Liability For Joint Infringement: Application Of Existing Case Law And A Call For En Banc Review

Prior to the Federal Circuit’s April 13, 2011 decision in the Mckesson Technologies Inc. v. Epic Systems Corp. case, many patent experts would have agreed that joint infringement liability has been a settled area of patent law.  However, the Court’s divided ruling demonstrates that might not be the case at all.  Our friends at Foley & Lardner sent in this article discussing the Court’s decision and what companies should consider doing  to ensure that it’s highest-value inventions are properly protected.

On April 12, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued its decision in McKesson Technologies Inc. v. Epic Systems Corp., No. 2010-1291, slip op. (Fed. Cir. April 12, 2011). In this long-anticipated decision, a sharply divided panel composed of Judges Newman, Bryson, and Linn determined that a patentee who was unable to attribute the performance of all of the steps of the asserted method claims to a single entity had failed to prove direct infringement. The Court’s decision is notable in that it produced three opinions: a majority opinion, a concurrence suggesting that en banc consideration of the question of joint infringement might be warranted, and a vigorous dissent arguing that the majority—in its application of the “single entity rule”—had ignored controlling precedent. This opinion provides a useful discussion and application of the recent cases addressing liability for alleged joint infringement as well as a preview of a case that the Court might decide to review en banc. (more…)

Federal Circuit Restricts Joint Infringement Doctrine in Golden Hour Data v. emsCharts

Brandon Baum, partner in Mayer Brown and Practice Center Contributor, passed along this analysis on the Federal Circuit decision Golden Hour Data Systems, Inc. v. emsCharts, Inc.

In the recent case of Golden Hour Data Systems, Inc. v. emsCharts, Inc., the Federal Circuit reiterated—and arguably restricted—its jurisprudence concerning “joint infringement.”  The joint infringement doctrine is an exception to the general rule that “[d]irect infringement requires a party to perform or use each and every step or element of a claimed method or product.”  BMC Resources, Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., 498 F.3d 1373, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2007).  Where the steps or elements are performed by multiple actors, there may still be a finding of direct infringement under the joint infringement doctrine if the accused infringer had “direction or control” over the other actors.  Muniauction, Inc. v. Thomson Corp., 532 F.3d 1318, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2008).  In a 2-1 panel decision, the court found that the fact that the defendants collaborated to sell their software together as part of a “strategic partnership” was insufficient, as a matter of law, to establish joint infringement.

In the underlying district court case, plaintiff Golden Hour Data Systems, Inc. (“Golden Hour”) accused two defendants, emsCharts, Inc. (“emsCharts”) and Softtech, LLC (“Softtech”) of acting jointly to infringe its patent (U.S. 6,117,073) on systems and methods for emergency medical management.  emsCharts provides software that charts patient diagnosis and billing information, but does no flight dispatching.  Softtech provides flight dispatch software used in emergency helicopters to coordinate patient pickup and delivery, but offers no billing, charting or diagnosis.  emsCharts and Softtech formed a strategic partnership to enable their two programs to work together, and collaborated to sell the two programs as a unit. (more…)