High Court Seeks DOJ View on Overseas Patent Infringement

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By Tony Dutra

Oct. 5 — The Supreme Court Oct. 5 asked the Department of Justice to weigh in on whether a company that splits activities between U.S. and overseas operations can “actively induce” itself to infringe a patent (Life Techs. Corp. v. Promega Corp., U.S., No. 14-1538, gov't views sought 10/5/15).

In its petition, Life Technologies Corp. asked the court to overturn a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that LifeTech was liable for inducement to infringe Promega Corp.'s patents overseas, even though it shippedonly one of five components of a DNA identification kit for assembly by its U.K. subsidiary.

Separately, on the opening day of its 2016-2017 term, the court denied questions on intellectual property law presented in 13 other petitions appealing state and federal court decisions.

Another two petitions, both related to the same case, were not included in the court's orders and may still have a chance of being heard. The petitions—now scheduled for the court's Oct. 9 conference—ask the court to revise standards ondetermining willful patent infringement, a judgment that would allow the district court to “enhance” damages by up to a three-fold penalty. Halo Elecs., Inc. v. Pulse Elecs., Inc., No. 14-1513; Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer, No. 14-1520 (124 PTD, 6/29/15) (90 PTCJ 2552, 7/10/15).

Life Techs. Corp. v. Promega Corp.

In the case slated for government review, the Federal Circuit held, in a 2-1 decision, that inducement to infringe a patent overseas does not require that the foreign entity be “another” organization. Promega Corp. v. Life Techs. Corp., 773 F.3d 1338, 113 U.S.P.Q.2d 1181 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (89 PTCJ 447, 12/19/14)(241 PTD, 12/16/14)(241 PTD 12/16/14).

Other interested parties signalled that the question goes well beyond life science industry issues. The Internet Association filed an amicus brief in support of LifeTech at the Federal Circuit level, asking that court to hear the case en banc. Agilent Technologies Inc., in the semiconductor and optical component field, gave more credence to the breadth of the concern with an amicus brief recommending high court review.

Patent Case Denials

Nine of the denied petitions for writ of certiorari were focused on patent issues, mostly challenging Federal Circuit decisions and standards.

One petition the Supreme Court rejected was conditional on the Halo v. Pulse petition noted above (Pulse Elecs., Inc. v. Halo Elecs., Inc., U.S., No. 15-121, review denied 10/5/15). The alleged willful infringer, Pulse Electronics Inc., presented reasons why it should win even if the court granted Halo Electronics Inc.'s petition.

The remaining petitions covered a range of patent issues.

• Inventorship. A patent attorney's duties and responsibilities in a question of inventorship was the subject of Walter J. Beriont's petition (Beriont v. GTE Labs., Inc, U.S., No. 14-1517, review denied 10/5/15) (90 PTCJ 2632, 7/17/15) (134 PTD, 7/14/15).

• Patent eligibility. The court rejected a petition asking for answers and further guidance after its Alice v. CLS Bank decision on patentable subject matter (Content Extraction & Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., U.S., No. 14-1473, review denied 10/5/15) (90 PTCJ 2469, 6/26/15)(119 PTD, 6/22/15).

• Indefiniteness. Interval Licensing LLC's petition argued that “the Federal Circuit in this case implemented a far more sweeping change” than the Supreme Court contemplated a year ago in Nautilus v. Biosig (Interval Licensing LLC v. AOL Inc., U.S., No. 14-1362, review denied 10/5/15 (90 PTCJ 2093, 5/22/15)(97 PTD, 5/20/15).

• Obviousness. I/P Engine Inc.'s petition challenged the Federal Circuit's “common sense”-based invalidity determinations—patent obviousness because common sense would have led a skilled practitioner in the art at the time of the inventionto make the patented development (I/P Engine, Inc. v. AOL Inc., U.S., No. 14-1358, review denied 10/5/15) (90 PTCJ 2092, 5/22/15)(96 PTD, 5/19/15).

• Infringement instructions to a jury. A petition questioned whether personal liability may be imposed upon corporate officers for patent infringement (Langton v. Briese Lichttechnik Vertriebs GmbH, U.S., No. 14-1416, review denied 10/5/15) (90 PTCJ 2319, 6/12/15)(109 PTD, 6/8/15).

• Claim construction. MobileMedia Ideas LLC's petition asked the court to force retrial when the Federal Circuit changes a claim construction (MobileMedia Ideas LLC v. Apple Inc., U.S., No. 15-206, review denied 10/5/15) (90 PTCJ 3029, 8/28/15) (162 PTD, 8/21/15).

• Validity as a question of law. NetAirus Technologies LLC's petition asked whether a jury should ever decide patent validity (NetAirus Techs., LLC v. Apple, Inc., U.S., No. 14-1353, review denied 10/5/15) (96 PTD, 5/19/15) (90 PTCJ 2094, 5/22/15).

• Inventorship and standing. The continuing fight over patent rights to the 40-year-old invention of Gore-Tex was back before the court in W. L. Gore's petition (W.L. Gore & Assocs., Inc. v. Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc., U.S., No. 15-41, reviewdenied 10/5/15) (90 PTCJ 2637, 7/17/15) (135 PTD, 7/15/15).

Other IP Cases

One trademark and three copyright-related petitions were also on the Oct. 5 denial list.

• Use in commerce. The only trademark-related petition questioned the Lanham Act’s “use in commerce” as applied to an e-commerce website (Couture v. Playdom, Inc., U.S., No. 14-1428, review denied 10/5/15). (111 PTD, 6/10/15) (90 PTCJ 2328, 6/12/15).

• Co-creator's share of infringement proceeds. One petition involved the issue of splitting the damages award related to infringement of the 1993 Tag Team hit “Whoomp! (There It Is)” (DM Records, Inc. v. Isbell, U.S., No. 14-1320, reviewdenied 10/5/15). (90 PTCJ 2031, 5/15/15) (93 PTD, 5/14/15).

• Attorneys' fee shifting. The Ninth Circuit held that California state law that permitted contractual fee shifting was not preempted by the Copyright Act, questioned by Editions Ltd. West Inc.'s petition (Editions Ltd. West, Inc. v. Ryan, U.S., No. 15-201, review denied 10/5/15). (90 PTCJ 3040, 8/28/15) (162 PTD, 8/21/15).

• Copyright vs. industrial design. Home Legend LLC's petition challenged whether Mannington Mills Inc. can get copyright protection for a design that makes laminated flooring look like time-worn wooden planks (Home Legend, LLC v. Mannington Mills, Inc., U.S., No. 15-117, review denied 10/5/15). (90 PTCJ 2773, 7/31/15) (146 PTD, 7/30/15).