In Vehicle Interface Technologies, LLC v. Ford Motor Company and its related case against Jaguar Land Rover North America, Judge Richard G. Andrews recently granted the defendants’ motions for summary judgment of invalidity based on anticipation. C.A. Nos. 12-1284-RGA, 12-1285-RGA (D. Del. Jan. 21, 2015). The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent No. 6,842,677, entitled “Vehicle User Interface System and Method.” Defendants argued anticipation based on the prior sale of the 2001 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Id. at 3. The only disputed issue was the construction of one term (“page”), as plaintiff conceded that if the Court adopted defendants’ construction, then the patent-in-suit was anticipated by this prior art reference. Id. at 5. Having adopted defendants’ construction, id. at 10, the Court concluded that the reference was anticipatory and granted defendants’ motion. Id. at 11-12.
Judge Andrews recently denied Plaintiffs’ motion to modify a protective order in order to permit Plaintiffs to use expert reports from the District Court litigation (that had already proceeded to trial) in inter partes review proceedings pending before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Novartis Pharms. Corp. v. Noven Pharms., Inc., C.A. No. 13-527-RGA (D. Del. Jan. 9, 2015). Plaintiffs argued that good cause existed to modify the protective order so that Plaintiffs could demonstrate inconsistencies in the expert’s opinions. Judge Andrews disagreed finding that Plaintiffs:
had motivation to demonstrate inconsistencies in the opinions of [the expert] in the trial held before me, and, based on the citations in Plaintiffs letter, did so, or, at least, tried to do so. I do not understand, given the representation that the trial transcript can be used in the IPR, and that [the expert] will soon be deposed and can presumably be further questioned about whether anything he said at trial is inconsistent with his current invalidity analysis (which, I gather, has not changed), why his infringement report is necessary for justice to be had.
Furthermore, Judge Andrews found defendant’s confidentiality concerns to be legitimate and not worth the risk considering Plaintiffs’ “minimal” need for using the expert reports in the IPR.
At the summary judgment stage of an ongoing patent infringement action, Judge Richard G. Andrews has found a patent related to “a computer-aided learning system” invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 for claiming ineligible subject matter. The patent at issue, U.S. Patent No. 6,688,888, as described in its abstract and quoted by Judge Andrews, covered:
A computer-aided learning method and apparatus based on a super-recommendation generator, which is configured to assess a user’s or a student’s understanding in a subject, reward the user who has reached one or more milestones in the subject, further the user’s understanding in the subject through relationship learning, reinforce the user’s understanding in the subject through reviews, and restrict the user from enjoying entertainment materials under certain condition, with the entertainment materials requiring a device to fulfill its entertainment purpose. The generator does not have to be configured to perform all of the above functions.
IpLearn, LLC v. K12 Inc., C.A. No. 11-1026-RGA, Memo. Op. at 3 (D. Del. Dec. 17, 2014).
Judge Andrews explained that the novelty of the invention at issue was the use of computers. Examining the patent specification, His Honor observed: “Three things are noteworthy about this passage. First, the educational practices were described as being ‘decades’ old. Second, the educational testing practices that the inventors considered to be desirable were all well-known, as evidenced by the inventors’ description of the undesirable practices as being ‘typical’ and ‘usual.’ Implicit in the inventors’ recitation is that the better practices were known, but rarely used. Third, the solution is described as ‘[add] computers.’” Id. at 9.
Judge Andrews first found that the patent claims were directed to the abstract idea of “instruction, evaluation, and review.” Id. at 9-12. The asserted claims, he observed, “follow several steps directed at the abstract idea of instruction, evaluation, and review. More specifically, the steps are an abstraction, addressed to fundamental human behavior related to instruction, which is apparent when the steps are summarized without their generic references to computers and networks: 1) accessing a learner’s test results, 2) analyzing those test results, 3) providing guidance on weaknesses, 4) generating a report on two or more subjects to be shared with others, 5) considering the learner’s preferences, 6) allowing access to areas of a subject on the Internet, 7) providing an identifier for a learner, 8) storing the learner’s materials, and 9) allowing a search of those materials. None of these steps taken individually, or taken collectively, is sufficiently concrete. As a whole, they represent an abstract idea of conventional everyday teaching that happens in schools across the country. While there are limitations, they do not save the claims from being directed at an abstract idea.” Id. at 11. Judge Andrews continued: “the ‘888 patent’s Background section begins, ‘[t]he present invention relates generally to learning and more particularly to using a computer to enhance learning.’ Such subject matter seems precisely the building blocks of ingenuity the Supreme Court in Alice Corp. was so concerned about inhibiting. Instructing students, evaluating those students, and providing methods to review their progress are concepts that have probably existed as long as there has been formal education.” Id. at 11 (internal citations omitted).
