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invalidity contentions

Model order proposed limits - advantage patent owner

Model order proposed limits - advantage patent owner

The Model Order benefits a patent owner more than a defendant. Patent owners maintain an advantage by waiting to just before trial to identify claims to a defendant.  The Model Order does speed up this identification to the benefit of the defendant.  But the tradeoff for limiting claims under the Model Order is a drastic reduction in prior art references available to a defendant.

Federal Circuit Advisory Council Model Order Limiting Excess Patent Claims and Prior Art

Federal Circuit Advisory Council Model Order Limiting Excess Patent Claims and Prior Art

The Federal Circuit Advisory Council released a Mole Order for limiting the number of patent claims and prior art references. The Model Order "is offered to aid trial courts in the exercise of their discretion in crafting orders tailored to the facts and circumstances of each case."  

Timeline helps in establishing diligence to amend invalidity contentions

In Positive Technologies, Inc. v. Sony Electronics, Inc. (January 28, 2013), Judge Illston (Northern District of California) granted Defendants, Inc.'s and Barnes & Nobles, Inc.'s motion to amend their invalidity contentions to add "conforming amendments" and "new-art amendments".  Both amendments are said to relate to the Court's claim construction order.  The Court focuses on the two aspects of good cause for the proposed amendments, including diligence in discovery the new information and the passage of time in seeking to add the new information to the contentions once discovered.  Defendants argue that the amendments, particularly the new prior art, relate to an expansive claim construction concerning two types of devices covered in the Court's claim construction order.  Although six months elapsed between the claim construction order and when the Defendants located the new prior art, the detail surrounding Defendants' efforts appears to have persuaded the Court the allow the proposed amendments. In this case, the Court ruled that since fact discovery had not yet closed, and in light of Plaintiff failing to articulate whether the prior art was relevant, whether Defendants were engaging in "gamesmanship" for the amendments, and what type of prejudice would result to the Plaintiff, the Court permitted the proposed amendments.

Takeaways - it appears to be increasingly relevant to track the timing contention efforts once the initial contentions have been served.  Details on these activities remain important to the Court when considering proposed amendments to invalidity contentions.

Claim construction process is not helped by invalidity contentions

In an earlier post, I discussed the following:

 I don't believe the rules were intended to exclude prior art because a plaintiff lacked non-intrinsic prior art during the claim construction process.  I continue to look at the evolution of the local rules for linkage between invalidity contentions and claim construction.  It would be helpful if someone could point me to any local patent rule comments on this issue.  I'm particularly interested in comments detailing why invalidity contentions must precede claim construction.  Is it to allow the patent owner to craft proposed constructions in light of prior art (extrinsic evidence)?  What principle of claim construction would that be based on?

Here are some further thoughts, after rereading and studying some cases.  First, for a district court civil action, "[t]he role [of claim construction] is neither to limit nor broaden the claim, but to define, as a matter of law, the invention that has been patented."  Netword, LLC v. Centraal Corp., 242 F.3d 1347, 1352 (Fed. Cir. 2001).  Nothing controversial there.

Next, we have the following notion that the rules of claim construction state that claims may not be revised to ignore explicit claim language.  See Generation II Orthotics Inc. v. Med. Tech. Inc., 263 F.3d 1356, 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2001) ("claims can only be construed to preserve their validity where the proposed claim construction is 'practicable,' is based on sound claim construction principles, and does not revise or ignore the explicit language of the claims.").  Essentially, claims may not be redrafted.

Taking these ideas further, it's not a stretch to surmise that invalidity contentions may impact the validity of the claims subject to construction, but that should not matter for purposes of defining the scope of the invention.  Lucent Technologies, Inc. v. Gateway, Inc., 525 F.3d 1200, 125-26 (Fed. Cir. 2008) ("This court has repeatedly held that courts may not redraft claims to cure a drafting error made by the patentee, whether to make them operable or to sustain their validity.  To do so 'would unduly interfere with the function of claims in putting competitors on notice of the scope of the claimed invention.'")

