Whirlpool files lawsuit in Eastern Texas alleging infringement of 10 million series patent

U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 just issued June 19, 2018, and within a matter of days a patent in the 10 million series was already being enforced. On July 3, 2018, the day the patent issued, Whirlpool Corporation filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the United States Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Despite those who claim that only patent trolls file lawsuits in the Eastern District of Texas, it is Whirlpool Corporation that has brought a patent infringement lawsuit seeking to enforce U.S. Patent No. 10,010,820, which relates to a water filtration system, against defendant, Space Flex International, LLC. There are some who have always believed that operating companies simply never sue in the Eastern District of Texas, but those widely held beliefs are simply incorrect. Indeed, those familiar with Whirlpool’s enforcement strategy know well that the company regularly utilizes the Eastern District of Texas.

In this case, Whirlpool also alleges that the defendant, Space Flex International, a Rancho Cucamonga, CA corporation that has consented to jurisdiction and venue in the Eastern Distirct of Texas, is infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 7,00,894, 8,591,736, and 9,937,451. The complaint filed explains that both the ‘894 and ‘763 patents have withstood numerous validity and enforceability challenges. The ‘451 patent, as well as the ‘820 patent, as you would expect from their relatively young age, have not been challenged yet and will see their first action on behalf of Whirlpool in this case.

Whirlpool is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction preventing Space Flex from engaging in infringing activities, a judgment that infringement has been willful, and a finding that the case is exceptional. Whirlpool is also seeking attorneys’ fees, as well as pre- and post-judgment interest in the event they prevail. A jury trial has been demanded.

08.14.18 | Patent Issues, Patent Litigation | Gene Quinn

Federal Circuit says PTAB too narrowly interpreted case law regarding prior art publications in GoPro

On Friday, July 27th, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a precedential opinion in GoPro, Inc. v. Contour IP Holdings, vacating a final written decision coming from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) that had upheld patent claims in the face of a validity challenge petitioned by action camera company GoPro. The Federal Circuit panel of Circuit Judges Jimmie Reyna (author of the opinion), Evan Wallach and Todd Hughes found that the PTAB had erred in finding that a 2009 GoPro catalog did not qualify as a prior art printed publication for rendering the challenged claims invalid for obviousness.

There are two patents at issue in this case which have now been remanded back to the PTAB for further proceedings:

  • U.S. Patent No. 8890954, titled Portable Digital Video Camera Configured for Remote Image Acquisition Control and Viewing. Issued to Contour in November 2014, it covers an integrated, hands-free, portable, wearable, viewfinderless point of view (POV) digital video camera equipped with a wireless Internet protocol and a global navigation and location positioning system.
  • U.S. Patent No. 8896694, same title as the ‘954 patent. Also issued to Contour in November 2014, it claims a POV digital video camera system with GPS and Bluetooth capabilities for capturing action video, tracking data such as speed and elevation, as well as posting video online.

Contour IP, the patent owner, first asserted both of these patents against GoPro in a patent infringement suit filed in November 2015 in the District of Delaware; that case was transferred to the Northern District of California in August 2017. However, in April 2015, about six months before the patents were asserted against GoPro in Delaware, GoPro petitioned the PTAB for inter partes review (IPR) proceedings challenging the validity of both patents.

In both IPR petitions, GoPro submitted a 2009 sales catalog as prior art; the catalog disclosed a digital camera linked to a wireless viewfinder/controller that enables a user to preview the image before recording. Although the PTAB instituted both IPRs after making a determination that GoPro made a threshold showing that the catalog is prior art, both IPRs terminated in final written decisions which concluded that the catalog wasn’t disseminated or otherwise made available to the extent that persons ordinarily skilled in the art could have located it by exercising reasonable diligence.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit found that the PTAB erred in determining that a declaration from a GoPro employee, along with corroborating evidence, wasn’t sufficient to establish public accessibility of the catalog. The GoPro employee had testified that GoPro made the catalog accessible during an action sports vehicle trade show that occurred in July 2009, prior to the critical date of September 13th, 2009 (one year prior to the date of priority for both the ‘954 and ‘694 patents). The PTAB held that the dissemination at this trade show did not make the catalog publicly accessible because the trade show was only open to dealers and not the general public.