Judge Andrews then turned to whether the “method outlined in the patent is sufficiently transformative of the abstract idea to make it patent eligible.” Id. at 11-14. Although the asserted claims did contain limitations, Judge Andrews found that “none are sufficient to ensure that the claims amount to ‘significantly more’ than patenting the abstract idea of instruction, evaluation, and review. Nor do they possess inventive concepts to transform the abstract idea.” For example, “[g]enerating learning materials, allowing diagnostic testing, and allowing a learner to search an area for material on the learner’s weaknesses are not meaningful limitations.” Id. at 12.
Judge Andrews used the following hypothetical to illustrate his point:
An elementary student is taught multiplication tables. She takes a test, and her results are graded (or “accessed”) by her teacher. The teacher analyzes the student’s test results against a grading rubric to determine the student’s weaknesses. The teacher provides guidance to the student about her weaknesses. The teacher puts together a progress report on the student’s multiplication tables, highlighting the student’s most recent test, perhaps identifying weaknesses with multiples of 6 and 11. This progress report is shared with others, perhaps in a parent-teacher conference. The teacher takes into consideration the student’s preference for math games over timed pop quizzes. The student is allowed to access flash cards (“materials”) on her weak multiples, which are kept in a file cabinet in her classroom. Using the student’s first and last name as an identifier, the teacher stores the student’s materials in a file. Her parents can also request to see her file by telling the teacher her name. This is the kind of hypothetical that could happen every day in elementary schools in this country. Allowing the claims at issue would simply inhibit fundamental educational instruction and the building blocks of human ingenuity. The fact that computers, networks, the Internet, computer readable medium, or computer program code figure into [the] claims . . . and the dependent claims, does not save them. . . . As a thought experiment, if these generic terms are excised, the claims preempt the most fundamental aspects of educational instruction with teachers and testing.
Id. at 13.
Judge Andrews also provided a few interesting indications of what information he found useful to his section 101 analysis, noting that it “is clear that a number of district courts are grappling with section 101 issues after Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014). With the exception of Ultramercial, Inc. v. Hulu, LLC, 2014 WL 5904902 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 14, 2014), however, the Court found most of this additional authority [from district courts and the Federal Circuit] not entirely relevant or on-point.” Id. at 2 n.1.
Judge Andrews also noted: “In a recent concurrence [in Ultramercial], Judge Mayer wrote that section 101 eligibility is a ‘threshold question,’ ‘the primal inquiry, one that must be addressed at the outset of litigation,’ explaining that the determination ‘bears some of the hallmarks of a jurisdictional inquiry.’ The Court is not certain whether Judge Mayer’s opinion is a correct statement of the law for all cases but believes it is instructive in this case. IpLearn has asserted that K12 must provide evidence to support the contention that the claims at issue are abstract ideas. Because section 101 determinations are questions of law, and a threshold inquiry, and because every judge and lawyer has firsthand experience with instructional methods, this Court does not believe it necessary that K12 proffer evidence that the type of instruction and testing outlined in the claims is time-honored.” Id. at 8 n.6 (citations omitted).
Following remand from the Federal Circuit, Judge Richard G. Andrews affirmed the District Court’s original construction of the term “electrode,” finding it is a “microelectrode having a width of 15 [microns] up to approximately 100 [microns].” Roche Diagnostics Operations, Inc. v. Abbott Diabetes Care, Inc., C.A. No. 07-753-RGA (D. Del. Dec. 5, 2014). Following the Court’s claim construction opinion in the prior district court proceeding, plaintiff moved for reconsideration, advancing a different claim construction theory for the term “electrode” than it had initially advanced. Id. at 1. At the pretrial hearing, Judge Andrews tentatively denied plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, but nevertheless invited plaintiff to file a brief in opposition to that tentative denial. Id. at 4. Because the opposition brief cited authority and made arguments not previously set forth in any of plaintiff’s other briefing, Judge Andrews found that this was essentially “a second motion for reconsideration.” Id. at 4-5. Judge Andrews denied the motion for reconsideration and entered summary judgment of non-infringement based on the electrode construction. Id. at 5. Plaintiff appealed the summary judgment order based in part on the allegedly erroneous construction of “electrode.” Id. at 1. The Federal Circuit vacated the judgment of non-infringement and remanded to the District Court to “consider the parties’ arguments that pertain to the scope of the term ‘electrode.’”
