Patent Litigation

September 18, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles - Apple and Google are back in court, this time to argue over whether a judge should reopen a case over patented technology featured in their smartphones.   The latest in the blow by blow between the two companies happened last week when Motorola Mobility, Inc., a subsidiary of Google, Inc. filed an appeal that an older case be reopened.   The original lawsuit, filed in 2010, quickly snowballed into a tangle with each company claiming that the other had infringed the other’s patents by including certain technology in their respective smartphones.   Notably, Motorola charged that Apple had infringed one of its most basic essential patents that functions to make the phone power on.

Given the complexity of the original back and forth lawsuits, the cases were consolidated only to be thrown out by famed IP expert Judge Richard Posner.   In his dismissal of the cases, Judge Posner found that neither company had presented sufficient evidence to sustain the claims brought forth.   It is in response to this dismissal that Motorola petitioned that the case be reopened.

In last week’s hearing, the Google-owned Android operator argued that the case should be remanded so that it may have the chance to prove that Apple should pay for use of its patented technology.   The three-judge panel who presided over the hearing focused their questions on whether or not the two companies had tried hard enough to work out a deal between themselves outside of court.

The trio of judges expressed concern that one or both of the companies could be classified as an “unwilling licensee,” referring to a party who does not in good faith attempt to pay to license an invention it has infringed upon.  Counsel for Apple argued vigorously on this point, claiming that Apple was far from being an unwilling licensee and that Motorola had unfairly demanded that Apple pay over 12 times what it had asked to license the subject technology in the past.

Aside from the licensing issues, both sides also presented arguments over each other’s expert witnesses.  Ultimately,  Judge Posner denied one of Apple’s proposed experts and two of Motorola’s.   Now that the hearing for remand has taken place, the Federal Circuit appeals court could take up to a year to decide whether or not the lawsuit will be reopened.   If it is, depending on the specifics of the ruling,  the companies will likely be able to pursue their substantive patent infringement arguments in lower court proceedings.

August 12, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles - A federal circuit court on Tuesday upheld the verdict in a case between two cheese manufacturers over patent infringement of cheese vat technology, deciding in favor of Tetra Pak Cheese and Powder Systems, Inc.

The ruling, made by a three-judge panel in U.S. Circuit Court in the 7th District, ended a three year battle between Cheese Systems, Inc. and Tetra Pak over elements of the design for large, churning vats to make cheese.

The patent at issue, granted to Tetra Pak in 1999, is U.S. Patent Number 5,985,347, titled “Cheese Processing Vat and Method.”  The vat is designed for large-scale cheese manufacturing, with two large, rotating panels inside which mix and slice the cheese.  While the agitator panels of other cheese vats rotate opposite each other, the ‘347 patent claimed the innovation of panels rotating in the same direction, which leads to a more efficient cheese-making process.

Tetra Pak argued that Cheese System’s vat design infringed on the central elements of its ‘347 patent, and demanded that the company stop use of its infringing product.

Cheese Systems originally brought a complaint against Tetra Pak in 2010 in Federal Court in the Western District of Wisconsin, asking for Tetra Pak’s patent to be invalidated.  Wisconsin-based Cheese Systems argued that Tetra Pak’s patent was obvious in light of prior disclosures.

The presiding judge in this case, Barbara R. Crabb, did not accept these arguments and instead found that Cheese Systems had infringed the patent held by Tetra Pak.  Cheese Systems appealed the decision to U.S. Circuit Court, which again ruled against Cheese Systems.

The Appeals Court also granted a permanent injunction for Cheese Systems’ use of its infringing cheese vat along with its decision to uphold the district court’s decision.

Swiss-based Tetra Pak is an international food packing and processing corporation.  Its founder, Ruben Rausing, was the first to develop a sterile packaging process for foods and liquids.  This process is still in use today, as seen in juice boxes and milk cartons.

July 26, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles - An appeals court on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling for Google, Inc., Yahoo, Inc., and Amazon.com, Inc. against patent infringement claims brought by Eolas Technologies, Inc.

The decision, originally made by a jury in 2012 in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, invalidated two patents held by Michael Doyle for interactive internet technology.

