Posts Tagged: "indefiniteness"

CAFC says PTO Reexamination Should Not Preclude Validity Challenges at District Court

Along with the willfulness finding, the Federal Circuit also overturned findings of no invalidity on a patent that had already survived multiple reexaminations at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in a decision giving patent owners further reason to question whether the Federal Circuit may be more aligned with anti-patent viewpoints… “We hold that a reexamination confirming patentability of a patent claim alone is not determinative of whether a genuine issue of fact precludes summary judgment of no invalidity,” the Federal Circuit’s opinion reads.

$48 Million Willful Infringement Award Vacated by Federal Circuit

Exmark Manufacturing was awarded $24 million in compensatory damages after a jury found that Briggs and Stratton infringed Exmark’s patent on a lawn mower with improved flow control baffles. The award was doubled by the court, after a finding that Briggs and Stratton’s infringement was willful. On appeal, Briggs challenged six holdings: (1) summary judgment that claim 1 was not anticipated or obvious; (2) denial of summary judgment that claim 1 is indefinite; (3) denial of a new trial on damages; (4) evidentiary rulings related to damages; (5) denial of a new trial on willfulness; and, (6) denial of Brigg’s laches defense. The Federal Circuit vacated findings of willfulness and the underlying damages award, remanding to the trial court.

An Interesting Year on the Horizon: What to Watch in 2018

The issues I will be watching in 2018 other than Oil States are as follows: (1) What does the new Director of the USPTO do with respect to reforming the PTAB? (2) Will the USPTO adopt a code of judicial ethics for PTAB judges? (3) Will the U.S. drop out of the top 10 countries for patent protection in the annual U.S. Chamber IP Index? (4) How will the Federal Circuit resolve Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity and the assertion of sovereign immunity by Indian Tribes? (5) Will the Federal Circuit continue its unprecedented disposition of cases without an opinion by relying on Rule 36 summary affirmance? (6) Will Conservative groups become even more vocal advocates of a strong patent system?

CAFC Denies Enhanced Damages and Lost Profits, Competitor Proves Intervening Rights

In determining indefiniteness of a claim based on a testing method referenced in the patent, courts will evaluate whether the method is well known in the art and could reasonably be adapted for the claimed purpose. Intervening rights is an affirmative defense that may arise when claims are substantially changed after an intervening reexamination. For lost profits, a non-infringing alternative does not have to be a direct substitute; it can be an alternative in a hypothetical market absent the infringing product. Enhanced damages are discretionary and may be declined when willful infringement is not egregious, e.g. in light of its defenses and when patentee amended its claims in reexamination. Irreparable injury based on an erroneous lost profits finding will not stand. Further, a permanent injunction may be reconsidered by evaluating the sales in the actual market after the grant of an injunction.

Federal Circuit Clarifies Standard for Indefiniteness of Mixed Subject Matter Claims

Because it is clear when infringement occurs, and the scope of the claims is reasonably certain, the Court reversed the judgment of invalidity due to indefiniteness… Claims having functional elements are not indefinite, as encompassing both an apparatus and a method, if they make clear whether infringement occurs upon creating the apparatus or upon its use. A claim with functional language clearly tied to a structure that defines its capabilities is an apparatus claim; such functional language does not make the claim indefinite by also claiming a method of use.

Judge Paul Michel presents supplemental testimony on PTAB reforms to the House IP subcommittee

To fix the current incarnation of the U.S. patent system and reinvigorate the American economy, Judge Michel called upon the House IP subcommittee to adopt seven specific action items. Five of the action items relate to improvements to patent law for the strengthening of patent rights while optimizing PTAB procedures already in place, while two other action items focus on the administration of the USPTO.

USPTO files brief at CAFC supporting patent-infringing respondent Telebrands

Tinnus argues in its appeal that the PTAB panel applied standards for inter partes review (IPR) proceedings to a trial that was instituted as a PGR. “In its institution decision, the Board incorrectly applied the lower ‘reasonable likelihood’ standard used for IPRs, rather than the higher ‘more likely than not’ standard governing PGRs,” Tinnus’ appeal reads, adding that the PTAB panel didn’t recognize this error in its final written decision.