So what to make of the "preserving claim validity" maxim?  It would seem reasonable that the "preserving claim validity" maxim should only be invoked in such narrow circumstances where "'the court concludes, after applying all the available tools of claim construction, that the claim is still ambiguous.'"  Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1327 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (citing Liebel-Flarsheim Co. v. Medrad, Inc., 358 F.3d 898, 911 (Fed. Cir. 2004)).

If all this is accurate, why are invalidity contentions required before the claim construction process has even started under local patent rules?  Are we presuming that claims will remain ambiguous after applying all available tools of claim construction?  Certainly requiring contentions before claim construction may be expedient, but what is being accomplished.  Moreover, prior art is applied to properly construed claims, so claim construction necessarily comes first.  Consider that Phillips specifically states

[W]e have certainly not endorsed a regime in which validity analysis is a regular component of claim construction.

Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1327 (emphasis added); see also Rhine v. Casio, Inc., 183 F.3d 1342, 1345 (Fed. Cir. 1999) ("if the only claim construction that is consistent with the claim's language and the written description renders the claim invalid, then the axiom does not apply and the claim is simply invalid.").

If validity analysis is not a regular component of claim construction, should we consider a change to patent local rules where claim construction discovery precedes contentions, instead of the current practice?

Court declines supplement to invalidity contentions despite importance

In CardSoft, Inc. v. VeriFone Systems, Inc. (May 28, 2012), Judge Payne (Eastern District of Texas) denied Defendant VeriFone's request to supplement its invalidity contentions to add two additional prior art references. In denying the requested supplement, the Court focuses on Patent Local Rule 3-6(b) of the Eastern District of Texas and notes that amendments to contentions require a "showing of good cause."  (Order at 1).   The four standard factors underlying a good cause analysis included:  (1) explanation for party's failure to timely move for leave to amend; (2) importance of the amendment; (3) potential prejudice resulting from amendment; and (4) availability of continuance to cure prejudice.  The Court then determined that the defendant was not diligent because it should have investigated prior art processing terminals based on plaintiff's identification of alleged infringing products.

The Court explained:

The Court is not satisfied that VeriFone acted diligently to discover the Omni 300 and OTA prior art.  These references are related to VeriFone's own products, which it should have uncovered even if CardSoft never accused the Omni 3200 payment terminals of infringement.  Furthermore, it took VeriFone nearly eight months to produce the references, and then another four months to disclose its invalidity contentions based upon the references.  The Court is not persuaded that this shows diligence on VeriFone's part.  Verifone's lack of an adequate explanation to explain its delay weighs strongly against granting leave.

(Order at 3).

In the end, the Court was not persuaded that diligence was shown.   We were surprised at how the Court resolved the other good cause prongs involving prejudice.  As to prejudice, the Court explained:

The importance of these references are quite clear, which weighs in favor of granting VeriFone leave to amend.  However, their importance only adds to the prejudice suffered by CardSoft because it was deprived of a meaningful opportunity to consider these references during the claim construction process.  Because claim construction was nearly over by the time VeriFone disclosed its invalidity contentions based on the Omni 300 and OTA prior art, and claim construction is now complete, a continuance is not available to cure CardSoft's prejudice.

If the impact on claim construction was not an appropriate factor for invalidity contention supplements, there would be little, if any, prejudice to CardSoft.  Maybe the supplement request would have been granted.  As we previously suggested here and here, the link between invalidity contentions and claim construction prejudice is tenuous.  In this case, the prior art is not part of the intrinsic evidence, and the court noted the importance of the prior art references, yet the supplement request was denied.  Although claim construction was concluded, should that fact really impact the inclusion of additional invalidity contentions?  The claims mean what they mean.  If the claims encompass the prior art then it is what it is.

Takeaways - Diligence is the paramount consideration for supplemental contentions.  This ruling indicates that although Defendant VeriFone continued its prior art investigation at a measured pace, the defendant did not move quick enough.  Tough case, tough decision.  I would prefer not to see the balance of a decision rest on how an invalidity contention supplement impacts claim construction as a reason for denying the supplement.  I don't believe the rules were intended to exclude prior art because a plaintiff lacked non-intrinsic prior art during the claim construction process.  I continue to look at the evolution of the local rules for linkage between invalidity contentions and claim construction.  It would be helpful if someone could point me to any local patent rule comments on this issue.  I'm particularly interested in comments detailing why invalidity contentions must precede claim construction.  Is it to allow the patent owner to craft proposed constructions in light of prior art (extrinsic evidence)?  What principle of claim construction would that be based on?  These are somewhat rhetorical questions.  Care to comment?

