Baldwin Graphic Sys., Inc. v. Siebert, Inc., No. 03 C 7718, 2008 WL 4083145 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 27, 2008) (Moran, Sen. J.)*
Judge Moran granted defendant’s summary judgment of invalidity as to plaintiff’s patented technology for cleaning printing press components. The Court previously granted defendants summary judgment of noninfringement on a reissued patent and the patent at issue in this opinion, but the Federal Circuit reversed as to the patent at issue after revising the Court’s claim construction – click here for more on this case in the Blog’s archives.
After holding that each element of the claims were taught by various pieces of prior art, the Court considered whether the art could be combined pursuant to the Supreme Court’s KSR standard. The Court held that the creation of strict new industry standards and a finite number of solutions that met the standards created jurisdiction for combining the prior art references:
The introduction of strict regulations regarding the use of high VOC solvents was an outside impetus to begin using low VOC solvents to clean presses. By plaintiff’s own admission, the existing spray bar/dry roll systems worked poorly with low VOC solvents. Therefore, a problem needed to be solved. The mechanics of printing press design led to a finite number of solutions. The pieces for the ultimately embraced solution were all present in the prior art, and it was only a matter of time before they were put together in the manner described in the asserted claims of the ‘976 patent. We find this to be true, particularly in light of KSR’s instruction that “Common sense teaches … that familiar items may have obvious uses beyond their primary purposes, and in many cases a person or ordinary skill will be able to fit the teachings of multiple patents together like pieces of a puzzle.” KSR, 127 S.Ct. at 1742. See also, Muniauction, Inc. v. Thomson Corp., ___ F.3d ___, 2008 WL 2717689, at *6-*10 (Fed. Cir. July 14, 2008); Leapfrog Enterprises, Inc. v. Fisher-Price, Inc., 485 F.3d 1157, 1160-63 (Fed. Cir. 2007).
The Court also found the patent invalid because “reduced air content” was indefinite. The patent did not teach how or when to measure the air content reduction. Because three different experts could start the calculation from three different baselines and get three different, but equally correct results, the term was indefinite.
* Click here for more on this case in the Blog’s archives.
Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container, Inc. v. Limited Brands, Inc., No. 05 C 3684, 2008 WL 839993 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 27, 2008) (Der-Yeghiayan, J.).
Judge Der-Yeghiayan denied defendants’ (collectively "Limited Brands") motion for reconsideration regarding the Court’s claim construction opinion and its summary judgment opinions of infringement, validity and damages – click here to read more about those opinions in the Blog’s archives. The Court previously construed the claims of plaintiff Ball Aerosol’s ("BASC") patent covers a candle tine. The Court granted BASC summary judgment of infringement and validity, pre-KSR. When KSR revised the obviousness standard, the Court sua sponte ordered supplemental briefing regarding obviousness in light of KSR. Based upon that briefing, the Court again granted summary judgment of validity. The Court then granted BASC summary judgment on damages awarding it 20% royalties and finding Limited Brand’s infringement willful.
The Court held that its original claim construction, validity and infringement holdings were correct and that Limited Brands had been given ample opportunities to defend itself. The Court also denied Limited Brands’ argument that reasonable royalties could not be decided on summary judgment. Limited Brands’ Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial regarding damages had not been violated. There is no right to a jury without a material question of fact.
Brian Higgins’s Maryland IP Law Blog post about the progeny of In re Seagate, 497 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2007), inspired me to do follow up posts identifying Northern District cases discussing recent major IP decisions — click here for my post on injunctions after eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 126 S.Ct. 1837, 164 L.Ed.2d 641 (2006). There have been a number of obviousness decisions in the Northern District since KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., __ U.S. __, 127 S.Ct. 1727 (2007). Here they are:*
- Abbott Labs. v. Sandoz, Inc., No. 05 C 5373, 2007 WL 1549498 (N.D. Ill. May 24, 2007) (Coar, J.). — Holding that the Court’s pre-KSR analysis need not be reconsidered in light of KSR because an element was missing from the prior art, regardless of what standard was used.
- Herman Miller, Inc. v. Teknion Corp., No. 05 C 2761, 2007 WL 2230042 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 30, 2007) (Gettleman, J.). — Noting that, in light of KSR, plaintiff issued a statement of non-liability and certain patents were removed from the suit.
Lexion Medical, LLC v. Northgate Techs., Inc., No. 04 C 5705, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 8, 2007). — Holding that the pre-KSR jury’s decision would not have changed if given a KSR obviousness instruction.
These opinions suggest that KSR is not changing obviousness law in the Northern District much. I suspect that is not true. Once we have a larger sample of cases, including more where the initial analysis was not done pre-KSR, we will see more patents held invalid based upon obviousness.
* A brief note on methodology: this was not a thorough study and does not include cases that granted or denied injunctions without discussion. For a more complete list of post-KSR decisions nationwide, go to the Fire of Genius.