Fresh From the Bench: Latest Federal Circuit Court Cases
CASE OF THE WEEK
Rain Computing, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc., Appeal Nos. 2020-1646, -1656 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 2, 2021)
Our Case of the Week focuses on the issue of indefiniteness, and particularly, terms that are construed as being subject to 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 6. Like in other recent cases, the terms at issue were multi-word coined terms used to describe features in computer systems. We recently provided a write-up of a similar case—see our write-up of the Federal Circuit’s February 12, 2021 decision in Synchronoss Techs., Inc. v. Dropbox, Inc.here. As in that case, the claim at issue here was found invalid as indefinite.
Bayer Healthcare LLC v. Baxalta Inc., Appeal Nos. 2019-2418, 2020-1017 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 1, 2021)
In this appeal from a district court case regarding a medical process patent, the Federal Circuit Court discussed issues relating to claim scope, infringement, validity, damages, and willfulness. As to claim scope, the Court affirmed the district court’s claim constructions, noting that a court “need not always purge every shred of ambiguity” when construing a claim. As to infringement, the Court found that substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict that Baxalta infringed Bayer’s patent. As to validity, the Court found that substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict that the asserted claims were enabled. In reaching this conclusion, the Court noted that “the specification need not include a working example of every possible embodiment to enable the full scope of the claims.” As to damages, first, the Court found the jury’s reasonable royalty award was supported by admissible expert testimony. Second, the Court held “that the district court acted within its discretion in awarding” pre-verdict supplemental damages and that doing so did not violate Baxalta’s Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. Finally, as to willfulness, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment as a matter of law that Baxalta did not willfully infringe. In reaching this conclusion, the Court explained that Bayer did not present sufficient evidence to establish the requisite state of mind for a willfulness finding. The Court further explained that having “knowledge” of a patent is not evidence of “deliberate or intentional” infringement.
Lakshmi Arunachalam v. International Business Machines Corporation, Appeal No. 2020-1493 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 1, 2021)
In this case involving a pro se patent plaintiff/appellant, the Federal Circuit explored the courts’ broad inherent power to impose sanctions for wanton, vexatious, and oppressive litigation conduct. Under that inherent power, the Court affirmed a district court’s award of attorney fees for the defense of non-patent claims, and also sua sponte struck voluminous scandalous and irrelevant material from appellant’s briefing.
In addition to her patent infringement claim, the plaintiff, Dr. Lakshmi Arunachalam, had repeatedly asserted baseless RICO claims in multiple jurisdictions against defendant IBM, the district court judge assigned to her case, and others, and had otherwise forced appellees and the district court to expend resources responding to her “repetitive, frivolous, and often bizarre oppositions and motions.” These included multiple repeated motions to recuse the district court judge and the Chief Judge of the District of Delaware; contesting at length the dismissal of her patent claim after the PTAB had found the asserted claims unpatentable (a decision Dr. Arunachalam did not directly appeal) and the Federal Circuit had affirmed the dismissal; moving for leave to file a sur-reply to defendants’ sanctions motion and then failing to file a sur-reply when leave was granted; posing “interrogatories” to the attorneys of record and the district court judge in her opposition filing alleging their collusion in “brazenly devised schemes to evade the Government and the laws of the United States”; repeated willful failures to comply with the district court’s local rules and instructions; and other vexatious conduct. The Federal Circuit affirmed the award of appellees’ attorneys’ fees for defending against Dr. Arunachalam’s baseless RICO claims as an appropriate response to her conduct.
The Federal Circuit went on to exercise its own inherent sanctions power in striking voluminous material from Dr. Arunachalam’s appeal briefing as scandalous and irrelevant, including (inter alia) further allegations of collusion, fraud, libel, and treason against appellees’ attorneys and the judges of the district court, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and the PTAB; calls for all such “Constitutional tortfeasors” to be investigated and arrested; as well as demonstrably false statements concerning prior findings on her patent’s validity. The Court found that “[e]ven according Dr. Arunachalam wider latitude in view of her pro se status, her baseless, outlandish, and irrelevant invective degrades the dignity and decorum of the court” and impeded the orderly disposition of her case. In view of the monetary sanctions already awarded, the Federal Circuit found that the lesser sanction of striking this material was appropriate.