IP Cases to Watch in 2017

by Mintz Levin - Global IP Matters
Contact

The New Year brings excitement and anticipation of changes for the best.  Some of the pending patent cases provide us with ample opportunity to expect something new and, if not always very desirable to everybody, at least different.  In this post, we highlight several cases that present interesting issues and that we anticipate may provide for new and important developments in the patent law this year.

Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc.

This highly-publicized case, now on remand from the Supreme Court, concerns damages for design patent infringement.

Apple sued Samsung in 2011 for infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. D618,677 (claiming an electronic device having black rectangular front face with rounded corners), D593,087 (claiming an electronic device having a rectangular front face with rounded corners and a raised rim) and D604,305 (claiming a grid of 16 colorful icons on a black screen of an electronic device).  As we reported earlier, a jury found that several Samsung smartphones resembling the iPhone infringe those patents and awarded $399 million in damages to Apple, the entirety of Samsung’s profit from sale of the infringing smartphones.

The Federal Circuit upheld the award. The decision centered on 35 U.S.C. § 289, which provides that an accused infringer manufacturing or using a patented “article of manufacture” is liable to the patent owner “to the extent of his total profit.”  The Federal Circuit rejected Samsung’s argument that damages should not be determined based on the entire smartphone but rather should be limited to individual components covered by the patents, such as a front face or a screen.  The smartphone as a whole was deemed to be an “article of manufacture” in the context of Section 289.  The Supreme Court, in an unanimous (but short) decision, however agreed with Samsung and remanded, stating that an “article of manufacture” is “simply a thing made by hand or machine,” and is broad enough to include both a multicomponent product sold to a consumer and individual components of that product, “whether sold separately or not.”  No test however was provided on how to identify an “article of manufacture” relevant to damages.

On remand, the Federal Circuit will determine whether “the relevant article of manufacture for each design patent … is the smartphone or a particular smartphone component.”  A test for determining what exactly constitutes an “article of manufacture” for the purpose of determining damages in design patent cases is highly anticipated.

TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC

This case concerns a choice of venue in patent cases, and a decision by the Supreme Court is expected around June, 2017.

Kraft Foods sued TC Heartland in the District of Delaware, alleging that Heartland’s liquid water enhancer products infringed three of Kraft Foods’ patents.  Heartland moved to either dismiss the action or transfer venue to the Southern District of Indiana, where it is headquartered and incorporated.  In support, Heartland stated that it is not registered to do business and has no presence in Delaware.  After the district court denied its motion, Heartland appealed.  The Federal Circuit affirmed and stated that patent suits may be filed in any judicial district in which the defendant sells an allegedly infringing product (Heartland ships accused products to Delaware, which amounts though to only about 2% of its total sales).  The Federal Circuit has consistently applied this interpretation of the patent venue statute since its 1990 decision in VE Holding, which has since allowed patent holders to file suits in favorable courts that are perceived to be more plaintiff-friendly, such as the Eastern District of Texas. Opponents of this doctrine refer to it as a “forum shopping.”

As we reported before, on December 14, 2016, the Supreme Court agreed to review the Federal Circuit’s decision.  A decision in favor of Heartland would fundamentally change where patent cases can be litigated.  In particular, many patent holders may effectively be barred from bringing suits in the Eastern District of Texas.

Lexmark International v. Impression Products

On December 2, 2016, the Supreme Court granted Impression Products’ petition to hear a case concerning whether patent exhaustion arises from foreign sales.

Lexmark, a manufacturer of printers and cartridges for those printers, sold the cartridges covered by Lexmark’s U.S. patents in the U.S. and abroad.  Some of the cartridges were sold at a reduced price and, according to a “Return program,” were subject to a single-use/no-resale restriction set forth in the user agreement.  With the goal of protecting quality and reputation of its products, and for other reasons, Lexmark required that customers who bought Return program cartridges return the empty cartridges only to Lexmark for remanufacturing or recycling.  Impression, among others, acquired and re-purposed (which included modifying the original chip) both the foreign- and domestically-sold cartridges, and sold the modified cartridges in the U.S.  When Lexmark took legal actions and other defendants agreed to settlements, Impression however argued that the first sale of the cartridges, either in the U.S. or abroad, exhausted Lexmark’s U.S. rights to exclude.

The district court partially sided with Impression, ruling that Lexmark’s sale in the U.S. exhausted its patent rights, despite the express single-use/no-resale restrictions under the Return Program, but concluded that foreign sales did not exhaust Lexmark’s patent rights.  As we said earlier, on February 12, 2016, the en banc Federal Circuit agreed with Lexmark and confirmed two important aspects of the patent exhaustion doctrine, namely that (1) a patentee can “sell[] a patented article subject to a single-use/no-resale restriction that is lawful and clearly communicated to the purchaser” without exhausting the patentee’s rights to that item; and (2) because foreign sales do not permit “the buyer to import the article and sell and use it in the United States,” an authorized foreign sale of a product does not exhaust a patentee’s U.S. patent rights to exclude associated with that product.

In re Aqua Products

This is a pending en banc case before the Federal Circuit regarding whether it is the patent owner who bears the burden of proving patentability of its amended claims in inter partes reviews before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

Aqua Products, Inc., as a patent owner, faced a claim amendment issue.  In particular, after an inter partes review (IPR) of Aqua’s patent on a robotic swimming pool cleaners was initiated, Aqua moved to substitute several of the challenged claims with limitations from the claims that were not challenged, effectively amending the claims.  The America Invents Act (AIA) permits patent owners to move to amend claims of a patent, and 35 U.S.C. § 316(d) states that “the patent owner may file one motion to amend the patent,” with additional motions to amend allowed in limited circumstances.

Applying its rule making authority, the PTO ruled that Aqua failed to demonstrate that its amendments would make the claims-at-issue patentable over the known prior art.  On August 12, 2016, the Federal Circuit granted Aqua’s motion for an en banc hearing and asked Aqua and the USPTO to brief whether the USPTO may require that a patent owner bear the burden of persuasion regarding patentability of the amended claims, even though the AIA assigns the burden of proving unpatentability of the proposed claim amendments to an IPR petitioner.  See 35 U.S.C. § 316(e)).

Argument was heard on December 9, 2016, and a blog post on the upcoming decision will appear in due course.

[View source.]

Written by:

Mintz Levin - Global IP Matters
Contact
more
less

Mintz Levin - Global IP Matters on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.