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Posts in Federal Circuit

Biden Names Delaware Judge Leonard Stark to Replace O’Malley on CAFC

President Joe Biden today announced that Judge Leonard Stark of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware is his latest nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). Stark will replace CAFC Judge Kathleen O’Malley, who announced on July 27 this year that she will retire, leaving a vacancy on the court as of March 11, 2022.

Pro-Apple TTAB Bias Case Heats Up at CAFC

Following a motion filed in mid-October with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) accusing the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and its management of facilitating the appearance of bias at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) in favor of Apple, Inc., Apple has now filed its opposition to that motion. Apple contends there is no precedent for allowing the motion, as it requests to supplement the record with documents that were not part of the trial record; that the TTAB is “an executive adjudicatory body” within the USPTO, which is “an executive agency within the Department of Commerce, and the TTAB’s administrative law judges are not subject to the recusal requirements set out in 28 U.S.C. § 455”; and that the documents Charles Bertini is asking to submit “reflect merely routine and fleeting professional contacts” that “fall far below the threshold of the personal contacts necessary to support disqualification on the basis of bias or prejudice.”

CAFC Addresses Standing Requirement in Brooklyn Brew Shop Trademark Dispute

On October 27, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s (TTAB) cancellation of Brooklyn Brew Shop, LLC’s (BBS) standard character mark and dismissed in part, affirmed in part and remanded the TTAB’s decision regarding the opposition of BBS’s mark. For over 30 years, The Brooklyn Brewery Corporation (Brewery) has used the marks BROOKLYN and BROOKLYN BREWERY in connection with the advertising, promotion, and sale of Brewery’s beer and beer-related merchandise. In 2006, Brewery registered BROOKLYN BREWERY as a federal trademark for beer in class 32.

Alice-Insanity (Part One), or Why the Alice-Mayo Test Violates Due Process of Law

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees, inter alia, that no person shall be deprived of property (including intellectual property), without due process of law. For instance, it is settled law that a federal statute may be so arbitrary and capricious as to violate due process. Similarly, it is settled that an administrative agency, e.g., the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), cannot escape the due process of law requirement when processing patent applications. In theory (less in reality), due process of the law extends to judicial as well as political branches of government, and judgments that violate constitutional limitations and guarantees are void or voidable.

Federal Circuit Grants Mandamus to Dish, Ordering Albright to Transfer

In its latest rebuke of Judge Alan Albright’s approach to motions to transfer cases out of his court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) on October 21 granted DISH Network’s petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the denial of its motion to transfer a case filed by Broadband iTV (BBiTV) from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.

The Section 145 Trilogy: Why More Applicants Might Take Patent Applications from the USPTO to the E.D. of VA

Typically, patent examiners are the prominent decision-makers controlling whether patent applications are allowed. However, Applicants have the power to change who controls these decisions. For example, each Examiner’s Answer must be approved by a supervisory examiner, so filing an Appeal Brief results in the supervisory examiner reviewing the rejections at hand, the appellant’s arguments, and the examiner’s responses to the appellant’s arguments. (If the supervisory examiner agrees with the appellant, then the application is either allowed or prosecution is reopened with one or more new rejections). So long as prosecution is not reopened, paying the Forwarding Fee subsequent to receiving the Examiner’s Answer results in jurisdiction shifting to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).

The Fintiv Deception: Leahy’s Legislative ‘Fix’ is Unwarranted in Light of Sotera Wireless

Several weeks ago, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Restoring America Invents Act, which would reverse the reforms of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) introduced by former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Andrei Iancu. The Senators claim that the legislation is necessary, among other reasons, to prevent undermining the Congressional intent in enacting the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA). According to Senator Leahy specifically, Director Iancu’s reforms politicized inter partes review (IPR) decisions by exercising discretion not to institute every IPR challenge filed by petitioners. “[Andrei Iancu] took actions that were designed to undermine the IPR process,” Leahy explained at a ceremony in September commemorating the 10th anniversary of the AIA. “[The Iancu reforms] hamstring the ability of the public to challenge poor-quality patents.”

USPTO Judges, Management, Accused of Bias—This Time at the TTAB

A motion filed on Friday, October 15, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) requests that the appellant, Charles Bertini, be allowed to present evidence not of record in order to demonstrate that bias at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) may have had a negative impact on his case. Bertini owns the mark APPLE JAZZ, which was registered in New York state in 1991 for entertainment services. He began using the mark well before that, in 1985. Unaware that he did not have a federal registration, Bertini filed an opposition against Apple, Inc.’s federal registration for “Apple Music” in 2016, along with an application to register APPLE JAZZ with the USPTO.

An Ax(le) Needs Grinding: Can the Federal Circuit Turn the Wheel?

I recently opened a Bordeaux and re-read the petition for certiorari in American Axle v. Neapco. Not because I like watching horror films or black-and-white footage of a piano sliding downstairs, mind you. But well, you know. The Petition is well written and the Bordeaux did its job; however, it was still painful to read the recounting of the successive bad decisions to invalidate American Axle’s patents in light of the arguments made by accused infringer Neapco. Yet, in context, it’s just another of the thousand blows against U.S. inventors and our innovation ecosystem. It’s shameful that a company with a new and useful technology in the automotive industry was stymied in its appeal by our nation’s highest patent court.