Doyle was a computer programmer at University of California, San Francisco in 1993 when he oversaw a project that allowed multiple scientists to watch a live streaming video simultaneously over the Internet for the first time.  Along with David Martin and Cheong Ang, Doyle filed for patent protection for this innovation in October 1994, and the University of California sponsored his application.

The patent was granted in November 1998, with U.S. Patent Number 5,838,906, titled “Distributed hypermedia method for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document.”

Michael Doyle formed Eolas Technologies to defend his patents, which were some of the earliest granted for Internet related innovations.  The company, which sells no products, has made millions of dollars from lawsuits against major Internet retailers for infringement of Doyle’s inventions.

This decision struck a major blow to Eolas.  Eolas claimed that protection of its patent, first granted in 1998, extended to all interactive features on websites, known as plug-ins, which include auto-fill, embedded videos, and map technology.

Eolas has argued that nearly every major website today violates its patents and has aggressively defended its rights through a multitude of lawsuits.

In 1999, Eolas brought patent infringement claims against Microsoft for aspects of its Internet Explorer browser.  A jury found Microsoft liable for $540 million in damages to Eolas, but the two sides settled out of court after Microsoft agreed to pay more than $100 million to Eolas and its co-plaintiff, the University of California.

Since then, Eolas has sued countless other corporations for the interactive elements of their websites.  Even after its 2012 jury loss, Eolas brought patent infringement lawsuits against The Walt Disney Company, ESPN, Inc., Facebook, Inc., and others.

Doyle has been demonized by the technology industry as a “patent troll,” a term used to describe people who claim broad interpretations of their patents to extract settlements from corporations.  The World Wide Web Consortium spoke out against the ‘906 patent in 2003, as the internet standards-setting body presented evidence of prior inventions which it claimed invalidated Doyle’s patent.

This most current loss looks to likely bring an end to patent infringement lawsuits by Eolas, so companies will be more free to use interactive website technology without risk of infringement.

August 31, 2012, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles - When one thinks of cutthroat industries and competitive markets, baby accessories and stroller makers do not normally come to mind.  However, this week the public is seeing how competitive these markets can be.  To that end, The Baby Jogger Company announced that it has recently filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Britax Child Safety, Inc. in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia.  The Baby Jogger Company is the owner and leading manufacturer of three-wheeled jogging strollers that can be used in all terrains.  However, it alleges in its court documents that Britax has copied its patented “Quick Fold Technology”, infringed its trade dress, and created unfair competition with its “knock-off” product.  More specifically, Baby Jogger alleges that its competitor has copied every part of its Citi Mini model, a leader in stroller sales since 2007.

Jogger claims that its competitor’s blatant theft of its design is deceptive and confusing to consumers who are unsure of the source, origin, sponsorship and approval of Britax’s B-Agile stroller.  Even worse, Britax created an advertising campaign that it alleges was clearly a carbon copy of the Baby Jogger ads showing how to utilize the quick-fold technology.  Baby Jogger claims the result is uncertainty and confusion regarding the Britax B-Agile stroller.  It further alleges that consumers are confused about whether Baby Jogger has authorized the B-Agile design, and whether Britax has obtained a license to make the B-Agile stroller.  The Baby Jogger is seeking to prevent further sales of the infringing products.

The City Series, a popular stroller line since its release in 2007, has been a favorite among consumers for its rugged design, durability and Quick-Fold mechanism.  Weighing only 16.8 pounds, the Citi Mini is not only lightweight, but its patented Quick-Fold Technology allows beleaguered mothers and fathers to fold and store the stroller with one hand.  The Citi Mini Double weighs just a few pounds more and can fit through any standard 30” doorway.  Each stroller is built by hand to ensure that the highest quality and safety standards are provided with each product.  The Baby Jogger has received numerous awards worldwide for safety and design innovation, including seven awards for safety, performance and durability from organizations such as the NAPPA, PTPA, and iParenting Media.  The Baby Jogger prides itself on using the highest quality materials and tests each stroller to surpass the requirements of ASTM International and European standard EN-1888.  Representatives for the company say that The Baby Jogger vows to protect its intellectual property to the fullest extent of the law.