In an interesting decision handed down by the Federal Circuit this week, it has been found that electronic transmissions of digital data are not "articles" which the United States International Trade Comissision (ITC) has jurisdiction to exlcude under 19 U.S.C. 1337. ClearCorrect Operating, LLC v. International Trade Commission, Fed. Cir., No. 2014-1527 (Nov. 10, 2015). After an interpretation of both the literal text of the statute as well as the legislative history, the Federal Circuit reversed the ITC's prior determination, and found the term "articles" to clearly mean only "material things".
The new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) will take effect on December 1, 2015, and shall govern all proceedings in civil cases commenced thereafter. Specific to patent litigation, the 2015 FRCP eliminated the previous form patent complaints (i.e. Civil Form 18) that allowed patentees to file a complaint without specifically setting forth its theory of infringement. After taking effect, the new FRCP will require a patentee's initial complaint to comply with the Supreme Court rulings in Twombly and Iqbal, under which the patentee must set forth sufficient facts to make a claim for relief plausible. In patent cases, courts may therefore begin requiring a showing of which patent claims are being infringed and possibly the inclusion of at least one claim chart comparing the accused product with at least one claim.
The equitable defense of laches can apply to claims of patent infringement damages suits, even when they are filed within the six year statutory period as defined by 35 U.S.C. §286, ruled the en banc Federal Circuit in SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC., Fed Cir., No. 2013-1564 (Sept. 18 2015). In this narrow 6-5 decision, the court sitting en banc affirmed its earlier summary judgment, which dismissed SCA's patent infringement suit for laches, from September of last year.
Nine states, including Florida, have recently enacted "anti-patent troll" legislation in 2015, joining the seventeen states that passed similar legislation last year in 2014. Florida's HB 439 ch. 501 part VII ("Patent Troll Prevention Act"), enacted in the 2015 session, prohibits bad faith assertions of patent infringement from being made, and provides a number of factors that allow a court to consider whether an allegation was made in bad faith. A determination of bad faith includes damages and reasonable attorney fees.
The Supreme Court in Alice, Mayo, Myriad, and Bilski -- four cases in just four years -- dramatically redefined the issue of subject matter eligibility in patent law. That is, the initial threshold question of whether an invention is eligible for obtaining patent protection in the first place. The broad strokes of these cases left much to be desired, particularly and most recently in Alice, in which the Supreme Court created a vague 2-step analysis in determining when a (software or business method) invention is merely an "abstract idea", and therefore not patent eligible. Understandably, the US PTO has encountered difficulty in applying the Alice analysis following the case, but has strived to offer some additional clarity in its latest July 2015 update to its prior 2014 Interim Guidance on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility.
In a 6-2 decision handed down in Commil v. Cisco, the Supreme Court has held that a defendant's good faith belief that a patent is invalid does not serve as a defense to charges of inducing infringement of that patent, overturning the previous U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) decision.
The Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (Hague Agreement) will go into effect for the United States next Wednesday, May 13, 2015. Under the Geneva Act, it will be possible for U.S. applicants to file a single international design application either with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or through the USPTO as an office of indirect filing to obtain protection in a number of countries that are party to the Hague Agreement. In addition, applicants filing international design applications on or after May 13, 2015 will be able to designate the United States for design protection. U.S. design patents resulting from applications filed on or after May 13, 2015 will have a 15 year term from issuance. Learn more at http://www.uspto.gov/patent/initiatives/hague-agreement-concerning-international-registration-industrial-designs
This past Monday the Senate officially confirmed Michelle Lee as the new director of the US PTO. Director Lee is the first woman director of the agency, and previously served as Google's chief patent counsel. Since beginning her tenure at the US PTO, Director Lee has set her primary focus on improving patent quality in the US patent system. In line with this patent quality initiative, the US PTO has set forth six (6) proposals to serve as the focal points for the upcoming Patent Quality Summit on March 25-26, 2015.
The USPTO today issued an updated and comprehensive guideline regarding patent subject matter eligibility in view of the recent Supreme Court decisions in Alice Corp, Myriad, and Mayo. This "2014 Interim Guidance on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility" was published today, December 16, 2014.