Series: a deeper look at local patent rules and invalidity contentions (obviousness)

Today we'll take a look at the local patent rules across jurisdictions and the specificity required for obviousness contentions.  You can find an index of local patent rules here if you want to browse rules in different jurisdictions. Certain jurisdictions, like the Eastern District of Texas shown below, specify the following for  invalidity contentions relying on obviousness challenges.

L. Pat. R. 3-3(b) provides:

(b) Whether each item of prior art anticipates each asserted claim or renders it obvious. If a combination of items of prior art makes a claim obvious, each such combination, and the motivation to combine such items, must be identified;

Other jurisdictions, like the Northern District of California, do not recite the requirement to identify the motivation to combine prior art references when obviousness contentions are based on a combination of prior art.

L. Pat. R. 3-3(b) provides:

(b) Whether each item of prior art anticipates each asserted claim or renders it obvious. If obviousness is alleged, an explanation of why the prior art renders the asserted claim obvious, including an identification of any combinations of prior art showing obviousness;

In summary, certain jurisdictions specifically require a motivation to combine identification, while others do not.  We have summarized a list of the jurisdictions that include and do not include this requirement.  Certainly, for a given jurisdiction, Court decisions may indicate that motivations to combine must be included for obviousness-based contentions, even if not specifically recited in the local patent rules.

The following ten (10) jurisdictions recite that a motivation to combine prior art must be identified:  Northern District of Georgia; Northern District of Illinois; Eastern District of North Carolina; Western District of North Carolina; District of New Hampshire; Northern District of New York; Western District of Pennsylvania; Eastern District of Texas; Northern District of Texas; and District of Utah (J. Campbell).

The following thirteen (13) jurisdictions do not recite that a motivation to combine prior art must be identified:  Northern District of California; Southern District of California; District of Idaho; District of Maryland; Eastern District of Missouri; District of New Jersey; District of Nevada; Northern District of Ohio; Southern District of Ohio; Western District of Tennessee; Southern District of Texas; Eastern District of Washington; and Western District of Washington.

Let us know if you're aware of other differences of interest.

Third attempt to supplement invalidity contentions unsuccessful

In Bayer Cropscience AG v. Dow Agrosciences LLC (June 7, 2012), Judge Schneider (District of Delaware) denied Defendant Dow's third request to supplement its invalidity contentions. In denying the requested supplement, the Court noted that the diligence of the moving party is the "key" fact that courts consider when assessing good cause for amendments to contentions.   Relying on 02 Micro Intern. Ltd., 467 F.3d 1355, 1364-1367 (Fed. Cir. 2006), the Court explained:

Pursuant to the [02 Micro] decision, the key fact courts should look at to determine whether good cause exists to grant an amendment to a contention is the diligence of the moving party.  Diligence has two aspects to it.  One is whether the moving party acted diligently to discover that an amendment was appropriate.  The second aspect is whether the moving party promptly moved to amend its contentions after it learned an amendment was necessary.  The burden is on Dow to show diligence, rather than on Bayer to establish Down was not diligent.  Dow has not satisfied its burden.

(Order at 3).  Dow sought three sets of amendments.  One amendment concerned supplementing its contentions to include arguments, not prior art, that respond to Plaintiff's amended contentions.  This proposal was rejected.  The second amendment sought to incorporate by reference past briefing by Dow.  This proposal was also rejected.  The third set of amendments sought to add two recently discovered prior art references.  This third proposal was similarly rejected.  The reasoning underlying the third proposal is explored below.

For the prior art supplement, Plaintiff Bayer noted the following:

DAS makes no showing whatsoever that it has been diligently searching for prior art; provides no explanation as to how or why the two new pinches of prior art eluded that search; and does not even attempt to explain the circumstances as to how this alleged new prior art came to light.

