This blog post provides a brief summary of four of the most significant patent cases decided by the Federal Circuit last year. It covers cases concerning assignor estoppel, transfer, venue, and the application of the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution to administrative patent judges.
Guest Post by Kristen Osenga
In any given year, the Federal Circuit covers a wide spectrum of issues in patent law, and 2020 was no different. Of course, a lot about 2020 was different — including seeing the Court hold (and now livestream) telephonic arguments — but most of the patent cases decided were similar in type to other years . . . a little patent-eligible subject matter, a little jurisdiction and venue, a case about infringement of standard essential patents, and a bit of deciding what the Patent Trial and Appeal Board can and cannot do. There were no real blockbuster cases in 2020 (other than maybe the Arthrex denial of rehearing, more on that later). This could be due to the pandemic, or maybe it is a sign that patent law is settling in for a bit. Of course, that does not mean the law has settled in the right place, but that is a different issue for a different day.
For today, a few cases are worth highlighting from the Federal Circuit’s 2020 patent opinions. To be clear, this is not an exhaustive review, but rather simply a short selection noting some of the more important patent cases decided last year.
Last week, the Federal Circuit decided In re VoIP-Pal.com, Inc., a patent case we have been tracking because it attracted an amicus brief. Judge Moore authored a unanimous panel opinion denying VoIP-Pal’s petition for a writ of mandamus. The panel found that the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion by declining to dismiss the case based on the first-to-file rule. This is our opinion summary.
This morning the Federal Circuit issued two precedential opinions in government contract cases. Additionally, the court issued two nonprecedential opinions in patent cases. Finally, the court issued three Rule 36 judgments. Here are the introductions to the opinions and links to the Rule 36 judgments.
- USPTO Says Interested Party Rulings Aren’t ‘Shenanigans’ – The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office defended against accusations that the agency engaged in “shenanigans” when it did not require Google to be named as an interested party during a review of a mobile website patent.
- Guitar Pedalboard Patent Sent for New PTAB Review by Fed. Cir. – The Federal Circuit ruled on Monday that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board erred when the board analyzed a guitar pedalboard patent and rejected an earlier electrical relay patent as analogous prior art.
- Heart Monitor Maker Asks High Court to Clear Eligibility Muddle – InfoBionic Inc. suggests that a Supreme Court review of its case involving a dispute over a cardiac monitoring patent could provide clarity around which inventions are eligible for patents.
Here’s the latest.
Earlier this week, on October 7, 2020, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., the long-running software copyright case. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this extended oral argument took place over the phone and lasted for over 90 minutes. The Court worked to great lengths to untangle the attorneys’ many vital arguments that have developed over the past decade. As we previewed the day before the argument, the issues, in this case, are the availability of copyright protection for software interfaces, in particular Oracle’s Java SE declarations, and Google’s copying of such code that it contends is fair use.
- Supreme Court Hears Copyright Battle Between Google and Oracle – The historic and multibillion-dollar copyright suit made its way to the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
- Fed. Circ. Orders Redo In ‘Extremely Frustrating’ Patent Case – The Federal Circuit states that fundamental questions need to be resolved before the court can make a decision regarding a patent claim construction fight.
- Rently Makes Section 101 Bid to High Court – Just as the Supreme Court kicked off its new term by denying to review a Section 101 eligibility decision, Rently urges the High Court to review its case.
Here’s the latest.
On October 7, 2020, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from the attorneys for two leading technology giants in the long-running software copyright case, Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc. At issue is the availability of copyright protection for software interfaces, in particular Oracle’s Java SE declarations, and Google’s copying of such code that it contends is fair use.
- A Patent Crisis—Supreme Court Can Help America Compete Again – Former Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, Randall Rader, discusses the need for a strong patent system in the United States in light of recent decisions and international competition.
- Federal Circuit Shoots Down Apple Bid to Strike Certain Voip-Pal Claims Upheld by PTAB – The Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s finding of validity of Voip-Pal’s patent and upheld the sanctions granted against Apple in Apple Inc. v. Voip-Pail.com, Inc.
- IP at the Supreme Court: 2 Big Cases and a Lot of Long Shots – With the Supreme Court already granting certiorari to one case appealed from the Federal Circuit, other cases may also warrant review by the nation’s highest court.
Here’s the latest.