“The case law regarding accessibility is not as narrow as the Board interprets it,” the Federal Circuit found, noting that the PTAB only focused on one of several factors for determining public accessibility. Although the trade show was focused on action sports vehicles, the attendees were likely more sophisticated in that space than average consumers, making it more than likely that attendees were also skilled and interested in POV action cameras. “A dealer show focused on extreme sports vehicles is an obvious forum for POV action sports cameras,” the Federal Circuit’s opinion reads. The general public may not have been aware of the trade show but the appellate court found that dealers of POV action sports cameras would be part of the relevant audience. Thus, the Federal Circuit vacated the PTAB’s determination that the GoPro catalog was not prior art and remanded the case for further proceedings.


Hatch files Amendment to Fix IPRs for Pharma

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), co-author of the Hatch-Waxman Act, filed an amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee to address what many characterize as abusive inter partes review (IPR) filings relating to brand name pharmaceuticals. According to Senator Hatch, his amendment is intended to fix IPRs and restore the careful balance the Hatch-Waxman Act struck to incentivize generic drug development. The Hatch-Waxman Act encourages generic drug manufacturers to challenge patents of brand name drugs by filing Abbreviated New Drug Applications with the Food and Drug Administration, which can and typically does result in patent infringement litigation in federal district court.

“As the coauthor and namesake of Hatch-Waxman, I have a keen interest in ensuring we have a well-functioning generic drug industry,” said Senator Hatch in a press release published last night. “My amendment will ensure that Hatch-Waxman continues to operate as originally intended by protecting the ability of generic drug companies to develop low-cost drugs while at the same time ensuring brand-name companies have sufficient protections in place to recoup their investments.”

In recent years inter partes review (IPR) at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has created an alternative path to challenge the patents of brand name drugs; a path alternative to the path envisioned in Hatch-Waxman. Those who support the Hatch-Waxman regime view IPRs as upending the careful Hatch-Waxman balance.

Senator Hatch’s amendment, the Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act of 2018, would require a generic manufacturer wishing to challenge a brand-name drug patent to choose between Hatch-Waxman litigation, which affords certain advantages such as being able to rely on the drug innovator’s safety and efficacy studies for FDA approval, and IPR, which is cheaper and faster than Hatch-Waxman litigation but does not provide the advantages of a streamlined generic approval process. Parties would not be able to use both. In this way, the amendment aims to fix the misuse of IPRs by generics as parallel and duplicate proceedings to disputes already in place under Hatch-Waxman.

Politically, this Hatch “pick a path amendment is going to be paired with S. 974, The CREATES Act of 2017 (H.R. 2212).  This legislation aims to enable the sharing of samples so that generics can compete more effectively.  You can learn more about the substance of the CREATES Act by reading Senator Leahy’s summary here. The Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act enjoys broad, bipartisan support from Senators Leahy, Grassley, Feinstein, Graham, Durbin, Lee, Whitehouse, Cruz, Klobuchar, Kennedy, and Blumenthal.  Generics want the CREATES Act, and there are 28 co-sponsors.  The bill was voted out of the Judiciary Committee favorably, but Hatch voted against it.

Raising and connecting the Hatch-Waxman IPR fix to the CREATES Act balances two major interests of both the brand and generic industries.  Brand needs this Hatch-Waxman IPR fix and generics want CREATES.  Like Hatch’s original objective with Hatch-Waxman, each side gains something…resolving a major problem for them…and neither loses anything that they had any reasonable expectation that they would, or should, be able to maintain.

08.7.18 | Congress, Patent Issues, Pharma | Gene Quinn

Supreme Court rules patent owners can recover lost foreign profits

At the end of the recent Supreme Court term, the Court  issued a decision in WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp., which in a 7-2 decision ruled that a patent owner may recover lost foreign profits for infringement under 35 U. S. C. 271(f)(2).  The question decided, as set forth in the opinion by Justice Thomas, writing for the majority, was: “The question in this case is whether these statutes allow the patent owner to recover for lost foreign profits.” Thomas simply answered the question in the opening paragraph saying: “We hold that they do.”

The dispute between WesternGeco, a company that develops technology for surveying the ocean floor, and ION Geophysical Corporation, a competitor, dates back to late 2007. In late 2007, ION began manufacturing components for its competing surveying system and shipping them to companies abroad. Those companies combined the components to create the surveying system that was indistinguishable from WesternGeco’s patented systems.

WesternGeco sued for patent infringement under §§271(f)(1) and (f)(2). At trial, WesternGeco proved that it had lost 10 specific survey contracts due to ION’s infringement. The jury found ION liable and awarded WesternGeco damages of $12.5 million in royalties and $93.4 million in lost profits. ION filed a post-trial motion to set aside the verdict, arguing that WesternGeco could not recover damages for lost profits because §271(f) does not apply extraterritorially. The District Court denied the motion. 953 F. Supp. 2d 731, 755–756 (SD Tex. 2013).

