc., [2016-2722, 2016-2726](November 9, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s final judgment rejecting the obviousness challenge to claims 1–6, 8–13, and 16 of the U.S. Patent No. 8,410,167; finding inducement of infringement, by both
defendants, of all of those claims except claim 5; and finding infringement by both defendants of claims 1–3, 5-9, and 12–15 of U.S. Patent No. 8,318,800, and by Watson of claims 10 and 11 as well.

On appeal, Watson and Sandoz challenge the district court’s inducement
finding as to the ’167 patent, the district court’s rejection of their obviousness challenge to that patent, and the district court’s rejection of their prosecution disclaimer argument for limiting the scope of the ’800
patent claims.

On the inducement issues, the Federal Circuit said that it reviews the district court’s finding of inducement based on encouragement and inferred intent for clear error, which the Federal Circuit found was absent.  The Federal Circuit noted that the label directed medical providers to information identifying the desired benefit for only patients with the patent-claimed risk factors.  The Federal Circuit rejected Watson and Sandoz argument that substantial noninfringing uses not forbidden by the
proposed labels prevented a finding of intent to encourage an infringing use.  The Federal Circuit found no legal or logical basis for the suggested limitation on inducement.

On the obviousness issue, Watson and Sandoz only challenged the district court’s finding of no expectation of success.  The Federal Circuit said that although the evidence might well have supported the opposite finding, it could not conclude that the district court clearly erred in its finding.

On the infringement issue, the Federal Circuit rejected the argument that Watson and Sandoz  that the district court erred by failing to limit
the claims of the ’800 patent to exclude polysorbate surfactants.  While while prosecuting the parent application, which issued as U.S. Patent No. 7,323,493, Sanofi amended the sole independent claims
(hence all claims)f so as expressly to exclude pharmaceutical
compositions with a “polysorbate surfactant.”  Based on that amendment,
Watson and Sandoz contend that Sanofi made a “prosecution
disclaimer” that also limits the scope of the claims of the ’800 patent, despite the absence of any limiting language in the ’800 patent’s claims.

The Federal Circuit said that a prosecution disclaimer occurs when a patentee, either through argument or amendment, surrenders claim
scope during the course of prosecution.  But when the purported
disclaimers are directed to specific claim terms that have been omitted or materially altered in subsequent applications (rather than to the invention itself), those disclaimers do not apply.  The general ruling being that a prosecution disclaimer will only apply to a subsequent patent if that patent contains the same claim limitation as its predecessor.

The Federal Circuit observed that in prosecuting the application
that issued as the ’493 patent, was to write an express limitation into the claims: “provided that the pharmaceutical composition does not contain a polysorbate surfactant.” This language does not appear in the ’800 patent claims at issue, and Sanofi did not argue during prosecution that the unamended claim language of the ’493 patent, or the disclosed invention generally, excluded polysorbate surfactants.  The Federal Circuit said that the prosecution followed a familiar pattern:

an applicant adopts an explicit claim-narrowing limitation to achieve immediate issuance of a patent containing the narrowed claims and postpones to the prosecution of a continuation application further arguments
about claims that lack the narrowing limitation.

The Federal Circuit said that without more than exists here, that process does not imply a disclaimer as to claims, when later issued in the continuation, that lack the first patent’s express narrowing
limitation.  The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that the
scope of the claims of the ’800 patent should not be limited so as to exclude polysorbate surfactants.

Knowledge of Ex-Employees Working for Accused Infringer Makes Inducement Claim Plausible

In Lifetime Industries, Inc., v. Trim-Lok, Inc., [2017-1096] (September 7, 2017), the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of Lifetime’s complaint for infringement of U.S. Patent 6,966,590 failing to adequately allege that Trim-Lok either directly or indirectly infringed the patent.  Lifetime filed two amended complaints after Trim-Lok twice moved for dismissal for failure to identify the accused product. A Lifetime representative  discovered a two-part Trim-Lok seal installed on an RV with a slideout room at a plant run by a third party.  On Trim-Lok’s third motion, the district court determined that Lifetime had adequately
identified the accused product, but that Lifetime had not adequately pleaded its case.