Federal Circuit Clarifies Criteria for ‘Exceptionality’ Finding in Awarding Attorneys’ Fees

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued a precedential decision today in which it affirmed a district court’s finding of exceptionality under 35 U.S.C. § 285 in favor of Energy Heating et. al., thus upholding an award of attorneys’ fees based on inequitable conduct. The opinion was authored by Judge Prost. The case stems from a 2018 CAFC ruling in which the court upheld a district court’s finding that Heat-On-the-Fly’s (HOTF’s) U.S. Patent No. 8,171,993 was unenforceable due to inequitable conduct, but remanded the district court’s denial of Energy Heating’s motion for attorneys’ fees. As reported at the time, the CAFC said that, while courts are not required to award attorneys’ fees upon a finding of inequitable conduct, they must “articulate a basis for doing so.” Thus, the CAFC remanded for the court to reconsider and supply its reasoning in the case that it again chose not to award attorneys’ fees.

CAFC Affirms Eastern Texas Rulings of Noninfringement for Telecom Companies

On October 12, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued two related precedential opinions affirming the decisions of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, holding that neither Verizon Wireless and Sprint Communications nor Nokia Solutions infringed Traxcell Technologies LLC’s patents. raxcell sued Verizon and Sprint for infringing four of its patents, all of which share a specification and a 2001 priority date. The four patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,977,284 (the ‘284 patent), 9,5,10,320 (the ‘320 patent), 9,642,024 (the ‘024 patent), and 9,549,388 (the ‘388 patent). In a separate suit, Traxcell sued Nokia for infringing the ‘284, the ‘320, and the ‘024 patents.

The claims of three of the four patents at issue—the ‘284, 320, and ‘024 patents (collectively the SON patents)—are related to self-optimizing network (SON) technology for making “corrective actions” to improve communications between a wireless device and a network.

How Public Opinion Polls Expand the Conversation on GSK v. Teva and Skinny Labeling

The Federal Circuit’s recent majority opinion and Chief Judge Prost’s dissenting opinion in the GlaxoSmithKline LLC v. Teva Pharmaceuticals “skinny labeling” case has raised eyebrows and piqued interest beyond the usual circles. The decision’s result is a lower bar for finding induced infringement—a win for brand-name companies. While the jury found infringement against Teva’s skinny labeled carvedilol, a congestive heart failure drug, we could not help but wonder if the American public sees the issue more like the majority Federal Circuit opinion or more like the dissenting opinion of Chief Judge Prost? How do Americans view “skinny labeling,” and how might those opinions intersect with future findings of the evolving law? Will jurors see the stronger position of brand companies as something to uphold or does the consumer benefit of generics foster a different preference? We discuss the legal perspectives and national surveys on skinny labeling and patent protections to expand the conversation.

CAFC Shoots Down Due Process Challenges to PTAB Structure

In an appeal from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) brought by Mobility Workx against Unified Patents, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today ruled that the structure of the PTAB does not violate due process rights under the U.S. Constitution. While the PTAB’s ruling was ultimately remanded to the USPTO Director for review under Arthrex v. Smith & Nephew, the court said there is no evidence that PTAB administrative patent judges (APJs) have a financial interest in instituting inter partes review (IPR) proceedings. Judge Newman dissented from the majority’s “endorsement of the status quo.”

CareDx v. Natera: The Latest in Patent Eligibility of Medical Diagnostics

The latest ruling involving patent eligibility of medical diagnostics comes from Chief Judge Connolly of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware in a consolidated case brought by CareDx, Inc. and the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University against Natera, Inc. (Civil Action No. 19-0567-CFC-CJB) and Eurofins Viracor, Inc. (Civil Action No. 19-1804-CFC-CJB). After initially denying the Defendants’ motions for summary judgment of invalidity of the asserted patents under 35 U.S.C. §101 in December 2020, the Court then later denied certification motions for interlocutory appeal and instead ruled sua sponte to reconsider its own denial of summary judgment. Following an evidentiary hearing during which expert testimony was heard, the Court reversed its previous ruling to find all claims of the asserted patents invalid as a matter of law under §101.

In re Surgisil: Boon, Burden, or Mixed Bag for Patent Applicants and Patentees?

Last week, the Federal Circuit Court reversed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board decision in In re Surgisil, L.L.P., overturning the Board’s ruling that a design for a rolled-paper art tool for blending anticipated Surgisil’s (Applicant) claimed lip implant. In re Surgisil, L.L.P., No. 2020-1940, 2021 WL 4515275 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 4, 2021). Although the “stump” art tool cited as prior art in Surgisil resembled Applicant’s lip implant (see below), the Federal Circuit found that Applicant’s “claim is limited to lip implants and does not cover other articles of manufacture.” From this finding, the Surgisil court appears to extrapolate a symmetry by which a design for an artist’s stump is both ineligible for citation against Applicant’s lip implant in patent prosecution and also not covered in a putative enforcement of Applicant’s design.