A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for date: November 2021

All six challenged patents survived Judge Stark's most recent § 101 Day, held on November 22, 2021. The six patents were spread across three cases. Continuing his usual practice, Judge Stark ruled from the bench after hearing argument in all three cases, and then issued a written order (see below) incorporating the transcript of his bench ruling and the formal orders on the pending motions.


In the first case, considering Step One of the Alice framework, Judge Stark found that the challenged patent was not directed to the abstract idea posited by the defendant ("an algorithmic method of manipulating and combining genetic sequence data using an [intermediate] data set") and instead "enables the identification of mutations with positional accuracy in a computationally tractable manner," solving a prior art problem - notably, that sequence assembly providing for accurate detection of variants was often computationally intractable for high-throughput analysis.

Judge Stark denied the motion to dismiss based on the Step One analysis.

In the second case, Judge Stark took the somewhat unusual path of deciding Step Two of the Alice test before Step One. He explained:

The Federal Circuit has employed a similar approach and resolved 101 issues at Step Two in several of its cases, ...

At a claim construction hearing the week before last, Chief Judge Connolly discussed the pitfalls of a party proposing "plain meaning" as a construction without specifying what the plain meaning is, and how that may just end up deferring disputes until later in the case. We'll have a post about that once the transcript is available.

In the meantime, I thought it was interesting that Judge Andrews this month declined to adopt opposing proposed constructions from the parties in an action, and construed the term as "plain and ordinary meaning":

Plaintiffs expert Dr. Robert Ruffolo asserts that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have understood the term "pharmaceutical batch" to incorporate [a] regulatory definition . . . …

This week, Chief Judge Connolly denied a joint request for leave to present an early SJ motion on damages in a patent action. The parties hoped that resolution of the motion would set the stage for settlement.

Judge Connolly reiterated his rule that he will not permit early SJ motions unless they are going to be the only SJ motions, while also commenting on his case load:

As a general rule, I do not allow for an early summary judgment motion unless the resolution of the motion would be case dispositive and the party seeking to file the motion agrees that it cannot file any other summary judgment motions. In light of my case load, which approaches 600 civil cases …

The practice of supplementing contentions after the Court issues a claim construction ruling has become commonplace in this District. For the litigants, this timing is generally advantageous because it permits final contentions to be drafted with the Court's claim construction ruling in hand, and does not require the development of alternative positions that take into account each side's claim construction positions.

On the other hand, because the Markman process (in particular the identification of the terms in dispute) often occurs months before final contentions are due, it is not unusual for final detailed contentions to result in additional claim construction disputes, which the Court must resolve long after the initial Markman process.

Judge Noreika recently issued oral orders in several cases specifically to address this timing...

"Moon flask with Aesthetic bird motif" The Met

Judge Stark today issued an opinion holding five claims across four patents indefinite, based on two terms: "aesthetic" and "similar to a light house." The Court held that both terms indefinite because they are subjective. As to "aesthetic," the Court rejected an argument that "aesthetic" merely differentiated between artistic and functional aspects of light:

The Court . . . agrees with [accused infringer] HeathCo that "aesthetic" is subjective and, accordingly, the claim term is indefinite. [Patentee] Vaxcel insists "aesthetic" is not subjective because it relates to the "philosophy" or "science" of "beauty and ugliness," not to whether something is pleasing or displeasing. . . . This is unpersuasive, in part …

Plane in Turbulence
Turbulence, Joshua Hoehne, Unsplash

Perhaps the most facile musing of the late-stage (please) pandemic, is wondering if remote work will become a permanent fixture in our lives. It's become such a common topic for think pieces, that I would not disgrace these hallowed pages with another trite contribution to the ouevre.

I am, however, duty-bound to note a recent development that suggests that remote depositions may not be long for this world. The issue arose before Judge Andrews last week in Takeda Pharms. USA, Inc. v. Mylan Pharms .Inc. C.A. No. 19-2216. The plaintiffs sought to depose the defendant's former counsel, who "purportedly reviewed, drafted, and edited the settlement and license agreements that are at the center of this …

Many Flags
Many Flags Nick Fewings, Unsplash

The Backstory

A chase for SEP licenses travels around the world and finally lands in Delaware.

We discussed this Continental v. Nokia opinion last week, but we thought it was worth another comment, because this is a fascinating case at the epicenter of a global FRAND battle. Even more interesting: this opinion illustrates a widening divide between American, UK, and Chinese courts in their comfort level with setting global FRAND rates.

A FRAND Dispute of the Hold-Up Variety

At its core, this is a dispute between German and Finnish companies, via and including their American subsidiaries. Continental asked a U.S. court to determine a fair licensing payment for their use of Nokia’s patented 2G, …

Ouch. Emil Kalibradov, Unsplash

Back in September we wrote about how Judge Andrews rejected an expert who relied on a 50/50 starting point to show damages in a patent case. We noted at the time that the defendant had moved to strike any follow-up theory by the plaintiff, and it wasn't clear that the Court had ruled on it before trial began.

Now we know what actually happened. Yesterday, the Court released its opinion on the motion to strike. In its opinion, the Court explained that after the plaintiff lost its damages expert, the plaintiff tried to "cobble together" a damages theory from various facts on the Friday before trial. The Court struck that new theory:

[Plaintiff] NexStep …

CIrcuit Board
Umberto, Unsplash

Most patent litigators are familiar with means-plus-function claims, which are defined by 35 U.S.C. § 112(f) (previously § 112 ¶ 6). They allow a patentee to write a claim limitation as a "means" or "step" for performing a function, which is performed by the corresponding structure (or material, or acts) within the specification.

Section 112 ¶ 6 can be a gold mine for accused infringers. If they successfully argue that a claim element falls under § 112 ¶ 6, they can then argue invalidity based on a lack of corresponding structure, or they can argue non-infringement if there is structure but their products lack any equivalent. Patentees usually don't want to construe their claims as § 112 …

Much has been written recently about the struggle between patentees who want their cases to be heard in Texas, and alleged infringers who want those cases to be heard elsewhere. But what happens when a patentee who has been sued in a declaratory judgment action tries to transfer its case to Texas?

Maybe next time.
Maybe next time. Threes Company, Vivian Arcidiacono, Unsplash

For the two defendants in Roku, Inc. v. AlmondNet, Inc., C.A. No. 21-1035-MN, who asked Judge Noreika to move Roku's DJ case to Texas or dismiss it in favor of a co-pending Texas suit involving the same patents and parties, the answer was straightforward: the case stays in Delaware.

Following unsuccessful licensing discussions, Roku filed suit in Delaware just six hours before the defendants filed their mirror-image case in Texas. The defendants then moved to transfer the Delaware case to the Western District of Texas.

Regarding the transfer motion, Judge Noreika found that the threshold requirement for transfer...