Articles Posted in Federal Circuit Cases

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TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Food Group Brands LLC has created more questions about venue than it answered (although it obviously answered a very important one), and one significant new question is, what constitutes a “regular and established place of business” under 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). Chief Judge Stark recently attempted to answer that question in his September 11, 2007 decisions in Boston Scientific Corp. v. Cook Group Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. Only days later, the Federal Circuit issued its decision in In re Cray, restricting the meaning of “regular and established place of business.” This post briefly analyzes the state of Judge Stark’s concept of “regular and established place of business” in the wake of In re Cray.

In Boston Scientific Corp., Judge Stark, among other things, described the application of “regular and established place of business” as a “fact-intensive inquiry focused on whether the defendant does its business in this District through a permanent and continuous presence here.” He explained that a formal office or store is not required to meet this test, but a physical presence is needed. He then identified factors that would not, at least alone, rise to the level of a permanent and continuous presence. They are: (1) doing business in Delaware or being registered to do business in Delaware; (2) maintaining a website accessible in Delaware for online sales; (3) shipping goods to unaffiliated individuals or third-party entities in Delaware; (4) making sales in Delaware; (5) employing a sales representative who occasionally works in Delaware; and (6) previously employing a sales representative who lived in Delaware, but had no responsibility of sales in Delaware.  See Boston Scientific Corp. v. Cook Group Inc.

In his other venue decision of the same date, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Judge Stark considered connections between the defendant and Delaware in deciding that he could not conclude without further information that the defendant did not have a regular and established place of business in Delaware. Those factors include: (1) the defendant is part of a family of more than 50 companies, of which more than 40 reside in Delaware; (2) the defendant does business and makes sales in Delaware; (3) the defendant is in the business of provoking patent infringement lawsuits as part of the process of bringing its products to market; (4) the defendant has appeared in more the 100 patent infringement cases in Delaware in the last ten years; (5) the cases are not “run-of-the-mill” litigation and may or may not be of material significance to defendant’s overall business; (6) the defendant has obtained the right to do business in Delaware including for pharmaceutical manufacturing, distribution and sales; (7) the defendant is licensed as a “Pharmacy-Wholesale” and “Distributor/Manufacturer CSR,” allowing it to distribute and manufacture controlled substances within Delaware; and (8) the defendant targets some Delaware physicians.

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On May 5th, the Federal Circuit denied Microsoft’s mandamus petition to force the transfer of a case filed by PersonalWeb Technologies, LLC against it in the Eastern District of Texas. Microsoft asserted that District Court Judge Leonard Davis abused his discretion in denying the transfer where a similar request by Apple resulted in the transfer of a case over the same patents.

Writing for the three judge panel of Judges Lourie, Dyk and Reyna, Judge Lourie explained in the order:

Although the question of transfer in this case is close, we cannot say that the district court’s determination amounted to a clear abuse of discretion. . . . Deference as to the proper administration of justice is particularly appropriate in this type of circumstance, where the trial court is “familiar with [an] . . . asserted patent and the related technology . . . coupled with the fact there is co-pending litigation before the trial court involving the same patent and underlying technology” and, as the district court noted, Microsoft and Yahoo! plan on calling at least some of the same witnesses. In re Vistaprint Ltd., 628 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2010); In re Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 566 F.3d 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2009); Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Eli Lilly & Co., 119 F.3d 1559 (Fed. Cir. 1997).

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It is rarely in doubt that a drug-maker has the right to bar generic entry into an exclusive market when the drug-maker’s patent is found valid and infringed by a generic applicant, or when such a finding is deemed reasonably likely by the court.

For this reason, it is somewhat surprising that Chief Judge Roberts denied drug-maker Teva’s request to reinstate an injunction against generic entry against its Copaxone® drug product to treat multiple-sclerosis. Notably, all of Teva’s patents-at-issue will expire at least by September 2015. While the length of remaining patent term could have been a factor in the denial of the request, it is difficult to know. The ruling itself is less than 200 words.

The Chief Justice acknowledged that Teva has shown “a fair prospect of success on the merits,” the prong of the analysis that often trips a patentee’s application for injunctive relief. Instead, this relief was denied because the alleged availability of money damages for past patent infringement was found adequate. Thus, the Chief Justice explained, “the extraordinary relief that Teva seeks is unwarranted.”

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In Microsoft Corporation v. DataTern, Inc., the Federal Circuit made clear that conditional counterclaims and conditional statements of infringement alleged against a declaratory judgment plaintiff are insufficient to establish declaratory judgment jurisdiction. The Court noted, “[a] declaratory judgment plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to establish jurisdiction at the time of the complaint, and post-complaint facts cannot create jurisdiction where none existed at the time of filing.” The Court further noted that, even if post-complaint facts could be considered in evaluating DJ jurisdiction, the defendant/patentee’s conditional allegations and a refusal to grant a covenant not to sue are not the type of facts to support DJ jurisdiction. …

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The Federal Circuit has issued its highly-anticipated decision in Lighting Ballast Control LLC v. Philips Electronics North America Corp., 2012-1014 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 21, 2014). The en banc decision of Chief Judge Rader and Judges Newman, Lourie, Dyk, Prost, Moore, O’Malley, Reyna, Wallach, and Taranto holds that the de novo standard of review should continue to apply to claim construction issues. As the Court summarized:

“[W]e apply the principles of stare decisis, and confirm the Cybor standard of de novo review of claim construction, whereby the scope of the patent grant is reviewed as a matter of law. After fifteen years of experience with Cybor, we conclude that the court should retain plenary review of claim construction, thereby providing national uniformity, consistency, and finality to the meaning and scope of patent claims. The totality of experience has confirmed that Cybor is an effective implementation of Markman II, and that the criteria for departure from stare decisis are not met.”

