As any practitioner who has sought to establish trademark infringement already knows, likelihood of confusion is difficult to prove at trial. Nonetheless, a recent Order in Sazerac Co., Inc., et al. v. Fetzer Vineyards, Inc. demonstrates that plaintiffs still retain certain inherent advantages at the summary judgment stage in proving that there exists a likelihood of confusion, given the high hurdle for defendants to convince a court that no genuine issues of fact exist and that summary judgment is warranted. But as this case also demonstrates, that does not mean that plaintiffs can “sleep at the wheel,” so to speak, when disclosing infringement or damages theories during discovery. READ MORE
Posts by: George L. Kanabe
It is not uncommon for parties to race to file competing patent suits in their preferred districts once negotiations break down and litigation appears necessary. In some cases, recognizing that federal courts generally give priority to cases which are the “first filed” and procedurally further along, a party may attempt to delay service of an opposing party’s complaint. That was the apparent strategy of Japan-based Godo Kaisha IP Bridge 1 (“IPB”) in its patent dispute with San Jose-based Xilinx, Inc. (“Xilinx”). But as IPB discovered, delay tactics do not always work. READ MORE
In a helpful ruling for defendants, Judge White held in a recent order that res judicata prevented a plaintiff from filing a complaint for alleged inducement of patent infringement after a prior suit for direct infringement was dismissed with prejudice. He held that the filing of the original complaint provided a colorable basis to allege the knowledge element of an inducement claim, and thus there was nothing to prevent the pursuit of an inducement claim in the original case. READ MORE
In an effort to promote judicial efficiency, Courts often allow a plaintiff to supplement its complaint if doing so would settle the parties’ controversies in one action. This is the rationale Judge Alsup applied in Illumina, Inc. et al v. Qiagen N.V. et al, Case No. 16-02788 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 29, 2016) when allowing plaintiff Illumina to amend its complaint to add a newly issued patent that was granted after plaintiff filed its complaint. Judge Alsup listed several efficiency-related factors favoring supplementation: (1) the supplemental claims accuse the very same product already in the action; (2) the newly issued patent has narrower claims, so allowing them in this action would avoid duplicating some of the issues already in the case; (3) even though there are new issues associated with the supplemental claims, there is no evidence that these new issues would be so burdensome as to delay the current schedule. Thus, because of the significant commonalities between the two patents, the Court decided that it would serve the purpose of judicial efficiency to enable the parties to litigate both patents in the same case.
The Northern District of California is a different court today than it was last week: Effective as of November 1, Senior District Judge Ronald M. Whyte has stepped down from the bench and assumed inactive status after serving over 24 years on the federal bench. Judge Whyte will leave a lasting mark on the Northern District and on intellectual property law more broadly based on his leadership in developing the patent local rules and many notable IP decisions, among other things. He has been widely recognized and praised by practitioners, academics, and other judges. As quoted in the court’s notice of his departure, Chief Judge Hamilton stated: READ MORE
Order Regarding Discovery Letter Briefs, InteraXon Inc. v. NeuroTek, LLC, Case No. 15-cv-05290 (Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore)
InteraXon, maker of a mind reading meditation aid, is not required to read the patentee’s mind to figure out his infringement contentions.
Licensing negotiations between InteraXon and defendants fell apart sometime in the spring of 2015, prompting InteraXon to file a declaratory judgment suit for non-infringement and invalidity against defendants NeuroTek, LLC, MindWaves, Ltd. and Dr. Jonathan Cowan, an inventor of U.S. Patent No. 5,983,129. Dr. Cowan then filed a counterclaim for infringement. READ MORE
Order Granting in Part Daubert Motion, Finjan, Inc. v. Sophos, Inc., Case No. 14-cv-1197 (Judge William Orrick)
Yogi Berra once said that “baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical.” The humor in this statement, of course, is that Yogi’s percentages add up to more than 100%, which is impossible. The same idea applies to patent damages—a patent expert cannot double-count the value of patented features, especially when doing so might lead to damages greater than 100% of a product’s overall value. It sounds easy enough, but applying this rule can be difficult in multi-patent cases. A recent opinion from Judge Orrick sheds light on how to value patented features where multiple patents purport to cover similar features. READ MORE
Order Denying Defendant’s Motion for Leave to Supplement Invalidity Contentions, MLC Intellectual Property, LLC v. Micron Tech., Inc., Case No. 14-cv-03657 (Judge Susan Illston)
In the Northern District of California, as with other districts, invalidity contentions are meant to crystalize theories early in litigation and prevent the “shifting sands approach to claim construction.” Once disclosed, those invalidity contentions may only be amended “by order of the Court upon a timely showing of good cause.” Patent L.R. 3-6. Defendant Micron failed to demonstrate good cause when it recently sought to amend its January 2015 invalidity contentions to add (1) two well-known textbooks from 1973 and 1990 and (2) two of MLC’s non-asserted, expired patents. Judge Illston thus denied Micron’s motion in its entirety. READ MORE
Order Granting Leave to Amend Invalidity Contentions, Richtek Technology Corp. v.. uPI Semiconductor Corp., et al., Case No. 09-cv-05659-WHA (Judge William Alsup)
Much can change procedurally while a patent case is stayed, especially if the parties continue to litigate the patent in other jurisdictions. In Richtek, the parties returned to district court after the conclusion of reexamination proceedings and two related ITC investigations. Defendant uPI moved to amend its invalidity contentions, originally served in December 2010, to account for claim interpretations that the plaintiff Richtek disclosed during reexamination. Judge Alsup permitted the amendment, which added new prior art references, while distinguishing a decision he had rendered a month earlier which precluded Richtek from adding new accused products. READ MORE
In a recent order in VIA Techs., Inc. v. ASUS Computer Int’l, Magistrate Judge Grewal Court found VIA’s expert disclosures insufficient under the “straightforward” claim construction process of the Northern District’s Patent Local Rules. Despite VIA’s failure to strictly comply with the rules, the Court rejected the “last resort” penalty of striking the expert’s testimony altogether, and instead granted ASUS additional deposition time to inquire into his opinions. In so ruling, the Court considered the “relative banality” of the undisclosed opinions and the weeks remaining before the claim construction hearing. READ MORE