The district court concluded that Lifetime had not adequately pleaded direct infringement because the claims require both a two-part seal and an RV, and Trim-Lok only manufactures seals.  The district court rejected Lifetime’s argument that Trim-Lok had “assisted with the installation, directed the installation, or directly installed” the Trim-Lok seal as confusing liability for direct infringement with liability for contributory infringement, which the court characterized as imposing liability “based on an offer to sell a component, material, or apparatus,” and dismissed the complaint for direct infringement.

As to indirect infringement, the district court concluded that Lifetime had not alleged any facts from which intent to infringe could be inferred in this case, and dismissed the complaint for indirect infringement as well.

The Federal Circuit found that Lifetime adequately alleged that Trim-Lok directly infringed, observing that one who “makes” a patented invention without authorization infringes the patent.  The Federal Circuit said that commercial manufacture is not the only way that a combination can infringe; limited internal manufacture and use can also infringe.  The Federal Circuit said that although Lifetime did not allege that Trim-Lok made the RV onto which it installed the seal, Lifetime did allege that Trim-Lok installed the seal onto the RV; that is, Lifetime alleged that Trim-Lok made an infringing seal-RV combination.  The Federal Circuit found that Trim-Lok’s demand for more detail “asks for too much,” noting that there is no requirement for Lifetime to prove its case at the pleading stage.

The Federal Circuit also found that Lifetime has plausibly alleged
that Trim-Lok induced infringement.  The Federal Circuit noted that the plausibility requirement is not akin to a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.  The Federal Circuit found that specific allegations that former employees Busch and Torrey had knowledge of the patent and its scope when they joined Trim-Lok, making it plausable that Trim-Lok had knowledge of the patent.  The Federal Circuit also found adequate pleading of intent to infringe, noting that Lifetime alleged that after gaining knowledge of the patent and the products covered by the patent Trim-Lok assisted in the installation of the same time of seal on a RV, never having previously made or sold such seals.

The Federal Circuit also agreed with Lifetime that pleading contributory patent infringement only requires pleading knowledge of the patent, not also an intent to infringe the patent.

 

You Can Ignore Claim Language As Long As it is Before the Colon

In Georgetown Rail Equipment Company v. Holland L.P., [2016-2297] (August 1, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed judgment of infringement and the award of lost profits and enhanced damages for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,616,329 on a system and method for inspecting railroad tracks.

Holland challenged the district court’s conclusion that the claim language “mounted on a vehicle for movement along the railroad track” was not a claim limitation.  The Federal Circuit noted that whether to treat a preamble as a limitation is a determination resolved only on review of the entire patent to gain an understanding of what the inventors actually invented and intended to encompass by the claim, add that there is no simple test for understanding the import of the preamble.

Generally the preamble does not limit the claims, however, a
preamble may be limiting if:

  • it recites essential structure or steps;
  • claims depend on a particular disputed preamble phrase for antecedent basis.
  • the preamble is essential to understand limitations or terms in the claim body.
  • the preamble recites additional structure or steps underscored as important by the specification.
  • there was clear reliance on the preamble during prosecution to distinguish the claimed invention from the prior art.

On the other hand a preamble is not a claim limitation if the claim body defines a structurally complete invention and uses the preamble only to state a purpose or intended use for the invention.

The Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that the preamble was not a limitation, noting In the context of the entire patent, it is apparent that the term “mounted on a vehicle for movement along the railroad track” is meant to describe the principal intended use of the invention but not to import a structural limitation or to exclude from the reach of the claims an assembly that does not include a vehicle mount.

Holland argued that it did not infringement the patent  because some of the processing of the acquired data was performed by a third party.  However, the Federal Circuit none-the-less found that Holland used the claim system despite the fact that third parties operated parts of the system.

With respect to damages, the Federal Circuit found that there was a legally sufficient evidentiary basis in the record from which a reasonable
jury could have found that Georgetown would have received business from Union Pacific for data collection services if Holland’s infringing product was not in the market, supporting an award of lost profits.

