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Posts Tagged: "Attorneys Fees"

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.

Counseling Clients on What Constitutes Exceptionality in Patent Litigation: A View from Delaware

After a client prevails in patent litigation in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, the client often wants to know whether it can obtain its attorneys’ fees from the opposing party. The answer is yes, but only if the court finds exceptionality under 35 U.S.C. § 285, which states “The court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.” (Although 35 U.S.C. § 285 applies to patent litigation in all United States district courts, this article focuses only on recent decisions of the District of Delaware. Another tool available to clients are enhanced damages claims under 35 U.S.C. § 284. Damages under Section 284, however, are “reserved for egregious cases typified by willful misconduct” and are not a focus of this article.) 

Copyrights Help SMEs Bring Their Ideas to Market – Especially if They’re Registered

Discussion around intellectual property strategies for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often focus chiefly on patent and trademarks. But the benefits of copyright to a small business should not be underestimated. Copyrights protect the expression of ideas in works that are tangible. Copyrightable subject matter is very broad—all “original works of authorship, fixed in a tangible medium” are protected immediately from creation. The U.S. Copyright Office lists these categories as subject to copyright protection: literary works, musical works, performing arts, visual arts, other digital content (including computer software code), motion pictures, photographs, sound recordings, and architectural works. 17 U.S.C. Section 102.

CAFC Says District Court Abused Its Discretion in Granting Attorney’s Fees Under Sections 285 and 1117(a)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today reversed a district court decision awarding attorney’s fees to Luv n’ Care Ltd. (LNC) against Munchkin, Inc. The Federal Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion in granting LNC’s motion for attorney’s fees as “LNC’s fee motion insufficiently presented the required facts and analysis needed to establish that Munchkin’s patent, trademark, and trade dress infringement claims were so substantively meritless to render the case exceptional.” The Court also pointed to its recent ruling in Amneal Pharmaceuticals v. Almirall regarding attorney’s fees with respect to Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings, though it did not reach that issue in the present case. The opinion was authored by Judge Chen.

SCOTUS Holds in NantKwest that USPTO Cannot Be Reimbursed for Salaries of Legal Personnel

The Supreme Court ruled in Peter v. NantKwest today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cannot recover the salaries of USPTO attorneys and paralegals who work on civil actions against the USPTO Director in the Eastern District of Virginia. The Court held that the language of Section 145 of the Patent Act, which says that applicants must pay all the expenses of the proceedings for a civil action, “does not overcome the American Rule’s presumption against fee shifting.” The USPTO argued that the Federal Circuit’s en banc 2018 decision holding “all expenses” does not include “expenses that the USPTO incurs when its employees, including attorneys, defend the agency in Section 145 litigation,” is inconsistent with the ordinary meaning of  “expenses” and Section 145’s “history and purpose.”

The Case Act: Good Intentions but Bad Policy

On October 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 410-6, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (the “CASE Act”). The Act proposes to set up what is in essence a voluntary administrative procedure conducted in the U.S. Copyright Office whereby artists and other copyright holders can protect their copyrights without the cost, expense and difficulty associated with filing a full-blown copyright infringement litigation in federal court. Based on the vote in the House, the CASE Act appears to enjoy widespread, bipartisan support in Congress—a rarity these days, to be sure. The appeal is simple: give individual artists and small companies an affordable mechanism to enforce their rights in their creative works. But although the political appeal of the CASE Act is obvious, the practical reality of the CASE Act is something entirely different. Indeed, there are three gaping holes in the CASE Act which may cause the small claims process it sets forth to have only very narrow appeal and to be an effective dispute resolution mechanism in only a narrow subset of cases.

Peter v. NantKwest: Government Counsel Struggles to Make the Case for Recovering Attorneys’ Fees

Justices Breyer, Kavanaugh, Ginsburg and Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts were among the most active questioners of Malcolm Stewart, representing the government of the United States, and Morgan Chu of Irell & Manella, representing NantKwest, during yesterday’s oral argument in Peter v. NantKwest at the Supreme Court. The question presented in the case is “Whether the phrase ‘[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings’ in 35 U.S.C. 145 encompasses the personnel expenses the USPTO incurs when its employees, including attorneys, defend the agency in Section 145 litigation.” The government’s argument at yesterday’s hearing seemed shaky at best. Stewart himself admitted repeatedly that there was “no good explanation” for the fact that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had, as noted in NantKwest’s reply brief “until now…never even sought, much less been awarded, attorneys’ fees under § 145 in the nearly two centuries since its passage.”

The Insurance-Intellectual Property Interface: Traps for the Unwary

Intellectual property litigators are often required to assess and pursue insurance coverage that may be available for policyholders they represent in ongoing litigation. More than assuring prompt notice of a potentially covered claim is required to meet these responsibilities. There are five issues intellectual property defense counsel need to focus on in assuring that insurance coverage opportunities are properly vetted.

Second Circuit Ruling on “Velocity” Trademark Clarifies Standards For Awards in Lanham Act Cases

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision in an appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York last Thursday that in part clarified that “a plaintiff prosecuting a trademark infringement claim need not in every case demonstrate actual consumer confusion to be entitled to an award of an infringer’s profits.” The Second Circuit court also remanded the case back to the District Court to apply the Octane Fitness standard for determining “exceptional” cases under the Lanham Act.

