Articles Posted in New Decisions

Chicago, Illinois – The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Plaintiffs Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp. and its successor in interest Phoenix Entertainment Partners LLC (collectively, “Slep-Tone”) in a Lanham Act lawsuit asserting trademark infringement and trade dress infringement.

Trademark attorneys for serial litigant Slep-Tone have filed more than 150 lawsuits throughout the country under the Lanham Act alleging unauthorized copying and performance of Slep-Tone’s karaoke tracks. Slep-Tone contends that such activities constitute trademark infringement and trade dress infringement.

This federal litigation springs from a technology upgrade available to Slep-Tone customers. Earlier formats on which karaoke songs were offered included CD+G compact discs (with the +G referring to the graphic component) and MP3+G media. With the advent of large-capacity hard drives, some customers opted to transfer the files contained on their lawfully purchased CD+G or MP3+G to a hard drive, a practice known as “media shifting.” Because many compact discs can be stored on one hard drive, media shifting removed the need to swap between multiple discs to access different songs. This transfer was permitted by Slep-Tone as long as the customers notified Slep-Tone, agreed to certain terms that restricted multiple copies from being made and agreed to submit to an audit to certify compliance with Slep-Tone’s media-shifting policy.

In this lawsuit, filed against Defendants Basket Case Pub, Inc. of Peoria, Illinois and Dannette Rumsey, its president and owner, Slep-Tone alleged that Defendants violated the media-shifting policy. This, it asserted, resulted in an improper “passing off” of illegitimate “bootleg” copies of tracks as genuine Slep-Tone tracks.

Slep-Tone contended that when these unauthorized copies were played by Defendants, the pub’s customers would be confused, believing that “they are seeing and hearing a legitimate, authentic Slep-Tone track, when in fact they are seeing an unauthorized copy.” This conduct, it claims, is prohibited trademark and trade dress infringement.

A district court in the Central District of Illinois concluded that Slep-Tone had not plausibly alleged that Defendants’ conduct resulted in consumer confusion as to the source of any tangible good sold in the marketplace and dismissed Plaintiffs’ complaint.

The Seventh Circuit agreed. While the appellate court granted that Slep-Tone may have had a plausible complaint of copyright infringement for “theft, piracy, and violation of Slep-Tone’s [media-shifting] policy,” consumer confusion is the touchstone of trademark infringement and such confusion was not present. It stated:

What pub patrons see and hear is the intangible content of the karaoke tracks. They will see Slep-Tone’s trademark and trade dress and believe, rightly, that Slep-Tone is the source of that intangible content. But patrons will neither see nor care about the physical medium from which the karaoke tracks are played; consequently, any confusion is not about the source of the tangible good containing the karaoke tracks.

Because Slep-Tone’s assertions did not constitute trademark infringement or trade dress infringement, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.

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Chicago, Illinois – The Seventh Circuit ruled in the ongoing intellectual property litigation between Plaintiff Lightspeed Media Corp. and Defendants Anthony Smith et al.

Attorneys for Lightspeed Media Corp. have filed numerous lawsuits nationwide in an apparent attempt to extract quick settlements from individual users who would rather avoid litigating their pornography consumption in open court. After pushback from Defendants and their internet service providers, as well as the imposition of sanctions by the Central District of California in a similar case, the attorneys began to voluntarily dismiss some of the cases.

The litigation against Defendant Smith was one such dismissed lawsuit. After the dismissal, Smith filed a motion for attorney’s fees. The Southern District of Illinois found that the Lightspeed lawsuit had been frivolous, baseless, and “smacked of bullying pretense,” and imposed sanctions of $261,025.11, jointly and severally, against three lawyers for Lightspeed: Paul Hansmeier, John Steele, and Paul Duffy.

Much legal wrangling ensued. While pleading to the court an inability to pay the sanctions, Steele withdrew over $300,000 from an account that he shared with his wife. Hansmeier withdrew a similar amount from one of his accounts. Each of these transfers was apparently an attempt to conceal the funds from the court and Smith. Other actions, also apparent attempts to conceal the funds, were also taken by the attorneys. Following these actions, Hansmeier filed for bankruptcy and Duffy passed away.

