St. Jude: Double Patenting at the Federal Circuit

hosp-sj-campus-2013-03In the recent Federal Circuit case of St. Jude Medical v. Access Closure, the defendant Access Closure, Inc. (ACI) appealed several rulings made by the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in favor of St. Jude Medical, the patentee-plaintiff. The rulings relate to three patents that St. Jude asserted against ACI, namely U.S. Patent No. 7,008,439 to Janzen et al., U.S. Patent No. 5,275,616 to Fowler, and U.S. Patent No. 5,716,375, also to Fowler.

St. Jude filed its complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas on October 22, 2008, alleging that ACI infringed various claims of the aforementioned patents. During the litigation, the district court issued a Markman order in which it construed various claim terms found in the Janzen patent, including “means for ejecting” and “ejecting mechanism.” Unable to resolve the dispute, the parties proceeded to trial before a jury.

The jury rendered a verdict that ACI had infringed claims 7 and 8 of the Janzen patent, but that claims 7, 8, and 9 of the Janzen patent were invalid for double patenting in light of the sibling ’498 patent. Implicit in the jury’s double patenting finding was the jury’s conclusion that claims 7, 8, and 9 of the Janzen patent were not patentably distinct from claim 7 of the sibling patent.


Patenting Self-Destructing E-mail Messages

att-logoAT&T is seeking another patent on self-destructing e-mail messages. AT&T originally filed a patent application in January 2002 on this technology, which ripened into U.S. Patent No. 7,356,564. The latest patent application to publish in this family tree published on June 20, 2013 as U.S. Patent Application No. 20130159436. We profiled this back in August on See AT&T Seeks Patents on E-mail Self Destruct and 3D Media ContentShortly thereafter, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a Non-Final Rejection of the application.

This application relates to e-mail, which virtually everyone reading will know is a messaging system used across the world to communicate information to other people. Indeed, so ubiquitous has e-mail become that it is hard to remember when electronic communications via e-mail did not exist. E-mail is so incredibly useful because it’s efficient and practically instantaneous. However, a sender has almost no way to protect confidential information once it has been sent across the Internet, and we have probably all sent one or more messages without thinking things through before clicking “send.” Many have also no doubt sent an e-mail by accident to someone who was not the intended recipient, which can range from a nuisance to embarrassing to completely catastrophic depending on the content.