Your Assignment Agreements May Be Outdated -- Take Action Now

May 2, 2011

The Federal Circuit's recent decisions on the assignment of future inventions have drawn a sharp distinction in what would appear to be minor difference in language that have major consequences and significance to ownership. The language turns on the difference in the phrase "agree to assign" and the phrase "do hereby assign." Under the Federal Circuit's interpretation, the former language ("agree to assign") is only a mere promise to assign inventions that are created in the future and requires a subsequent assignment agreement, while the latter ("do hereby assign") constitutes an immediate assignment when the invention is created in the future without the need of an additional assignment agreement. As reflected in recent Federal Circuit decisions, this difference in language can have severe consequences in determining who owns later issued patents.

For more on these decisions see this link: Analysis of Federal Court's Ruling on Assignment Agreements in Abraxis Bioscience, Inc. v. Navinta LLC, Case No. 2009-1539 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 9, 2010) and others.

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.

Selling Disabled Software Code Is Not Direct Infringement - Mikkelsen Graphic Engineering, Inc. v. Zund America, Inc.

April 29, 2011

On April 7, 2011, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment of direct infringement. Plaintiff's patent, focused on graphics cutting, contained method claims that the district court concluded were not directly infringed. The district court concluded that even if defendant's software product contained an infringing search function, there was still no direct infringement because the defendant disabled that function when it sold the software. The district court reached this conclusion even though a user or customer could enable the infringing function. "[T]he question is whether the claims read on a device that contains source code for searching, even if that code has been disabled. . . . Nothing in [plaintiff's] apparatus claims suggests that a device that contains disabled source code for searching is within the scope of the claims. The claims are not drafted in terms of software components but in terms of the actual function of the apparatus. . . . When the code for searching is disabled, the device does not perform [plaintiff's] methods, and thus sales of the device with the code for searching disabled is not direct infringement."

This type of decision once again heightens the importance of including apparatus claims that closely track the method claims, if possible. Here, an apparatus claim was included but it was significantly different than the method claim. An apparatus claim that tracked the method claim would likely have survived the analysis of the district court.

The case is Mikkelsen Graphic Engineering, Inc. v. Zund America, Inc., Case No. 2-07-cv-00391 (E.D. Wis. April 7, 2011 (Adelman, J.)

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.

The En Banc Court Changes Infringement Analysis for Contempt Hearings

April 27, 2011

On April 20, 2011, the Federal Circuit sitting en banc vacated a $110 million damage award against Dish Network Corp. and EchoStar Corp. The Court rejected its two-step test that had been used to determine infringement of a redesigned product in a contempt hearing and instead adopted a single-step test for determining infringement in a contempt hearing. The new single-step standard focuses solely on whether there is "more than a colorable difference" in a newly redesigned product from a product that was previously found to infringe.

The district court had previously found that defendants' DVR products infringed a patent held by TiVo. After entering a judgment in favor of TiVo based on a jury verdict, the district court also entered a permanent injunction that required defendants to stop making products and to disable products it had already sold. Defendants redesigned their DVR products and TiVo, claiming that the redesigned products still infringed, moved for contempt. The district court found contempt based on continuing infringement and awarded $110 million to TiVo.

A Federal Circuit panel affirmed in a 2-1 decision and the Federal Circuit subsequently agreed to hear defendants' petition for a rehearing. Sitting en banc, the Federal Circuit addressed its two-step analysis set out in the KSM Fastening Systems, Inc. v. H.A. Jones Co., KSM Fastening Systems, Inc. v. H.A. Jones Co., 776 F.2d 1522 (Fed. Cir. 1985) decision. KSM set forth a two-step analysis involving first whether there was "more than a colorable difference" between the redesigned product and the infringing product and, if not, a second step would determine whether the redesigned product still infringed the patent.

The Federal Circuit rejected the KSM two-step test as "unworkable" and overruled KSM. The Court then held that a single step of determining whether there was "more than a colorable difference" between the old and new products would govern. Importantly, the Court noted that this single step test must focus on what attributes of the adjudicated product were previously found to infringe and those attributes must be compared in the newly redesigned product to determine if there is significant modification. "If those differences between the old and new elements are significant, the newly accused product as a whole shall be deemed more than colorably different from the adjudged infringing one, and the inquiry into whether the newly accused product actually infringes is irrelevant."

When it applied this new standard to the facts, the en banc Court concluded that the district court had erred because it did not compare the adjudicated feature to the same feature in the newly designed product, but rather analyzed another feature and held that this feature infringed and, therefore, defendants were in contempt. The Court held that a new feature, that was not comparable to a previously adjudicated feature, could not be determined to infringe in a contempt proceeding. Accordingly, the Court vacated and remanded the district court's contempt finding and directed the district court to compare the adjudicated features to the newly designed features to determine contempt under the single-step standard of "more than colorable differences."