AIPLA: The Supreme Court Must Ensure the U.S. Government Adheres to the American Rule in Peter v. NantKwest

When a patent or trademark applicant loses in front of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), they can either appeal to a court of appeals or develop a fuller record by starting a district court action. If the applicant goes to district court, then the applicable statute says that the applicant-appellant pays “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings,” and everyone at one time agreed that those expenses did not include fees for the government’s attorneys. That changed in 2013, when the USPTO unilaterally started including its attorney and support staff fees amongst the expenses. On the first Monday of October—the first day of arguments in the Supreme Court’s 2019 term—the Court will hear argument in Peter v. NantKwest, No. 18-801. The question in that case is whether the word “expenses” includes the government’s attorneys’ fees. On July 22, we filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) arguing that it does not.

Nantkwest Amici Urge SCOTUS Not to Shift Attorney’s Fees in Section 145 Appeals

This March, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorarito take up Peter v. Nantkwest Inc., on appeal from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The case will ask the nation’s highest court to determine whether the phrase “[a]ll expenses of the proceeding” found in 35 U.S.C. § 145, which governs appeals to district court of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decisions to deny the issue of a patent grant, encompasses personnel expenses incurred by the USPTO, including attorneys’ fees, when its employees defend the agency against Section 145 litigation. On July 22, a series of intellectual property and law associations filed amicusbriefs in the case by and large supporting the position of Nantkwest. This includes the American Bar Association, which argued that the USPTO’s interpretation of the statute would “hamper the equal access to justice and chill the assertion of meritorious claims.” Other Nantkwest amici argued that the government has had the statutory authority to collect ‘expenses of the proceeding’ in patent cases since 1839 but for the 174 years prior to the case against Nantkwest, the USPTO has declined to seek attorney’s fees.

NYIPLA Urges Supreme Court Not to Award USPTO Staff Attorney Salaries as ‘Expenses’ in Patent Appeals to ED of Virginia

On June 25, 2019, the New York Intellectual Property Association (NYIPLA) filed an Amicus Brief in support of the Respondent in Peter v. NantKwest, Inc., No. 18-801, pending before the Supreme Court.  NantKwest raises the issue of whether patent applicants who are dissatisfied with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) decisions and subsequently appeal to the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia must pay USPTO staff attorney salaries as part of “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings” under 35 U.S.C. Section 145, which allows applicants to pursue a civil action against decisions of the USPTO Director.

Federal Circuit Affirms $1.3M Attorney’s Fees Award Under Octane Fitness Standard

The Federal Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s award of attorney’s fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285. In particular, the Federal Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision based on the plaintiff’s inadequate pre-suit investigation of infringement in the related cases. See Thermolife Int’l, LLC v. GNC Corp., Nos. 2018-1657, 2018-1666, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 13135 (Fed. Cir. May 1, 2019) (Before Taranto, Bryson, and Stoll, J.) (Opinion for the Court, Taranto, J). Leland Stanford Junior University (Stanford) and Thermolife International, LLC (Thermolife) are the owners and exclusive licensee, respectively, of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,891,459, 6,117,872, 6,646,006, and 7,452,916 directed to methods and compositions involving the amino acids arginine and lysine, to be ingested to enhance vascular function and physical performance. Thermolife, later joined by Stanford, brought suit alleging Hi-Tech, Vital, and multiple companies from the GNC family infringed the aforementioned patents. The parties agreed to bifurcate the proceedings: a consolidated trial on invalidity and enforceability would be held; and if necessary, separate proceedings on infringement would follow. The district court found the asserted claims of all four patents invalid as either being anticipated or obvious.

Examining Octane Fitness Five Years On

Five years ago today, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Octane Fitness LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., empowering district courts to award attorneys’ fees in those patent case that “stand out from others.”  Last year, we crunched the numbers and explored several notable trends that have emerged post-Octane Fitness. For that article, we looked at nearly 420 decisions spanning nearly four years. In the last 14 months, district courts have been asked to declare patent cases exceptional another 165 times. Below, this article revisits the statistics and takes a deeper look at the line between zealous advocacy and litigation misconduct that can serve as the basis of an exceptional case determination.

Rimini Street v. Oracle USA: Kavanaugh Frowns on Broad Interpretation of ‘Full Costs’ Under Copyright Act

On Monday, March 4, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued the decision for a unanimous Supreme Court in Rimini Street, Inc. v. Oracle USA, Inc., which asked whether the meaning of “full costs” under 17 U.S.C. § 505 of the U.S. Copyright Act extends to damages outside of the six categories of costs that U.S. district courts can award against a losing party as outlined in 28 U.S.C. § 1821 and 28 U.S.C. § 1920. In siding with petitioner Rimini Street, the Supreme Court held that “full costs” in the copyright litigation context are limited to Sections 1821 and 1920, reversing the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision to award $12.8 million to Oracle covering litigation expenses outside of the statutory schedule of costs.