• IPRs unduly harm patent holders and benefit big tech infringers

    The PTO systematically administers a collection of procedures in IPRs to unduly harm patent holders and benefit big tech company infringers. The data show that the plain result of PTAB procedures appears to benefit infringers with a clear bias against patent holders. PTAB cancels challenged claims in 76% of instituted patent reviews, a rate that is 2 ½ times greater than in the federal district courts. The reason is that PTAB employs a set of procedures that stacks the deck against patent…

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  • Experiments on Bias in Patent Litigation OR Does Everyone Hate NPEs?

    Lisa has written about the importance of experiments in patents, and I agree. I read about a really good one today. Bernard Chao (Denver Law) and one of his students, Roderick O’Dorisio, conducted an experiment to simultaneously test whether there is a bias against patentees sued for declaratory relief of non-infringement and against NPEs. To do so, they made identical patent vignettes used to resolve a close, but simple, infringement case. The only differences in the videos shown to the subjects were whether the defendant sued first and whether the plaintiff was an NPE (and in one, both were true). The abstract his here, for the paper forthcoming in the Federal Circuit Bar Journal:

    Although everyone believes that telling a good story is an important part of jury persuasion, attorneys inevitably rely on their intuition to choose their stories. Experimental methodologies now allow us to test how effective these stories are. In this article, we rigorously test how two different narratives common to patent law affect mock jurors. First, we look at whether accused infringers can improve their chances of prevailing by being the aggressor. Prior studies have observed that accused infringers that file declaratory judgment actions to vindicate their rights win more often than those that are sued by patent holders. However, these results may simply be an artifact of the selection effects. For example accused infringers may simply be suing on stronger cases. To date, no studies have tried to control for these selection effects and determine whether it is truly the story that sways juries. Second, we looked at whether an accused infringer can influence mock jurors by making a few disparaging remarks about one kind of patentee’s business model, the non-practicing entity (NPE). NPEs, often pejoratively called patent trolls, may have a more difficult time prevailing at trial than practicing entities do.

    To test how these narratives affect potential juries, we used a 2×2 between-subjects online experiment. We randomly assigned virtual mock jurors to watch one of four different scenarios of an abbreviated patent trial and render verdicts. The results showed that accused infringers that filed declaratory judgment actions prevailed more often than those where the patentee initiated the lawsuit. In addition, our study found that NPEs won less often than practicing entities. We discuss implications for strategy and policy.

    The results are pretty clear – there were marked differences in favor of those who sued first and in favor of those sued by NPEs. And for the group that is both NPEs sued for declaratory relief, the numbers are the lowest of all. I consider this to be a validating check on the findings for each of the individual treatments (though more on that later, as statistically it is not so clear).

    As the title of this post implies, there are a couple of ways to read this data. The results here may show an implicit bias against NPEs. Or, NPEs may be the baseline, and it shows a preference for practicing entities. The highest win rate was 39%, so it is not like the plaintiffs were running away with victory here. Or, it may show that taking the bull by the horns is rewarded – patentees prefer defendants who assert their “rights” to defend against infringement.

    Nonetheless, the results are a bit shocking – a product making plaintiff was more than twice as likely to win than an NPE sued for declaratory judgment of non-infringement on identical facts and presentations. This makes me think that we have to talk about more than patent quality when we talk about low NPE win rates.

    About the statistics: the Declaratory Relief effect was significant at p<.1 (and at p<.05 if you included demographics). The NPE effect was significant at p<.01. Interesting, despite the marked drop for both combined, when the entire model was tested, including the interaction of declaratory relief and NPE, then none of the treatments was statistically significant. This result is difficult to interpret, but my sense from eyeballing the data is that the NPE effect is doing most of the work in the combined model, and so combining the DJ effect with it confounds the model.

    A final note on methodology – the authors use Mechanical Turk, and cite to literature that such users are reliable for research like this. They also use some techniques to ensure attention. Finally, if there are attention issues, it is unclear why they would affect one category more than any other. Nonetheless, to the extent that one is skeptical of mTurk, one might be skeptical of the results here.

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  • 3M files patent and trademark suit against Chinese manufacturer of spray gun paint preparation system

    On September 21st, Saint Paul, MN-based technology and materials company 3M (NYSE:MMM) filed a lawsuit alleging patent and trademark infringement committed by Shanghai, China-based Thunder Finish. The lawsuit targets Thunder Finish’s marketing of paint preparation products developed by 3M which are meant to simplify the use and cleanup of liquid paint spray guns. The suit is filed in the Western District of Wisconsin.