USPTO, PTAB refuse to follow Supreme Court Nautilus decision

The PTAB is openly refusing to follow the Supreme Court’s decision in Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., it has found a term previously determined definite by the Federal Circuit to be indefinite, and the Solicitor’s Office is siding with an infringer with a reputation as a knock-off artist over an independent inventor… But why doesn’t the USPTO follow Nautilus? Because the Patent Office feels that since they apply the broadest reasonable interpretation to claims that means that the indefiniteness standard set forth by the Supreme Court in Nautilus does not apply to the Office. Breathtaking!

Mentor Graphics v. Synopsys: Affirmed-in-Part, Reversed-in-Part, Vacated-in-Part, and Remanded

Various Synopsys parties and EVE-USA, Inc. (collectively “Synopsys”) sued Mentor Graphics, seeking a declaration that Mentor’s ’376, ’531, and ’176 patents were invalid and not infringed. Mentor counterclaimed for willful infringement of those three patents, and also asserted infringement of two more (the ’526 and ’109 patents). The court consolidated the case with another involving a fourth patent owned by Mentor (the ’882 patent)… A jury does not have to further apportion lost profits to patented features of a larger product after applying the Panduit factors, which implicitly incorporate apportionment into the lost profit award. Claim preclusion applies when a claim was asserted, or could have been asserted, in a prior action. It does not bar allegations that did not exist at the time of the earlier action.

The Federal Circuit Affirms District Court’s Grant of Preliminary Injunction

Practitioners dealing with a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation should be sure to preserve objections for appeal, since failing to object may lead to a more deferential, plain error standard of review, depending on the applicable circuit law. Further, in seeking a preliminary injunction, evidence of harm from pre-issuance of the asserted patent is relevant to show likelihood of irreparable harm from similar injuries in the future.

CAFC Reverses on Indefiniteness Because Claim Terms Sufficiently Supported by Examples

The Court was careful to explain that its “holding in this case does not mean that the existence of examples in the written description will always render a claim definite, or that listing requirements always provide sufficient certainty.” Instead, its holding is simply that “visually negligible” is sufficiently supported by Sonix’s patent “to inform with reasonable certainty those skilled in the art of the scope of the invention.” Practitioners prosecuting applications in which arguably subjective terms exist should include as much guidance as possible in the specification to define that term. It may prove vital to include requirements or examples.

Federal Circuit Affirms in Part and Reverses in Part “Means Plus Function” Indefiniteness

In an indefiniteness analysis, particularly for a “means plus function” claim, the patent must particularly disclose the corresponding structure for performing the claimed function. It is not enough that a person of ordinary skill in the art would likely know what structure to implement. The Court also clarifies that in a willful infringement analysis, the preponderance of the evidence standard implemented in Halo should be used, rather than the clear and convincing evidence standard used in Seagate.

Proper §112 Indefiniteness Analysis is Directed to the Claims Themselves, Not the Terms

The Federal Circuit Court found that the source of the purported indefiniteness (“processing system”) played no role in defining the claims. Since the asserted claims are method claims, patentability resides with the method steps and not with the machines performing those steps.

CAFC: Software means plus function claims Indefinite for failure to disclose algorithm

The Court also affirmed that the this means-plus-function term was indefinite. In the case of computer-implemented functions, the specification must disclose an algorithm for performing the claimed function. The patents-in-suit did not disclose an operative algorithm for the claimed “symbol generator.” A patentee cannot claim a means for performing a specific function and then disclose a “general purpose computer” as the structure performing that function. The specification must disclose an algorithm in hardware or software for performing the stated function.

Federal Circuit affirms district court’s summary judgment of non-infringement

Akzo appealed from the decision of the district court (Chief Judge Leonard Stark) to grant summary judgment to Dow, which found that Dow did not infringe the claims of U.S. Patent 6,767,956, either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents. Dow also cross-appealed from the district court’s conclusion that the claims of the ’956 patent were not indefinite. Ultimately, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court on both appeals.