The answer is “Yes” because the U.S. government has waived sovereign immunity for claims of patent infringement.  This means the U.S. government can be sued for patent infringement in at least some instances.  However, special rules and certain limitations apply as explained in 28 U.S.C. § 1498, which states, in part:

(a) Whenever an invention described in and covered by a patent of the United States is used or manufactured by or for the United States without license of the owner thereof or lawful right to use or manufacture the same, the owner’s remedy shall be by action against the United States in the United States Court of Federal Claims for the recovery of his reasonable and entire compensation for such use and manufacture.

As a result, patent infringement lawsuits against the United States government, are not brought in Federal district courts but rather in the Court of Federal Claims, which is a special court “authorized to hear primarily money claims founded upon the Constitution, federal statutes, executive regulations, or contracts, express or implied in fact, with the United States.”  See https://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/.  Further, a patent owner cannot sue a federal contractor who made the allegedly infringing product or performed the allegedly infringing method, but instead, must sue the U.S. government.  Note, however, the U.S. government’s contract with the federal contractor may require the contractor to indemnify the government for liability and costs.
Continue Reading Can the U.S. Government Be Liable for Patent Infringement?

The case of Egenera, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc. raised the question of whether inventors named on a patent can be repeatedly changed as litigation strategy changes. Because of judicial estoppel, the district court said no way.  But, on appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said no problem—at least no problem in this case.

Mr. Shulter was listed as an inventor on Egenera, Inc.’s (“Egenera”) patent application and the resulting patent, U.S. Patent No. 7,231,430 (the “’430 Patent”).  The ‘430 patent relates to “a platform for automatically deploying a scalable and reconfigurable virtual network” of processors.  The claimed approach alleviates the need for physical reconfiguration of processors by allowing “processing resources [to] be deployed rapidly and easily through software.”
Continue Reading No Judicial Estoppel in the Case of the On-Again, Off-Again Patent Inventor

An unpublished decision from the Northern District of California emphasizes how important it is for attorneys to follow patent local rules.

Patent local rules are rules that many federal district courts have for patent infringement cases. These rules supplement the regular local rules for that court and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and allow the courts that have a lot of patent infringement cases to more efficiently manage those cases. Patent local rules are also helpful to the parties and their counsel, as they provide a standard structure and some certainty to the litigation process.
Continue Reading Make Sure You Follow the Patent Local Rules!

In f’real Foods, LLC et al v. Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. et al, 1-16-cv-00041 (DDE 2020-07-16, Order) (Colm F. Connolly), plaintiffs freal Foods, LLC and Rich Products Corporation sued defendants Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. and Hershey Creamery Company for infringement of four patents on four accused products that are high performance blenders manufactured by Hamilton Beach. After a four-day jury trial, the jury found that all four accused products infringed various claims of the asserted patents, and that none of the asserted patents are invalid. The Court then turned to the plaintiffs’ motion for a permanent injunction.

The Court first noted that a plaintiff seeking a permanent injunction must demonstrate the four eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388,391 (2006) factors: “( 1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and ( 4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.” To satisfy the irreparable injury factor, a patentee must establish ( 1) that absent an injunction it will suffer irreparable injury and (2) that a sufficiently strong causal nexus relates the injury to the infringement. The Court also noted that the Supreme Court has cautioned lower courts that “[a]n injunction is a drastic and extraordinary remedy, which should not be granted as a matter of course” and when “a less drastic remedy … [is] sufficient to redress [ a plaintiffs] injury, no recourse to the additional and extraordinary relief of an injunction [is] warranted.”
Continue Reading Irreparable Harm for Permanent Injunction Supported by Lost Profits Award

An unborn baby’s DNA (“fetal DNA”) can be used to determine the sex of the baby as well as to test for conditions such as Down’s syndrome.  In the past, procedures to get samples of fetal DNA for testing involved sticking a large needle through the abdominal wall and into the uterus of the mother to obtain amniotic fluid, but such procedures are invasive and can be life threatening in some cases.  Sequenom Inc. devised and patented less invasive options and licensed them to Illumina, Inc.  Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. and others, however, challenged the patent eligibility of those options when accused of patent infringement.

Specifically, the various lawsuits have repeatedly brought into question whether the patent claims for these new prenatal tests and related methods are patent eligible under 35 U.S.C. §101 or if they are merely directed to ineligible natural phenomena.  In fact, in 2015, the Federal Circuit found Sequenom and Illumina’s patents (the “Original Patents”) were invalid as unpatentable because they were directed to a natural phenomenon.  This ruling raised many concerns in the industry as to which, if any, inventions of this type could be protected.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit: Sequenom’s Fetal DNA Claims Are Patent Eligible