It has been a little more than half a year since the amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure abrogated Rule 84 and put an end to the Form 18 bare-bones style patent complaint. The question on the minds of many patent litigators has been: What standard would emerge for pleading direct patent infringement in the post-Form 18 world? The contours of the answer to that question have begun to emerge as many district courts are now requiring plaintiffs to allege sufficient facts to permit an inference that an accused product infringes each element of at least one patent claim. Counsel for plaintiffs should take heed of this heightened pleading standard. On the other side, counsel for defendants now have an additional tool in their toolbox for attacking bare-bones style patent complaints.
The Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in Life Techs. Corp. v. Promega Corp., 14-1538, to resolve: “[w]hether a supplier can be held liable for providing ‘all or a substantial portion of the components of a patented invention’ from the United States when the supplier ships for combination abroad only a single commodity component of a multi-component invention” under 35 U.S.C. § 271(f)(1).
Life Technologies (“LifeTech”) manufactures genetic testing kits containing: (1) a primer mix; (2) Taq polymerase; (3) PCR reaction mix including neucleotides; (4) a buffer solution; and (5) control DNA. Promega Corp. v. Life Techs. Corp., 773 F.3d 1338, 1344 (Fed. Cir. 2014). Promega licensed a patent on technology for replicating DNA which it then licensed to LifeTech for “Forensics and Human Identity Applications.” Id. In addition to “Forensics and Human Identity Applications,” LifeTech also sold kits for unlicensed purposes worldwide. Id. Notably, LifeTech manufactures Taq polymerase in the United States, which it then ships to another manufacturing plant in the UK, which manufactures the remaining kit components and assembles the kits. Id. Promega sued LifeTech in 2010 alleging infringement including those worldwide sales containing only one component from the U.S. (Taq). Id.
Trade dress is a type of trademark intellectual property right that can protect almost any unique identifying aesthetic design used by a company, from the shape of a product, to the appearance of a website, to the decor of a storefront. Unlike patents, which have an expiration date, trade dress rights can last indefinitely, as long as the owner actively uses the trade dress. Because of this potentially wide reach, the law sets strict limits on what can qualify for trade dress protection. But even if a company has valid trade dress rights, a deceptively simple threshold question can often derail attempts to enforce them: What are they? Most designs are composites of commonplace building blocks, and it is only the particular combination and arrangement of those building blocks that may be unique and protectable. So how does one define that combination with enough specificity to be understood, yet with enough breadth to encompass infringing variations? Understanding how to answer this question is critical not only to litigating trade dress claims, but also to identifying and developing trade dress rights in the first instance.
The decision earlier this month in the case of Halo v Pulse, will give owners of US patents a greater likelihood of being awarded enhanced damages. This will raise the value of patents – and increase the incentive to sue for infringement.
On May 12 and May 17, 2016, the Federal Circuit issued decisions in two § 101 cases, EnFish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp. and In re TLI Communications, LLC. Both authored by Judge Hughes, the decisions illustrate the difficult process of determining where to draw the line between a claim that is directed to an “abstract idea” under step one of the Alice framework, and one that is not.