Using Specific Data Structures Does Not Necessarily Survive Alice

John Kong | March 16, 2017

Intellectual Ventures I LLC, et al. v. Capital One Financial Corp., et al.

March 7, 2017

Before: Prost, Wallach and Chen.  Opinion by Prost.

Summary

This is the companion case to Intellectual Ventures I LLC, et al. v. Erie Indemnity Co. et. al., also decided on March 7, 2017.  Here, the court held that the claims are directed to the abstract idea of collecting, displaying, and manipulating data.  The recitation of specific XML data structures did not make the claims any less abstract or satisfy Alice step 2.  The claims also merely recited goals of the patent, in result-oriented language, without detailed features for how those goals are to be achieved.  As such, the claims did not provide the requisite inventive concept under Alice step 2.


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Claims reciting generic, computer implementation of abstract idea found lacking “inventive concept”

Kumiko Ide | March 13, 2017

Intellectual Ventures I LLC, et al. v. Erie Indemnity Co., et al.

March 7, 2017

Before Prost, Wallach, Chen.  Opinion by Prost.

Summary: 

The CAFC affirmed the district court’s determination that claims of both U.S. Patent No. 6,510,434 (“’434 patent”) and U.S. Patent No. 5,546,002 (“’002 patent”) are patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  Applying the two-part analysis from Alice, the District Court found and the CAFC affirmed the claims of both patents as being abstract ideas lacking in “inventive concept,” concluding that the claims are patent ineligible.  In addition, regarding U.S. Patent No. 6,519,518 (“’518 patent”), the CAFC affirmed that Appellants did not own rights to the patent, and therefore Appellants lacked standing to assert infringement.

連邦巡回裁判所(CAFC)は、特許法第101条に基づき、地裁の米国特許第6,510,434号及び5,546,002号には特許適格性がないという判決を支持した。地裁及びCAFCは、最高裁判決Alice事件の二段階分析(two-part analysis)を適用した上で、特許クレームは、抽象的概念(abstract ideas)であり、発明的概念(inventive concept)がないため、特許適格性がないと判断した。また、米国特許第6,519,518号については、上訴人は、当該特許の特許所有者ではないため、当事者適格がないと判示した。


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The Supply of a Single Component of a Multicomponent Invention Is Not an Infringing Act Under 35 U.S.C. §271(F)(1)

Sung-Hoon Kim | March 6, 2017

Life Technologies Corp. et al. v. Promega Corp.

February 22, 2017

Opinion by Sotomayor

Summary:

Promega sued Life Technologies for patent infringement under §271(f)(1) because Life Technologies assembled a kit for genetic testing in the U.K. with a single component manufactured in the U.S. and sold the product worldwide.  The Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit’s holding and held that §271(f)(1) does not cover the supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention.  The Supreme Court held that the term “substantial” in §271(f)(1) should have a quantitative meaning rather than a qualitative meaning.

Details:

Promega’s U.S. Reissue Patent No. 37,984 (“the Tautz patent”) is directed to a kit for genetic testing that can be used in various fields.  Promega (exclusive licensee of the Tautz patent) sublicensed the Tautz patent to Life Technologies, but limited the license to a specific field of use.  The patented kit has five components including a polymerase enzyme.  Life Technologies manufactured the polymerase enzyme in the U.S. and shipped it to the U.K.  Life Technologies manufactured other components, assembled all five components in the U.K, and sold the final product worldwide.  After discovering that Life Technologies was selling the product in the U.S. and overseas outside of the license, Promega sued Life Technologies for patent infringement, claiming that patent infringement liability was triggered under 35 U.S.C. §271(f)(1).

35 U.S.C. §271(f)(1):

Whoever without authority supplies or causes to be supplied in or from the United States all or a substantial portion of the components of a patented invention, where such components are uncombined in whole or in part, in such manner as to actively induce the combination of such components outside of the United States in a manner that would infringe the patent if such combination occurred within the United States, shall be liable as an infringer.

35 U.S.C. §271(f)(2):

Whoever without authority supplies or causes to be supplied in or from the United States any component of a patented invention that is especially made or especially adapted for use in the invention and not a staple article or commodity of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use, where such component is uncombined in whole or in part, knowing that such component is so made or adapted and intending that such component will be combined outside of the United States in a manner that would infringe the patent if such combination occurred within the United States, shall be liable as an infringer.

