Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet recently considered defendant Metlife’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s patent infringement action on the basis that plaintiff’s patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,684,189, fails to claim patentable subject matter. The Money Suite Company v. Metlife, Inc., C.A. No. 13-1748-GMS (D. Del. Jan. 9, 2014). Metlife alleged that “the ‘189 patent is directed to an abstract idea — using a computer to generate a quote for a financial product product– and is thus non-patentable subject matter.” Id. at 3. Judge Sleet noted that the Federal Circuit is divided on the applicability of “[t]he abstract idea judicial exception to patent eligibility under § 101 of the Patent Act” to computer-implemented inventions. Id. The United States Supreme Court recently granted cert in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, the outcome of which may substantially affect the issues implicated by Metlife’s motion. As such, Judge Sleet sua sponte stayed this and other related cases pending the Supreme Court’s ruling. Id. at 4. The Supreme Court will hear argument in Alice Corp on March 31 (see SCOTUS Blog for coverage).
In Intellectual Ventures I, LLC, et al. v. Motorola Mobility, LLC, C.A. No. 11-908-SLR (D. Del. Jan. 2, 2014), defendant had moved for summary judgment of invalidity and non-infringement of six patents-in-suit. Judge Sue L. Robinson granted summary judgment of non-infringement as to the one of the patents-in-suit, finding that the accused product performed steps expressly prohibited by this patent. Id. at 22-24. The Court also granted summary judgment of invalidity as to a different patent because it determined that the combination of two prior art references rendered this patent obvious. Id. at 38-40. Specifically, the Court concluded that one reference’s “warning of increased costs” as to the a stated object of the patent’s invention did not teach away from combining the two references. Id. at 40.
The Court denied the remaining motions because genuine issues of material fact existed. In denying defendant’s motions, the Court, among other issues, concluded that: plaintiff was not precluded from applying the doctrine of equivalents as to a certain patent due to amendment of claims during prosecution because “the claim of equivalence are for aspects of the invention that have only a peripheral relation to the reason the amendment was submitted,” id. at 35; defendant’s own patent was not entitled to the priority date of an abandoned “grandparent application” (and therefore did not qualify as prior art) because there were key differences between the disclosures in defendant’s patent and those of the grandparent application, id. at 46-49; one patent-in-suit was not entitled to an earlier priority date based on PowerPoint presentation by its inventor because metadata showing its creation date was insufficient to show reduction to practice, id. at 61-63.
The Court also construed the following terms:
“at the second device, [of] the single combined file irrespective of user action at the second device,” id. at 17-18;
“absent non-transient intermediate storage of the selected file on an intervening communications device of the communications network,” id.;
“Receive the selected file and associated text file absent initiation of retrieval of the selected file from the intervening communications device by the second device and absent user action at the second device,” id. at 18-19;
“delivery report,” id. at 19;
“Authenticating device of the communications network;” id. at 19-20;
“A polarization converter … to polarize the light from the illumination uniformizing means into a polarized light,” id. at 30-31;
“A light source, comprising an ‘array of a plurality of light emitting devices,’” id. at 31-32;
“Presenting a directory of software [updates] available for installation on the user station,” id. at 41-42;
“Presenting a directory of software [updates] available for installation on the user station and not already installed on the user station,” id. at 43;
“Content,” id. at 50-51;
“Effect presentation … with a user interface that is customized to the respective publishers,” id. at 51-52;
“Allocating is responsive to at least one field in the packet header,” id. at 57-59;
“Central processor,” id. at 65-66;
“Detachable headset,” id. at 66-67.
Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet recently granted a motion in limine seeking to exclude from trial evidence or argument regarding proceedings before, and decisions arising from, the European Patent Office. Edwards Lifesciences LLC, et al. v. Medtronic CoreValve LLC, et al., C.A. No. 12-23 (GMS) (D. Del. Jan. 2, 2014). As Judge Sleet explained, “there is a substantial risk of prejudice to [plaintiffs] given the strong likelihood that the jury would be confused and give undue deference to the foreign decisions and proceedings.” Id. at 1-2. Moreover, the Court found that such foreign proceedings, and decisions arising from them, are “of dubious probative value” that “hardly outweighs the substantial risk of prejudice.” Id. at 2.
