Laches no defense to patent infringement during statute of limitations

The United States Supreme Court recently issued its decision in SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag et al. v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, et al. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the defense of laches remained a viable defense to patent infringement actions brought during the exceptionally long six-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court ruled that the defense of laches is inappropriate for claims brought within the statute of limitations, hardly a shocking ruling given that the Court reached the same ruling only several years ago with respect to laches as a defense in copyright infringement claims. See Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 572 U.S. ___ (2014).

Unlike most patent decisions, the decision in SCA Hygiene Products was not unanimous. The majority opinion was delivered by Justice Alito, who was joined by the Chief Justice, as well as Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. A dissent was filed by Justice Breyer, who would have affirmed the Federal Circuit ruling finding that 35 U.S.C. 282 codified a laches defense without using the term “laches.” It was Justice Breyer’s belief that the codified defense of unenforceability allowed for a laches defense to patent infringement actions, explaining that in very old cases interpreting the common law, laches was at times equated to unenforceability.

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On the Record with Russ Slifer

Russ Slifer is the former Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Slifer resigned from this position he held for nearly two years on Friday, January 20, 2017.

During his time at the Patent Office, I tried to get an interview with Slifer on a variety of occasions, but those efforts all went for naught. Upon his resignation, Silfer agreed to an interview, which took place via telephone on Monday, March 20, 2017. The entire 3-part interview transcript is available on IPWatchdog.com. What follows are the highlights.

Slifer on the mechnics and timing of resigning from a political appointment:

SLIFER: Each department in the Executive branch, let’s say the Department of Commerce has a White House liaison that interfaces between the political appointees that are under the Department of Commerce and the White House regarding employment issues. So when we’re approaching the end of an administration, they’re working with us on the transition out. They provided us a letter that came from the White House, let’s see, I think it was probably in December, maybe early December, that outlined that the President wanted all of our letters of resignation on file by a certain date and our intended date of departure. We were instructed that our resignation would be no later than noon on January 20th. So we basically got an instruction from the White House that they wanted everybody’s resignation letter and what it would say in it.

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Federal Circuit rejects Google’s petition for rehearing

On April 4, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a brief order denying panel rehearing and denying rehearing en banc in Unwired Planet, LLC v. Google, Inc.

Google filed a petition for both panel rehearing and rehearing en banc. A response to the petition was invited by the court and filed by Unwired Planet, LLC. No reason for the denial of Google’s petition was provided by the Federal Circuit, which is typical. The original panel decision, authored by Judge Reyna and issued on November 21, 2016, found that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) was using the wrong definition for what constitutes a covered business method (CBM) patent.

A covered business method patent is defined as a patent that claims a method for performing data processing or other operations used in the practice, administration, or management of a financial product or service. Specifically excluded from the definition of a covered business method patents are those that relate to technological inventions. See 37 C.F.R. 42.301(a). To determine whether a patent is for a technological invention, the PTAB is supposed to consider whether the claimed subject matter recites a technological feature that is novel and unobvious over the prior art, and solves a technical problem using a technical solution. See 37 C.F.R. 42.301(b). Nevertheless, the PTAB had been finding patents to be CBM patents when they covered matter incidental to a financial activity or complementary to a financial activity. For more see Federal Circuit slams PTAB.

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04.24.17 | CAFC, Patent Issues, posts, USPTO | Gene Quinn

Does the USPTO paying for shared services violate the AIA?

During the August 20, 2015, Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) meeting, USPTO Director Michelle Lee first announced what was known as the shared services initiative. Today, “shared services” has been re-branded “enterprise services,” but the initiative remains the same.

In 2015, Lee explained the shared services initiative by saying that agencies falling under the Department of Commerce would utilize shared services for human resources, information technology and procurement functions. The fear then, however, was that the USPTO’s user fees would be used to pay for the IT and other needs of other Commerce agencies when those funds are supposed to be used only for the operation of the USPTO. See AIPLA letter to Secretary Pritzker and Under Secretary Lee. That is precisely what is happening now, only worse.

The new reality today is that the USPTO is paying for shared services that are simply not shared. According to Frank Murphy, Acting Chief Financial Officer, who recently spoke at a PPAC public meeting, the USPTO will not be using the services because the USPTO systems are superior to the shared services being created. The USPTO is still, nonetheless, paying for the creation of these services.

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03.27.17 | posts | Gene Quinn

CAFC transfers case from Eastern Texas to Northern California

On Thursday, February 23, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted a mandamus petition filed by Google, and ordered a Texas federal court to transfer a patent infringement case to a federal court that covers Silicon Valley, as requested by Google. See In re: Google Inc. This extraordinary remedy was delivered in the form of a non-precedential opinion authored by Chief Judge Prost and joined by Judge Lourie. Despite the Federal Circuit’s designation of the decision as non-precedential, the Court should be prepared for the onslaught of mandamus petitions that will now be filed given that they have shown a willingness to step in and re-weigh transfer factors de novo.

This petition for writ of mandamus arose out of a patent infringement suit brought by Eolas Technologies, Inc. against Google and various other defendants involving U.S. Patent No. 9,195,507. On the day this lawsuit was filed against Google, Eolas also filed two related suits in the same district, accusing various Walmart and Amazon entities of infringement. The Walmart and Amazon entities, like Google, sought transfer to the Northern District of California under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) for convenience. Weighing the relevant transfer factors, the district court concluded that the Northern District of California was not clearly a more convenient forum than the Eastern District of Texas.

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