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In two related appeals from inter partes review (IPR) proceedings, Finnegan successfully persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to vacate and remand the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) decisions that adversely affected three patents related to coaxial cable connectors owned by client PPC Broadband. In the first appeal, for a majority of the claims, the Federal Circuit agreed with PPC that the PTAB overlooked a key claim limitation, and it therefore vacated and remanded the obviousness decision. For the remainder of the claims in that appeal, the court affirmed the claim construction ruling as the broadest reasonable interpretation, but noted that it would not be the “correct” construction had the Phillips standard applied. Finally, the court also agreed with PPC that the PTAB erred in disregarding much of the evidence on secondary considerations, including the commercial success of the accused products. In the second appeal, the court likewise agreed with PPC and vacated the PTAB’s claim construction as being unreasonable, stating that while the construction may have been the broadest interpretation, it was not the broadest reasonable interpretation in light of the specification. The Federal Circuit thus vacated and remanded the invalidity determinations in both appeals.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found in favor of Finnegan client Unified Patents Inc., in Unified’s first case before the court. After Unified prevailed in an inter partes review (IPR) before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the patent owner, Clouding Corp., appealed the Board’s decision that Clouding’s claims relating to file synchronization and backup were unpatentable. Clouding also appealed the Board’s denial of its motion to amend. Less than two weeks after oral argument, the Federal Circuit summarily affirmed the PTAB’s final written decision in favor of Unified.

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) reversed a rejection of all patent claims in an inter partes reexamination filed against an Asetek patent related to pioneering computer cooling technology. Asetek previously asserted the patent in two separate district court litigations in the Northern District of California. Finnegan handled both cases, including one that went to a jury trial decision. Throughout the reexamination, Finnegan argued that the examiner had applied the wrong standard to interpret the claims, which resulted in an overly broad construction. The PTAB judges agreed and reversed the examiner on all issues, thus preserving the patent in full force.

The Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) filed a suit in the District of Delaware alleging that Finnegan client Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) had breached an inter-institutional agreement between the two parties, which pertained to a jointly owned pharmaceutical method of use patent for the treatment of renal osteodystrophy. Because the inter-institutional agreement between WashU and WARF was executed in 1995 and the patent was licensed to Abbott in 1998, Finnegan moved for summary judgment and dismissal on the grounds that WashU’s contract claims were barred by the applicable statues of limitations. The presiding judge dismissed the case, finding no evidence of inequitable, unfair, or misleading conduct on the part of WARF in its interactions with WashU, and that all claims were time-barred by the applicable statutes of limitations.

In a copyright infringement case involving an architectural work, plaintiff Humphreys & Partners Architects sued Finnegan client Lessard Design, Inc., alleging that Lessard’s apartment building infringed Humphreys’ condominium building design. Besides being high-rises, Humphreys alleged both buildings included two elevator cores connected by a fire or service corridor; a barbell-shaped floor plan thicker on the ends and thinner in the middle; corner units with diagonal entry access; and projecting elements at the cornice of the roof line. Lessard successfully moved for summary judgment for non-infringement in the Eastern District of Virginia, which found that none of the architectural elements asserted by Humphreys against Lessard were individually protectable. The court further ruled that even assuming the overall arrangement of those elements was protectable, the buildings were no more similar “than any two randomly selected high-rise multi-family projects would be based on building code regulations and industry standard practices.” Humphreys then appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The Eastern District of Virginia (E.D. Va.) also granted attorneys fees and costs to Lessard as the prevailing party.

Loramax filed patent infringement suits in the Eastern District of Texas against fifty companies, claiming that virtually any company email distribution service infringed an expired patent Loramax obtained. After Finnegan pressed an invalidity defense, which included an inter partes review (IPR), and filed motions to dismiss asserting invalidity under Section 101, Loramax voluntarily dismissed its claims against FedEx.

Finnegan client iFly Holdings LLC (iFly) served Indoor Skydiving Germany GMBH (ISG) with a complaint in the Eastern District of Texas, alleging infringement of its patent directed to vertical wind tunnels used for simulated skydiving. ISG then petitioned the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) to institute an inter partes review (IPR) of iFly’s patent claims as anticipated and obvious in view of several references. Finnegan secured a total non-institution win for iFly through arguments raised in its patent owner’s preliminary response, including that ISG failed to demonstrate the references it cited against iFly’s patent were prior art printed publications, that other prior art did not teach or suggest claim features relating to the staging area of the vertical wind tunnel, and that ISG did not provide adequate reasoning to support its obviousness grounds. The PTAB denied institution on all grounds, concluding that the petition failed to show a reasonable likelihood of success that any challenged claim was unpatentable.

Two months after Finnegan client Under Armour launched its new connected fitness product under the HEALTHBOX/UA HEALTHBOX mark and name, Healthbox Global Partners, LLC (HGP), a consulting firm for healthcare organizations and startups operating under the HEALTHBOX mark and name, filed claims against Under Armour for trademark infringement, unfair competition, Delaware dilution, and Delaware deceptive trade practices. HGP also filed a motion for preliminary injunction, asking the court to immediately order Under Armour to stop using HEALTHBOX/UA HEALTHBOX and to recall all products from store shelves. Under Armour submitted rebuttal arguments and factual declarations, as well as expert testimony on Under Armour’s damages if forced to rebrand. After oral argument, the court ruled in favor of Under Armour on all key points. HGP dropped the suit against Under Armour shortly thereafter.

Finnegan’s longstanding client LG Electronics won a major victory in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, which awarded more than $168 million in damages in a trademark counterfeiting case against nearly 20 companies accused of selling counterfeit and knock-off LG headsets. Although the Lanham Act gives courts broad discretion in determining the amount of statutory damages—allowing damages of anywhere from $200,000 to $2 million per mark if the counterfeiting is found to be willful—the court decided to award the statutory maximum of $2 million per mark given the strength and recognition of the LG brand and TONE™ products. Notably, the ruling has considerable teeth, as it came with a provision ordering financial payment providers to hand over funds previously frozen under the court’s preliminary injunction order.

Finnegan client PNC uses the mark SPENDOLOGY for online budgeting tools, and a third-party company, Spendology LLC, simultaneously began “using” the identical mark for virtually identical services. In an attempt to take advantage of the near-simultaneous adoption of the mark, the plaintiff repeatedly tried to extort money from PNC, alleging common law trademark infringement. This case was initially litigated at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), where PNC prevailed on a motion for summary judgment on the issue of trademark priority. The TTAB ruled in favor of PNC, finding PNC had prior rights in the mark. A suit was then filed in federal court seeking an injunction and $120 million in damages. Between the time when the TTAB made its ruling and the time when the plaintiff filed suit, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the B&B Hardware case, which held that TTAB decisions on issues of likelihood of confusion could have issue preclusive effect. Given that decision, Finnegan filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims on collateral estoppel grounds in view of the prior TTAB decision on the issue of “priority of use.” The presiding judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled in favor of PNC in a complete victory on the motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit. This was one of the first cases to apply the Supreme Court’s decision in B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, regarding the preclusive effect of TTAB decisions, and was the first to consider how that decision applies to issues other than likelihood of confusion. The case was appealed to the Fourth Circuit, where it was dismissed after briefing on a procedural ground, only to be reinstated and taken up on the merits. The Fourth Circuit squarely affirmed the district court ruling on the ground that the issue of priority decided by the TTAB was identical to the issue of priority presented to the district court. Finally, the plaintiff requested a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied.


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