In Edwards Lifesciences LLC v. Medtronic Corevalve LLC, C.A. No. 12-23-GMS (D. Del. Dec. 27, 2013), Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet first denied defendants’ (“Medtronic”) motion in limine, which sought a ruling from the Court that Medtronic’s “treated pericardial sacs and coupons, from which the leaflets and skirts in the accused CoreValve product are manufactured” were not “components” under 35 U.S.C. Section 271(f) because the sacs and coupons underwent “additional processing outside of the United States after they [had] been shipped by Medtronic,” including laser-cutting. Id. at 2. In support of its position, Medtronic relied on Microsoft Corp. v. AT&T Corp., 550 U.S. 437 (2007), in which the Supreme Court ruled “that a master disk sent from the United States to be copied abroad was not a ‘component’ under Section 271(f).” Id. Specifically, Medtronic argued that the Supreme Court’s decision in Microsoft turned on the fact that “an extra step was required after exportation before the software could be installed.” Id. at 3-4. Judge Sleet found, however, that this reading of Microsoft was “too broad,” and that the Supreme Court’s actual inquiry was focused on “the identity of the exact item actually incorporated into the infringing device.” Id. at 4. Judge Sleet concluded that because the same sacs and coupons Medtronic supplied from the U.S. were “the exact ones both intended to be combined and actually combined in Mexico to form the Core Valve device,” the sacs and coupons constituted “components” under Section 271(f). Id.
Judge Sleet next granted plaintiffs’ (“Edwards”) motion in limine, which sought a ruling from the Court that Medtronic must present to the jury “noninfringing uses for ‘treated pericardial tissue that is the same as the pericardial tissue actually supplied by Medtronic’” in order to avoid liability under 35 U.S.C. Section 271(f)(2). Id. at 4-5. Having concluded that the sacs and coupons constitute “components” under Section 271(f), Judge Sleet determined that Medtronic “must show that porcine pericardial sacs and coupons treated with the same glutaraldehyde solution as those that Medtronic supplies from the United States to Mexico are ‘suitable for substantial noninfringing use.’” (citing Golden Blount, Inc. v. Robert H Peterson Co., 438 F.3d 1354, 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2006)). Id. at 5. Judge Sleet also noted that while “much of the case law” addressing “substantial noninfringing use” occurs in the context of 35 U.S.C. Section 271(c), there was “no apparent reason . . . why the Federal Circuit’s guidance regarding the type of evidence sufficient to establish ‘substantial noninfringing use’ under 271(c) should not apply also to 271(f).” Id. at 5 n.3.
Judge Sleet, however, denied without prejudice Edwards’ motion in limine which sought to preclude Medtronic from presenting or arguing to the jury “hypothetical uses of the porcine pericardial tissue that Medtronic supplied and/or supplies from the United States to Mexico.” Id. at 1 n.2, 6. Edwards was granted leave to raise this issue again at trial.
Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet recently construed claim terms relating to pharmaceutical pellets for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Salix Pharmaceuticals, Inc., et al. v. Lupin Ltd., et al., C.A. No. 12-1104-GMS (D. Del. Dec. 17, 2013). The Court first adopted the parties’ joint proposed construction of the claim terms “pellet” and “mean maximal plasma concentration of the 5-aminosalicyclic acid is reached at”. The Court then construed the following disputed claim terms: “matrix-forming polymer”; “non gel-forming polymer matrix”; and “polymer matrix”; “homogeneously dispersed”; and “about 4 hours”, giving the latter two their plain and ordinary meanings.
In Gevo, Inc. v. Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, et al., C.A. Nos. 12-301-SLR, 12-448-SLR (D. Del. Dec. 16, 2013), Judge Robinson denied plaintiff’s motion to dismiss Butamax Advanced Biofuel LLC’s (“defendant”) counterclaims of invalidity and non-infringement based on plaintiff’s covenant not to sue. The covenant not to sue provided that plaintiff would not sue “for the use of ‘Accused Technology,’ defined as certain modified recombinant organisms.” Id. at 2. Judge Robinson explained that because plaintiff was willing to dismiss its infringement claims, and only defendant’s counterclaims would remain, the case would transform into a declaratory judgment action. Id. at 3 n.2.
