IP Law Alert Blog

US Patent and Trademark Office Measures Taken in View of COVID-19 Outbreak: What Applicants and You Should Know

US Patent and Trademark Office Measures Taken in View of COVID-19 Outbreak: What Applicants and You Should Know

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has implemented several measures over the past week to assist patent and trademark applicants in view of the COVID-19 outbreak and its disruption to businesses. The USPTO stresses that, until further notice, USPTO operations will continue without interruption. Below are the key USPTO measures and what you should know if you have a pending patent or trademark application, are planning to file such an application, or are involved actively in a PTAB proceeding. Unlike the European Patent Office and Canadian Intellectual Property Office, which have eased the burden on their patent applicants by extending all deadlines until at least the earliest April 17 and April 1, 2020, respectively, the USPTO has offered more limited relief. On March 16, 2020, the USPTO announced that it will not extend any deadlines, including new and existing patent and trademark application, prosecution, and PTAB deadlines. Instead, the USPTO will waive revival petition fees for those whose patent applications were deemed abandoned or had reexamination proceedings terminated when the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak led to a missed deadline. This waiver will also apply to trademark applications labeled abandoned or whose registrations were canceled or expired based on...

New Decision on Asserting the Defend Trade Secrets Act Against Foreign Entities

New Decision on Asserting the Defend Trade Secrets Act Against Foreign Entities

A recent federal court decision concluding that a Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) claim could go forward against a UK-based defendant should be read both by foreign entities doing business in the United States and by U.S.-based entities that work with foreign affiliates. The case highlights the DTSA’s strong reach over both activity and actors residing outside the United States. In vPersonalize Inc. v. Magnetize Consultants Ltd., Civ. No. 18-CV-01836-BJR, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18491 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 3, 2020), a UK-based defendant moved to dismiss a DTSA claim arguing that the Economic Espionage Act’s extraterritorial provision should not apply to private civil actions under the DTSA, should not apply to a foreign entity, and should not apply unless a foreign defendant is alleged to have committed “an act in furtherance” of the violation. The court rejected these arguments and declined to dismiss the DTSA claim. The dispute centers on the relationship between 18 U.S.C. § 1837 entitled, “Applicability to conduct outside the United States” and 18 U.S.C. § 1836, which provides a private right of action under the DTSA. Section 1837 states that “this chapter” (which includes sections 1831-1839 of Title 18) applies to conduct outside the U.S. if...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Fee Award in DTSA Case

Ninth Circuit Reverses Fee Award in DTSA Case

The Ninth Circuit recently added to the small body of appellate court precedent interpreting the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), reversing an attorney fee award which had been granted by a district court in Washington. The reversal stemmed from the appellate court’s de novo determination that no circumstances existed to support a finding that the suit was brought and maintained in bad faith. In RJB Wholesale, Inc. v. Castleberry, the plaintiff sued a former sales representative for violation of the DTSA, claiming misappropriation of a customer list and company cell phone programmed with customer contact information. After the close of discovery, the defendant moved for summary judgment that the plaintiff had not proven any damages caused by the alleged misappropriation. The district court granted the motion, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, however, the district court’s fee award to the prevailing defendant. The decision follows on the heels of a decision from the Fourth Circuit, Akira Technologies, Inc. v. Conceptant, Inc., affirming the denial of attorney fees where the plaintiff “had at least some chance of success” on its DTSA claim and the Fifth Circuit in Dunster Live, LLC v. Lonestar Logos Mgmt. Co., LLC, where the...

Federal Court Denies Order to Show Cause with Temporary Restraints in Recent Defend Trade Secrets Act Case

Federal Court Denies Order to Show Cause with Temporary Restraints in Recent Defend Trade Secrets Act Case

A recent federal trade secret decision may spur employers to conduct forensic analyses of the computers of departing executives either before or immediately after their departures. In McKinsey & Co., Inc. v. Shi, a consulting firm sued a former senior partner asserting violation of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), among other claims. McKinsey alleged that the defendant misappropriated confidential McKinsey and client documents over the thirteen week period preceding his last day of work. Shi had worked at McKinsey or one of its affiliates for ten years before he began working for a competitor three days after his departure. In an unusual fact pattern for DTSA cases, before McKinsey’s federal lawsuit was filed, the former employee had sued McKinsey in state court, alleging his entitlement to almost $1 million in discretionary compensation and asserting claims for fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of contract, among other claims. In the process of reviewing documents for discovery in the state court action, McKinsey allegedly discovered the misappropriation. It then filed a verified complaint in New Jersey federal court with an order to show cause for temporary restraints and request for expedited discovery. The court declined to enter the order to show cause,...

Another Motion to Dismiss Federal Defend Trade Secret Act Claim is Denied

Another Motion to Dismiss Federal Defend Trade Secret Act Claim is Denied

Following a national trend, another Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) claim has survived a motion to dismiss filed in a California district court. The DTSA enables trade secret owners to pursue trade secret misappropriation claims in federal court if the trade secret is related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce. In the recent Volans-i, Inc. v. SpektreWorks, Inc. case, the parties both developed and built long-range high-payload aircrafts known as drones. Pursuant to a consulting agreement, the defendant allegedly assisted Volans-i with design, engineering, testing and other work related to Volans-i’s C-10 and C-20 drones and had access to Volans-i’s trade secrets related to the same. The consulting agreement allegedly prohibited SpektreWorks from using Volans-i’s confidential information or its consultant work product other than to provide consulting services to Volans-i. Volans-i alleged that in violation of the DTSA and in breach of the parties’ agreement, the defendant sold a knockoff of its C-10 containing an avionics board which copied the design of Volans-i’s avionics board and utilized many identical components—thereby “copying plaintiff’s design and component choice[.]” 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90923, at *5. In its motion to dismiss, SpektreWorks argued...

