Villena v. Iancu (Supreme Court Dkt. No. 18-1223), which is the 43rd patent eligibility case to be considered for certiorari since the notorious Alice Corp. decision, was denied cert. on June 10. Villena would have been the 45th patent eligibility case to be considered for certiorari, but the Supreme Court kicked the can over to the Solicitor General for both Vanda Pharmaceuticals and Berkheimer, which happen to be Alice/Mayo cases in which the Federal Circuit held the inventions at issue to be patent eligible. That’s no coincidence. The rough probability of waiting through 43 petitions outlining the capricious decisions from the lower courts before the Supreme Court might generate a “yes” to certiorari is well-above one standard deviation and approaching two standard deviations. It is beyond evident that the Supreme Court refuses to clean up its own mess and will continue to do so for the indefinite future.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the California-based nonprofit public-benefit organization with authority over the global Internet’s system of unique identifiers, e.g. IP addresses and domain names, known as generic top-level domains (gTLDs). ICANN’s New gTLD Program has seen the addition of more than 1,200 top-level domains to the Internet’s Domain Name System. Each new gTLD is contractually obligated to provide a set of trademark Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs), including mainly the Trademark Claims Service, Sunrise, and the Uniform Rapid Suspension system, discussed more fully below. From the perspective of brand owners, new gTLDs—like the Internet itself—continue to create both opportunities and challenges for protecting intellectual property and serving consumers in the online marketplace.
Most U.S. patent practitioners are keenly aware of the foreign filing license requirement for filing of U.S. patent applications abroad. Since it is common for U.S. based companies to file a U.S. priority patent application and take advantage of the one-year grace period for foreign filing, a foreign filing license is typically issued without much thought to the matter. Given the propensity for international companies and many universities to routinely carry out inventive activities in multiple countries by inventors of varied citizenships, the opportunities to run afoul of foreign filing license requirements is of growing concern, and this concern extends well beyond the walls of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
A just-released study co-sponsored by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and AUTM provides new evidence of the significant contribution academic patent licensing makes to the U.S. economy. The report is the most recent in a series, and the numbers are astounding. This couldn’t come at a better time. Renewed efforts are underway to subvert Bayh-Dole from an engine driving innovation into a weapon for government price controls. Even though the Bush, Obama and Trump Administrations wisely rejected their theories, the critics keep banging the drum, and some in Congress are dancing to their tune.
In a June 4 op-ed to IPWatchDog, James Edwards launched a scathing attack against Judge Koh and her 233-page ruling, which found Qualcomm to have engaged in anticompetitive behavior against competitors within the cellular chipset market. However, just as Mr. Edwards claims Judge Koh failed in her undertaking, so too has Mr. Edwards by ignoring the context and facts of the case. His argument against Judge Koh, deliberately or otherwise, does not mention the fact that this case involved the licensing of standard essential patents (SEPs) subject to the FRAND commitment, a contract between the patent holder and the standard setting organization to license the relevant patents on “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory” terms. Indeed, Mr. Edwards makes no mention of standard essential patents in a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the facts and fit a narrative that intellectual property rights writ large are under attack by this decision.
Rule Requiring Prescription Drug Price Disclosures in TV Ads Will Create Complex Lanham Act Enforcement Issues and First Amendment Implications
A Final Rule issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on May 8 (the “Final Rule”) that requires direct-to-consumer (DTC) television advertisements for a prescription drug or biologic covered by the Medicare or Medicaid programs to disclose the product’s “list price,” will become effective on July 9, 2019. The Final Rule mandates price disclosures for any covered drug that is $35 or more for a one-month supply or the usual course of therapy, and includes a unique enforcement mechanism whereby CMS would rely for enforcement on private lawsuits filed pursuant to Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act. In a conference call with reporters, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex M. Azar II analogized the new requirement to mandatory price disclosures required for the automobile industry—despite the fact that cars are not reimbursed by the government, subject to co-pays, prescribed by third parties who function as gatekeepers, or subject to complex arrangements with prescription benefit managers (PBMs) and other healthcare providers. The strained analogy to automobile price disclosures reflects the legal complexities implicated by this requirement and the absence of relevant precedent.
The Eighties are in! A contagious wave of nostalgia has infected popular culture with period TV series, from shows like Stranger Things to rebirths and reboots of the era’s shows and movies. This retro cultural appropriation was bound to involve a copyright issue. Indeed, a dispute arose over a documentary on the 1985 Chicago Bears, which made an unauthorized use of the team’s landmark music video, The Superbowl Shuffle. The Shuffle’s owners claimed an infringement on the licensing market for the work. The documentarians claimed fair use. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, ruled for the documentarians, granting them summary judgment, in Red Label Music Publishing v. Chila Productions.
Automobiles, smartphones, laptops, medical devices, among other end products, contain scores of individual components supplied by vendors. For end products sold domestically, vendors for the components are often U.S. companies. They design and develop their products in the United States. They deploy teams of marketing and sales personnel in the United States to win incorporation of their components into end products for the U.S. market. They enter general business agreements in the United States with end product companies in the United States. They comply with U.S. certifications, standards and qualifications that make their components fit for the U.S. market. They provide customer support in the United States to end customers located in the United States. In short, they actively compete for a share of the U.S. market for their technological components. Yet, when it comes to facing liability for patent infringement, they claim to be exempt. They claim they don’t make any products in the United States—the products are made by contract-manufacturers located abroad. They claim they don’t actually sell any products in the United States either—the actual purchase orders and invoices, as well as shipment and delivery for specific units, occurs between foreign subsidiaries and contract manufacturers, also located abroad. A case currently pending before the Federal Circuit could upset these tactics: Power Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor Int’l, Inc., 2019-1246, 2019-1247 (Fed. Cir.). At the heart of the case is the question of whether patent law has grown out-of-sync from the supply-chain realities of making, selling and marketing technological components for end use in the United States today. For instance, invoicing and shipment for particular units may be farmed out abroad. That creates an ostensibly easy way for companies selling technological components to claim they are neither making nor selling any product in the United States. But it ignores that domestic infringement can nevertheless cause foreign damages. Indeed, the recent decision of the Supreme Court in WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp.138 S. Ct. 2129 (2018) expressly held that foreign damages caused by domestic infringement are recoverable.
