Recently, the Federal Circuit issued a decision in CardSoft v. Verifone, in which the Court overturned the district court’s claim construction. Overturning a district court’s claim construction is hardly unusual, and perhaps more typical than it really should be. What was unique about this particular case was that the Federal Circuit also went on to rule that CardSoft had waived any argument that the defendants had infringed under the correct claim construction, as a matter of law.
CardSoft filed this patent infringement suit in March 2008 against VeriFone, Inc., VeriFone Systems Inc., and Hypercom Corp. (collectively, “Defendants”), asserting infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,934,945 (“the ’945 patent”) and 7,302,683 (“the ’683 patent”). The district court held a Markman hearing in July 2011 and conducted a jury trial in June 2012. The jury determined that certain of the Defendants’ devices infringed claim 11 of the ’945 patent and claim 1 of the ’683 patent and that these claims were not invalid. The Defendants moved for a new trial and for judgment as a matter of law, but the district court denied both motions.
Apotex Inc. and Apotex Corp. (collectively, “Apotex”) appealed the decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida finding that Apotex’s U.S. Patent No. 6,767,556 (“the ’556 patent”) is unenforceable due to inequitable conduct. Apotex likewise appealed the district court determination that the asserted claims were indefinite, that they disclaimed coverage of the accused products from the scope of the ’556 patent’s claims, and any recovery of pre-suit damages was barred by laches. In an opinion authored by Judge Reyna (with Judges Wallach and Hughes joining), the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding inequitable conduct, and on that basis alone, affirmed the district court’s judgment. See Apotex, Inc. v. UCB, Inc. (August 15, 2014).
The ’556 patent is generally directed to a process for manufacturing moexipril tablets. Moexipril is an angio-tensin-converting enzyme (“ACE”) inhibitor used to treat hypertension. To improve stability, the ’556 patent discloses a process of making moexipril tablets consisting mostly of moexipril magnesium obtained by reacting moexipril, or its acid-addition salts, with an alkaline magnesium compound.
In ScriptPro, LLC v. Innovation Associates, the Federal Circuit recently addressed the sufficiency of a disclosure vis-a-vis the patent claims issued.
The dispute arose when ScriptPro, LLC and ScriptPro USA, Inc. (collectively, “ScriptPro”) sued Innovation Associates, Inc, alleging infringement of claims 1, 2, 4, and 8 of U.S. Patent No. 6,910,601. The district court granted summary judgment for Innovation Associates, holding that the asserted claims were invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 112(a) because the specification describes a machine containing “sensors” and the claims at issue describe a machine that does not need to have “sensors.” ScriptPro appealed and the Federal Circuit, per Judge Taranto (with Judges Bryson and Hughes) reversed, finding summary judgement inappropriate.
Generally speaking, the ’601 patent describes as the invention a “collating unit,” which works with an “automatic dispensing system” that automatically fills and labels pill bottles or other prescription containers. The collating unit has a number of storage positions (e.g., slots) into which containers are placed as they emerge from the dispensing system. The claims at issue do not require “sensors,” although other claims of the ’601 patent do require the use of a “plurality of sensors.”
On September 16, 2010, Nassau Precision Casting Co., Inc., owner of U.S. Patent No. 5,486,000, entitled “Weighted Golf Iron Club Head,” brought a patent infringement lawsuit accusing Acushnet of infringing claims 1 and 2 of the ’000 patent by making, offering to sell, and selling its Cobra S9, Cobra S9 Second Generation, King Cobra UFi, and Cobra S2 clubs. The ’000 patent describes what it says is an improvement in the distribution of weight within the head of a golf club. The purpose of the invention is to achieve “sweet spot-enhancement, i.e. significant improvement in the ball-striking efficacy of the club head, while maintaining the same starting overall weight of the club head.”
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted summary judgment of non-infringement to Acushnet. On June 6, 2014, the Federal Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded after determining that, based on the district court’s claim interpretation, the only element found lacking from the accused device relative to claim 2 was in fact present in the accused device. See Nassau Precision Casting v. Acushnet Company, Inc.
Claim 1 of the ’000 patent reads:
1. In a golf iron club head of a type having a ball-striking body of weight-imparting construction material inclined at a selected angle for driving a struck golf ball a corresponding selected height during its trajectory, said body having spaced-apart top and bottom surfaces bounding a ball-striking surface therebetween, the method of improving weight distribution comprising removing construction material from said top surface, relocating said removed construction material from said top surface to clearance positions below said top surface located adjacent opposite ends of said bottom, surface whereby said removed construction material from a location not used during ball-striking service of said golf iron, is of no adverse consequence thereto and said removed construction material in said relocated positions contributes to increasing said height attained by a struck golf ball.
On Friday, May 23, 2014, right before the long holiday weekend, news began to circulate that Chief Judge Rader had announced that he would be stepping down as Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Immediately, the Wall Street Journal and Law.com began speculating that Judge Rader’s decision to step down was tied to an email endorsing attorney Edward Reines, a patent lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and president of the Federal Circuit Advisory Council. This speculation picked up when Rader released a letter (see below) to the public addressed to the other members of the Federal Circuit apologizing for the appearance of impropriety associated with his email to Reines (whom he did not name directly), which necessitated his several recent recusals.
I find myself speechless, which doesn’t happen often. On the one hand, those that know Judge Rader know that he is extremely strong-willed and always eager for a vigorous substantive debate. The thought that any familiarity with someone who appears before him would lead to any advantage strikes me as thoroughly nonsensical. On the other hand, ethics for lawyers and even more so for judges is not about truth, but rather appearances.