(Order at 6-7) (citing Bayer Answering Brief at 10-11).  The Court essentially agreed with Bayer explaining that, as to the Perkins reference learned of by interviewing the reference's author, "Dow did not explain why it did not conduct its interview earlier" and as to the second Fraley reference, the Court rejected the premise that good cause exists when a reference is intended to rebut arguments by the opposing party.  (Order at 7).  The Court opined that if supplementing contentions to rebut arguments were permitted, "amended contentions would never cease."  (Order at 7).

Takeaways - Good cause and diligence continue to control supplemental contentions.  In future posts, I will comment on why invalidity contention supplements should continue to be governed by the good cause requirement, but that the stage of the litigation should be given minimal to no deference, unless expert discovery has commenced.

Judge Schneider in this case found it significant that

In view of the parties' efforts to date and the upcoming Markman hearing, Bayer will be prejudiced if it is now compelled to revise its prosecution and defense strategy to respond to Dow's 'shifting sands' defense.  This is the scenario the patent rules were designed to prevent.  

(Order at 8).

I respectfully disagree.  Supplementing prior art, specifically prior art not of record for the challenged patent, should have no bearing on the Markman hearing, and is unlikely to require a response by the plaintiff that rises to the level of "prejudice."  If the supplemented prior art is not compelling, the prior art will essentially be a non-issue.  If the prior art is compelling, the prior art rises in importance and should be part of the litigated merits.  Expert discovery has yet to begin, and the plaintiff can address the reference in due course with the aid of its expert.  Further, because no claim construction order has issued, it would appear to be entirely premature to exclude merit-based evidence.  Yes, the local patent rules specify disclosure time frames, but are those time frames justified or merely for expedience?

Series: a deeper look at local patent rules and invalidity contentions (NDNY)

Today we'll take a look at the local patent rules for the Northern District of New York, specifically obviousness contentions.  You can find an index of local patent rules here if you want to browse rules in different jurisdictions. The Northern District of New York specifies the following for invalidity charts and invalidity contentions relying on obviousness challenges:

L. Pat. R. 3.3(b)(2) provides:

(2) Whether each item of prior art anticipates each asserted claim or renders it obvious. If obviousness is alleged, an explanation of why the prior art renders the asserted claim obvious, including an identification of any combinations of prior art showing obviousness, the reason why one of ordinary skill in the art would have combined the references at the time of the invention in issue in the case, and identification of what the accused considers to be the primary reference.

L. Pat. R. 3.3(b)(3) provides:

(3) A chart identifying where specifically in each alleged item of prior art each limitation or view of each asserted claim is found, and for utility patents, including for each limitation that such party contends is governed by 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 6, the identity of the structure(s), act(s), or material(s) in each item of prior art that performs the claimed function;

{C}Unlike most local patent rules, the NDNY requires an "identification of what the accused considers to be the primary reference."  NDNY L. Pat. R. 3-3(b)(2).  Not only does a defendant need to identify "any combinations" to show obviousness, but the primary reference needs to be identified.  Most jurisdictions merely require an identification of obviousness combinations, but not the primary reference.  In this Series on local patent rules, we'll address other nuances in jurisdictions for your consideration.

Let us know if you're aware of other differences of interest.

How to break down patent claims with PatDek

claims understood as concepts

Here is a pictorial of the process that describes how to understand the idea of "concepts" as they relate to patent claims and prior art.  The main idea, as shown in the graphic below, is that patent claims can be represented concepts.  We utilize this process because patent claims often use the same or similar words to cover a particular feature.

As above, the color-highlighting generally indicates features recited in the claim language.  The different colors represent different features recited in the claim.  The user determines how a claim can be divided into different concepts.  In the next graphic, we show a group of concepts.  Once concepts are identified for one claim, the same concepts can be used for other claims.