The presently pending petition for en banc review in Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Servs., LLC has been addressed by Sherry Knowles and Meredith Addy and is supported by a number of amicus briefs. The patent in issue has been described by the present author as a paradigm of patent eligibility, supporting the argument that en banc review is merited. Mayo has now filed its response brief, submitted on May 7, and argues that the panel’s decision invalidating the asserted claims as ineligible properly applied the two-step Alice framework in light of precedent, that the full Court need not re-examine it, and accordingly, that Appellants’ petition should be denied.
If a judge ever botched an antitrust case involving patents, the prize may go to federal district Judge Lucy Koh for her ruling in favor of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in its antitrust action against Qualcomm. The intersection of intellectual property and antitrust is riddled with land mines and booby traps. The danger of getting an IP issue in this vicinity wrong becomes all the more likely after the Koh ruling and, thus, all the more dangerous and far-reaching. Judge Koh managed to step on several trip wires in her decision for the FTC in a case that should never have been brought, never tried, and should have been withdrawn or dropped. The damage from this ruling will reverberate far beyond the global leader in wireless connectivity technology the FTC unfairly hammered in this case. “Patents are a form of property,” Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim has said, “and the right to exclude is one of the most fundamental bargaining rights a property owner possesses. Rules that deprive a patent holder from exercising this right . . . undermine the incentive to innovate.” Basic principles like property rights, exclusivity, dynamic competition and the incentive to innovate escaped Judge Koh’s grasp.
This morning, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which will be represented in Wednesday’s hearing on Section 101 reform by Senior Legislative Counsel Kate Ruane, announced an urgent phone briefing for members of Congress and staff to address the contention that the “Proposed Patent Bill Would Jeopardize Health Care and Harm Medical Research.” The phone briefing, which all interested stakeholders should join, takes place today at 2:30 pm EST and will be jointly held by representatives from the ACLU, the Association for Molecular Pathology, a breast cancer survivor and patient, My Gene Counsel, and Invitae. Anyone who would like to listen should dial in to the number provided here. Below, Sherry Knowles, a well-known patent attorney, policy expert and also a breast cancer survivor, rebuts the arguments made in both the ACLU’s briefing announcement and associated letter to Congress on this topic.
You are about to strike a deal with an industry partner to develop an exciting new product. Or maybe you have identified the perfect opportunity to acquire an upstart company whose tech would allow you to expand into a lucrative market. Smart companies do their diligence and plan ahead to ensure they maximize the benefits and mitigate the risks of the deal. Fortunately, diligence into technology assets and intellectual property is not that different from the diligence you would do when buying a house. Not everyone is fluent in technology and intellectual property, though—these are complex areas with their own sets of issues. This article lays out five simple questions a company should ask itself throughout the diligence process to help tease out and navigate red flags, with the assistance of an experienced IP transactional attorney.
“It is, to me at least, regrettable that because these apparently simple words [computer programs … as such] have no clear meaning both our courts and the Technical Boards of Appeal at the EPO have stopped even trying to understand them. However, we are so far down that road that “returning were as tedious as go o’er”. Instead we are now engaged on a search for a “technical contribution” or a “technical effect”. Instead of arguing about what the legislation means, we argue about what the gloss means. We do not even know whether these substitute phrases mean the same thing […].” – Lewison LJ, in HTC Europe Co Ltd v Apple Inc  EWCA Civ 451 . This extract has inspired this article, in an effort to scrutinize whether the critique by Lewison LJ is still controversial today, six years after that judgment was rendered in the United Kingdom. In doing so, the article analyzes the two divergent approaches on determining whether a particular subject matter is patentable under UK and EU patent law, focusing specifically on the patentability of computer programs/software. First, I discuss the “technical contribution/effect approach” by the UK courts (“UK approach”) and the “any hardware approach” by the European Patent Office (“EPO approach”). The differences between these two approaches become apparent in comparing the former to the latter, in light of HTC Europe v. Apple, and by attempting to define the legal terminology addressing “computer programs” and “technical contribution’/‘technical effect”.
Have you ever worked with a lay inventor who had a hard time dealing with obviousness under U.S. patent law? Many patent lawyers have. It is one of the greatest ironies in patent law: obviousness is not obvious. Lay people struggle with the concept of patent-related obviousness all the time. It is easy to understand their confusion. As lay people see it, an inventor can create and claim something that has never before been patented by anyone, has never been sold by anyone, has never been built by anyone, and has never even been publicly described by anyone; and can nevertheless be denied a patent “if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are such that the claimed invention as a whole would have been obvious before the effective filing date of the claimed invention to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains.” (This is a quotation from the post-AIA statute, 35 USC § 103(a), though language in the pre-AIA statute 35 USC § 103 is similar, obviously.)
Over the course of two weeks, the United States has imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods and has blacklisted Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications company, on national security grounds. Google, Intel, Qualcomm and Micron have announced that they will stop doing business with the company. The United States has even threatened to withhold intelligence from our key allies if they go forward with plans to use Huawei equipment. Although there are many issues driving this newly escalated trade war between the United States and China, chief among them is the concern that China and its companies are engaged in intellectual property theft. Say what? Upend global markets over infringement of private technology rights? This must be pretty serious. Let’s take a closer look.