    The post 3M files patent and trademark suit against Chinese manufacturer of…

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  • Federal Circuit Finds NuvaRing Patent Nonobvious Without Hindsight

    In a non-precedential decision issued in Merck Sharp & Dohme B.V., v. Warner Chilcott Co. LLC, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s obviousness ruling as being improperly grounded in hindsight. This decision provides a welcome reminder that even simple-sounding inventions can be nonobvious, but why is it non-precedential? The Patent At Issue The patent at issue…… Continue reading this entry

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  • Smart Systems Innovations, LLC v. Chicago Transit Authority (Fed. Cir. 2017)

    By Michael Borella — Three years ago, the Supreme Court’s Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l case set forth a two-part test to determine whether claims are directed to patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. One must first decide whether the claim at hand is directed to a judicially-excluded law of nature, a natural phenomenon, or an abstract idea. If so, then one must further decide whether any element or combination of elements in the claim is sufficient to ensure that the claim amounts to significantly more than the judicial exclusion. But generic computer implementation of an otherwise…

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  • Receiving a Sequence of Symbols

    I am somewhat amazed by Google’s New Patent No. US 9633013 B2; Claim 1 below: 1. A computer-implemented method comprising: receiving a sequence of symbols that have been optically captured from a rendered document; determining that the sequence of symbols includes a particular symbol, word, or phrase that has been mapped to one or more […]

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  • Some Recent Papers on Huawei v. ZTE

    1.  Giuseppe Colangelo and Valerio Torti have posted on ssrn the following abstract of their paper Filling Huawei’s Gaps:  The Recent German Case Law on Standard essential Patents, Eur. Comp. L. Rev. (forthcoming):

    The Huawei ruling identified the steps that owners and users of SEPs will have to follow in negotiating a FRAND royalty. Compliance with the code of conduct will shield patent holders from the gaze of competition law and, at the same time, will protect implementers from the threat of an injunction.

    The licensing framework provided by the CJEU is aimed at increasing legal certainty and predictability for the whole standardisation environment. Nevertheless, the judgment has been criticised because a relevant number of issues are left unresolved. In this scenario the activities of national courts in filling the gaps left by the CJEU deserve the utmost consideration. This paper will seek to explore the approach developed at national level post Huawei, focusing on the German judicial experience. 
    2. Urska Petrovcic has posted on ssrn the following abstract of her paper Injunctions for Standard-Essential Patents in the European Union:
    Injunctions for standard essential patents (SEPs) — that is, patents that are essential to practice an industry standard — have been at the center of the antitrust debate for more than a decade. In July 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued its long awaited decision in Huawei Technologies. Co. v. ZTE Corp., in which it addressed, for the first time, the question of whether an SEP holder’s request for an injunction could violate Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) — the provision of EU competition law that prohibits a dominant company from abusing its market position. In this article, I analyze the implications of the CJEU’s judgment for SEP holders that seek to enforce their SEPs in the European Union. Huawei confirmed that an SEP holder faces a stricter level of antitrust scrutiny in the European Union than in some other jurisdictions, such as the United States. In practical terms, however, the developments that followed Huawei showed that the judgment limited Article 102 TFEU’s scope in addressing an SEP holder’s behavior, when compared with the approach that the European Commission had adopted in its previous investigations. After Huawei, an SEP holder’s request for an injunction is less likely to trigger antitrust liability under Article 102 TFEU. In addition, Huawei raised the barrier that an SEP holder must overcome to obtain an injunction. Yet, the requirements established in Huawei are not so strict as to preclude obtaining that remedy. Unlike in the United States, where, as of August 2017, no SEP holder has obtained an injunction, several SEP holders have requested and obtained injunctions against infringers in the European Union. 
    3.  Nicolo Zingales has posted on ssrn a paper titled The Legal Framework for SEP Disputes in EU Post-Huawei:  Whither Harmonization?Here is a link to the paper, and here is the abstract:
    This article revisits the antitrust treatment of unilateral conduct in Standard Essential Patent (SEP) disputes in EU, with particular focus on the landmark CJEU judgment in Huawei v ZTE and the way it has affected subsequent developments before national courts. It illustrates that while the Court in Huawei significantly improved legal certainty both for SEP holders and their potential licensees, it also left open a number of crucial questions affecting everyday’s licensing practice. First, it is not entirely clear whether the liability of an SEP holder presupposes leveraging by a vertically integrated firm or can also arise in purely vertical or horizontal relationships. Secondly, the safe harbor procedure formulated in the judgment begs important questions concerning burden of proof and portfolio licensing, which have given rise to divergent interpretations. It follows that the space remains wide open for competing national and even regional approaches to the rights and obligations of SEP holders, calling for further European harmonization – be it judicially, legislatively, or administratively through the European Commission. In support for the latter measures, the article illustrates the limited remit of EU private international law rules in preventing the forum shopping which is likely to unfold as a result of a fragmented landscape for the resolution of SEP disputes.
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