SP Techs., LLC v. Garmin Int’l., Inc., No. 08 C 3248, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 30, 2009) (Pallmeyer, J.)
Judge Pallmeyer denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment of inequitable conduct in this patent infringement case. Plaintiff SP Technologies ("SPT") asserted a patent for a touch screen keyboard that cannot be moved, resized or closed by a user. Defendants argued the patent should be held unenforceable based upon the inventor’s alleged failure to disclose to the Patent Office twenty lines of code for disabling a close button allegedly copied from a website and used in the patent, as well as certain alleged prior art Palm Pilot devices.
Intent to Deceive
The Court held there were questions of fact as to the investor’s alleged intent to deceive the Patent Office as to both alleged pieces of prior art. With respect to the code, there was evidence that the inventor believed there was no need to submit any evidence about a portion of the code because only the entirety of the code was relevant to patenting. Regarding the Palm devices, the inventor believed he had disclosed the Palm Pilots because they were mentioned in articles submitted to the Patent Office.
Regarding the allegedly copied code, the Court noted that few inventors could be considered the sole inventor of every aspect of their invention. Almost all inventions include some known components. And defendants did not prove that the single component of the invention represented by the allegedly copied code was central to patentability. The Court did, however, note that it appeared the code was likely copied as it was identical to that on the website and in other manuals, down to a misspelling. The Court accepted as evidence a printout of a copy of the website at issue from the relevant 1999 date. The copy of this website was maintained by the Internet Archive, or the Way Back Machine. The printout was authenticated by an Internet Archive employee that explained the Internet Archive’s process of maintaining historic copies of websites.
Similarly, defendants did not present sufficient evidence of the materiality of the Palm devices. Defendants offered only pictures without proof, such as a manual, that a user could not move, resize or close the keyboard.