As below, three claims can be represented by seven concepts.  Because certain concepts are repeated (as indicated by arrows), they are reused in different claims.

concepts representing multiple patent claims

linking patent claims to concepts

In a final graphic (below), the concepts are shown to link the patent claims and the prior art.  By analyzing the prior art using concepts, the user does not need to repeatedly refer back to the claim language.  The concepts, not claim language, are used to analyze the prior art (another post on claim concepts here).  At this level of prior art review, different teachings of the references can be matched up together.  These mashups of the references form patent claim charts and invalidity contentions.  Using the PatDek interface, different prior art mixes can now be generated by the user.

linking multiple patent claims to prior art using concepts

Court decisions involving invalidity contentions

We have now posted links to over 70 district court decisions addressing supplementing invalidity contentions, motions to strike invalidity contentions, motions to amend invalidity contentions under local rules, late disclosure of invalidity contentions, and other nuances involving invalidity contentions (invalidity charts, section 103 contentions, differences between contentions and expert disclosures). The entire list of decisions is now arranged by jurisdiction.  For now, each decision identifies the Judge, year of decision, and case name.

A list of decisions arranged by jurisdiction can be found here, or via a link in the right hand side bar.  The decisions are also arranged by year at the right hand side bar.  Using any of these links, the invalidity contention decisions can be downloaded individually or as groups of decisions.

Delays preclude invalidity contention supplements

In Apple v. Samsung (March 27, 2012), Judge Koh (Northern District of California) denied Samsung's request to supplement invalidity contentions.  Relying on Patent Local Rule 3-6, the Court noted that for amending prior art disclosures, good cause determination factors in the Northern District of California include:

Nonexhaustive examples of circumstances that may, absent undue prejudice to the non-moving party, support a finding of good cause include: (a) [a] claim construction order by the Court different from that proposed by the party seeking amendment; [or] (b) [r]ecent discovery of material, prior art despite earlier diligent search.


The Court further noted that prejudice only becomes a factor after diligence is first established.  Samsung unsuccessfully sought to amend its contentions for five prior art references.

For the Mac OS X 10.0 reference, diligence was not shown because "Samsung admittedly knew about the reference shortly after filing its initial invalidity contentions in October 2011."  Order at 3.  The Court rejected Samsung's argument that discovery delays by Apple excuse Samsung's delay in seeking an earlier supplement, based on Samsung's "acknowledgement" that it had good cause to supplement two and a half months earlier.

For the SuperClock reference, Samsung provided a proposed supplemental invalidity chart months earlier.  Diligence was again lacking because Samsung did not move to supplement the contention until several months after providing the invalidity chart for SuperClock.  Order at 5.

For the Glimpse prior art, Samsung admitted that it first became aware of the prior art, months before the requested supplement, during a deposition of an Apple employee.  Samsung, however, had difficulty utilizing a function version of the underlying source code.  Again the Court focused on the timeline of events, determining that the delay in moving to supplement negated the predicate diligence for the proposed supplement.  Order at 6-8.

For the Cirque GlidePoint reference, Samsung provided timely invalidity contentions that incorporated a patent directed to GlidePoint.  Samsung then sought discovery from Cirque for additional documentation about GlidePoint.  The Court focused on purported delays in seeking additional GlidePoint information through third party discovery, determining that Samsung had not established diligence in pursuing the additional discovery.  The Court therefore denied Samsung's request as to GlidePoint.  Order at 8-9.

For the Synaptics patent, the Court explained the different ways that Samsung was aware of the Synaptics patent.  Because Samsung did not provide an invalidity chart for this patent, the Court again determined Samsung failed to show diligence pursuing contentions involving the Synaptics patent.  Samsung relied on discovery issues involving third party discovery of Synaptics, but the Court focused on the requested supplement as to the patent itself, which Samsung was aware of earlier in the discovery period.  Order at 9-10.

Takeaways - this is a difficult case to reconcile.  It is understandable why Samsung did not seek immediate supplement for some of the prior art.  It lacked documentation to provide a compliant proposed supplement in support of its motion.  To avoid this problem in the future, it may be advisable to pursue a supplement once a party becomes aware of relevant prior art.  In other words, seek to amend contentions even without complete information to support the contentions, and be prepared to aggressively pursue discovery to obtain the missing information.  Although the proposed supplements will not necessarily include the actual contentions because of missing information, there will not be a time lag between first knowledge of the prior art and the underlying motion seeking to supplement your contentions, while you pursue the supporting documentation.

