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Audrey Millemann is a shareholder with Weintraub Tobin and practices in the Intellectual Property and Litigation sections. She is a litigator and a registered patent attorney.  Audrey advises clients on all issues of intellectual property law, including infringement, validity, and ownership of patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

Business owners often ask whether they should protect their intellectual property with a trade secret or a patent. The answer is:  It depends.

What Can Be Protected? 

The first thing to consider is what it is that needs to be protected.  A trade secret protects a business’s confidential and proprietary information.  The information can be a formula, process, or customer list.

A patent protects an invention. The invention can be an article of manufacture, a machine, a process (such as software), or a composition of matter (like a chemical formula).
Continue Reading Trade Secret or Patent?

There are many requirements for obtaining a patent.  One of those is the written description requirement.  Pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §112(a), the patent must describe the invention in writing.  If the written description requirement is not met, the patent won’t be granted.  If the patent has already been issued, it can be invalidated for failure to satisfy the written description requirement.  Recently, in Juno Therapeutics, Inc. v. Kite Pharma, Inc., 2021 U.S. App. LexIs 25706 (Fed. Cir. 2021), a damage award of $1.2 billion for patent infringement was reversed for just this reason.
Continue Reading Written Description Remains Critical to Patents

How many of the lawyers out there liked hypotheticals in law school? I did not, but this case prompted me to write one!  So, for those of you who enjoy hypotheticals, here it is:

Company A, a North Carolina LLC, owns four patents.  A new company is formed, Company B, a Texas LLC.  Company B has the same corporate address in North Carolina and the same five shareholders as Company A.  Company B conducts no business activities.  About 20 days after Company B is formed, Company A assigns its four patents to Company B, with an agreement that gives Company B the rights to sue for patent infringement only in the district court for the Western District of Texas.  (And assume that the Western District of Texas is a very fast and favorable court for plaintiffs in patent infringement cases.)  About ten days after the assignment, Company B files two lawsuits for patent infringement in the Western District of Texas, alleging that the defendants sell mobile devices that use third party applications that infringe the patents.  The defendants move to transfer the cases to the district court in the Northern District of California on grounds of convenience.  They allege that the Western District of Texas is not the proper venue because most of the third-party applications were researched and developed in the Northern District of California, while none were developed in the Western District of Texas, and several witnesses and inventors were located in the Northern District of California, while none were in the Western District of Texas.  Here’s the question: Should the district court for the Western District of Texas grant the motions to transfer?
Continue Reading You Can’t Manipulate Venue!

Patents protect inventions.  However, patents protect only certain inventions.  In order to be patentable, an invention must fall within one of four categories of patent-eligible subject matter: articles of manufacture, machines, processes, and compositions of matter. 35 U.S.C. §101.  There are some things that are not patentable (i.e. are patent-ineligible subject matter): laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas.

In 2014, in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, 573 U.S. 208, 216, 219 (2014), the Supreme Court established a two-part test to determine whether an invention is patent-eligible.  In the first step, a determination is made as to whether the claimed invention falls within one of the categories of patent-ineligible subject matter.  If it does, the second step is performed:  a determination of whether the claimed invention has an inventive concept that transforms the patent-ineligible subject matter into something patentable.


Continue Reading Once Again, Generic Computer Systems That Do Routine Functions are Not Patentable!