Inequitable Conduct : CAFC Alert

Patent Infringement Litigation as a Double-Edged Sword: Invalidated Patents and Inequitable Conduct

| December 6, 2013

The Ohio Willow Wood Company (OWW) v. ALPS South LLC. (Alps)

Decided November 15, 2013

Before Dyk (Circuit Judge), Bryson (Circuit Judge) and Reyna (Circuit Judge).  Opinion by Reyna.

Keywords: collateral estoppel, obviousness, inequitable conduct, reexamination, and rule of reason.


OWW initiated a suit against Alps for patent infringement.  After a long legal battle including two ex parte reexaminations, two District Court proceedings, and two CAFC appeals, OWW lost two patents and was charged with inequitable conduct.


OWW is the owner of US Patent No. 5,830,237 (the ‘237 patent), entitled “Gel and Cushioning Devices,” filed on March 5, 1996.  The ‘237 patent disclosed cushioning devices designed to cover the residual stumps of amputated limbs, acting as a shape-conforming buffer, as illustrated below, to make the use of attached prostheses more comfortable.  The primary invention was a cushion liner comprising a fabric covering in the shape of a tube sock coated on only one side with mineral oil-based polymeric gels.


On December 27, 2004, OWW filed its complaint against Alps for infringement of the ‘237 patent.  After the District Court issued its Claim Construction order in the proceedings, Alps filed its first request for an ex parte reexamination of the ‘237 patent.  The District Court stayed the litigation for the duration of reexamination proceedings, pending resolution of the validity of the disputed patent.
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A District Court application of Therasense

| February 28, 2013

Caron and Spellbinders Paper Arts Company, LLC vs. QuicKutz, Inc.

United States District Court for the District Of Arizona

November 13, 2012, Decided



In Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Company, 649 F.3d 1276 (Fed. Cir. 2011) the CAFC ruled that District Courts must find intent and materiality separately, i.e., weighing the evidence of intent to deceive independently from analysis of materiality.

Here, in one of the few cases since Therasense, a District Court applies separate analyses for each of intent and materiality.  In addition, the District Court applied the exception to the but-for materiality requirement in cases of affirmative egregious misconduct.

Knowingly not naming the inventors was held to be inequitable conduct.

Declarations by persons not skilled in the art were held to be inequitable conduct.

Declarations that did not disclose financial relationships with the inventors were held to be inequitable conduct.

A Declaration where the Declarant, when he made the declaration, did not know whether the statements in the declaration were true or not was held to be inequitable conduct.

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Saved by Therasense: Deliberate decision to withhold references not found where art was cited in foreign counterpart and domestic co-pending applications

| October 10, 2012

1st Media v. Electronic Arts et al.

Decided  September 13, 2012

Panel: Rader, Linn and Wallach.  Opinion by Rader.


This case demonstrates how Therasense has changed the inequitable conduct analysis.  Although the individual inventor and sole practitioner knew of references which were probably material, and did not submit the references, this is now insufficient to demonstrate inequitable conduct.  It must additionally be shown that there was a specific decision to withhold the documents from the USPTO, in order to show an intent to deceive.  This can be demonstrated, for example, by selective disclosure.  However, no such evidence was presented, and thus an intent to deceive, the first part of the inequitable conduct analysis, was not found.

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Revisiting Therasense, CAFC finds that an inventor’s subjective belief that submission of documents was unnecessary may not be sufficient to avoid a showing of intent to deceive

| April 18, 2012


Aventis Pharma S.A. and Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC v. Hospira Inc. and Apotex Inc.

April 9, 2012

Panel:  Linn, Dyk, and Prost; Opinion by Prost


The court found that the patents were invalid over withheld references, and unenforceable for inequitable conduct.

If the patentee did not narrow the ordinary meaning of  a claim term by either acting as its own lexicographer or disclaiming claim scope either in the specification or during prosecution, that  claim term cannot be interpreted more narrowly than its ordinary meaning.

If the claims at issue are found invalid over a withheld reference under the clear and convincing evidence standard, then the withheld reference is found but-for material under the preponderance of evidence in Therasense; in this case, the materiality requirement was met since the patents were invalid based on the withheld references.

The witness’ explanation that that he believed he did not need to disclose the references to the PTO may not be sufficient to show that there was no specific intent to deceive the PTO because that finding was not the single most reasonable inference that could be drawn, unless the testimony is credible and the evidence presented is supported.  The reference disclosing the information that shaped the inventive thinking should be cited, and there is no justification for telling the PTO about the prior art disclosing the problem an inventor examined while concealing key prior art disclosing the solution he chose.

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| June 3, 2011


CAFC大法廷は、特許プロセキューションにおける出願人の不公正行為の認定についての新基準を示した。すなわち、CAFCは、非開示情報が重要(materiality)であるかどうかについて、従前よりも高い基準のbut-for testを採用するとともに、欺瞞の意図(intent to deceive)の立証については従来レベルの高い立証基準を維持した。また重要性(materiality)と欺瞞の意図(intent to deceive)は、それぞれ別個の立証が必要であると改めて示した。さらに、所謂「sliding scale」により、materialityもしくはintent to deceiveの一方が非常に強い場合には他方が弱くても不公正行為を認める認定方法を否定した。

but-for testの下で出願人がIDSに基づく不公正行為を立証するには、明確且つ説得力ある証拠でもって、次の事項を立証しなければなばならない:

          (1)     出願人がその情報を知っていたこと、

          (2)     その情報が重要であること、そして

          (3)     出願人が故意にその情報を開示しないと決定したこと。


非開示情報が重要(material)であるかどうかに関して、CAFCは、原則、but-for testを採用した。すなわち、この新基準によると、もしも非開示の情報を特許庁が知っていたら、特許庁がクレームを許可しなかったであろう場合に、その情報が重要情報となる。このbut-for test、すなわち、非開示情報があれば特許庁がクレームを許可しなかったかどうかを判断するに際しては、地裁は、特許庁の審査における基準と同じくpreponderance of evidence (証拠の優越性、すなわち、51%の確かさがあること)の立証基準で、合理的で最も広いクレーム解釈に基づいてその判断を行うべきである。したがって、今後は、特許有効性はPhillips判決に従い明確かつ説得力ある証拠(clear and convincing evidence)に基づいて判断されるため、非開示情報で特許が無効にならない場合であっても、その非開示情報が不公正行為の認定に関しては重要(material)であると判断される場合があるかもしれない。

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