District Court:

The jury returned a verdict for Promega, finding that Life Technologies willfully infringed the patent.  Life Technologies then moved for judgment as a matter of law, arguing that 35 U.S.C. §271(f)(1) should not be applied because the phrase “all or a substantial portion” does not encompass the supply of a single component (polymerase enzyme).  The district court granted Life Technologies’ motion.

The Federal Circuit:

The Federal Circuit reversed and reinstated the jury’s verdict finding Life Technologies liable for infringement.  The Federal Circuit held that since the dictionary definition of “substantial” is “important” or “essential,” a single component (polymerase enzyme) could be a “substantial portion of the components.”

The Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court held that the supply of a single component (polymerase enzyme) of a multicomponent invention (genetic testing kit) is not an infringing act under 35 U.S.C. §271(f)(1).

The Supreme Court held that the term “substantial” has a quantitative meaning because neighboring terms “all” and “portion” convey a quantitative meaning, and the phase “substantial portion” is modified by “of the components of a patented invention.”  The Supreme Court rejected Promega’s suggestion to adopt both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the components (“case-specific approach”) because it is too complicated.

The Supreme Court held that reading §271(f)(1) to refer “components” as plural and §271(f)(2) to “any component” as singular allows two provisions to work in tandem.

Finally, the Supreme Court held that the history of §271(f) and Congress’s intent support the conclusion.  §271(f)(1) was enacted by Congress in response to the decision in Deepsouth Packing Co. v. Laitram Corp. case, where the Court held that it was “not an infringement to make or use a patented product outside of the U.S.”

Takeaway:

Shipping a single component of a patented invention to be combined with other components overseas is not patent infringement.  This means that companies can ship only one component of a product abroad without patent infringement liability.

How about shipping two components?  The Supreme Court left open the question of how many components are required to be “substantial portion of the components.”

In addition, the Supreme Court did not reach the issue of how to identify a component part of a patented invention under §271(f)(1).

The Supreme Court finally provided a bright-line patent law rule: liability under §271(f)(1) requires more than one component.

Full Opinion

The Phrase “Consist Of” Creates Strong Presumption That Anything Not Specified Is Excluded.

Sadao Kinashi | March 3, 2017

Shire Development v. Watson Pharma

February 10, 2017

Before: Prost, Taranto and Hughes. Opinion by Hughes.

Summary

Shire sued Watson for infringing USP 6,773,720 by filing Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) with the FDA seeking to market a generic version of Shire’s brand drug.  The Patent claim recited “outer hydrophilic matrix consisting of . . . .”  Watson’s ANDA product included a small amount of Mg stearate (which is lipophilic). The district court found infringement, but CAFC reversed and held that Watson’s ANDA Product does not satisfy claim 1(b), and remanded with instructions to enter judgment of non-infringement.

Shire社は、Watson社の新薬簡略承認申請(ANDA)が米国特許USP 6,773,720を侵害するとして提訴した。特許クレームは「外部親水性基質は、~なる群から選ばれた物質のみからなる(consisting of)」と限定していた。Watson社の申請新薬の外部親水性基質は、クレームにある群に含まれないステア燐酸Mg(しかも親油性)を少量含んでいた。CAFCは、Watson社の申請新薬を非侵害とした地裁判決を覆し、該新薬はクレーム1の限定(b)を満たさないとして、非侵害とした。

I.   BACKGROUND

A.  Patent Claims

The patent is directed to a controlled-release oral pharmaceutical composition of mesalamine used to treat inflammatory bowel diseases.  The composition includes (a)the mesalamine active ingredient; (b) an inner, lipophilic matrix; (c) an outer, hydrophilic matrix; and (d) other optional excipients.  In relevant part, claim 1 reads:

  1. Controlled-release oral pharmaceutical compositionscontaining as an active ingredient 5-amino-salicylic acid, comprising:

a) an inner lipophilic matrix consisting of substances selected from the group consisting of unsaturated and/or hydrogenated fatty acid, salts, esters or amides thereof, fatty acid mono-, di- or triglycerids, waxes, ceramides, and cholesterol derivatives with melting points below 90° C., and wherein the active ingredient is dispersed both in said [sic] the lipophilic matrix and in the hydrophilic matrix;

b) an outer hydrophilic matrix wherein the lipophilic matrix is dispersed, and said outer hydrophilic matrix consists of compounds selected from the group consisting of polymers or copolymers of acrylic or methacrylic acid, alkylvinyl polymers, hydroxyalkyl celluloses, carboxyalkyl celluloses, polysaccharides, dextrins, pectins, starches and derivatives, alginic acid, and natural or synthetic gums;

c) optionally other excipients . . . .

