On Jan. 20, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision setting forth a new standard for appellate review of a district court’s claim construction ruling. Teva Pharmas. USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., No. 13-854, slip op., 574 U.S. __ (2015). Prior to this decision, a district court’s claim construction ruling was reviewed de novo (from scratch) by the Federal Circuit. The Supreme Court held, by a 7-2 majority authored by Justice Breyer, that factual issues decided by a district court are to be reviewed for “clear error”, while all other aspects of a claim construction ruling continue to be reviewed de novo.
On December 15, 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) released its updated 2014 Interim Guidance on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility (the “ Interim Eligibility Guidance”) in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank (“Alice”), the Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics (“Myriad”) and Mayo Collaborative Serv. v. Prometheus Labs. (“Mayo”). The Interim Guidance Document states the PTO will use a two-pronged subject matter eligibility test in response to the Alice, Myriad, and Mayo decisions. This article summarizes the prongs of the test and provides some analysis about how the PTO is interpreting the language of Mayo, Myriad, and Alice under the Interim Eligibility Guidance.
DDR Holdings, LLC v. Hotels.com, L.P., Appeal No. 2013-1505 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 5, 2014)
For those following the law of patent eligibility in the United States, a December 5, 2014 precedential decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that a patent on webpage-display technology is patent eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. A slew of recent court decisions have gone the other way, leaving arguably similar patents invalid.
In a recent decision, Versata Software, Inc. v. Callidus Software, Inc., No. 2014-1468 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 20, 2014), the Federal Circuit ordered the District of Delaware to stay district court litigation pending a covered business method (CBM) review, reversing the district court’s decision to deny the accused infringer’s motion to stay. In reversing the district court’s decision, the Federal Circuit sharply criticized what it perceived as the district court’s categorical rule that a failure to challenge all asserted claims in the CBM proceeding disfavors a stay.
On November 6, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a consent order that would settle charges against a patent assertion entity, MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC (“MPHJ”), and a law firm that represented MPHJ.
Led by Judge Richard Posner, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently refused what Posner called a “quixotic” attempt to extend copyright law. While the holding was perhaps to be expected, the opinion introduced a mystery of its own: If not copyright, what will stop today’s public-domain derivatives from sullying the eccentric detective’s hard-earned reputation?
In Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 572 U.S. __ (2014), the United States Supreme Court addressed the role that the equitable defense of laches – i.e., a plaintiff’s unreasonable and prejudicial delay in commencing suit – plays in relation to a claim of copyright infringement filed within the Copyright Act’s three-year statute of limitations period. There is no doubt that Petrella puts to rest a split amongst the Circuits by clarifying that laches cannot bar a claim for legal relief for infringement occurring within the three-year statutory window. Yet, Petrella should not be seen as a knock-out punch to the use of laches in copyright actions. To the contrary, Petrella re-emphasizes the important role that laches plays in connection with the equitable remedies available under the Copyright Act, and provides copyright defendants – and plaintiffs – with guidance as to whether, and to what extent, a plaintiff’s delay in filing suit may limit the availability of those equitable remedies. Additionally, Petrella’s discussion of a copyright plaintiff’s evidentiary burden and comments about the Copyright Act’s registration requirements raise interesting questions about the impact that a delay in filing suit may have on a plaintiff’s ability to prove infringement. Laches, it seems, “don’t go down for nobody.”
In Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, el al., Case No. 13-298 (decided June 19, 2014) (“Alice Corp.”), the Supreme Court unanimously held that the subject patent claims are not patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The patents at issue are directed toward a process for mitigating “settlement risk,” i.e., for financial exchange transactions, in which a computer system is used as an intermediary between the parties to the transaction. The patent claims include a method for exchanging financial obligations, a computer system configured to carry out the method, and a computer-program-product claim covering the same process. The Court held that “the claims at issue are drawn to the abstract idea of intermediated settlement, and that merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.” Alice Corp., slip op. at 1.
Bona fide intent, the sine qua non of non-use trademark applications, was given new meaning by the TTAB in a decision released unpublished February 21, 2014 but redesignated as precedent on March 26, 2014, thus placing at risk similar applications for oppositions and issued registrations for cancellation. The decision, Lincoln National Corporation v. Anderson, Consolidated Opposition Nos. 91192939 and 91194817, TTAB Mailed February 21, 2014, exemplifies an apparent trend of the TTAB requiring greater proof of an applicant’s “intent” as a jurisdictional prerequisite for filing or face a finding that the application is void ab initio. This finding may result from an opposition but, perhaps more significantly, from a cancellation many years following registration.
The recent arrests of Robert Faiella, an alleged seller on online marketplace Silk Road, and Charlie Shrem, the CEO of the startup BitInstant, marked a recent round in a series of law enforcement actions against what the government characterizes as a “rise in criminal activity” by people using the cryptographically-controlled digital currency, Bitcoin. The arrests of Shrem and Faiella occurred nearly contemporaneously with hearings by the New York Department of Financial Services to determine how to regulate Bitcoin in the State of New York. More than one source has suggested the timing of the arrests may have cast at least some cloud on the New York hearings on regulation of Bitcoin.