Cited prior art was a due diligence factor in denying invalidity contention supplement

In Nomadix, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Company et al. (March 22, 2012), Judge Pregerson (Central District of California) denied defendants' request to supplement their invalidity contentions.  The Court noted that for amending prior art disclosures, good cause determination factors include:

the relevance of the newly-discovered prior art, whether the request to amend is motivated by gamesmanship, the difficulty of locating the prior art, and whether the opposing party will be prejudiced by the amendment.


(quoting Acco Brands, 2008 WL 2168379, at *1 (N.D. Cal. May 22, 2008)).

The decision appears to suggest that the new prior art (the Vos article) is relevant and that the amendment request is not motivated by gamesmanship.  Although these factors may have favored the defendants, the Court seemed troubled that the defendants did not identify the Vos article sooner, noting that:

Defendants fail to adequately explain their delay in discovering the Vos article, when it was one of only eleven references cited in the 1997 SPINACH paper upon which they based their initial invalidity contentions. (p. 7).

As for prejudice to Plaintiff Nomadix, the supplemental contentions extend beyond the Vos article.

Defendants argue that there is no prejudice here, because they are not shifting or adding theories, but simply developing "the same theory set forth in the preliminary invalidity contentions in July 2010 and first supplemental invalidity contentions in July 2011."  (Reply at 8.)  Specifically, those contentions alleged that the '118 Patent and the SPINACH system rendered invalid Novadix's '894 and '716 Patents, respectively.  As Nomadix explains, however, Defendants seek to go well beyond developing these prior art theories.  Defendants now contend that the '118 Patent and SPINACH system invalidate several additional Nomadix patents.  Likewise, Defendants contend that three other patents are invalidated by a new reference - the Vos article.  In short, Defendants now theorize that prior art invalidates seven Nomadix patents, instead of only two.  Nomadix therefore reasonably argues that responding to these new contentions would require additional fact discovery, which is now closed.

Takeaways - allege invalidity against all asserted patents for each of your prior art references in your preliminary invalidity contentions, and, be sure to consider references to other prior art in your main prior documents because that may be a factor against you when requesting an invalidity contention supplement.


Court declines to limit the number of invalidity references ... for now

In Gen-Probe Incorporated v. Becton Dickinson And Company (February 22, 2012), Judge Benitez (Southern District of California) declined plaintiff's suggestion to limit the number of invalidity references applied against the asserted claims.  Plaintiff Gen-Probe reasoned that if it is required to limit the asserted claims:

it should be required to limit its claims only after the Final Invalidity Contentions are served.  In the alternative, Gen-Probe suggests the Court require it to limit its claims to sixty at this time, and further require it to limit the number to thirty after [Defendant] BD's Final Invalidity Contentions are served.  If the Court accepts this suggestion, Gen-Probe also seeks an order requiring BD to limit its Final Invalidity Contentions to no more than one anticipatory reference and one obviousness combination consisting of three or fewer references per asserted claim.


Order at 3.  The Court ultimately ordered Gen-Probe to limit its asserted claims to no more than 30 claims, and further ordered BD to serve Final Invalidity Contentions against the reduced set of 30 claims. The Court also provided a mechanism for Gen-Probe to assert additional claims beyond the set of 30 claims, and left open the issue for Gen-Probe to seek limitations on the number of references that could be asserted against the reduced claim set.  This last issue - limiting the number of prior art references - seems to be gaining traction.

Patent owners faced with limiting asserted claims are now trying to turn the tables on defendants by seeking to link a reduction in the number of asserted claims with a corresponding limit on the number of applied prior art references.  We've now seen this strategy in at least two other cases.  In an earlier post, we noted that Judge Folsom limited the number of Defendants' prior art references (limit of 18) that could be maintained against the Plaintiff's reduced set of claims.  We also saw a tiered prior art reduction procedure established in Oracle v. Google.

If this trend continues, certain factors should be considered before establishing an arbitrary limit on prior art references.

First let's consider whether any efficiency is gained by limiting the number of asserted claims.  Then let's consider whether the same concepts hold true when limiting the number of prior art references.  When limiting asserted claims, an efficiency is gained in that the number of claim construction issues/terms/disputes is likely to be lower with a smaller set of claims.  A further benefit is that less analysis is required by lawyers and experts for at least infringement, non-infringement, invalidity and validity grounds because of the claim number reduction.

