Summary Judgment

Inadequate Disclosures Preclude Monetary Damages Recovery in Trademark Infringement Suit

Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Sazerac Co., Inc., et al. v. Fetzer Vineyards, Inc., Case No. 3:15-cv-04618-WHO (Judge William H. Orrick)

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

A Day Late And A Dollar Short – Court Grants Summary Judgment On Laches Defense

Order Granting Summary Judgment On Dropbox Laches Claims, Dropbox, Inc. v. Thru Inc., Case No. 15-cv-01741-EMC (Judge Edward M. Chen)

The proverb “[e]quity aids the vigilant, not the sleeping ones” aptly describes the rationale behind the defense of laches-i.e., the legal doctrine which states that a plaintiff who unjustifiably delays pursuing a claim may forfeit it. Intended to encourage the timely resolution of disputes and to avoid prejudice to defendants, laches can have dire consequences for plaintiffs who unreasonably delay bringing their claims. READ MORE

Prior Art Take 2: Finjan and Sophos Gear up for a Second Battle on Whether Prior Art Was Publicly Available

Order Denying Finjan, Inc.’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Finjan, Inc. v. Sophos, Inc., Case No. 14-cv-1197 (Judge William Orrick)

In a battle that likely felt like déjà vu for the parties, Finjan for the second time argued its patents were valid over Sophos’s prior art because Sophos failed to produce sufficient evidence of public availability. The first time was in a 2010 Delaware action, when Finjan unsuccessfully made this same argument with respect to similar patents and similar prior art. Those patents were ultimately held invalid based on the prior art. In the present case, Sophos’s invalidity case survived yet again. But Sophos could have had a more resounding victory had it adequately disclosed all of its prior art earlier in the case. READ MORE

Separated at the District Court, Possibly Reunited on Appeal

Defendants Are Reunited Notwithstanding Plaintiff’s Attempts To Keep Them Apart:  Order Denying Plaintiff’s Motion to Stay and Granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Emmanuel Gonzalez v. Tagged, Inc., Case No. 16-cv-00574 (Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers)

“We came into the world like brother and brother,
And now let’s go hand in hand, not one before another.”

William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

In Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, twin brothers are separated at birth and reunited under amusing and confused circumstances many years later. READ MORE

Bench Trial Findings Come Back to Bite Finjan

Collateral Estoppel Results In Summary Judgment On Priority Date, Finjan, Inc. v. Proofpoint, Inc., et al., Case No. 13-cv-05808 (Judge Haywood Stirling Gilliam, Jr.)

How does an accused infringer use a patentee’s prior $40 million infringement win against the patentee? Defendant Proofpoint bolstered its invalidity position by successfully moving to limit patentee Finjan to a later priority date for one of its patents, based on the findings from a related bench trial that otherwise produced a favorable ruling for Finjan. READ MORE

Costly Consequences to Limiting Discovery Scope

Order Re: “Other Enplas Lenses”, Enplas Display Device Corp., et al. v. Seoul Semiconductor Co., Ltd., Case No. 13-cv-05038 (U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael M. Cousins)

Sometimes, it works to a patent owner’s advantage not to allege infringement by products other than those specifically identified in preliminary infringement contentions, even where discovery is not complete. This unusual procedural tactic led Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins to recently deny summary judgment of non-infringement. READ MORE

Algorithm Optional? A Guide to Computers as Structure in Means-Plus-Function Claiming

Summary Judgment Order, Fortinet, Inc. v. Sophos, Inc., et al., Case No. 13-cv-05831-EMC (Judge Edward Chen)

Means-plus-function claim elements are less common than in the past, due to stricter rules about their scope and requirements for validity. But when they do arise, it is still necessary to know how to deal with them. Judge Chen recently entertained cross-motions for summary judgment on whether a means-plus-function element is indefinite if the specification discloses using a computer but no algorithm. And while Judge Chen ultimately found he could not render summary judgment for either side, his order offers a primer on approaching software-related “means” elements. READ MORE

Game Over: Plain and Ordinary Construction Results in Summary Judgment

Claim Construction Order and Order Granting Summary Judgment, Segan LLC v. Zynga Inc., 14-cv-01315 (Judge Vince Chhabria)

It is ordinary in patent cases for the patentee to ascribe “plain and ordinary” meaning to claim terms while the defendant seeks narrow, limiting language based on intrinsic evidence (e.g., statements in the patent specification) and/or extrinsic evidence (e.g., dictionary definitions). However, Judge Chhabria’s recent Order demonstrates that accused infringers have the opportunity to effectively turn the tables in certain situations. That is precisely what Zynga did in its litigation with Segan LLC, where the claims’ ordinary language was enough to convince Judge Chhabria that the accused products plainly do not infringe.   READ MORE

March 2015 Recap

March 2015—like January and February—saw decisions on a variety of fronts from ND Cal judges.  ND Cal judges demonstrated their willingness to apply the Supreme Court’s decisions in Nautilus and Alice to invalidate patents on summary judgment.  Nautilus held claims invalid if they “failed to inform, with reasonable certainty, those skilled in the art….”  Judge Alsup applied that reasoning in Aquatic AV, Inc. v. Magnadyne Corp. et al., Case No. C 14-01931, where he found Aquatic’s asserted claims invalid, in part, because the its definition of “hermetically seals” lacked sufficient fixed meeting: “taking our patentee at its word that ‘hermetically seals’ has no fixed meaning.”  READ MORE

HP Fails to Construct a “Concrete” Path to Patentability Under Alice

Order Granting Motion for Summary Judgment, Hewlett Packard Co. v. ServiceNow, Inc., Case No. 14-cv-00570-BLF (Judge Beth Labson Freeman)

Since the Supreme Court decided Alice, district courts have increasingly invalidated patent claims directed to the use of general computers to implement “abstract” ideas.  One strategy for patent owners to demonstrate patent-eligible subject matter [i] and thus survive Alice scrutiny is limiting claim constructions to define the implementing computer structure in a specific, concrete and specialized way.  This is what Hewlett Packard recently attempted, but failed to do, when defendant ServiceNow, Inc. moved for summary judgment of invalidity on the claims in four asserted patents. READ MORE