On appeal, the Federal Circuit found ION liable for infringement under §271(f)(1) but reversed the award of lost-profits damages under §271(f)(2). WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp., 791 F. 3d 1340 (2015). The Federal Circuit had previously held that §271(a), the general infringement provision, does not allow patent owners to recover for lost foreign sales. See Power Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor Int’l, Inc., 711 F. 3d 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2013). The Federal Circuit reasoned that Section 271(f) should be interpreted the same way.

While the Supreme Court acknowledged that courts ordinarily presume that statutes apply only within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, quoting Foley Bros. v. Filardo, 336 U.S. 281, 285 (1949), Justice Thomas explained there is an established two-step framework to decide questions of extraterritoriality. RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Community, 136 S.Ct. 2090 (2016). While ordinarily courts address the first step first, in this case the Supreme Court exercised its discretion to forgo the first step and address the second prong of the test. They did this, no doubt, because they concluded that the conduct relevant to the statutory focus was domestic.

Justice Thomas explained:

Section 271(f)(2) focuses on domestic conduct. It provides that a company “shall be liable as an infringer” if it “supplies” certain components of a patented invention “in or from the United States” with the intent that they “will be combined outside of the United States in a manner that would infringe the patent if such combination occurred within the United States.” The conduct that §271(f)(2) regulates—i.e., its focus—is the domestic act of “suppl[ying] in or from the United States.” As this Court has acknowledged, §271(f) vindicates domestic interests: It “was a direct response to a gap in our patent law,” Microsoft Corp., 550 U. S., at 457, and “reach[es] components that are manufactured in the United States but assembled overseas,” Life Technologies, 580 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 11). As the Federal Circuit explained, §271(f)(2) protects against “domestic entities who export components . . . from the United States.” 791 F. 3d, at 1351.

Thomas would go on to rather emphatically state: “The conduct in this case that is relevant to that focus clearly occurred in the United States, as it was ION’s domestic act of supplying the components that infringed WesternGeco’s patents.”

Federal Circuit confirms validity of patent for UCB’s Vimpat®

On May 23, 2018, the Federal Circuit issued a decision in UCB, Inc. v. Accord Healthcare, Inc. (Before Prost, C.J., Bryson, and Stoll, J.)(Opinion for the court, Stoll, J.), a case arising under the Hatch-Waxman Act. The Appellees UCB, Inc. et al own and/or license U.S. Patent No. RE38,551., titled Anticonvulsant enantiomeric amino acid derivatives. The ‘551 patent covers lacosamide, an anti-epileptic drug for the treatment of epilepsy and other central nervous system disorders. UCB holds New Drug Applications (“NDAs”) that cover its lacosamide anti-epileptic drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) and marketed under the tradename Vimpat®. The ‘551 patent is listed in the FDA’s Approved Drug Products With Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations (“Orange Book”) as covering Vimpat®.

Appellants were generic drug manufacturers who filed Abbreviated New Drug Applications (“ANDAs”), seeking approval for generic versions of Vimpat®. Pursuant to applicable Hatch-Waxman provisions, Appellants certified in their ANDAs that the ‘551 patent was invalid, unenforceable, or that their proposed generic lacosamide products would not infringe the ‘551 patent.

Consequently, as is their right under Hatch-Waxman, UCB sued Appellants for patent infringement in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. Appellants stipulated to infringement of claims 9, 10, and 13 of the ‘551 patent but maintained that these claims are invalid for obviousness-type double patenting, obviousness, and anticipation.

Following a bench trial, the district court made exhaustive fact findings based on the trial evidence and concluded that the asserted claims of the ‘551 patent were not invalid. Appellants appealled that decision, arguing that the district court misapplied the legal standards for obviousness-type double patenting, obviousness, and anticipation, and that the prior art anticipates and/or renders the ‘551 patent obvious.

The Federal Circuit held that the district court applied the correct legal standards in its obviousness-type double patenting, obviousness, and anticipation analyses, and found no clear error in its underlying factual findings. As a result, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s ultimate conclusion that the asserted claims were not invalid.

“We are pleased with the CAFC decision,” said Anna Richo, UCB’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “This confirms the strength of our intellectual property for Vimpat® and maintains UCB’s exclusivity position until March 2022.”


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