Some have said is seems bizarre that the panel decision in Mirror Worlds did not mention or cite Akamai, and while that is perhaps a fair point at first glance, the cases are quite different. It seems to me that people are putting to much emphasis and question where it doesn’t belong. At the end of the day in Mirror Worlds the panel simply agreed with the district court that the plaintiff did not offer evidence sufficient to allow a reasonably jury to find in their favor. While a passing reference to Akamai might have been nice, it seems to me as if it was hardly required given the procedurally dispositive issues associated with a JMOL due to failure to offer required proof. See Apple Operating System Does Not Infringe.
I’ve already commented on the conundrum created by the Federal Circuit’s joint infringement doctrine, and especially its impact on protecting interactive computer-based technologies. See The Impact of the CAFC’s Joint Infringement Conundrum on Protecting Interactive Technologies. Two cases involving such joint infringement (sometimes referred to as “divided infringement”) issues were accepted by the Federal Circuit for en banc review. The first was the 2010 case ofAkamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., which held there was no joint infringement of a patented method for content delivery service where the customer and the provider of the service each performed some but not all steps. The other was the 2011 case of McKesson Technologies, Inc. v. Epic Systems Corp., which held there was no joint infringement of a patented interactive electronic method for communicating between healthcare providers and patients about personalized web pages for doctors because the initial step of the patented method was performed by the patient while the remaining steps were performed by the software provided by the healthcare provider.
In a collective decision of almost 100 pages total, the en banc Federal Circuit has now spoken with an extremely discordant and fragmented voice on this joint infringement issue (or as an exasperated dissenting Judge Newman characterized the majority opinion, dodged this issue) in Akamai Technologies and McKesson Technologies(August 31, 2012). In an opinion over 30 pages long, a bare six judge per curiam majority (Chief Judge Rader and Judges Lourie, Bryson, Moore, Reyna, and Wallach) found it unnecessary to resolve the joint infringement issue. Instead, the per curiam majority ruled that the Akamai Technologies and McKesson Technologies cases should be resolved by applying the doctrine of inducing (indirect) infringement under 35 U.S.C § 271(b). The majority also ruled that such indirect infringement could occur as long as all steps of the a claimed method are performed, but didn’t requiring that all steps be performed by a single actor, expressly overruling the 2007 case of BMC Resources v. Paymentech, and at least implicitly overruling the 2008 case of Muniauction, Inc. v. Thomson Corp. (no joint infringement of patented electronic method for conducting auctions of financial instruments where auctioneer and bidder each perform some but not all of the steps).
In USPTO v. Bilski, U.S. Supreme Court confronted us with a “fuzzy” composite of opinions about the standard for patent-eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101. See Through the Fuzzy Bilski Looking Glass: The Meaning of Patent-Eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 where I noted five key “takeaways” from those composite opinions, including what to make of Justice Scalia joining the Opinion of the Court except for Part II B-2 and C-2. The Federal Circuit is also not immune from composite opinions that make you scratch your head as to what the final ruling is. See Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Eli Lilly & Company where an en banc ruling by the Federal Circuit on whether there is a separate “written description” requirement under 35 U.S.C. § 112, first paragraph, spawned (in addition to the Opinion of the Court), four additional concurring and dissenting-in-part opinions. In affirming the judgment of the district court “by an equally divided court,” the recently issued Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc. v. Hemcon, Inc. case requires yet some more figuring about another “muddled” Federal Circuit en banc decision.
The “muddle” that became the en banc decision in Marine Polymer revolved around two primary questions: (1) the meaning of the claim term “biocompatible”; and (2) when does “intervening rights” apply to reexamined claims? See CAFC: Intervening Rights for Claims Unamended During Reexam* where I discussed both of these questions in the Federal Circuit panel decision in Marine Polymer. In the en banc decision, and by a 5 “yea” to 5 “nay” vote (with Judges Moore and O’Malley not taking part), the Federal Circuit deadlocked over the district court’s interpretation of “biocompatible” to mean “low variability, high purity, and no detectable biological reactivity as determined by biological reactivity as determined by biocompatibility tests.” In jurisprudential parlance, such a “tie vote” means the district court interpretation prevails by default.
On Tuesday, November 9, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments in TiVo, Inc. v. EchoStar Corp. The case pits TiVo versus Dish, and any ruling from the Federal Circuit will necessarily define the extent to which a district court judge can rely on contempt proceedings to enforce an injunction rather than simply order a full blown new trial. In process the en banc oral argument in this case at the Federal Circuit did not substantially differ from the oral argument held at the Supreme Court the day earlier in the Costco copyright case, where the Supreme Court was struggling with the meaning of the phrase “lawfully made under this Title.” There are two phrases that will be at the center of resolving the TiVo case. The first is “fair ground of doubt,” and the second is “merely colorably different.”