Under the totality of the circumstances, Judge Robinson found an actual controversy between the parties to exist and denied plaintiff’s motion to dismiss, citing to “the pattern of litigation between the parties[,] . . . the unpredictability of the art,” and the defendant’s “desire to use the alleged infringing strains.” Id. at 5. Specifically, Judge Robinson noted that there are “eleven cases pending between the parties,” which are “direct competitors and are in a race to develop bio-isobutanol technology.” Id. at 4. Further, as Judge Robinson explained, “the covenant not to sue casts a cloud over [defendant’s] research efforts,” noting that the parties “already disagree[d] “on how to interpret ‘Accused Technologies’ in the covenant not to sue.” Id. at 4 & n.5.That is, there was disagreement on whether the covenant covered “future commercial strains” with a “different genetic background.” Id. at 4. Judge Robinson additionally noted that defendant stated “that it will likely resume using the alleged infringing strains if the litigation is resolved in its favor.” Id.
While a “justiciable controversy” was found in these “unusual circumstances,” Judge Robinson did not intend the “memorandum to commend [defendant’s] decision to oppose dismissal or the parties’ inability to find a non-litigation oriented means to pursue their technology interests.” Id. at 5 & n.6.
Judge Stark has granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) in a patent infringement case involving patents related to transmitting video signals over telephone lines. The plaintiff, United Access Technologies, filed cases against several defendants in 2011. Two defendants, CenturyLink, Inc. and Qwest Corp., filed motions for judgment on the pleadings and their cases were stayed pending the outcome of those motions. It was undisputed that Plaintiff’s predecessor, a prior owner of the patents-in-suit, had filed a previous suit on the patent-in-suit, that a jury had returned a verdict of non-infringement, and that the District Court and the Federal Circuit had denied a motion for judgment of infringement as a matter of law. The question for the Court, therefore, was whether the current cases should be dismissed based on collateral estoppel. United Access Technologies, LLC v. Centurytel Broadband Services, LLC, et al., C.A. No. 11-339-LPS, Memo. Op. at 1-3 (D. Del. Dec. 20, 2013).
Third Circuit law applied and required that “(1) the identical issue was previously adjudicated; (2) the issue was actually litigated; (3) the previous determination was necessary to the decision; and (4) the party being precluded from relitigating the issue was fully represented in the prior action.” Id. at 3 (quoting Jean Alexander Cosmetics, Inc. v. L’Oreal USA, Inc., 458 F.3d 244, 249 (3d Cir. 2006)). “The Third Circuit has ‘also considered whether the party being precluded had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in question in the prior action, and whether the issue was determined by a final and valid judgment.’” Id. (quoting Jean Alexander, 458 F.3d at 249).
Judge Stark first found that the identical issue of infringement had been adjudicated in the prior suit with the plaintiff’s predecessor. Furthermore, Judge Stark agreed with the defendants that the plaintiff had “waived its opportunity to try to identify meaningful differences between their accused products and those at issue in” the prior litigation. Id. at 3-4. Because the collateral estoppel issue was identified early in the case, the scheduling order had been tailored to require the plaintiff to “specifically identify any features that form the basis for Plaintiff’s allegation that Defendants’ systems are distinguishable from the systems found not to infringe the patents-in-suit in” the prior litigation. In response, the plaintiff distinguished the cases on the basis that the prior judgment had found that the accused system was distinct from any telephone devices. Judge Stark found, however, that this distinction “does nothing to account for the fact that the issue of whether industry standard ADSL infringes the patents-in-suit was litigated, and lost.” “At best, [this argument] would only allow Plaintiff to overcome one of the bases on which it lost in [prior litigation]. Another reason a judgment of non-infringement was entered in that earlier action is that Plaintiff failed to show that industry standard ADSL was within the scope of the patents-in-suit.” This was “fatal to Plaintiffs case, as the Third Circuit ‘follow[s] the traditional view that independently sufficient alternative findings should be given preclusive effect.’” Id. at 3-8 (quoting Jean Alexander, 458 F.3d at 255).
