Recently, a group of amici led by Eli Lilly filed an amici curiae brief with the United States Supreme Court in the matter of Sequenom, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. The Eli Lilly brief was filed in support of the petitioner, Sequenom. Eli Lilly is joined in this brief by Eisai Inc., Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc., Pfizer Inc., and Etiometry, Inc.
On March, 21, 2016, Sequenom filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Supreme Court, challenging the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc. If the Supreme Court takes this case, they will be asked to reconsider the unfortunate breadth of their prior ruling in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs. See SCOTUS Blog Founder asks Supreme Court to Reconsider Mayo.
On Monday, March 21, 2016, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter of Samsung Electronics v. Apple, Inc., a dispute between two giant technology companies that at its core relates to how much Samsung owes Apple for infringing certain design patents.
So far, these two technology giants have shown little interest in playing nice. A jury found that Samsung infringed Apple design patents, Apple utility patents and also diluted Apple’s trade dresses. The infringed design patents are U.S. Design Patent Nos. D618,677 (“D’677 patent”), D593,087 (“D’087 patent”), and D604,305 (“D’305 patent”), which claim certain design elements embodied in Apple’s iPhone. The infringed utility patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,469,381 (“’381 patent”), 7,844,915 (“’915 patent”), and 7,864,163 (“’163 patent”), which claim certain features in the iPhone’s user interface. The diluted trade dresses are Trademark Registration No. 3,470,983 (“’983 trade dress”) and an unregistered trade dress defined in terms of certain elements in the configuration of the iPhone.
During patent examination, pending patent claims are given the broadest reasonable interpretation (“BRI”) that is consistent with the specification, as would be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art. See Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1316 (Fed. Cir. 2005).
The Patent Office applies the broadest reasonable interpretation in virtually all circumstances. It is, however, true that at least one situation where the Patent Office does not use broadest reasonable interpretation is when a reexamination of a patent is undertaken and reexamination will not be concluded until after the patent term has expired. The position of the USPTO is that, in this situation, a patent could not be changed because the term has expired; therefore, the only remaining “life” a patent has would be in litigation because the statute of limitations for a patent infringement action is six years. Thus, the USPTO applies the Phillips standard. (Further discussion of this advanced topic goes beyond the scope of this article, which is intended to be a primer on the broadest reasonable interpretation standard.)
On Saturday, February 13, 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court passed away in a hotel room in Texas. Justice Scalia is perhaps best known for his conservative philosophy and desire to strictly construe the Constitution, relying on the text of the document. Justice Scalia was also ardently opposed to the use of legislative history to interpret statutes, again preferring a strict textual construction.
With Justice Scalia’s passing, some have started to already wonder what his absence will mean for a variety of different cases and issues. With respect to intellectual property, not much will change (if anything) as the Supreme Court moves forward to consider a number of patent and other intellectual property cases this term and in future years. Intellectual property is not an area where the Court divides ideologically, so we do not generally see 5-4 splits as are seen in many other areas of law.
For example, the three recent patent eligibility cases that have thrown the industry into something of a tailspin were all unanimous decisions — Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. (2012); Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics (2013); and Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank (2014). The Supreme Court also reached unanimous decisions in eBay, Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC (2006)(ruling that a victorious patent owner does not have an automatic right to a permanent injunction; rather, the court must consider the four-factor injunction test, despite the fact that a patent grants a supposedly absolute exclusionary right to the patentee); and KSR International v. Teleflex, Inc. (2007)(fundamentally changing the obviousness inquiry by ruling that teaching, suggestion and motivation is not the only rationale to combine references to support an obviousness rejection). (more…)
On Friday, January 15, 2016, the United States Supreme Court accepted the petitioner’s request to hear Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee, a case that will now require the Court to address two questions about inter partes review (IPR) proceedings.
IPR proceedings were created by the America Invents Act (AIA), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011. IPR and the other two forms of post-grant challenge to issued patents — Post Grant Review (PGR) and Covered Business Method (CBM) Review — did not become available as a procedure to challenge patents until September 16, 2012. Thus, these proceedings are quite new and Cuozzo will be the first opportunity for the Supreme Court to weigh in on these controversial administrative proceedings.
According to the statute, “[a] person who is not the owner of a patent may file a petition to institute an inter partes review of the patent.” 35 U.S.C. 311(a). Significantly for this appeal, the statute also says: “The determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.” 35 U.S.C.314(d). Additionally, although the statute is silent as to the proper claim construction standard to use in post grant proceedings, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has decided to apply the familiar standard used elsewhere throughout the Office, which is the broadest reasonable interpretation (BRI) rather than the so-called “Phillips standard” that is used in district court litigation and narrowly construes claims in an already issued patent. (more…)