What are the benefits to limiting the number of prior art references?  When compared with limiting asserted claims, generally speaking, a limit on the number of prior art references has little impact on reducing claim construction issues.  Further, the number of prior art references does not have an impact on infringement/non-infringement issues.  The best that can be said for limiting the number of prior art references is that invalidity/validity expert reports might be reduced in scope with less references.  More importantly for patent owners, though, limits on references would mean less prior art would need to be considered when assessing the relative strength of remaining claims claims or when reducing the set of claims.

We've seen that at least one party, Gen-Probe, tried to secure a large advantage when it proposed that defendant's Final Invalidity Contentions be limited

to no more than one anticipatory reference and one obviousness combination consisting of three or fewer references per asserted claim.

At the very least, any proposed reductions should consider:  (1) the complexity of the claims (number of limitations and length of the claim); (2) what constitutes a reference for counting purposes (do multiple documents about the same prior art product count as multiple references); (3) the breadth of the claims (do the claims read broadly and implicate different technologies across multiple industries rendering more relevant prior art available); and (4) different limits for dependent and independent claims.

More issues to consider:  should limits be linked to the number of asserted claims?  should the limits be in the aggregate or on a claim-by-claim basis?  how to assess the complexity of a claim when imposing limits?  should the reduced number of references be linked as a percentage of the initial number of references applied against the asserted claims?

More as this issue evolves.

District Court decisions about invalidity contentions

We continue to update our collection of district court decisions addressing invalidity contentions.  The decisions include issues about supplementing contentions, motions to strike contentions, motions to amend contentions and late disclosure of contentions. We've now arranged the decisions by year of decision and jurisdiction.  With future updates to our case repository plug-in, we hope to provide a summary of the issues decided in each decision.

The decisions can be found here, or via links in the right hand side bar.

We are alerted to these decisions via daily email via an excellent case reporting service - DocketNavigator - this patent-related service reports on newly filed cases, verdict awards, claim construction terms and recent district court decisions.  We have no affiliation with DocketNavigator, although we highly recommend the service.

EDTX - Judge Folsom limits number of prior art references against asserted claims

In a recent Eastern District of Texas decision on February 14, 2012, Judge Folsom ruled that:

Defendants shall serve Invalidity Contentions that narrow the number of asserted prior art references in their Invalidity Contentions to no more than fifteen (15) individual references (i.e., not groups of references) asserted per claim or no more than eighteen (18) individual references per dependent claim where Plaintiff is also asserting a corresponding claim from which the dependent claim depends.  Defendants may not multiple [sic] the number of claims by fifteen or eighteen and arrive at a gross number of possible references.


While the result of this order might bring cheer to Plaintiffs' counsel in E.D. Tex., the order references an agreement memorialized in the Docket Control Order whereby "the parties had previously agreed that Defendants would narrow the number of asserted prior art references."  We're still reviewing the briefs (Plaintiff's Motion, Defendants' Opposition, Plaintiff's Reply) on this motion, but it appears that the Plaintiff agreed to limit the number of asserted claims in exchange for an agreement that the Defendants would consider limits on the number of relied upon prior art references.

Click the link to read the decision in MicroUnity Systems Engineering, Inc. v. Apple, Inc. et al.

Court decisions addressing invalidity contentions from 2008-2011

We have now posted links to over 50 district court decisions addressing supplementing invalidity contentions, motions to strike invalidity contentions, motions to amend invalidity contentions under local rules, late disclosure of invalidity contentions, and other nuances involving invalidity contentions (invalidity charts, section 103 contentions, differences between contentions and expert disclosures). In the near future these cases will be arranged into various categories.  For now, each decision is identified by Judge, year of decision, and litigants.

The decisions can be found here.

"New" obviousness combinations excluded in ED Texas

This August 10 decision by Judge Folsom addresses Plaintiff's motion to strike "twenty eight new combinations of prior art" relied upon by Defendants.  Plaintiff argues that the combinations were not disclosed earlier as required by the Eastern District of Texas local patent rules, but admits that the underlying references were identified and charted as part of the Defendants' local rules contentions.

