The Federal Circuit recently issued its opinion in C.R. Bard, Inc. v. Medical Components, Inc., a patent case that includes both an appeal and a cross-appeal. In the appeal, the Federal Circuit reviewed a determination by a district court that Bard’s patent claims are directed to patent-ineligible printed matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and, moreover, lack an inventive concept. With respect to the cross-appeal, the court similarly considered whether MedComp’s patent claims are ineligible. In an opinion authored by Judge Hughes and joined by Judges Chen and Wallach, the court reversed the district court’s judgment in the lead appeal and vacated and remanded the district court’s judgmebnt in the cross-appeal. This is our opinion summary.
Judge Hughes presented the facts of the case:
Plaintiffs-Appellants C.R. Bard Inc. and Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc. (collectively, Bard) own three patents at issue in the lead appeal that are directed to radiopaque markings and structural features that can be used to identify whether a venous access port is power injectable. Specifically, U.S. Patent Nos. 7,785,302 and 7,947,022 are directed to a venous access port with an alphanumeric message that can be seen on an X-ray and that identifies the port as power injectable.
U.S. Patent No. 7,959,615 is directed to a venous access port that includes a concave structure designed to be palpated through the skin, and that also identifies the port as power injectable.
Medical Components, Inc. (MedComp) owns U.S. Patent No. 8,021,324 which, like Bard’s patents, is directed to a venous access port assembly that includes characters that can be seen via X-ray inspection and that identify the port as power injectable.
Both parties moved for summary judgment, each asserting that the respective asserted patents were invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The district court found that the asserted claims in each of Bard’s three patents were ineligible under § 101 because the claims were solely directed to non-functional printed matter and because the claims were directed to the abstract idea of “[using] an identifier to communicate information about the power injectability of the underlying port” with no inventive concept. C.R. Bard, Inc. v. Medical Components, Inc., 550 F. Supp. 3d 1202, 1225 (D. Utah 2021). The district court then found the asserted claims of MedComp’s ’324 patent ineligible under § 101 based on the same analytical framework that it used for Bard’s asserted patents.
After providing this background, Judge Hughes explained that the court is “bound by” its precedent in “C.R. Bard Inc. v. AngioDynamics, Inc.,” a case “that is virtually identical to the one before us now.” He indicated how “AngioDynamics also involved patents directed to radiopaque markers that could be used to identify venous access ports as power injectable, and the claims at issue were substantially similar to the asserted claims here.” He then explained how “[t]he court in AngioDynamics concluded that, although the asserted claims contained some non-functional printed matter, they were nonetheless eligible under § 101 because the claims were not solely directed to non-functional printed matter—they were also directed to ‘the means by which that information is conveyed.'” Judge Hughes then concluded that, “[b]ecause we are bound by our precedent, we conclude that the asserted claims in Bard’s three patents are directed to eligible subject matter under § 101.” As a result, the court held the “the asserted claims . . . are eligible under § 101” and reversed the district court’s judgment in the lead appeal. Moreover, the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s judgment in the cross appeal because “the district court applied the same erroneous § 101 analysis to MedComp’s . . . patent.”