When the outer hydrophilic matrix interacts with a person’s digestive fluids, the matrix creates a swollen barrier to prevent aqueous solution from reaching the inner lipophilic matrix.  This delay permits the product to proceed through the digestive system until the water breaks apart the outer matrix, releasing the lipophilic granules.

B.  District Decision

The district court concluded that Watson’s ANDA Product satisfied the “inner lipophilic matrix” and “outer hydrophilic matrix” limitations and that Watson’s ANDA Product satisfied the Markush limitations because the excipients falling outside the Markush groups were “unrelated” to the invention since they did not drive the water-affinity property of their respective matrices.  Watson appealed.

I.  CAFC DECISION

CAFC noted that (a) and (b) in claim 1 use the phrase “consisting of,” to characterize the matrix, and “consisting of” to define the groups, which creates a very strong presumption that the claim element is closed and excludes any elements or ingredients not specified in the claim.   CAFC also noted that overcoming this presumption requires “the specification and prosecution history” to “unmistakably manifest an alternative meaning,” such as when the patentee acts as its own lexicographer.

Although the presumption is very strong, there can be rare exception for “aspects unrelated to the invention.” Norian Corp. v. Stryker Corp., 363 F.3d 1321, 1331 (Fed Cir. 2004). In Norian, CAFC considered whether adding a spatula to a calcium phosphate chemical kit designed to repair teeth and bones took the accused product outside the scope of the asserted patent.  The claim recited only aspects of the chemicals, and CAFC concluded that “infringement is not avoided by the presence of a spatula, for the spatula has no interaction with the chemicals, and is irrelevant to the invention.”

Here, Watson’s ANDA Product does not facially satisfy the claim 1(b) Markush limitation. The Product’s extragranular space (which correspond to the outer hydrophilic matrix) contained Mg stearate, an excipient not within the claim 1(b) Markush group within the extragranular space.  Nonetheless, the district court found that Watson infringed because the component outside of the Markush group (i.e., the lipophilic Mg stearate in the hydrophilic outer matrix) is unrelated to the invention and falls within the exception (like spatula in Norian).

However, CAFC disagreed with the district court conclusion.

The district court concluded that the “Mg stearate in the extragranular space is overwhelmed by the hydrophilic properties of the sodium starch glycolate in the extragranular space” and credited expert testimony that the hydrophilic “sodium starch glycolate is more potent than the Mg stearate” when “outside” the granules.

The district court thereby found that the Mg stearate exerted lipophilic influence in the outer matrix, and that finding is well supported: Shire’s expert acknowledged that “the Mg stearate in the spaces between the granules is no less lipophilic than the Mg stearate in the granules,” and the court found that Mg stearate is so strongly lipophilic that it may “impart lipophilic characteristics to a composition even in low concentrations.”

CAFC noted that no one has suggested that Mg stearate is neither lipophilic nor hydrophilic when in the outer matrix, and CAFC concluded that, based on the district court’s findings, the Mg stearate retains its lipophilic character in the extragranular space, and that the Mg stearate structurally and functionally relates to the invention, and its presence in the outer matrix violates the “consisting of” requirement in claim 1(b).

Regarding Shire argument that the Mg stearate in Watson’s product—which Watson includes as a lubricant rather than for its lipophilic properties—is unrelated to the invention because it is not sufficiently lipophilic to render the outer matrix lipophilic.  But CAFC ruled that Norian did not restrict “related” components to only those that advance or are intended to advance a Markush group’s allegedly inventive elements.

CAFC also distinguished “consisting of” from “consisting essentially of”, which does not exclude unspecified element unless it materially affect to the novel properties of the invention.

Thus, CAFC reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded for entry of judgment of non-infringement and other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

 Takeaway

 The phrase “consisting of” creates a very strong presumption that the claim element is closed and excludes any elements or ingredients not specified in the claim.

Even if an unspecified element is overwhelmed by the properties of the specified element, Norian exception is not applied as long as the unspecified element has some effect.

The phrase “consisting essentially of” is preferable to “consisting of”, but Examiners often reject to “consisting essentially of” and we have problem of support to effectively rebut the rejection.

How about the case where the unspecified element is detectable but too little to have recognizable effect?

Full Opinion

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