Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

Supreme Court to Review Post-Expiration Date Royalties in Kimble v. Marvell

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Despite a negative brief from the Solicitor General’s Office, on Friday the Supreme Court granted cert. in Kimbell v. Marvell, 727 F.3d 856 (9th Cir. 2013) (a copy can be found at the end of this post). The single question presented is “Whether the Court should overrule Brulotte v. Thys” (379 U.S. 29 (1964)). This decision held that a patentee’s use of a royalty agreement extending royalty payments beyond the expiration date of the patent is unlawful per se. This decision had, in some cases, been extended to void licensee’s contract obligations when “hybrid royalty payments” where involved, e.g., when royalties due to both the use of patent and non-patent rights were involved but had not be clearly delineated, and in the case of deferred payments for profits obtained before patent expiration, but paid after expiration. On the other hand, cases like Aronson, which provided for reduced royalties after a fixed period of time if no patent ever issued, were found to be enforceable, since such agreements did not involve patent licenses.

Brulotte has been widely criticized since it issued – after all, expired patents can be practiced for free by any and all – unless a licensee sees something of value and contracts away its rights – and the Supreme Court may well have taken this case due to the cogent summary of the issues by the 9th Circuit. The decision, due in 2015, will be of particular interest to the “patent and licensing offices” of universities, which have long struggled with questions of best practices in obtaining some royalty stream from early-stage technologies whose maximum earning potential may not be realized until the patents covering them have expired, or are about to expire.

Kimble v Marvel

Commil USA v. Cisco Systems – Induced Infringement In For Clarification

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Supreme Court granted cert. to resolve the question of whether or not a defendant’s belief that a patent is invalid is a defense against a charge of inducing infringement. The question appears to rest on Judge Newman’s characterization given in her dissent from the majority opinion (Proust, O’Malley). (A copy of this decision can be found at the end of this post.) However, the majority opinion appears more nuanced to me:

“Under our case law, it is clear that a good-faith belief of non-infringement is relevant evidence that ends to show that an accused infringer lacked the intent required to be held liable for induced infringement.”

I read this as simply stating that the belief can provide evidence of lack of specific intent to induce acts of infringement. The evidence may be “strong,” such as a competent opinion rendered before the offending acts, or “weak,” e.g. the opinion of a non-attorney or a just incompetent opinion. In fact, the majority makes an effort to “spank”‘ Judge Newman in footnote 1:

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Federal Circuit flips on Ultramercial v. WildTangent

Friday, November 14th, 2014

After two trips to the Supreme Court and two remands, the Federal Circuit considered Ultramercial v. WildTangent for the third time—this time with Alice in hand—and ruled that the district court properly dismissed Ultramercial’s suit as failing to state a claim, since its patent (U.S. Pat. No. 7,346,545) does not claim patentable subject matter.

As you almost certainly recall, the patent was directed to a “method for distribution of products over the Internet” whereby a consumer was given access to “a media product” if the consumer viewed an ad. While the claim contained 11 steps, the court boiled it down to “showing an advertisement before delivering free content” or “using advertisement as an exchange or currency.” Under step (1) of the Mayo analysis, this was found to be an abstract idea.

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Canadian Hospital To Travel The Long And Winding Road Of “Gene Patenting”

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Arguing that human DNA is a natural product, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) has filed suit in Federal Court to invalidate patents claiming human DNA or diagnostic methods that use it. It has been reported that CHEO was threatened by a U.S. company holding Canadian patents on genes associated with long QT syndrome, an inherited heart rhythm disorder. Currently, the hospital sends samples to the U.S. for testing, at a cost of about $4500, but says it can perform the test for about half that amount in Canada.

Of course, this suit was inspired by the Myriad decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that isolated human genes or fragments thereof are unpatentable as “natural products,” but that cDNA is a patent-eligible product of human ingenuity. The Federal Circuit has twice held that methods involving comparing a patient’s BRCA DNA sequences with a reference DNA sequence to identify mutations in the patient’s DNA sequence are patent-ineligible as “abstract ideas.” However, assay claims with more detail about the mutations or the manipulative steps involved were before either court on appeal. In Mayo v. Prometheus, the Supreme Court held that a method for optimizing the dose of a known class of drugs by measuring the levels of a metabolite in the patient’s blood was patent-ineligible as an attempt to patent a “natural phenomenon.” It will be very interesting to see which, if any, of these tortuous legal trails the Canadian courts will follow.

You can find more information here and here.