TiVo Inc. v. EchoStar Corp., Case No. 2009-1374 (Fed. Cir. April 20, 2011)

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.

Do Not Overlook Community Property Laws When Acquiring Patents and Other Intellectual Property

April 25, 2011

Due diligence is an important part of acquiring patents and intellectual property, but community property laws are often overlooked in this process. Companies, when acquiring inventions from inventors or from small, closely-held companies, should carefully review the ownership of the patents to determine whether a spouse or former spouse of an inventor has rights to the patent or invention based on applicable state law. Failure to examine these issues and analyze the applicable state law could have disastrous consequences, particularly in California where California's community property laws provide spouses with rights to intellectual property under certain circumstances.

A recent case from the Federal Circuit highlights the importance that community property laws may play in determining who actually owns a patent. Enovsys LLC v. Nextel Communications, Inc., et al., 614 F.3d 1333 (Fed. Cir.

Read a detailed analysis of the case here: Do Not Overlook Community Property Laws When Acquiring Patents and Other Intellectual Property

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.

Johnson & Johnson Hit with $482 Million Verdict Plus $111 Million in Prejudgment Interest in District Court News

April 22, 2011

On March 31, 2011, the United District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Judge Ward) entered a judgment against Johnson & Johnson and Cordis Corporation in the amount of $583 million. The judgment stems from a patent infringement action filed by Bruce Saffran, M.D., Ph.D. against Johnson & Johnson and Cordis over drug eluting stents (this is not the first time Dr. Saffran has won a large patent case against a medical device maker for drug eluting stents as he previously prevailed on a case against Boston Scientific for over $400 million which has since settled).

In upholding the jury verdict, the Court found that, based on the Court's earlier claim construction (which the Court declined to reconsider), there was sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict of patent infringement. In reaching this conclusion, the Court noted the testimony of plaintiff's expert and found that a reasonable jury could have relied on the testimony of plaintiff's expert and that was sufficient to support the finding of infringement.

The Court also rejected defendants' challenge to the validity of the patent and also noted that the parties had stipulated to use a preponderance of the evidence standard for prior art that was not before the patent office in light of the i4i v. Microsoft case that is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court. Such a strategic decision by the plaintiff eliminate a potential ground for reversal of this award in the event that the United States Supreme Court changes the burden of proof for validity challenges.

The Court also found that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict's damage award. In reviewing the damage award, which was based on a reasonable royalty, the Court noted that the dispute centered over what previous license agreements were appropriate to determine the percentage of a reasonable royalty. The Court found that the licenses relied upon by plaintiff's expert were sufficiently related to the technology at issue that they were more appropriate to rely upon than the licenses relied upon by defendants' expert. Accordingly, the Court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict and let stand the $482 million damage award.

The case is Saffran v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 2:07-CV-451 (TJW), (E.D. Tex. 2011).

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.

Non-Infringement of Method Claims in McKesson Technologies Inc. v. Epic Systems. Corp.

April 20, 2011

On April 12, 2011, the Federal Circuit rejected McKesson Technologies Inc.'s suit for patent infringement against Epic Systems Corporation. McKesson Technologies Inc. v. Epic Systems. Corp., Case No. 2010-1291 (Fed. Cir. April 12, 2011). The Federal Circuit rejected McKesson's claim for patent infringement because McKesson could not prove that one party (i.e., the Epic customers) performed all of the steps of the method claim recited in the patent.

McKesson's patent is directed to an electronic method of communication between healthcare providers and patients involving personalized web pages for doctors and their patients. Epic is a software company that licenses software to healthcare providers and one of its products was accused of infringement, Epic's MyChart software. Notably, Epic itself does not use the MyChart software and it was undisputed that Epic's customers did not perform one of the steps required by the method claim, i.e., "initiating a communication," nor did the customers exercise control or direction of another who performs this step. Based on this record, the district court granted Epic's motion for summary judgment based on divided infringement in that no one person or entity performed all the steps of the method claim.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court, noting that McKesson had brought its claims against Epic on the theory of inducing infringement and to show inducing infringement McKesson was required to show that one person or entity performed every step of the method claim. The Federal Circuit also rejected any argument regarding joint infringement as it reiterated that this requires a showing of an agency relationship where a party is contractually obligated to perform a specific step of the method.

The Federal Circuit found that "nothing indicates that MyChart users are performing any of the claimed method steps as agents to MyChart providers." The Federal Circuit rejected McKesson's argument that because this case involved the special relationship between a doctor and a patient joint infringement should be found. The Court stated that a "doctor-patient relationship does not by itself give rise to an agency relationship or impose on patients a contractual obligation such that the voluntary actions of patients can be said to represent the vicarious actions of their doctors."

Accordingly, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment of no infringement.

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.