First, on remand, Judge Andrews requested that the parties address “( 1) whether [plaintiff’s] motion for reconsideration was procedurally appropriate, and (2) if so, whether Defendants waived any procedural objections to [plaintiff’s] new claim construction argument by not addressing them on appeal to the Federal Circuit.” Id. at 6. Considering these issues, Judge Andrews found that the motion for reconsideration “was properly denied on procedural grounds,” especially given that plaintiff raised not only an “argument it did not make, but an argument that is contrary to the argument it did make.” Id. at 8. Accordingly, “on that basis alone,” Judge Andrews adopted the District Court’s original construction of the term “electrode.” Id. at 8.
Nevertheless, consistent with the Federal Circuit’s decision, Judge Andrews addressed the merits of plaintiff’s argument with respect to the construction of the term “electrode.” Id. at 8-15. Judge Andrews considered the concept of “non-planar diffusion,” whether certain examples constituted unclaimed embodiments, whether a particular claim was enabled, and new extrinsic evidence presented by plaintiff. Id. at 10-15. Considering all these points, Judge Andrews affirmed the District Court’s original construction of the term “electrode.” Id. at 15.
Judge Andrews recently overruled objections to a report and recommendation on claim construction issued by Chief Magistrate Judge Thynge, previously discussed here. Hand Held Prods., Inc. v. Amazon.com, et al., C.A. No. 12-768-RGA-MPT (D. Del. Nov. 5, 2014). Judge Andrews noted with respect to one objection that the Supreme Court’s decision (issued between claim construction briefing and Judge Andrews’ consideration of Judge Thynge’s recommendations) in Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2120 (2014) changed the legal standard for showing indefiniteness. The defendant argued that Judge Thynge erroneously applied the former “insolubly ambiguous” standard, but Judge Andrews disagreed and found that Judge Thynge correctly applied the standard enunciated in Nautilus. Id. at 8. Judge Andrews also rejected the defendant’s argument that Nautilus “eliminated the requirement that the party challenging the validity of a patent must prove invalidity by clear and convincing evidence.” Id. The Court explained that it “does not interpret the new standard to have any effect on the presumption of validity or to eliminate or change the evidentiary burden of proof. In fact, the Supreme Court expressly discussed the presumption and burden of proof and made no mention of changing or eliminating either.” Id. at 8-9 (citing Nautilus, 134 S. Ct. at 2030 n.10).
In EMC Corp., et al. v. Pure Storage, Inc., C.A. No. 13-1985-RGA (D. Del. Nov. 5, 2014), Judge Richard G. Andrews recently struck affirmative defenses of inequitable conduct and unclean hands against prosecuting attorneys of one of the patents-in-suit, but denied plaintiffs’ motion to strike these defenses against the inventors of this patent. Defendant alleged that the patent’s inventors and two prosecuting attorneys failed to disclose a certain prior art patent to the PTO with the intent to deceive. The focus of plaintiffs’ motion was on what defendant had alleged with respect to intent to deceive.
The Court first held that the prosecuting attorneys’ appointment of power of attorney for the prosecution of the patent (along with five other lawyers) was insufficient to show their “substantial involve[ment]” in the prosecution of that patent, nor was this fact sufficient to adequately plead an intent to deceive by these individuals. Id. at 3.
However, as to the patent’s inventors, the Court denied the motion to strike these defenses, finding that the allegations were sufficient. Defendant had alleged that the inventors of the patent not disclosed to the PTO were colleagues of the inventors of the patent-in-suit and that both “sets of inventors worked on the same family of products at the same company.” Id. at 4. Furthermore, defendant also alleged that the patent-in-suit’s inventors were familiar with and cited other works by at least one of the prior art patent’s inventors. Id. As a result, the Court granted the motion to strike in part and denied it in part.
In the Order, the Court also clarified that the legal standard for intent to deceive at the pleading stage was governed by Exergen Corp. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 575 F. 3d 1213 (Fed. Cir. 2009) rather than the higher standard articulated at a bench trial in Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson Co., 649 F.3d 1276 (Fed. Cir. 2011). Plaintiff had cited Therasense for the legal standard. Id. at 2 n.2.