The Seventh Circuit was asked to consider the appropriateness of the sanction against the three attorneys. It declined to hear the matter as to Duffy, stating that because he was deceased he was “beyond [their] jurisdiction.” The appeals court dismissed the appeal as to Hansmeier, noting that, in a liquidation proceeding under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, “only the trustee [of the bankruptcy estate] has standing to prosecute or defend a claim belonging to the estate.”

After a review of multiple instances of discovery misconduct, the appellate court held that the district court had acted within its discretion in imposing a discovery sanction against Steele for what it called a “pattern of vexatious and obstructive conduct” and “obviously egregious behavior.”

The appellate court then turned to the matter of the contempt sanction against Steele. Steele argued that the sanction was in fact criminal in nature, not civil. Thus, he contended, the district court had failed to abide by the enhanced procedural safeguards required for such a sanction.

The Seventh Circuit agreed. It held that, while “civil contempt may be imposed if proven by clear and convincing evidence, and without the full criminal procedural process,” imposing criminal contempt required more. Specifically, it required that the contemnor be “afforded the protections that the Constitution requires of such criminal proceedings.”

The appellate court also held that the fine, as ordered by the district court, was not “designed either to compel the contemnor into compliance with an existing court order or to compensate the complainant for losses sustained as a result of the contumacy,” as was appropriate for a finding of civil contempt. Instead, the sanctions that had been levied against Steele were punitive in nature, and “meant to vindicate the authority of the court.” Thus, they were properly deemed criminal sanctions.

Concluding that the procedures required under the Constitution for criminal contempt had not been applied, the Seventh Circuit vacated the contempt sanction.

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Washington, D.C. – In the matter of Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that, among the factors considered in awarding attorneys’ fees under the Copyright Act, courts must give substantial weight to the objective reasonableness of the losing party’s position.

The Court was not persuaded that special consideration should be given to whether the lawsuit resolved important and close legal issues, expressing doubt that fee shifting will encourage parties to litigate such issues. While the Second Circuit test is close to what the Supreme Court prescribes, Justice Kagan wrote, in the Second Circuit, “substantial weight” has become “dispositive weight.” However, the Court also stressed that all circumstances of the case must be considered in light of the goals of the Copyright Act, acknowledging that fees may be warranted despite the objective reasonableness of the losing party’s position.

The decision is consistent with the position advocated in an AIPLA amicus brief filed in this case.

Background

Supap Kirtsaeng, born in Thailand, attended college in the United States. While he was studying in the United States, Kirtsaeng asked his friends and family in Thailand to buy and mail to him copies of foreign edition English language textbooks at Thai book shops, where they are sold at low prices. When publisher John Wiley & Sons (“Wiley”) learned about Kirtsaeng’s sales in the United States at low prices, it sued Kirtsaeng for copyright infringement.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kirtsaeng, concluding that Wiley’s sales of the books in Thailand exhausted its copyright interest in the U.S. sales under the first sale doctrine. On remand, Kirtsaeng’s motion for attorneys’ fees was denied. In affirming the decision, the Second Circuit relied on the objective reasonableness of Wiley’s position that the first sale doctrine did not apply to extra-territorial transactions.

Kirtsaeng asked the Supreme Court to review the attorney fee decision.

Competing Factors

Justice Kagan noted that Section 505 of the Copyright Act states that district courts “may” award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party in copyright litigation, but said that the statute provides no standards for deciding when such awards are appropriate. Guidance for fee awards can be found in the Court’s decision in Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc, she added, which includes a non-exclusive list of factors that further the goals of the Copyright Act.

In this litigation, each party asserted a factor believed to merit substantial weight: for Kirtsaeng, it is whether the lawsuit resolved an important and close legal issue; for Wiley, it is whether the position unsuccessfully argued by the losing party was objectively reasonable.