Defendants contended that:

The Court analyzed Defendants' argument under the non-exhaustive, five-factor test and determined that supplementation was not warranted.  In particular, the Court noted that:

The Court noted that local rule P.R. 3-3(b) requires a disclosure of the combinations that render a claim obvious.  Even though the prior art references were previously disclosed, the particular combinations were not disclosed.  The Defendants could have avoided this issue had the combinations been disclosed in its preliminary invalidity contentions.  For some reason, the combinations were not set forth even though each reference was included in a limitation-by-limitation claim chart in the contentions.  As discussed previously, PatDek provides all reasonable prior art combinations for use in preliminary invalidity contentions.  The Defendants did analyze the prior art, the specific combinations now relied upon were just not disclosed.

The Court rejected the balance of Defendants' other arguments.

We designed PatDek to specifically handle a substantial number of prior art references and to identify all prior art combinations (two or three-way combinations) that teach all elements of each target claim.  At the early stages of litigation, it is very difficult to know the specific combinations that will be important later in the litigation.  Because the local rules require an identification of relied upon combinations at this early stage, we designed PatDek to perform this analysis for you.

The PatDek license fee for an entire case is likely to be significantly less than the cost of motion practice directed to excluding your invalidity contentions.  Beyond the cost savings, you'll have all of your prior art organized to allow for changes to be made as the case evolves toward the expert and summary judgment phases.  Let us know if you would like access to PatDek for a 15 day, no-cost demonstration.

More about joint defense group invalidity contentions

For joint defense groups (JDGs) crafting invalidity contentions, the overriding problem is merging the resulting analysis together.  JDGs are formed with the desire to collaborate and share resources.  There are several ways a JDG can collaborate to create common invalidity defenses. In one arrangement, the law firms forming the JDG divide up the references, draft invalidity charts for the references, and then circulate the charts to other JDG members.  One law firm then collects the charts to assemble the JDG's invalidity contentions. The contentions would include a list of references, proposed reference combinations, a coordinating document with reservations of rights, and an appendix of charts.

In another arrangement, each JDG member could serve their own individualized contentions, with the group merely exchanging charts for the set of prior art references.  Each defendant simply leverages the initial charts and decides whether to include all or portions of the group's charts in its individualized contentions.

Can this process be improved?

We think we can help.  If you've been reading this blog, you'll understand that we take a different approach.  Instead of jumping into the process of prior art review and generating charts, we propose taking a step back to consider what claim features need to be extracted from the prior art.

Once a set of features have been identified (representing all aspects of the target claims), the analysis process begins and ends by looking for these features in the prior art.  With this process, the group's analysis of the features can be merged together. References can be directly combined into multi-reference charts.  The relationship between multiple references can also be better understood.  Gaps in the prior art can be identified quicker.  This leads to a better assessment of whether additional searching is required.  Charts can also be generated on command for any reference against any claim.

With a web-based portal for the case, each JDG member has access to the prior art library and everyone's analysis.  Each prior art contribution can be reviewed in real time.  Since invalidity charts can be generated at the click of a mouse, the review process, not the charting process, takes center stage.  A list of all references can be delivered with a few clicks so no reference is omitted.  Combination lists can be easily generated.  The main benefit, though, is that the group has a comprehensive understanding of each reference through various reports.

Under a traditional approach with each defendant just creating invalidity charts, you were less likely to understand the references reviewed by other defendants.  To help in understanding prior art reviewed by another JDG member, we've created a report feature that summarizes each reference.  Instead of looking at a reference's disclosure in the form of an invalidity chart, we provide a feature-based report for each reference.  The report provides citations and associated text for each feature disclosed by the prior art reference.

Here is an excerpt from a prior art reference report:

prior art reference report excerpt

You can see that quoted passages, citations, and the target patents for this reference are all included in the report.  Depending upon priority date issues, you can designate whether a reference should be linked to a target patent for your invalidity contentions.

If you'd like to see the entire 8-page report for this reference, just send us a quick note and we'll send it out to you for further review.