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In Atlantic Marine Const. Co., Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court for Western Dist. of Texas, 571 U. S. _ (2013), 2013 WL 6231157 (December 3, 2013), the Supreme Court not only reiterated that a valid forum selection clause must be given controlling weight, with rare exception – when considering a transfer motion under a 1404 analysis – but unamimously held that the analysis in those rare exceptions may give no weight to plaintiff’s choice of forum and may only consider counterveiling public-interest factors. “When parties agree to a forum-selection clause, they waive the right to challenge the preselected forum as inconvenient or less convenient for themselves or their witnesses, or for their pursuit of the litigation. A court accordingly must deem the private-interest factors to weigh entirely in favor of the preselected forum.”

Recognizing the applicability of Atlantic Marine to a forum selection clause in a patent license, yesterday the Supreme Court vacated and remanded a Federal Circuit decision refusing to enforce a forum-selection clause in an EDTX patent suit that, by the agreement, should have been filed in New York. See Broadcom Corporation v. USDC ED TX, et al., case number 12-1475.

Atlantic Marine settles a circuit split in authority. In the Third Circuit, guidelines for the applicability of a forum selection clause were established by Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 883 (3d Cir.1995). Atlantic Marine, revises Jumara‘s guidance. It appears now that a forum selection clause is entitled to more than the “substantial consideration” – called for by Jumara – in a 1404 transfer analysis. It further appears that one may no longer rely on Jumara’s reasoning that a forum selection clause is but “one facet of the convenience-of-the-parties consideration.” Private-interest factors, as noted above, must now “weigh entirely in favor of the preselected forum.”

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The Federal Circuit Advisory Council announced today its adoption of a Model Order Limiting Excess Patent Claims and Prior Art. The Council offered the Model Order “to aid trial courts in the exercise of their discretion in crafting orders tailored to the facts and circumstances of each case.” In adopting the Order, the Council considered several key issues, such as:

What. What should be limited—number of claims, number of prior art references, number of invalidity theories, number of terms for claim construction, number of accused products, or some combination?

Timing. When should the limits on asserted claims and prior art references
take effect? Should the limits be applied only once, or should a phased
approach gradually narrowing the scope of the case be followed? How
should the need for discovery be balanced against the value of early
streamlining?

Limitations. How should limits be formulated? Should the limits on
number of claims apply per case or per patent? How should the limits be
adjusted based on the variety of case-specific factors that courts have
considered? How can the due process rights of litigants be protected?

Effect. What effect does the judgment have on non-elected patent claims
and prior art references?

The Council concluded that “default numerical limits on the number of asserted patent claims and prior art references are workable.” And, a “phased implementation” of numerical limits would “balance the need for discovery against the benefits of early streamlining.”

The Model Order is attached below.

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Today the Federal Circuit held that the Court has jurisdiction to entertain appeals from determinations on patent infringement liability where damages and/or willfulness issues have yet to be decided due to bifurcation. Robert Bosch, LLC v. Pylon Manufacturing Corp., No. 2011-1363, -1364, at 26-27 (Fed. Cir. June 14. 2013). As discussed here, the Federal Circuit decided sua sponte to grant a rehearing en banc on these issues in August 2012.

The Court explained that this case “does not involve the question of whether the district court has the authority to bifurcate the willfulness and infringement issues. As a general matter, it does.” Id. at 22. It “ma[d]e clear that district courts, in their discretion, may bifurcate willfulness and damages issues from liability issues in any given case.” Id. at 26. The Court did observe, with regard to its holding on bifurcation of liability and damages, that “[m]odern patent damages trials, with their attendant discovery, are notoriously complex and expensive. . . . Given the substantial reversal rate of liability determinations on appeal, the whole expense of a damages trial is often wasted. Accordingly, those policy concerns that motivated Congress to grant jurisdiction over cases that are final except for an accounting [of damages] support our holding today.” Id. at 20.

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s much anticipated decision in Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., et al., 569 U.S. ___, issued June 13, 2013. In short, the Supreme Court analyzed whether an isolated DNA sequence is patent eligible in light of the fundamental principle that laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable. The Supreme Court held that mere isolation of an otherwise naturally occuring genetic sequence of DNA is not patent eligible but that a non-naturally occuring DNA sequence may be subject matter eligible for patenting, so long as the other conditions for patenting are met (e.g., novelty, non-obviousness, written description).

While many divergent views are forming on the impact this decision will have on the biotech industry, its impact on patent litigation in Delaware is broadly predictable. In appropriate circumstances, new patent validity challenges can be anticipated against DNA sequence claims asserted in this District and new litigation may flow from the entry of several new competitors expected to offer genentic tests for various diagnostics, some of which will undoubtedly be the subject of a patent controversy within Delaware’s jurisdiction.

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Today, the Federal Circuit announced that the appeal from Judge Robinson’s decision in Robert Bosch LLC v. Pylon Mfg. Corp., C.A. No. 08-542 (D. Del. 2012) (the Court’s post-trial opinion is discussed here), will be heard en banc to determine whether the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction “to entertain appeals from patent infringement liability determinations when a trial on damages has not yet occurred[,]” and “when willfulness issues are outstanding and remain undecided[.]” In recent years, absent unusual circumstances, Judge Robinson has bifurcated liability and damages in all patent infringement cases before her, such that a trial on damages will commence after the issue of liability is fully adjudicated on appeal.

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