The Court concluded that the objective reasonableness of the losing party’s position is more important than the lawsuit’s role in settling a significant and uncertain legal issue. According to Justice Kagan, Wiley’s proposal “both encourages parties with strong legal positions to stand on their rights and deters those with weak ones from proceeding with litigation.” The copyright holder with no reasonable infringement claim has good reason not to sue in the first instance, she explained, and the infringer with no reasonable defense has every reason to give in quickly, before each side’s litigation costs mount.

By contrast, the Court continued, Kirtsaeng’s proposal would not produce any sure benefits. While litigation of close cases can advance the public interest by helping to clearly demarcate the boundaries of copyright law, it is not clear that fee shifting will necessarily, or even usually, encourage parties to litigate those cases to judgment, according to the Court. Justice Kagan explained as follows:

Fee awards are a double-edged sword: They increase the reward for a victory–but also enhance the penalty for a defeat. And the hallmark of hard cases is that no party can be confident if he will win or lose. That means Kirtsaeng’s approach could just as easily discourage as encourage parties to pursue the kinds of suits that “meaningfully clarif[y]” copyright law. … It would (by definition) raise the stakes of such suits; but whether those higher stakes would provide an incentive–or instead a disincentive–to litigate hinges on a party’s attitude toward risk. Is the person risk-preferring or risk-averse–a high-roller or a penny-ante type? Only the former would litigate more in Kirtsaeng’s world. … And Kirtsaeng offers no reason to think that serious gamblers predominate. … So the value of his standard, unlike Wiley’s, is entirely speculative.

What is more, Wiley’s approach is more administrable than Kirtsaeng’s. A district court that has ruled on the merits of a copyright case can easily assess whether the losing party advanced an unreasonable claim or defense. That is closely related to what the court has already done: In deciding any case, a judge cannot help but consider the strength and weakness of each side’s arguments. By contrast, a judge may not know at the conclusion of a suit whether a newly decided issue will have, as Kirtsaeng thinks critical, broad legal significance. The precedent-setting, law-clarifying value of a decision may become apparent only in retrospect–sometimes, not until many years later. And so too a decision’s practical impact (to the extent Kirtsaeng would have courts separately consider that factor). District courts are not accustomed to evaluating in real time either the jurisprudential or the on-the-ground import of their rulings. Exactly how they would do so is uncertain (Kirtsaeng points to no other context in which courts undertake such an analysis), but we fear that the inquiry would implicate our oft-stated concern that an application for attorney’s fees “should not result in a second major litigation.”

Substantial, But Not Dispositive, Factor

All of that said, objective reasonableness can be only an important factor in assessing fee applications–not the controlling one, Justice Kagan cautioned. “Although objective reasonableness carries significant weight, courts must view all the circumstances of a case on their own terms, in light of the Copyright Act’s essential goals,” she wrote.

The Court particularly acknowledged the serious concerns raised over the Second Circuit approach. While it frames the inquiry in a similar way, the Second Circuit language at times suggests that a presumption against a fee award arises from a finding of reasonableness. That perspective goes too far in limiting the district court’s analysis, according to the Court, observing that district courts in the Second Circuit appear to have turned “substantial” weight into something closer to “dispositive” weight. In particular, the Court acknowledged that hardly any of those decisions have granted fees when the losing party raised a reasonable argument (and none have denied fees when the losing party failed to do so).

Without suggesting that a different conclusion be reached, the Court vacated and remanded the case for further consideration in line with this analysis.

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Evansville, Indiana – In the matter of Berry Plastics Corporation v. Intertape Polymer Corporation, Judge Richard L. Young of the Southern District of Indiana ruled on Defendant Intertape’s motion to reconsider the court’s conclusion of patent invalidity on the grounds of obviousness.

This Indiana patent litigation, filed in January 2010, sought a declaratory judgment of non-infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,476,416 (the “‘416 patent”). Plaintiff Berry Plastics Corp. sued competitor Intertape Polymer Corp., which owns the ‘416 patent.

In the complaint, Berry asked the federal court to rule that it had not infringed the patent-in-suit, titled Process for Preparing Adhesive Using Planetary Extruder. In the alternative, it asked that the court rule that the patent was invalid and unenforceable. Among the reasons cited for this proposed conclusion were assertions that Intertape had engaged in improper conduct before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and that the patent was invalid as obvious.

