Monday, December 30, 2019

RPX - Executive Spotlight: RPX’s Head of Analytics on the State of Patent Litigation in 2019

Mr. Brian Howard, RPX's Vice President of Analytics, published an article that indicates patent owners are seeing certain favorable changes in US patent litigation. For details see Executive Spotlight: RPX’s Head of Analytics on the State of Patent Litigation in 2019.

RPX Corporation (Rational Patent Exchange) seeks to reduce patent litigation expense by offering patent acquisition, patent intelligence and advisory services to its clients.

Copyright © 2019 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Federal Circuit - Koninklijke v. Gemalto - Reverse Grant of Motion that Claims Ineligible under 35 USC 101

In Koninklijke KPN v. Gemalto, the Federal Circuit reversed a court's dismissal of claims as patent ineligible.

KPN sued Gemalto for infringement of US Patent No. 6,212,662 (the '662 patent). Gemalto moved for judgment on the pleadings under FRCP Rule 12(c) asserting claims 1-4 were patent ineligible under 35 USC 101. The district court granted the motion concluding that claims 1-4 recited no more than mere abstract data manipulation operations ineligible under Alice v. CLS Bank and subsequent court decisions.

On appeal, KPN only challenged the district court's ineligibility decision with respect to dependent claims 2-4, which recited:

1.  A device for producing error checking based on original data provided in blocks with each block having plural bits in a particular ordered sequence, comprising:
    a generating device configured to generate check data; and
    a varying device configured to vary original data prior to supplying said original data to the generating device as varied data;
    wherein said varying device includes a per-mutating device configured to perform a permutation of bit position relative to said particular ordered sequence for at least some of the bits in each of said blocks making up said original data without reordering any blocks of original data.

2.  The device according to claim 1, wherein the varying device is further configured to modify the permutation in time.

3.  The device according to claim 2, wherein the varying is further configured to modify the per-mutation based on the original data.

4.  The device according to claim 3, wherein the permutating device includes a table in which subsequent permutations are stored.

As to the appealed claims 2-4, the Federal Circuit reversed, stating:

"Rather than being merely directed to the abstract idea of data manipulation, these claims are directed to an improved check data generating device that enables a data transmission error detection system to detect a specific type of error that prior art systems could not.

In data transmission systems, it is common to generate something called “check data” to check whether data was accurately transmitted over a communications channel. Check data is generated based on the original data and thus serves as a shorthand representation of a particular block of data. By comparing the check data generated at both ends of the communication channel, error detection systems may be able to infer whether errors occurred during transmission. For example, if the check data from both ends match, the system infers that the content of the received data block is the same as what was transmitted and thus concludes that no errors occurred during transport.

But, as the ’662 patent recognizes, matching check data is not always a reliable indicator of accurate data transmissions. According to the patent, certain generating functions coincidentally produce the same check data for a corrupted data block and an uncorrupted data block. When this happens, the check data is functionally defective, because the system will mistakenly believe that there were no errors in the data transmission. The problem of defective check data is aggravated for a particular type of persistent error, i.e., “systematic error,” that repeats across data blocks in the same way.

According to the ’662 patent, prior art error detection systems were unable to reliably detect systematic errors. Once the prior art system generated defective check data for an initial data block with a given systematic error, the system would continue to generate defective check data for subsequent data blocks with the same systematic error, thus allowing these types of errors to persist in the system.

The ’662 patent solves this problem by varying the way check data is generated by varying the permutation applied to different data blocks. Varying the permutation for each data block reduces the chances that the same systematic error will produce the same defective check data across different data blocks. Claims 2–4 thus replace the prior art check data generator with an improved, dynamic check data generator that enables increased detection of systematic errors that recur across a series of transmitted data blocks.

As with other claims we have found to be patent eligible in prior cases, the appealed claims represent a nonabstract improvement in the functionality of an existing technological process and not simply an abstract idea of manipulating data. Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s grant of Appellees’ Rule 12(c) motion that claims 2–4 are ineligible on the pleadings."

Copyright © 2019 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Federal Circuit - Intellectual Ventures v. Trend Micro - Attorney Fees Awards, 35 USC § 285

In Intellectual Ventures v. Trend Micro, the Federal Circuit remanded a case to the district court to reconsider Trend Micro's attorney fees award under the proper legal standard.

Under 35 USC § 285, a court may award attorney fees to the prevailing party in "an exceptional case." An exceptional case stands out from others with respect to the (1) strength of a party’s litigating position (considering the law and facts) or (2) unreasonable manner in which the case was litigated.

Intellectual Ventures (IV) sued Trend Micro and Symantec for infringement of US patents, including US Patent No. 6,460,050, related to filtering data files (e.g., email messages).

The Symantec action proceeded first. During the claim construction and throughout pretrial IV's expert opined the "characteristic" of documents in claims should be interpreted as including "bulk email." After the court adopted the expert's opinion, the expert changed his opinion after he talked to IV's attorneys.

After the Symantec trial was complete, Trend Micro moved for clarification on claim construction and the IV attorney argued the expert's opinion had not changed. Trend Micro then moved for attorney fees due to the expert's changed opinion. The district court granted attorney fees of $444,051. It didn't appreciate the expert's last minute change and the attorney arguing nothing had changed.

The Federal Circuit vacated the attorney award stating the court must determine whether the case overall is exceptional not whether an isolated action is exceptional. Notably, the district court granted attorney fees, but conceded IV's case was not overall unreasonable. The district court relied on the circumstances surrounding the changed expert's opinion alone.

I agree that isolated mistakes must be viewed within the totality of the circumstances. Experts may change opinions and attorneys misstate their position, but the court must consider whether the overall case and manner of litigation is reasonable before granting attorney fees. Otherwise, it encourages parties to seek attorney fees for isolated acts that are "exceptional" with respect to the overall case.

Copyright © 2019 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Supreme Court - Applicant Not Obligated to Pay USPTO under 35 USC §145

If an applicant cannot convince the USPTO (i.e., PTAB) to grant a US patent, it can appeal the adverse decision to the Federal Circuit (35 USC §141) or file a lawsuit against the USPTO director in the US district court for the Eastern District of Virginia (35 USC §145). However, because a §145 lawsuit permits discovery, experts reports, and motions, it can be very expensive for both parties.

In Peter v. NantKwest, the US Supreme Court held that an applicant is not obligated to pay the USPTO legal personnel (e.g., attorneys and paralegals) under §145.

See the opinion for all the reasons for this holding, but some of the reasons were (1) the term “expenses” alone has never authorized an award of attorney fees to overcome the American Rule (each litigant pays his own attorney fees), (2) the term “all” in §145 cannot transform “expenses” to reach an outlay it wouldn't otherwise include, and (3) Congress has distinguished “expenses” and “attorney’s fees” in the past. Finally, history didn’t seem to help the USPTO as it was the first request for attorney fees in the 170-year history of §145.

Not a case likely to reach many, but it may help applicants faced with an adverse PTAB decision when the benefit outweighs the increased cost of your attorney fees for the lawsuit over an appeal to the Federal Circuit.

Copyright © 2019 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.