Protect Your Intellectual Property: Draft Employment Agreements Carefully

April 18, 2011

The assignment provisions in employment agreements have taken on added importance with recent case law from the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit's decision in Stanford University v. Roche, 583 F.3d 832 (Fed. Cir. 2009), drew a sharp distinction between language in assignment provisions focusing on the difference between "agree to assign" and "do hereby assign," with the former constituting a mere agreement to assign in the future, which is ineffective absent an additional agreement to assign intellectual property that is created in the future.

Read a more detailed description here: Protect Your Intellectual Property: Draft Employment Agreements Carefully.

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.

Mirror Worlds Loses a $625 Million Judgment Against Apple

April 13, 2011

On April 4, 2011, the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas set aside a jury verdict of $625 million in favor of Mirror Worlds and against Apple, Inc. Mirror Worlds, LLC v. Apple, Inc., Case No. 6-08-CV-88 (E.D. Tex. April 4, 2011) (Judge Davis). The Court set aside the jury's finding of infringement because Mirror Worlds failed to prove that Apple directly infringed Mirror Worlds' patents because Mirror Worlds did not present evidence that Apple performed the steps detailed in the method claims.

The Court found that it was insufficient to show that Apple sold software that could perform the steps; rather, the Court held that Mirror Worlds needed to prove through appropriate evidence that Apple performed each and every step of the method claimed in the patent, i.e., that Apple itself used the methods claimed in the patent. As Mirror Worlds failed to proceed on that theory--and relied instead on mere sales of software--there was not sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict.

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.

The Written Description Requirement in Crown Packaging v. Ball Metal

April 11, 2011

On April 1, 2011, the Federal Circuit issued another decision regarding the written description requirement. In Crown Packaging v. Ball Metal, No. 2010-1020 (Fed. Cir. April 1, 2011), the Federal Circuit analyzed a district court's decision holding that certain claims of the Crown patent were invalid for violating the written
description requirement.

The patent at issue pertained to an invention for seaming metal cans. The district court held that the asserted claims covered driving a chuck either inside or outside of the reinforcing bead for seaming the can, but the specification only supported driving a chunk outside of the can end's reinforcement bead. Thus, according to the district court, the specification did not support the claims in the patent because the specification only taught "outside," while the claim covered both "outside" and "inside." The patent therefore was invalid.

The Federal Circuit began its analysis by focusing on the written description requirement in 35 U.S.C. ยง 112. It then discussed the test for sufficiency of a written description, i.e., "whether the disclosure clearly allows persons of ordinary skill in the art to recognize that the inventor invented what is claimed," and stated that the "critical question is whether the specification, including the original claim language demonstrates that the applicants had possession of an embodiment that improved metal usage by increasing the slope of the chuck wall without also limiting the width of the reinforcing bead." In rejecting the district court's analysis, the Federal Circuit found that the written description in the Crown patent supported the asserted claims.

In reaching this conclusion, the Federal Circuit relied on its decision in Revolution Eyewear, Inc. v. Aspex Eyewear, Inc., 563 F.3d 1358, 1367 (Fed. Cir.2009), holding that it is a "false premise that if the problems addressed by the invention are related, then a claim addressing only one of the problems is invalid for lack of sufficient written description." The Federal Circuit went on to conclude that the specification was not limited to "outside" because the specification taught that driving can occur either inside or outside of the reinforcing bead if one does not elect to limit the width of the reinforcing bead. The Federal Circuit also noted that although the drawings in the specification only showed driving "outside," as the drawings were only a practical
example of the invention, they did not limit the patent.

In dissent, Judge Dyk disagreed with the majority opinion. Judge Dyk wrote that "[u]nder our written description precedent, failure to disclose a claimed invention is fatal to a claim's validity." Judge Dyk found that the specification did not teach the claims in the patent and therefore the claims were not valid.

The Crown Packaging decision illustrates that the Federal Circuit continues to address the written description requirement and not always with unanimity. As a result, there are likely to be further decisions on the written decision requirement and will continue to be a subject of additional litigation.

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.

Taxes - An Overlooked But Important Consideration for Inventors and Patent Owners

April 4, 2011


Many considerations go into licensing and settling disputes over intellectual property. But one often overlooked consideration is the impact of taxes on decisions to license or settle. Because there are complex tax issues that stem from either the licensing of intellectual property or the settlement of lawsuits concerning intellectual property, it is important to analyze the tax issues impacting a particular transaction at the early stage of the transaction and certainly long before the particular transaction is finalized. In addition, there are tax advantages for inventors of patents in transactions involving the transfer of patent rights, as inventors may be able to achieve favorable tax treatment for the sale of their patents, provided that certain guidelines are followed.

For a more detailed discussion, see my article on Taxes -- An Overlooked But Important Consideration for Inventors and Patent Owners.

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The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent litigation lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.