CAFC Clarifies Experimental Use Exception, Reduces Damages in Partial Reversal of Sunoco Patent Infringement Win
On April 29, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded a decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois regarding alleged infringement by U.S. Venture Inc., (Venture) of certain patents owned by Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals L.P., (Sunoco). Sunoco sued Venture, alleging that its operation of butane-blending systems infringed claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,032,629 (the ‘629 patent), 6,679,302 (the ‘302 patent), and 9,606,548 (the ‘548 patent). Venture counterclaimed, asserting that the patents were not infringed, were invalid and unenforceable. The district court ultimately awarded Sunoco $2 million in damages, which were trebled to $6 million. Venture appealed the district court decision challenging “(I) [the] rejection of its on-sale-bar defense, (II) [the] determination that it infringed two patents we have since held invalid, (III) [the] construction of two claim terms, and (IV) [the] decision to enhance damages.” On cross-appeal, Sunoco challenged the lower court’s decision not to grant its reasonable-royalty award or lost-profits damages.