John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property Law

The Supreme Court hears oral argument today in Bilski v. Kappos. The Court will decide the proper test for Section 101 patentability and will either decide or at least significantly impact the patentability of software and business method patents. Here are the questions presented:
1. Whether the Federal Circuit erred by holding that a “process” must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing (“machine-or-transformation” test), to be eligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. § 101, despite this Court’s precedent declining to limit the broad statutory grant of patent eligibility for “any” new and useful process beyond excluding patents for “laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas.”
2. Whether the Federal Circuit’s “machine-or-transformation” test for patent eligibility, which effectively forecloses meaningful patent protection to many business methods, contradicts the clear Congressional intent that patents protect “method[s] of doing or conducting business.” 35 U.S.C. § 273.
For more on the history of both the Bilski case, check out my recent article with my colleague Mike Grill in the Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property. Patently-O has compiled the amicus briefs — click here for the briefs supporting Bilski or neither party, and here for the briefs supporting the government. The briefs supporting the government include a brief by a group of Internet Retailers that, I am proud to say, cites my law review article arguing for an even application of the Twombly pleading standard as to both patent plaintiffs and patent defendants — click here for the amicus brief and here for my article from the John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property Law.
Click here for the SCOTUSBlog’s preview of the argument. For post-argument CLE options, click here for a list of courses compiled by Patent Docs and here for information on a CLE from IPWatchdog’s Gene Quinn, who plans to attend oral arguments.

Continue Reading Patentability at the Supreme Court: Bilski Oral Arguments

Niro Scavone’s Joe Hosteny recently responded to my John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property article, The Uneven Application of Twombly in Patent Cases: An Argument for Leveling the Playing Field (click here to read it). In the article, I argued that Twombly’s increased pleading standard should be applied to patent cases, but that it was being applied unevenly to patent plaintiffs and defendants. To fix that, I argued that plaintiffs should be required to identify the asserted claims and the products accused of infringing those claims in their complaints.
Hosteny responded in his February 2009 IP Today column, the Litigator’s Corner — click here to read it — contending that increasing pleading standards, in his experience, has either wrongly streamlined cases, where a defendant attempted to limit plaintiff to its original complaint regardless of what discovery later showed, or has increased the cost of discovery when plaintiff was required to move to compel after defendant unreasonably limited the scope of discovery defendant would provide based upon a more detailed complaint.
Hosteny admits his argument is based upon anecdotal evidence, and I do not fault him for that. As litigators, we constantly rely upon our own anecdotal evidence to make decisions about our cases. But I do disagree with Hosteny’s conclusion. If the Federal Circuit adopted rules requiring more detailed pleadings, or even if just an individual district court did it, just like with other rules a body of law would be created guiding litigants in future cases. Over time Hosteny’s anecdotal examples would stop recurring as defendants relied upon prior opinions telling them how much discovery beyond the claims was required. And plaintiffs would learn how long they generally had to amend their complaints to add new claims or products. So, while increased patent pleading standards might briefly increase the scope of discovery in patent cases, over time increased pleading standards would significantly reduce the cost and scope of patent cases.

Continue Reading Patent Pleading Standards: A Response

Here are some IP stories with a broad focused from Chicago-based institutions:
The latest edition of the John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property Law is available here. The issue is focused on International Trade Commission (“ITC”) litigation. ITC is a powerful tool, because of the speed of the proceedings and because personal jurisdiction is not required, only that the product or service is brought into the United States. One of the most interesting articles is an overview of the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) role in Section 337 ITC proceedings by ALJ Carl Charneski — click here to read the article.
The University of Chicago Faculty Blog is wrapping up an intriguing blog conversation amongst intellectual heavyweights regarding the underpinnings of IP theory and whether the standard economic theories (incentivizing innovation) supporting IP should be broadened to included social and cultural theories (incentivizing broader participation) — click here to read the last post and here to read the first. I cannot do it justice in a paragraph or two, but as we look at various IP reforms in Congress this year, in particular the 2009 version of the Patent Reform Act, it is a good time to consider the underlying reasons and purposes of the IP laws.

Continue Reading Chicago IP News: ITC & U of Chicago IP Conversation

The Winter 2008 edition of the John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property Law has been published and is available online by clicking here. It includes several interesting articles, including:
An argument for making stage directions copyrightable, Jennifer J. Maxwell, Making a Federal Case for Copyrighting Stage Directions: Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions, 7 J. Marshall Rev. Intell. Prop. L. 393 (2008); and
John W. Osborne, Justice Breyer’s Bicycle and the Ignored Elephant of Patent Exhaustion: An Avoidable Collision in Quanta v. LGE, 7 J. Marshall Rev. Intell. Prop. L. 245 (2008), arguing that the Supreme Court should chart its own course regarding patent exhaustion, instead of adopting the parties’ positions in Quanta v. LG (click here for more on the case in the Blog’s archives):
The Federal Circuit held in LGE v. Bizcom that patent exhaustion could be disclaimed by contract. But patent exhaustion is reflective of the scope of patent rights granted by statute. A statutory grant of rights should not be expandable by private contract. The Supreme Court should thus reverse in Quanta v. LGE.
The confusion regarding patent exhaustion evident in the Federal Circuit’s LGE v. Bizcom decision can be entirely eliminated by strict adherence to the Supreme Court’s Univis Lens decision. Univis Lens makes clear that the sale of an article embodying the essential features of a patent claim results in the exhaustion of that claim.261 This conclusion applies equally to any type of patent claim, i.e., component, apparatus, composition, system, combination, method, or process claims. Identifying the essential features of a patent claim, i.e., the patentably distinct features, clarifies the exhaustion analysis, results in predictability, and eliminates the confusion between the doctrines of exhaustion and implied license.

Continue Reading Patent Exhaustion & Copyrighting Stage Directions