The court held a jury trial in November 2014. The jury found, inter alia, that the ‘416 patent was not obvious. After the trial, the court heard additional argument on the issue of the validity of the patent and ruled for Berry, holding that the patent-in-suit was invalid as obvious.

In this recent entry, the court rules on Intertape’s motion to reconsider on the grounds that the court had ruled too broadly, inadvertently invalidating the entire patent instead of addressing only the asserted claims presented at trial. The court held that it was permitted under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) to modify its previous order (“[A]ny order or other decision … that adjudicates fewer than all the claims …does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims …. “). It also concluded that, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50, it had the authority to enter judgment against a party after a jury trial as long as “a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue.”

The court first held that certain dependent claims had not been challenged as invalid at trial and, consequently, the court had no jurisdiction to rule on the validity of those claims. On these claims, it granted the motion to reconsider.

Regarding those dependent claims that had been asserted at trial, the court evaluated the evidence and testimony presented and concluded that the dependent claims added no patentable subject matter but were instead simply obvious selections of prior art used in an ordinary way. Consequently, the court denied Intertape’s motion to reconsider.

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New Albany, Indiana – Patent attorneys for Ligchine International Corporation of Floyds Knob, Indiana initiated a patent lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana seeking declaratory judgment of non-infringement. Defendant is Somero Enterprises, Inc. of Houghton, Michigan.

This federal lawsuit is in response to a June 2016 letter sent to Ligchine by patent lawyers for Somero. In this letter, Somero asserted that Ligchine was engaged in the manufacture, use, offer for sale, sale and/or distribution of concrete screeding machines containing a “Paver/Superflat Combo Screed Head that includes a powered roller option.” Somero contended that such conduct infringed Somero’s patent rights in U.S. Patent Nos. 9,234,318 and 9,353,490, which have been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Somero threatened litigation if the alleged infringement did not cease.

Ligchine asserts that it has not infringed either patent and asks the court for a declaration of non-infringement for each of the two patents-in-suit. It also asks the court to order reimbursement of its costs of the lawsuit, including attorneys’ fees.

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Washington, D.C. – A unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court this week gave district courts more flexibility to award enhanced damage in cases of willful patent infringement.

This decision consolidated two patent infringement lawsuits, Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc., et al. and Stryker Corp. et al. v. Zimmer, Inc., et al, in which Indiana-based Zimmer, Inc. was sued. In each lawsuit, the proper interpretation of the statutory language of 35 U.S.C. §284, which permits district courts the discretion to award enhanced damages in cases of patent infringement, was at issue.

The exercise of that discretion is guided by the principle that enhanced damages are to be limited to cases of egregious misconduct. Prior to this week’s decision, it was also guided by a test elucidated by the Federal Circuit, as set forth in In re Seagate Technology, LLC. This test requires a patent owner to show two things by clear and convincing evidence: first, “that the infringer acted despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement of a valid patent” and, second, that the risk of infringement “was either known or so obvious that it should have been known to the accused infringer.”

In a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court held that while the Seagate standard reflected an appropriate recognition that enhanced damages were to be awarded only in egregious cases, the test set forth by the Federal Circuit “is unduly rigid” and “impermissibly encumbers the statutory grant of discretion to district courts.”

The Court primarily took issue with the requirement that objective recklessness be found, holding that such a threshold “excludes from discretionary punishment many of the most culpable offenders, such as the ‘wanton and malicious pirate’ who intentionally infringes another’s patent–with no doubts about its validity or any notion of a defense–for no purpose other than to steal the patentee’s business.”

The Court also noted that the Seagate test improperly allowed ex post facto defenses in considering culpability. Specifically, under the Seagate test, an infringer could rely on a defense at trial, even if he had been unaware of that defense at the time he had acted. This, the Court held, ignored the general rule that culpability is to be determined by an actor’s knowledge at the time of the conduct in question.

