Pirates v. Trolls: Justices Trying to Play a Balancing Act on the Standard for Patent Law Treble Damages

troll-pirateBy Don Wang

As my buddy Vijay reported last November, the Supreme Court granted certiorari for Halo Elecs, Inc. v. Pulse Elects., Inc.., which was consolidated with Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer, Inc., to address whether it should change the current standard for awarding treble damages in patent suits. On February 23, 2016, the high court conducted the oral argument, and the transcript is available here. Continue reading

SCOTUS Teva Ruling: Big Splash with Little Impact

bookBy Miriam Swedlow

Despite overruling the Federal Circuit’s prior practice of reviewing all aspects of patent claim construction de novo, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc. has not dramatically changed the standard of review for patent claims. Instead, it imparts a sub-category of analysis in cases where the district court relies upon extrinsic evidence to clarify ambiguous or complicated facts needed for proper claim construction. The court first considers whether the district court relied upon extrinsic evidence and if so, whether it needed to in order to properly construe the claim. As predicted by the Supreme Court, only a small number of cases have required clear error review of fact finding in the months following the Teva decision. Ultimately, clear error review of fact-finding from extrinsic evidence simply adds one step prior to the traditional de novo review applied to patent claim construction.  Continue reading

Loser Pays: US Supreme Court Gives District Courts Greater Discretion to Award Attorney’s Fees in Frivolous Patent Suits

ImageBy Peter Montine

The United States Supreme Court has made it easier for district courts to award attorney’s fees in frivolous patent infringement cases. In two different cases, the Court held that the decision to award attorney’s fees to the prevailing party was within a court’s general discretion, and that a review of such a decision was analyzed under an “abuse of discretion” standard.

In the first case, Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., Octane had been sued by ICON for infringing on ICON’s patent for adjustable elliptical machines. Octane succeeded on a summary judgment motion in district court to dismiss the suit. However, when Octane moved for attorney’s fees, the court denied the motion, following the standard set forth in Brooks Furniture Mfg., Inc. v. Dutailier Int’l, Inc. That standard requires that a court find the claim to be either (1) objectively baseless or (2) brought in subjective bad faith. Finding neither of these things to be true, the court dismissed the motion for attorney’s fees. Octane appealed, but the Federal Circuit, which issued the Brooks standard, upheld the district court’s decision. Continue reading