Judge Stark also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that only the specific ADSL system accused in the previous litigation was at issue and therefore “industry standard” ADSL was not necessary to the decision. Based on the testimony of the expert in the previous litigation, however, Judge Stark found that the “industry standard” ADSL had been at issue and necessary to the prior judgment. Id. at 8-10. Furthermore, it was undisputed that direct infringement had been “actually litigated” previously, and because direct infringement claims were estopped, the plaintiff could not prove its indirect infringement claims, which it asserted had not been actually litigated. Id. at 10. Finally, the plaintiff was “fully represented” in the previous litigation because the plaintiff’s predecessor had “a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue.” Id. at 10-11.
Finally, Judge Stark rejected the suggestion that the motion was really a summary judgment motion in disguise, emphasizing that the Court relied on the material from the prior litigation “only to show that the identical issue was actually and necessarily litigated, and not for the truth of facts averred in those proceedings.” Id. at 11-12. Accordingly, all of the elements of collateral estoppel were satisfied, and Judge Stark granted the motion for judgment on the pleadings.
In Inventio AG v. Thyssenkrupp Elevator Americas Corporation, et al., C.A. No. 08-874-RGA (D. Del. Dec. 13, 2013), Judge Richard G. Andrews denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on invalidity and granted-in-part plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on validity. The two patents-in-suit relate to elevator installation.
Defendants moved the Court to find both patents-in-suit invalid for indefiniteness and for failure to meet the written description requirement. The Court found the patents not invalid under these grounds, and therefore granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment with respect to indefiniteness, see id. at 4-8, and lack of written description, see id. at 8-11.
Plaintiff also moved the Court to find that the patents-in-suit complied with the best mode requirement and also argued that the Court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over whether there was a best mode violation regarding the term “advance selector,” which appeared in unasserted claims. The court denied plaintiff’s motion as to best mode generally because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the inventor had developed a best mode. Id. at 11-12. On the other hand, the Court agreed that there was no subject matter jurisdiction over the claims containing “advance selector.” Id. at 12.
Today, Judge Richard G. Andrews issued a post-trial opinion in the litigation over ViiV Healthcare’s drugs for treating HIV infection, Trizivir and Epzicom. ViiV Healthcare UK Ltd., v. Lupin Ltd., C.A. No. 11-576-RGA (consol.) (D. Del. Dec. 17, 2013). Defendants Lupin and Teva sought FDA approval for generic versions of Trizivir and Epzicom, respectively. After a 4.5 day bench trial, Judge Andrews issued this post-trial opinion finding that defendants failed to prove invalidity and that ViiV failed to prove that Lupin’s generic drug infringed the asserted claims of the patent-in-suit, U.S. Patent No. 6,417,191.
Chief Judge Sleet recently denied a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative to stay, a patent interference claim relating to oral contraceptives. Bayer Intellectual Property GmbH, et al. v. Warner Chilcott Co., LLC, et al., C.A. No. 12-1032-GMS (D. Del. Dec. 9, 2013). The defendant in the case, Warner Chilcott, argued that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claim because the plaintiff, Bayer, failed to allege a priority dispute. The Court, though, found that Warner Chilcott “fundamentally misconstrue[d] the prerequisites to an interference action under § 291.” Id. at 5. As the Court explained, section 291 subject matter jurisdiction does not require allegations of a priority dispute. Instead, section 291 subject matter jurisdiction requires allegations of interfering patents: “Under any construction of § 291, it is impossible to conceive how it could be any clearer that interference between patents is a sine qua non of an action under § 291.” Id. (quoting Albert v. Kevex Corp., 729 F.2d 757, 760 (Fed. Cir. 1984)). The Court also disagreed with Warner Chilcott’s argument that Bayer failed to allege a priority dispute, since the operative complaint alleged that Bayer’s ‘940 patent was prior art to Warner Chilcott’s ‘984 patent, and prayed for a declaration that the inventors of Bayer’s patent were the first inventors of the subject matter covered by the two patents. Id. at 6.
The Court also denied Warner Chilcott’s motion in the alternative for a stay of the interference claim. The Court found that the “simplification of issues” factor weighed “heavily” against a stay because the New Jersey litigation, where Warner Chilcott was litigating against generic manufacturers, did not involve Bayer. As a result, the New Jersey “litigation cannot bind Bayer if Warner Chilcott’s ‘984 patent is found valid in light of Bayer’s ‘940 patent.” Id. at 7. The Court found that the other factors did not counterbalance the extent to which the “simplification of issues” factor weighed against a stay. Id. at 7-8.