As previously reported here, Judge Andrews granted a motion for attorneys’ fees and costs under Section 285 and the Supreme Court’s Octane Fitness decision. Judge Andrews ordered the parties to make further submissions of “supporting documentation necessary to justify their fees as well as a brief explanation of those documents.” Having received those submissions from the parties, Judge Andrews determined last week that the defendants were entitled to a substantial portion of the fees they sought. Chalumeau Power Sys. LLC v. Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc., et al., C.A. No. 11-1175-RGA, Memo. Or. at 1-4 (D. Del. Nov. 6, 2014). Under the Lodestar approach, Judge Andrews determined that the “forum rate” for the case “must be governed by the rate for Delaware intellectual property attorneys” and that the “limited exception to the forum rule cannot apply because a number of Delaware attorneys can, and do, capably litigate patent matters.” Id. at 3.
Judge Andrews therefore concluded that “attorneys’ fees and expenses should be governed by the prevailing Delaware market rates for patent litigation” and that the calculation should not be adjusted up or down because these prevailing market rates reflect the “specialized skill that patent litigators possess, as argued by Defendants.” Id. His Honor was “not convinced that Defendants have demonstrated that there is an exceptional circumstance with respect to the result obtained or the amount involved” sufficient to justify an adjustment, nor should the rates “be adjusted downward simply because Defendants did not win on a dispositive motion or at trial.” Id. at 3-4. Finally, Judge Andrews rejected the plaintiff’s argument that fees prior to the Court’s granting of Defendants’ motion to amend to assert a licensing defense were unnecessary: “Because the licensing agreement predates the litigation, and this Court determined the licensing defense was not untimely, it is not clear why the recovery should exclude fees and expenses from before [the Court’s determination]. Defendants had to litigate the case until they learned of the licensing defense. It makes no sense (and perhaps that is why the argument is limited to a footnote) to say that defending the case was not reasonably necessary.” Id. at 4.
Judge Richard G. Andrews recently denied-in-part plaintiff CallWave Communications, LLC’s motion for leave to amend its complaints against defendants in a series of related cases. CallWave Communications, LLC v. AT&T Inc., et al., C.A. Nos. 12-1701-RGA, 12-1702-RGA, 12-1704-RGA (D. Del. Nov. 5, 2014). Previously, Judge Andrews granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss CallWave’s willfulness and indirect infringement claims. In its motion to amend, CallWave sought to remove the portions of its complaints no longer relevant in light of Judge Andrews’ previous order, but also sought to add new factual allegations. Id. at 3. Judge Andrews granted CallWave’s motion to permit it to remove allegations related to willfulness and indirect infringement, but denied the motion as to the new factual allegations because the proposed amendments would be futile. Id. The proposed amendments related to a meeting between CallWave and defendant Google that, according to CallWave, would be relevant to Google’s pre-suit knowledge of the patents-in-suit. Id. at 4. Judge Andrews found that the new allegations “serve no purpose.” Because the only claims “successfully pled” by CallWave relate to direct infringement, the new allegations relate to no existing claim and cannot “form the basis for CallWave successfully re-plead[ing] willful infringement against Google at some point in the future.” Id.
Judge Richard G. Andrews recently deferred ruling on the part of a Daubert motion which sought to preclude an expert from offering testimony on § 112 defenses on which the expert testified he deferred to counsel. IPLearn, LLC v. Blackboard, Inc., C.A. No. 11-876 (RGA) (D. Del. Oct. 2, 2014). Judge Andrews indicated he likely would exclude the expert’s opinion on § 112 defenses, explaining “I am not convinced that these are [the expert’s] opinions on the § 112 issues. I am quite sure that the legal citations . . . are not only not his, but to cases that he has not read. Therefore, I expect that I will exclude the opinions [addressing the § 112 defenses] of the report. I will, however, give Defendant an opportunity before trial to show that the § 112 opinions are indeed [the expert’s] opinions.” Id. at 4. The Court proceeded to schedule a pretrial hearing to examine and cross-examine the expert on his § 112 opinions.
Earlier in the decision, the Court denied the Daubert motion to the extent it sought to exclude the expert based on his unfamiliarity with the presumption of validity and the need to prove invalidity by clear and convincing evidence. The plaintiff had argued that the defendant’s invalidity expert should be excluded from trial for failure to apply the clear and convincing standard or the presumption of validity. Judge Andrews agreed with the defendant, though, that the expert’s “failure to offer opinions on legal standards has no relevance because that is not the role of the expert.” Id. at 2. As the Court explained, “[c]lear and convincing evidence and the presumption of validity are not standards required of expert opinion on invalidity, but standards used by a factfinder. These are legal concepts that are for jury determinations, not for expert witnesses.” Id. at 4.