Supreme Court hears arguments in patent disputes News
Supreme Court hears arguments in patent disputes

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments in two cases regarding federal patent law on Tuesday. In Commil USA, LLC v Cisco Systems, Inc. [transcript, PDF], the court must decide whether the federal circuit erred in holding that a defendant’s belief that a patent is invalid constitutes a defense to induced infringement under 35 USC § 271(b) [text]. Commil originally sued Cisco Systems in federal court in Texas, claiming patent infringement related to WiFi products [SCOTUSblog op-ed]. Commil has a patent on a system that allows wireless communication devices to move from point to point on a WiFi computer network without interruptions to the network signal. The Federal Circuit held Cisco’s good-faith belief that the wireless patents at issue were invalid could serve as a defense [Law360 report] to the claim that the company induced infringement [Cornell LII backgrounder].

In Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc. [transcript, PDF], the issue in the case is whether the court should overrule Brulotte v. Thys Co. [opinion], which held that “a patentee’s use of a royalty agreement that projects beyond the expiration date of the patent is unlawful per se.” The patented object in this case is a spider-man toy [SCOTUSblog op-ed] which allows an individual to shoot foam string from the toy in a way that the Marvel character may shoot his web. Brulotte is a 1964 decision by the court, which held that a patent holder is barred from collecting royalties after the patent expires. The agreement between Kimble, the toy inventor, and Marvel, the manufacturer, allowed for the conveyance of royalty payments after the patent expired. However, once the patent did expire, Marvel refused to pay Kimble royalties. Marvel has prevailed in the lower courts based on the precedent in Brulotte, which Kimble argues the court should overturn.