June 2014 Recap

June 2014 was a busy month for this blog, and for patent law in other arenas.  Perhaps the biggest news was a trio of decisions on patents from the U.S. Supreme Court – Akamai (inducement and divided/joint infringement), Nautilus (indefiniteness), and CLS Bank (software patents).  Nautilus, which threw out the old indefiniteness standard, has already helped one ND Cal defendant turn the tables during summary judgment, and is surely being cited widely in other cases.

Leading us into summer, the interplay between district court and patent office was a hot issue.  We learned more about what ND Cal judges do with cases when the PTO is not reviewing all asserted patents: Judge Armstrong and Judge Davila showed their willingness to stay early-stage, non-competitor cases in their entirety, while Judge Orrick held that the PTO’s denial of IPR on some of the patents did not justify lifting a previously imposed stay.  And what of patentees’ use of PTO proceedings?  Well, Judge Alsup held that the patentee’s amending claims through reexamination did not justify vacating the Court’s earlier decision invalidating the unamended claims.

There was also plenty of business as usual as ND Cal judges managed their cases and dockets.  Showing sensitivity to the burdens of discovery, the court issued a new patent-specific model order for e-discovery, while Judge Cousins ordered that depositions of party employees occur in the Northern District rather than foreign jurisdictions where the companies were headquartered.  We also saw illuminating rulings on pleading motions, claim construction, transfers, declaratory judgment of non-infringement, and attacks on damages experts.

Outside the court, the UC system’s “active patenting and patent licensing program” led it to top the list in number of patents granted to a university, while local company Tesla Motors promised not to sue on its patents.

Finally, at the end of June, patent practitioners and judges across the country, including the ND Cal, bid farewell to the appellate oversight of Judge Rader, who stepped down from the Federal Circuit bench.