Finally, the Court rejected the requirement that recklessness be proved by clear and convincing evidence, finding it to be inconsistent with §284. Instead, it stated that enhanced damages are no different from patent infringement litigation in general, which “has always been governed by a preponderance of the evidence standard.”

The Court vacated the judgments of the Federal Circuit in both cases and remanded them for further proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion.

Although this was a unanimous opinion, Justice Breyer authored a concurring opinion, in which Justices Alito and Kennedy joined.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson dismissed a lawsuit by Indiana copyright attorney and professional photographer Richard Bell against Defendant Find Tickets, LLC of Alpharetta, Georgia for lack of personal jurisdiction.

In June 2015, Bell sued Find Tickets in the Southern District of Indiana asserting copyright infringement. He stated that the Georgia-based company had published a copyrighted photo on its website, www.findticketsfast.com, without his permission. The photo in question was one that Bell had taken of the downtown Indianapolis skyline. It had been registered by the U.S. Copyright Office under Registration No. VA0001785115.

On behalf of Find Tickets, a copyright lawyer asked the court to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, averring that Find Tickets “does not maintain any offices in Indiana, has no employees in Indiana, holds no assets in Indiana, pays no taxes to the state of Indiana, and has no bank or other financial institution accounts in Indiana.” It was further stated that the business was owned by two Georgia residents, neither of whom had ever set foot in Indiana.

The court turned to a constitutional analysis of the due process requirements for personal jurisdiction, as elucidated by the Seventh Circuit in Advanced Tactical Ordnance Sys., LLC v. Real Action Paintball, Inc., 751 F.3d 796, 800-01 (7th Cir. 2014). Citing that appellate case, the district court stated:

Due process is satisfied so long as the defendant had “certain minimum contacts” with the forum state such that the “maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” The relevant contacts are those that center on the relations among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation. However, “[f]or a State to exercise jurisdiction consistent with due process, the defendant’s suit-related conduct must create a substantial connection with the forum State.” Thus, the relation between the defendant and the forum “must arise out of contacts that the ‘defendant himself‘ creates with the forum . . . .” Moreover, although no special test exists for internet-based cases, the Court focuses on whether the defendant has purposely exploited the Indiana market beyond the availability of the website in the forum state. (Citations omitted).

The district court was unpersuaded by Bell’s arguments, opining that the Seventh Circuit precedent set forth in Advanced Tactical “established that a defendant who ‘maintains a website that is accessible to Indiana residents should not be haled into court simply because the defendant owns or operates a website that is accessible in the forum state, even if it is ‘interactive.'”

The court similarly held that, as with Advanced Tactical, Defendant’s sales to residents of the forum state were insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction as it had not been demonstrated that such sales were related to the lawsuit.

Finding no personal jurisdiction over Defendant, the court dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice.

Practice Tip: Overhauser Law Offices, publisher of this blog, represented Defendants Real Action Paintball, Inc. and its president in the appeal to the Seventh Circuit.

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Chicago, IllinoisMagistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown of the Northern District of Illinois granted the motion for summary judgment of John Doe, the anonymous Defendant sued by pornographer Malibu Media LLC (“Malibu”) on allegations of copyright infringement.

Plaintiff alleged that, between May 2013 and July 2013, Defendant infringed Malibu’s copyright in 24 movies by downloading them from the internet using file-sharing software known as BitTorrent. Copyright attorneys for Malibu filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Defendant, stating that Defendant had been identified by the internet protocol (“IP”) address that had been used to infringe. Defendant was permitted to litigate anonymously as “John Doe” (“Doe”).

Malibu submitted various pieces of evidence to support its contentions that Doe had infringed the copyrights on Malibu’s works, including a declaration by the founder of Malibu and declarations of various experts, such as forensic investigators. Doe denied Plaintiff’s claims and contested its method of proof.

The court evaluated Malibu’s evidence, noting that some of it was simply pro forma and included no relevant and particularized statements about the copyright infringement that Malibu alleged had been committed by Doe. The court stated that at least one pleading was described by Malibu as containing attached materials that had not, in fact, been attached. Other material was described by Malibu as having been sent to the court, while the court indicated that it had never been received.

