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In two opinions filed last week, Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark denied defendant’s motions for summary judgment of invalidity, non-infringement, and no standing in Transcenic, Inc. v. Google, Inc., C.A. No. 11-582-LPS (D. Del. Dec. 22, 2014) (“Standing Opinion” and “Invalidity/Noninfringement Opinion”).

As to invalidity and noninfringement, the motions largely constituted a “’battle of the experts that is not amenable to resolution prior to the presentation of evidence, including testimony,” Invalidity/Noninfringement Opinion at 3, and that genuine issues of material fact remained.

As to standing, the Court concluded that no valid assignment contract existed between the inventor and his employer (an alleged assignee), and even if there was one, the assignment obligation would not cover the patent-in-suit. Standing Opinion at 5-6. “[B]ecause [defendant] only present[ed] evidence regarding the relatedness of the patent-in-suit to [the business of the entity that later acquired the inventor’s employer], no reasonable juror could find that [the inventor’s] invention was related to the business of [the employer].” Id. at 6. As a result, defendant’s arguments as to lack of standing failed, and the Court granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment regarding the standing defense. Id.

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Judge Gregory M. Sleet recently certified for interlocutory appeal a question relating to where ANDA filers are subject to specific personal jurisdiction.  AstraZeneca AB v. Aurobindo Pharma Ltd., et al., Consol. C.A. No. 14-664-GMS (D. Del. Dec. 17, 2014).  Judge Sleet had previously denied Mylan’s motion to dismiss on personal jurisdiction grounds in an opinion discussed here, but agreed with Mylan that the question of where an ANDA filer is subject to specific personal jurisdiction, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014), is a controlling and novel question of law for which there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion.  The Court added that “given the volume of Hatch-Waxman cases pending in this district, the court is of the view that interlocutory appellate review will provide necessary guidance as to whether these cases are properly before the court.”

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Judge Sue Robinson has invalidated U.S. Patent Nos. 5,862,321 and 6,144,997, which relate to digital file identification and had been asserted against Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as claiming abstract ideas under Section 101 and Alice Corp. Cloud Stachel, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 13-941-SLR, 13-942-SLR, Memo. Op. at 19 (D. Del. Dec. 18, 2014).

The patents claimed a system for transferring location information for documents, allowing users to access files without being limited by the memory available on the device they are using. Judge Robinson held that this was an abstract idea, accepting the defendants’ characterization of the claimed inventions as similar to cataloging documents to aid retrieval of the documents, which had existed for “[n]early two millennia.” Id. at 13-14. Turning to whether there were sufficient limitations on the abstract idea, Judge Robinson found that there were not, accepting the defendants’ argument that any limitation present was essentially a conventional computer component or process that operates similarly to a book of call numbers in a library. Id. at 14-18. Accordingly, Judge Robinson concluded that “[a]llowing the asserted claims to survive would curb any innovation related to computerized cataloguing of documents to facilitate their retrieval from storage, which would monopolize the ‘abstract idea.’” Id. at 18.

Judge Robinson also explained that a claim construction decision was not necessary for her finding of Section 101 invalidity, because she would have reached the same conclusion even if she had adopted all of the plaintiff’s proposed constructions. Id. at 1 n.2.

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Judge Burke recently considered plaintiffs’ motion to enjoin defendant from maintaining a later-filed action in the District of Massachusetts and defendant’s motion to transfer to that jurisdiction.  TSMC Tech., Inc., et al., v. Zond, LLC, C.A. No. 14-721-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Dec. 19, 2014).  In July 2013, Defendant filed several actions in the District of Massachusetts alleging infringement of seven patents that are different than, but related to, the patents-in-suit.  Id. at 1.  In June 2014, Plaintiffs filed the instant case seeking a declaratory judgment that they do not infringe that patents-in-suit.  Id. at 5.  The next day, defendant filed a complaint in the District of Massachusetts alleging infringement of the same patents.  Id.  Judge Burke acknowledged that the first-filed rule clearly applied to plaintiffs’ motion to enjoin, therefore resolution of the dispute focused on whether an exception to the rule applied.  Id. at 13.  Judge Burke found that no exception was applicable based on the facts presented here.  For example, Judge Burke found that because the parties had been engaged in escalating IP disputes and the fact that “both sides were taking tough, but fair steps in order to fully protect their rights[,]” the filing of the instant case could not be viewed as a “sound reason that would make it unjust or inefficient to continue the first-filed action.”  Id. at 18 (quotations omitted).  Judge Burke also found the “forum shopping” exception to the first-filed rule inapplicable because, among other things, Plaintiffs had “a legitimate, oft-recognized reason” to file suit in Delaware. (i.e., choosing to file suit in defendant’s state of incorporation)  Id. 18-24.  Regarding defendant’s motion to transfer, Judge Burke found that the Jumara factors largely weighed against transfer, therefore denial of defendant’s motion would be appropriate.  Id. at 24-37.

UPDATE:

Chief Judge Stark overruled defendant’s objections and adopted Judge Burke’s Report and Recommendation, granting plaintiffs’ motion to enjoin and denying defendant’s motion to transfer to the District of Massachusetts.  TSMC Tech., Inc., et al., v. Zond, LLC, C.A. No. 14-721-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Jan. 26, 2015).

