On December 13, 2013, Genetic Veterinary Sciences, Inc. (d/b/a Paw Print Genetics) filed a declaratory judgment action against VetGen, LLC, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington (Spokane). The lawsuit sought a declaration that Paw Print Genetics was not infringing various claims of patents owned by VetGen. The complaint specifically sought a declaration of non-infringement with respect to U.S. Patent Nos. 6,040,143, 6,074,832, 6,767,707, 6,780,583, and 6,410,237. Each of these patents are titled DNA encoding canine von Willebrand factor and methods of use. In the alternative, Paw Print Genetics also sought a declaration that the claims of the patents are invalid. Both Paw Print Genetics and VetGen offer inherited disease testing to identify carriers and affected dogs for a variety of different canine genetic conditions.
In both dogs and humans, von Willebrand’s disease is a bleeding disorder of variable severity that results from a quantitative or qualitative defect in von Willebrand factor. This clotting factor has two known functions, stabilization of Factor VIII (hemophilic factor A) in the blood, and aiding the adhesion of platelets to the subendothelium, which allows them to provide hemostasis more effectively. If the factor is missing or defective, the patient, whether human or dog, may bleed severely. The disease is the most common hereditary bleeding disorder in both species, and is genetically and clinically heterogenous.
On March 19, 2014, Actavis plc (NYSE: ACT) announced that it entered into an agreement with Noven Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to settle all outstanding patent litigation related to Actavis’ generic version of Daytrana® (Methylphenidate Transdermal System). Daytrana® is a CNS stimulant indicated for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For the 12 months ending December 31, 2013, Daytrana® had total U.S. sales of approximately $98 million, according to IMS Health data.
The ultimate launch of Actavis’ product is, however, contingent upon Actavis receiving final approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on its Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for generic Daytrana®.
This patent dispute in fact arose out of the filing of the ANDA by Actavis. An ANDA applicant must make one of four certifications regarding each patent that applies to the drug for which approval is being sought: (I) no such patent information has been submitted to the FDA; (II) the patent has expired; (III) the patent is set to expire on a certain date; or (IV) the patent is invalid or will not be infringed by the drug covered in the ANDA.
Years hence we may look back to Tuesday, January 14, 2014 as the turning point in the battle against abusive patent litigation. On January 14, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the settlement with one of the more notorious patent trolls. See NY Attorney General Settles Investigation into Patent Troll. This operator, MPHJ Technologies, is the owner of patents dealing with scanning technology and has claimed that thousands of small businesses infringe its patents. MPHJ has been one of the entities used by those in the anti-patent community as an example of a patent system run amok. At the end of the day, at least for those who carefully pay attention and look at the facts, this is not a story about the patent system in any way, shape or form. It is a story about a bully that engaged in reprehensible pre-litigation scare tactics.
Unfortunately, in his announcement of the settlement, Attorney General Schneiderman went too far in condemning legal patent activities in the name of defining what is a patent troll. Schneiderman said:
Patent trolls – sometimes referred to as “patent assertion entities” – are not innovators. They buy patents owned by others and then try to turn a profit by aggressively pursuing businesses they claim infringe the acquired patents. In virtually all cases, the businesses targeted by patent trolls did not copy other companies’ technology. Instead, patent trolls argue that that independently developed technology or business processes used by the target – and in some cases, everyday business activities – require a license linked to the troll’s patents.
The problem with this definition is that there is nothing illegal or immoral about acquiring patents, there is nothing illegal or immoral about enforcing patents and seeking out licensing agreements, and independent creation has never been a defense to patent infringement. Thus, it is unfortunate that legitimate patent activities that are clearly legal were at least to some extent compared with the deceitful activities of MPHJ.
In a non-precedential opinion issued October 18, 2013, the Federal Circuit issued a decision that calls into question the overall utility of forum selection clauses in contractual relationships. In fact, Eli Lilly lost its bid to have its dispute with Genentech and City of Hope heard in the Northern District of California despite a forum selection clause in the governing contract that stated the parties would litigate any dispute in the Northern District of California. See In re Eli Lilly and Co.
Eli Lilly petitioned for a writ of mandamus directing the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to vacate its order transferring this case to the United States District Court for the Central District of California. In its order granting Genentech’s motion to transfer, the district court noted that the trial judge in the Central District of California had presided over four cases involving the same family of patents at issue. The district court further noted that another trial judge in the Northern District of California had recently transferred a case brought by one of Eli Lilly’s business partners that involves the same patent and product to the Central District of California, citing the expertise the trial judge had gained through these prior lawsuits.
Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in ncCUBE Corporation v. SeaChange International, dealing with the failure of the district court to find SeaChange in contempt for violating a permanent injunction.
ARRIS (formerly nCUBE) commenced the present litigation on January 8, 2001, alleging the infringement of certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 5,805,804 (“’804 patent”), which discloses and claims a media server capable of transmitting multimedia information over any network configuration in real time to a client that has requested the information. The patented technology allows a user to purchase videos that are then streamed to a device such as a television.
On May 28, 2002, the jury returned a verdict in ARRIS’s favor, finding that SeaChange willfully infringed the asserted claims in the ’804 patent. The Federal Circuit later affirmed the jury verdict and the district court’s subsequent decision to enhance the damages award. Subsequent to the Federal Circuit affirmance, the district court entered a permanent injunction enjoining SeaChange from “making, using, selling, or offering to sell… the SeaChange Interactive Television System… as well as any devices not more than colorably different therefrom that clearly infringe the Adjudicated Claims of the ’804 patent.”