The court also reproached Malibu’s attorneys for misrepresenting to the court the court’s earlier statements regarding the relevant evidentiary requirements to prove Doe’s liability. It further noted that Malibu had failed to adhere to required procedures, such as the serving of several disclosures under Rule 26(a)(2). Because those disclosures had not been made, and because the court held that the failure to disclose was evidence of at least willfulness, if not bad faith, two of Malibu’s declarations were stricken in their entirety as were portions of a third declaration. All of Malibu’s statements of fact that relied upon the stricken material were also excluded from evidence.

The court subsequently concluded that “Malibu has no evidence that any of its works were ever on Doe’s computer or storage device,” stating that Malibu’s contention that Doe had used visualization software to infringe Malibu’s works was merely speculation:

Malibu admits that there is no evidence of visualization software on Doe’s computer, and not even any evidence of the deletion of visualization software. Malibu says that is “beyond fishy,” and speculates that Doe must have deleted visualization software from his computer in some way that hides the fact that it was deleted, and then extends the speculation to suggest that Doe must have done that deletion to hide his infringement of Malibu’s works. That is not evidence that Doe copied or distributed Malibu’s works.

The court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, which asked the court to conclude that Doe had infringed its copyrighted works, was denied.

Practice Tip #1: Malibu has filed a multitude of virtually identical lawsuits around the country. According to a recent case in New York, “Malibu is a prolific litigant: between January and May 2014, for example, Malibu was responsible for 38% of copyright lawsuits filed in the United States.” Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe, No 15 Civ. 4369 (AKH), 2015 WL 4092417, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 6, 2015).

Practice Tip #2: We have blogged about Malibu Media’s litigation exploits before. Some recent posts include:

Magistrate Rejects Malibu Media’s Request for Fees and Sanctions
Malibu Media Sues Nine Additional “John Does” Asserting Copyright Infringement
Fourteen New Lawsuits Asserting Copyright Infringement Filed by Malibu Media
Malibu Media Alleges Infringement of Thirty Copyrighted Works

Another John Doe Sued by Malibu Media on Allegations of Copyright Infringement

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Washington, D.C. – The Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, reaffirmed its rules of patent exhaustion in a 10-2 decision. It concluded that the Supreme Court decisions in Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc., and Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., did not require any change in the law of patent exhaustion. The 99-page decision was consistent with the position argued in the amicus brief filed by the American Intellectual Property Law Association.

Specifically, the Federal Circuit held that a patentee, when selling a patented article subject to a single-use/no-resale restriction that is lawful and clearly communicated to the purchaser, does not give the buyer, or downstream buyers, the resale/reuse authority that has been expressly denied. Explaining that the ruling in Mallinckrodt, Inc. v. Medipart, Inc., 976 F.2d 700 (Fed. Cir. 1992) remains unchanged, Judge Taranto wrote the following:

Such resale or reuse, when contrary to the known, lawful limits on the authority conferred at the time of the original sale, remains unauthorized and therefore remains infringing conduct under the terms of § 271. Under Supreme Court precedent, a patentee may preserve its § 271 rights through such restrictions when licensing others to make and sell patented articles; Mallinckrodt held that there is no sound legal basis for denying the same ability to the patentee that makes and sells the articles itself. We find Mallinckrodt’s principle to remain sound after the Supreme Court’s decision in Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc., 553 U.S. 617 (2008), in which the Court did not have before it or address a patentee sale at all, let alone one made subject to a restriction, but a sale made by a separate manufacturer under a patentee-granted license conferring unrestricted authority to sell.

