A Free Speech Proper to Accuse Others of Patent Infringement

by Dennis Crouch

Rule 1 of the Federal Guidelines of Civil Process units out a daring purpose for civil litigation: “the simply, speedy, and cheap willpower of each motion.”  Patent litigation isn’t speedy; fairly costly; and, many would argue, usually unjust.  Within the case beneath, one social gathering tried some fast aid by way of preliminary injunction, however the Federal Circuit has vacated on free-speech grounds.

Mild-Netics owns U.S. Patent Nos. 7,549,779 and eight,128,264 that cowl easy-to-hang Christmas lights. These lights embody a magnetic backing that may connect simply to steel surfaces (reminiscent of a steel roof).  Mild-Netics sued after discovering competing merchandise on sale from Vacation Shiny Lights (HBL).  And, as well as, Mild-Netics despatched a discover to varied gentle shops warning them that HBL lights had been infringing. Lite-Netics LLC v. Nu Tsai Capital LLC (DBA Holiday Bright Lights), — F.4th — (Fed. Cir. 2023). 

Mild-Netics sued for infringement, HBL responded with unfair competitors counterclaims. The district court docket rapidly issued a TRO followed-up with a preliminary injunction towards the patentee.  Decide Buescher (D.Neb.) ordered the patentee to (1) cease publicly stating that HBL copied the invention and (2) cease telling HBL clients that they is also accountable for infringement.   A part of the district court docket’s justification right here was a preliminary consideration of the deserves of the lawsuit: narrowed declare development eradicated literal infringement; and a discovering that the patentee was estopped from asserting DOE.   At base, the difficulty has to do with the that means of the article “a”: can “a” be plural? Right here, the declare requires a light-weight socked with “a neodymium magnet [having] a pull energy of at the least 5 kilos” whereas the accused gadget makes use of a number of magnets.

On attraction, the Federal Circuit has vacated and remanded — holding that the district court docket went too far in limiting the patentee’s protected speech.

Objectively Baseless: The Federal Circuit has given patentees a fairly-wide berth with regard to public accusations of infringement and buyer cease-and-desist letters. Particularly, the court docket has held that state court docket tort claims related to out-of-court patent enforcement actions are preempted by federal legislation until the patent holder “acted in dangerous religion.” Breaking this down, the court docket requires that the infringement allegation be “objectively baseless” and that the patentee carried out its affairs with subjective dangerous religion. Though the court docket doesn’t conduct a full First-Modification evaluation, the excessive burden is justified by our particular person liberty curiosity (that features company business speech).

In its choice, the Federal Circuit concluded that it’s not-unreasonable for a patentee to claim {that a} claimed “magnet” may very well be infringed by two or extra magnets.

Selections of this court docket lend robust help to the proposition that, “in patent parlance,” at the least in an open-ended “comprising” declare, use of “a” or “an” earlier than a noun naming an object is known to imply to “a number of” until the context sufficiently signifies in any other case. . . .

The patent makes use of “the” or “mentioned” when referring again to an antecedent “a” phrase, however that utilization doesn’t itself suffice to demand the singular that means as a result of if the “a” phrase means “a number of,” so would the following reference-back phrases.

Slip Op.  The court docket notes that the patentee’s embodiments all simply present a single magnet, however the court docket discovered nothing within the specification that limits the declare to that embodiment.

There is no such thing as a “current invention” or different specification language that restricts the invention to a single (or single-piece) magnet, and there are not any structural limitations within the claims that implicitly demand such a configuration. Importantly, and extra usually, nothing within the ’779 patent signifies that the evident function of the magnet on the socket base (to connect the sunshine string to a steel floor) may be achieved solely, or with specified effectiveness, via a single (or single-piece) magnet, moderately than a plurality of magnets collectively having the required pull power.

Id.  Likewise, the Federal Circuit additionally concluded that the doctrine of equivalents may very well be pursued. The patentee had argued that “two semicircular magnets within the Magnetic Wire light-fixture bases are equal to the one [claimed] magnet.”  The Federal Circuit discovered “nothing unreasonable” about that allegation.  Additional, Lite-Netics didn’t make any amendments or statements throughout prosecution regarding the variety of magnets in a method that may create estoppel.

On remand, the patentee could search a narrower preliminary injunction — specializing in the patent not mentioned by the Federal Circuit.  Nonetheless, the Federal Circuit’s dialogue offers a giant increase to the patentee’s case.