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In Avid Technology, Inc. v. Harmonic Inc., C. A. No. 11-1040-GMS (D. Del. Dec. 17, 2014), Judge Gregory M. Sleet denied plainitff’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, for a new trial, following the jury’s verdict of noninfringement and no invalidity in this case.  The Court first rejected plaintiff’s argument that the jury had been “misinformed about the proper definition of ‘independent storage units,'” noting that post-trial briefing was not an “apropriate context for [plaintiff] to reiterate its dissatisfaction with the court’s rulings” on what information about the construction was ultimately provided to the jury.  Id. at 4-5.   The Court similarly rejected plaintiff’s arguments that the verdict of noninfringement was not supported by substantial evidence.  See id. at 5-8.  Finally, the Court denied the alternative request for a new trial as plaintiff made no other arguments in support of this request.  Id. at 8.

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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).

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Judge Sue L. Robinson recently granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment that a patented financial transaction security apparatus was invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101.   Joao Bock Transaction Sys., LLC v. Jack Henry & Assocs., Inc., Civ. No. 12-1138-SLR (D. Del. Dec. 15, 2014).  The Court described the invention as adding “transaction security by allowing interaction between the central processing computer and a communication device to enable the point-of-sale terminal operator of the card holder to allow or deny a transaction using the communication device over a communications network.”  Id. at 2-3.  The Court agreed with the defendant’s argument that the claims at issue were directed to the abstract idea of, essentially, enabling a bank customer to give a stop payment instruction to a bank on a given check presented for payment, and having the bank honor that instruction by locating the check at issue and not paying it.  See id. at 12-14.

The Court then considered whether the claimed abstract idea was limited by an inventive concept such that “the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [ineligible concept] itself.”  Id. at 14 (quoting Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2355 (2014)).  The Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that “the claims use ‘specific computers’ with bank processing software, making them ‘special purpose computers[,]’” and found, based on the specification, that “[t]he computer components are being employed for basic functions, including storage, transmitting and receiving information . . . .”  Id. at 14-15.  The Court added that “[w]hile the computer components do allow the abstract idea to be performed more quickly, this does not impose a meaningful limit on the scope of the claim.”  Id. at 15.

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In Tessera, Inc. v. Amkor Technology, Inc., C.A. No. 12-852-SLR (D. Del. Dec. 10, 2014), Judge Sue L. Robinson recently denied plaintiff’s motion to vacate, modify, or correct an arbitration award connected with the parties’ ongoing patent infringement dispute.  The parties had previously entered into an agreement that licensed plaintiff’s technology and patents to defendant, and disputes would be settled by arbitration.  Id. at 1-2.  The parties had adjudicated a number of disputes in arbitration relating to royalty payments, in which plaintiff was awarded damages that also included damages based on conduct following the termination of the license agreement.  Defendant unsuccessfully attempted to appeal this award in California state court.  Its motion before this Court to vacate, modify, or correct the arbitration award claimed that the parties had agreed to arbitrate license royalties, but not “patent infringement after the termination of their license”; as a result, the arbitration award’s inclusion of damages based on post-termination conduct was improper, and this Court, not the California state courts, had jurisdiction to review the arbitrator’s award of post-termination damages.  Id. at 5.

The Court disagreed, noting that the agreement’s arbitration clause was broad enough to cover post-termination damages.  Id. at 5.  In addition, the Court chose to abstain from hearing the matter, citing the fact that the license agreement was governed by California law, that the California state courts were already involved in the matter, and that the merits of defendant’s arguments had already been rejected by the California courts.  Id. at 6-7.  Further, defendant had “invoked the jurisdiction of the California courts until it was handed an adverse decision.”  Id. at 7.

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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.

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Today, the District of Delaware and Delaware Chapter of the Federal Bar Association announced a call for applications for the 2015 Federal Trial Practice Seminar.  As a 2013 graduate of the program, I highly recommend submitting an application.   Participation is open to members and non-members of the FBA.  See the below message from the FBA and attached flyer for more information.

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Dear FBA Members,

The United States District Court for the District of Delaware and the Delaware Chapter of the Federal Bar Association (“FBA”) are pleased to announce the 2015 Federal Trial Practice Seminar.

The Seminar is an instructional trial practice program designed for lawyers who have less than 10 years of experience as a practicing attorney, but who have an interest in regularly litigating in the District Court.  Applicants who are admitted to the Seminar will participate in instructional sessions on topics including Opening Statements, Closing Statements, Direct Examination, Cross Examination, Motions In Limine and Courtroom Presentation and Demeanor.

The Seminar sessions, to be held in April, May and June 2015, will involve both: (1) instruction from nationally-recognized speakers who have frequently litigated in the District Court and (2) hands-on training sessions, including a mock-trial-style format, in which the participants will apply what they have learned from the speakers.  These weekly sessions will also be attended by Judges of the District Court and a group of program mentors, all of whom have extensive trial practice experience in the District Court.  Seminar participants will also obtain Continuing Legal Education credit (including Ethics-related credit) and will have additional opportunities to interact with the District Court judges, the speakers and the program mentors outside of these sessions.  There is no cost to participate in the Seminar, which is open to both members and non-members of the FBA.  A complete Seminar description is attached to this e-mail.  Additional information about the seminar can be found on the District Court’s website , including a video which describes the program and the experience of the participants.  The video can also be viewed at the following link.

Those interested in applying for the Seminar should submit a resume and a letter of interest by January 9, 2015 to The Honorable Christopher J. Burke. Applications should be sent by e-mail at: FTPS2015@ded.uscourts.gov.  Any questions can be directed to the Seminar co-coordinators, Kelly Farnan (Farnan@RLF.com) or Susan Coletti (coletti@fr.com).

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