The Federal Circuit also held that a U.S. patentee, by merely selling or authorizing the sale of a U.S.-patented article abroad, does not authorize the buyer to import the article and sell and use it in the United States, which are infringing acts absent authority from the patentee. Explaining that the ruling in Jazz Photo Corp. v. International Trade Comm’n, 264 F.3d 1094 (Fed. Cir. 2001), remains unchanged, Judge Taranto wrote the following:

Jazz Photo’s no exhaustion ruling recognizes that foreign markets under foreign sovereign control are not equivalent to the U.S. markets under U.S. control in which a U.S. patentee’s sale presumptively exhausts its rights in the article sold. A buyer may still rely on a foreign sale as a defense to infringement, but only by establishing an express or implied license–a defense separate from exhaustion, as Quanta holds–based on patentee communications or other circumstances of the sale. We conclude that Jazz Photo’s no-exhaustion principle remains sound after the Supreme Court’s decision in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 133 S. Ct. 1351 (2013), in which the Court did not address patent law or whether a foreign sale should be viewed as conferring authority to engage in otherwise infringing domestic acts. Kirtsaeng is a copyright case holding that 17 U.S.C. §109(a) entitles owners of copyrighted articles to take certain acts “without the authority” of the copyright holder. There is no counterpart to that provision in the Patent Act, under which a foreign sale is properly treated as neither conclusively nor even presumptively exhausting the U.S. patentee’s rights in the United States.

Judge Dyk filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Judge Hughes, that generally agreed with the position argued in the government’s amicus brief.

With respect to Mallinckrodt, Judge Dyk maintained that the decision was wrong from the outset and cannot now be reconciled with the Supreme Court’s Quanta decision. “We exceed our role as a subordinate court by declining to follow the explicit domestic exhaustion rule announced by the Supreme Court,” he added. With respect to Jazz Photo, he wrote that he would retain the ruling if read to say that a foreign sale does not always exhaust U.S. patent rights, but it may if the authorized seller failed to explicitly reserve those rights.

Background

Lexmark makes and sells patented ink cartridges for its printers. It sells cartridges under one plan that permits buyers to use them as they wish, and at a discounted price under a “Return Program” plan that limits buyers to a single use of the cartridge and requires the cartridges to be returned to Lexmark for recycling.

Lexmark brought infringement actions in the district court and the International Trade Commission against Impression Products and other makers of after-market ink cartridges for Lexmark printers. Most of the district court defendants settled the litigation with Lexmark.

As to Lexmark’s action against Impression Products, the district court entered a stipulated judgment on Impression Products motion to dismiss. It held that Lexmark’s patent rights in cartridges first sold in the United States were exhausted under Quanta, but that the rights were retained for cartridges first sold abroad under Jazz Photo.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit sua sponte granted en banc review of whether the appellate court’s ruling on conditional sales in the U.S. must be overruled in light of Supreme Court’s Quanta decision, and whether the appellate court’s Jazz Photo ruling on international exhaustion must be overruled in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on copyright exhaustion in Kirtsaeng.

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Indianapolis Indiana – Following a Markman hearing, Judge Sarah Evans Barker considered 18 disputed terms in five patents owned by Plaintiff Bonutti Research, Inc. of Effingham, Illinois and licensed exclusively to Plaintiff Joint Active Systems, Inc., also of Effingham, Illinois. Fourteen of the terms were construed. The court held that the remaining four needed no further construction.

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The patents-in-suit are: U.S. Patent No. 5,848,979, U.S. Patent No. 7,955,286, U.S. Patent No. 7,404,804, U.S. Patent No. 7,112,179 and U.S. Patent No. 8,784,343, which had been issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is alleged that Defendant Lantz Medical, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana infringed those patents.

The following terms were construed by the court:

• “drive means” (construed in two different contexts)
• “a main gear which is connected with said first cuff means and is rotatable with said first cuff means relative to said base”
• “first extension member”
• “second extension member having an arcuate shape extending therefrom”
• “arcuate shape”
• “arcuate path”
• “travels along an arcuate path through the first extension member”
• “removably attachable to the finger”
• “curved path”
• “a first arm member for coupling to the first body portion and defining a curved path”
• “movable along the curved path”
• “operatively coupled”
• “drive assembly”

• “lockout element”

The court determined that no further construction was necessary for the following terms:

• “base”
• “gear means”
• “second gear is at least partially disposed in a recess in said base”

• “bending mechanism”

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