Supreme Court Invalidates Ban on Immoral or Scandalous Trademarks

Supreme Court Invalidates Ban on Immoral or Scandalous Trademarks

In a long-awaited decision, Iancu v. Brunetti, the Supreme Court held – in a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice Kagan – that the Lanham Act’s prohibition on registration of “immoral or scandalous” trademarks violates the First Amendment. The decision completes a trilogy of cases that, in recent years, stirred up significant interest on the interplay between freedom of speech and certain Lanham Act trademark prohibitions. Initially, the constitutionality of the bar against registration of disparaging marks was brought to nationwide media attention through the Redskins case (Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc), previously reported on by Gibbons, which culminated the legal effort by Native American tribes to delineate the term “redskin” as an offensive and disparaging racial slur, resulting in the initial cancellation of the eponymous mark owned by the Washington Redskins. Pending review by the Supreme Court, the Blackhorse case was cut short by another case, Matal v. Tam. In that 2017 decision, the Court struck down a Lanham Act provision that prevented registration for marks that are deemed “disparaging,” thus rendering moot any further review of Blackhorse. Because the Court in Matal had already declared the “disparaging” bar unconstitutional, it comes as no surprise that the Section 2(a) prohibition (15...

FDA Will Now Provide More Data on 180-Day Exclusivity in the Orange Book

FDA Will Now Provide More Data on 180-Day Exclusivity in the Orange Book

In a recent alert, the FDA announced that effective June 18, 2019, the Agency will publish additional data in the Orange Book Paragraph IV Certifications list. To enhance the already published data, the Orange Book will now include (1) the number of potential first applicants; (2) the 180-day decision date; (3) the date of the “first applicant” approval; (4) the date of first commercial marketing by any first applicant; and (5) the expiration date of the last qualifying patent. According to the FDA, the updated data listing comports with the Agency’s commitment under the Drug Competition Action Plan where the FDA “committed to enhancing efficiency of the development and approval of ANDAs, with the ultimate goal of more approvals.” Historically, the Orange Book Paragraph IV Certifications list has contained relevant information related to 180-day eligibility for generic drug products. Until recently, the listings included the name of the drug product, dosage form, dosage strength(s), the reference listed drug, the New Drug Application Number and the date upon which the first substantially complete application containing a Paragraph IV certification was submitted to the Agency. The new data will provide greater clarity to Hatch-Waxman litigants in a variety of ways. More specifically,...

Is Employer to Whom Trade Secrets are Allegedly Disclosed a Necessary Party in DTSA Claim Against Former Employee?

Is Employer to Whom Trade Secrets are Allegedly Disclosed a Necessary Party in DTSA Claim Against Former Employee?

Given increased employee mobility, claims under the Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) are on the rise. The DTSA provides a federal cause of action for misappropriation of a trade secret related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce. See 18 U.S.C. § 1836(b). When considering a complaint against a former employee for violations under the DTSA, is the new employer to whom information is allegedly disclosed a necessary and indispensable party? A Massachusetts district court recently said no. In Phio Pharms. Corp. v. Khvorova, the plaintiff Phio Pharmaceuticals Corporation (PPC) sued the defendant—the company’s former Chief Scientific Officer—for misappropriation under the DTSA. PPC alleged that the defendant assigned to U Mass Medical School (defendant’s new employer and competitor of PPC) a patent application describing a class of molecules that PPC and the defendant allegedly investigated while the defendant was working for PPC. PPC sought the return of all trade secret information allegedly in the defendant’s possession and an injunction against further use or disclosure of its confidential information. The defendant moved to dismiss claiming that U Mass was an indispensable party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. The court...

District Court Must Consider Whether the Patentee Must be Joined Before Dismissing the Case for Lack of Statutory Standing

District Court Must Consider Whether the Patentee Must be Joined Before Dismissing the Case for Lack of Statutory Standing

The question of who must join a patent infringement suit often raises interesting questions of rights, obligations, and control of the litigation. In the global marketplace with increased licensing arrangements, the extent of retaining rights can have a direct impact on the viability of a lawsuit and protecting intellectual property. Recently, the Federal Circuit in Lone Star Silicon Innovations v. Nanya Technology provided further clarification on what meets the standing requirement to bring a patent infringement case, and for dismissing a case for lack of standing. In this patent litigation, the asserted patents (twelve in all) were originally assigned to Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). AMD later executed an agreement purporting to transfer “all right, title and interest” in the patents to Lone Star. The transfer agreement, however, imposes several limitations on Lone Star. For example, Lone Star may only assert the patents against “Unlicensed Third Party Entit[ies]” specifically listed in the agreement. To add new entities, Lone Star and AMD both must agree. If Lone Star sues an unlisted entity, AMD has the right, without Lone Star’s approval, to sublicense the patents to the unlisted entity. Further, AMD can prevent Lone Star from assigning the patents, and AMD and its...