California Not Purr-Fect for Pet Chat Patent Fight

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By Tony Dutra

July 28 — A patent on remote “video-chatting” with pets will have to remain untested after a July 28 decision by the Federal Circuit that Petzila Inc. can't force patent owner Anser Innovation LLC into federal court in California.

Minneapolis-based Anser sells the PetChatz videophone that allows pet owners to “see, hear, speak to, provide a comforting scent and give your pet a treat using a smartphone, tablet or computer.” Petzila, based in San Jose, Calif., sells the similar Petzi Treat Cam.

Petzi filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeking a declaration that it didn't infringe U.S. Patent No. 7,878,152 and that the patent was invalid.

In a nonprecedential decision, the Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that the lower court didn't have personal jurisdiction over Anser.

Anser's cease-and-desist letter to Petzila was its only California activity relating to the ’152 patent, the court said, and that was not enough.

Anser did have an exclusive agreement with Tuffy’s Pet Foods Inc. to make and sell treats and “treat packs” for use in PetChatz—the pet owner can remotely “release” the pack. Tuffy's had the necessary commercial contacts with California to establish jurisdiction, Petzila argued.

But, the court said, the treats and treat packs were not patented; it was the dispenser. And since Tuffy's did not have an exclusive license to distribute the dispenser, its contacts were irrelevant for establishing jurisdiction over Anser.

The battle over this technology will have to wait until Anser doggedly pursues its patent rights.

Judge Kimberly A. Moore wrote the court's opinion, which was joined by Judges Alan D. Lourie and Timothy B. Dyk.

Nicolas S. Gikkas of the Gikkas Law Firm, Palo Alto, Calif., represented Petzilla. Grant D. Fairbairn of Fredrikson & Byron PA, Minneapolis, represented Anser.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Dutra in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at

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