Yesterday, November 8, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in a case that will likely have limited applicability for most, but will definitively add another weapon in the arsenal of those who wish to challenge the final determinations of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In a peculiar oddity (redundancy on purpose) those who choose to challenge the final determinations on patentability of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) can elect to either proceed directly to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, or they can elect to proceed to the United States Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. The question presented and considered by the full Court at the Federal Circuit was whether new evidence (i.e., evidence not previously presented to the USPTO) can be presented to the District Court when challenging a decision of the BPAI. The short answer — YES. However, without new evidence at the District Court the Federal Circuit must continue to give deference to the USPTO on further appeal.
Several weeks ago TiVo filed its brief in the matter of Tivo, Inc. v. EchoStar Corp., which will be heard en banc by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Tuesday, November 9, 2010. The dispute between TiVo and EchoStar dates back to 2004 when TiVo sued EchoStar in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, alleging that its receivers infringe “hardware” claims (claims 1 and 32) and “software” claims (claims 31 and 61) of US Patent No. 6,233,389. The jury found there was willful infringement and the district court entered an injunction ordering EchoStar to cease infringing. It is this injunction that now is at the root of the dispute to be heard by the Federal Circuit. TiVo did not believe EchoStar lived up to the Order of the district court. The district court, seemingly out of an abundance of caution, decided not to utilize its summary contempt powers but held a year long proceeding to determine if infringement was ongoing. The district court found EchoStar was violating the injunction Order and acted accordingly. EchoStar appealed and argued that only a full patent infringement trial would suffice. The panel sided with TiVo over a strong dissent by Judge Rader, now Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, who felt the summary proceedings were inadequate. For more see Looking Ahead to TiVo v. Dish at the Federal Circuit. So as the full Federal Circuit hears this case it is anticipated that the inherent powers of a district court to enforce their own Orders and administer justice will be front and center.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit announced back in May that they would take up the matter of Tivo, Inc. v. EchoStar Corp. en banc, and then subsequently set the oral argument date for Tuesday, November 9, 2010. November 9, 2010 will be a busy day for the Federal Circuit indeed. On this first anniversary of the Bil ski oral arguments at the United States Supreme Court the Federal Circuit has scheduled two en banc hearings. Second up on November 9, 2010 will be Tivo v. EchoStar, first up will be Therasence v. Becton, both cases of great importance. We will be following both cases closely, and I will be in attendance in the gallery and offering eyewitness accounts that afternoon. In the meantime, however, let the punditry, analysis and gossip begin. First up — TiVo v. Echostar, which will decide the limitations (if any) on a district court’s ability to use contempt proceedings to enforce a permanent injunction in a patent case when there is an alleged work-around.
As I’ve said before, no one could rightly accuse me of being biased against patents. See Judge Rader Doth Protest Too Much in Media Technologies. But, as I also pointed out in this article on Judge Rader’s dissent in Media Technologies Licensing, LLC v. The Upper Deck Company, I don’t believe every patent is “bullet proof,” or to use Judge Plager’s phrase, that some patents aren’t built on “quicksand.” In fact, I agree with Judge Plager’s dissent in the denial of rehearing en banc in Enzo Biochem, Inc. v. Applera Corp., issued May 26, 2010, which argues that the “definiteness” requirement in the second paragraph of 35 U.S.C § 112 needs more “teeth” than Federal Circuit precedent appears to give it.
The three patents, U.S. Pat. No. 5,328,824 (the ‘824 patent), U.S. Pat. No. 5,449,767 (the ‘767 patent), and U.S. Pat. No. 5,082,830 (the ‘830 patent), in Enzo Biochem involved compounds used in techniques for labeling and detecting nucleic acids. The district court granted summary judgment of invalidity of all of the asserted claims of each of these patents based on “indefiniteness” under 35 U.S.C § 112, second paragraph, or alternatively as anticipation under 35 U.S.C § 102. The “indefiniteness” ruling for each of the three patents related primarily to the phrase “not interfering substantially.” This phrase was used to define a linkage group present in the claimed compounds as “not substantially interfering” with the function of these compounds as detection probes with respect to both hybridization and detection (the ‘824 and ‘767 patents) or simply detection (the ‘830 patent).