Finally with respect to enhanced damages, the Federal Circuit  found substantial evidence supports the jury’s finding that subjective recklessness led to willful infringement.  While Holland disputed many of the facts, the Federal Circuit said that the jury was free to decide whose evidence it found more compelling on the question of willfulness and found in Georgetown’s favor.

While the Federal Circuit has long held that in many if not most cases, the preamble of a claim is a not limitation, the reason to ignore words that the inventor selected to describe the invention has never been clear.   Given the strictness with which other words in the claim are construed, giving a fee pass for some words simply because they appear before the colon seems inconsistent.

 

Celebrity Endorsement Provokes Patent Infringement Claim

Snap Light LLC has sued Kim Kardashian, though her company Kimsaprincess, Inc., and her collaborator Urban Outfitters, Inc., for patent infringement.  As improbable as that sounds, it is illuminating U.S. Patent No. 8,428,644 covers a phone case with a light source for taking improved selfies.

It seems Snap Light’s real complaint is the candle power of Kim Kardashian’s endorsement, rather than the LuMee product that Kim is endorsing.  Snap Light’s comparison of the  patent with the LuMee device shows at least one significant difference between the claims and the accused device:

The patent claims require an “integrated right of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights,” while the LuMee case has two parallel rows of lights (like a conventional make-up mirror.”  Another issue the patent owner may have to address is whether the claim mixes a method step (“provide”) in a apparatus claim.

The complaint seems more focused on Kim Kardashian’s marketing activities than whether the product infringes.

 

Don’t Exalt Slogans over Real Meaning; Find the Claim Construction that Naturally Aligns with the Specification and Prosecution History

In The Medicines Company v. Mylan, Inc., [2015-1113, 2015-1151, 2015-1181] (April 6, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment of non-infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,598,343, and reversed a bench trial determination of infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,582,727.

The district court reasoned that the accused product did not infringe the ‘343 patent because this patent required “efficient mixing,” and concluded that the accused product infringed the ‘727 patent because the claims did not include the “efficient mixing” requirement.  The Federal Circuit found that the claims of both patents include a “batches” limitation, which according to the patents requires efficient mixing, thus both patents require “efficient mixing.”

The Federal Circuit noted that both patents included the “batches” limitation, that set a maximum impurity level for the product.  The Federal Circuit said that the claims could not be construed to cover any batch that met the impurity level, because it would cover the prior art, rendering the claim invalid.  Rather, properly construed, what the batches limitation requires is the use of a process that achieves batch
consistency.  The Federal Circuit noted that the patent owner agreed that Medicines agrees that batch consistency is the result of following the patents in suit and is what distinguishes them from the prior art.

The Federal Circuit found a claim construction that covered any process that achieved the impurity standard and was not limited to the disclosed “efficient mixing” was unworkable, because an infringer would not know whether it infringed until all of the batches were completed, and thus would not provide reasonable certainty regarding the claim scope.  This reasoning seems faulty because if the infringer used a process which, like the disclosed process, reliably achieved the claimed impurity level, there would be no uncertainty.

The Federal Circuit also noted that during prosecution the applicant characterized the invention as being the process: “[i]n the
present invention, various embodiments relate to a less
subjective and more consistent process.”  The applicant also took care to distinguish its post-critical date sales from its pre-critical date sales because they were “prepared by the new process of the present invention.”

Finally the Federal Circuit noted that the patent owner distiguished the invention to the district court based upon the process disclosed in the specification, telling the court that it was readily apparent that the definition of pharmaceutical batches refers to the compounding processes described in the patents-in-suit.

After a detailed review of the language of the specification, the Federal Circuit found that the specification teaches efficient mixing as a necessary and sufficient condition for achieving batch consistency, and the prosecution history confirms that achieving batch consistency requires efficient mixing. The Federal Circuit concluded that to attribute to the claims a meaning broader than any indicated in the patents and their prosecution history would be to ignore the totality of the facts of the case and exalt slogans over real meaning.

The Federal Circuit went on to find that the required “efficient mixing” was not met by the accused products, and reversed the district court’s finding of infringement.