The US Supreme Court’s decision in TC Heartland caused a dramatic realignment in patent venue through its holding that a corporation “resides” for venue purposes in its state of incorporation. However, while TC Heartland provided some much-needed clarity as to that first prong of the patent venue statute (28 USC Section 1400(b)), courts have split as to the statute’s second prong, which provides that venue is proper where a defendant “has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business”. One such ruling applying that prong, issued last July by District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, has highlighted the tension in this area of venue law. In that order, issued in a case that Fortress Investment Group LLC affiliate Seven Networks LLC brought against Google, Judge Gilstrap denied the defendant’s venue challenge, holding that certain Google servers maintained within third-party facilities in the Eastern District of Texas constituted a “regular and established place of business”. On February 5, the full Federal Circuit declined to revisit that decision for a second time, following its October denial of Google’s petition for mandamus review—once again prompting a sharp rebuke from dissenting Circuit Judge Jimmie Reyna (2018-0152).
Seven Networks LLC, an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC, has refreshed its sole active litigation campaign with a pair of new lawsuits against existing defendants Alphabet (Google) (2:18-cv-00477) and Samsung (2:18-cv-00474), asserting six patents not previously seen in litigation. The NPE accuses the companies of infringement through the provision of certain models of the Google Pixel smartphone and certain Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets. At issue are the devices’ features designed to maintain a network connection; manage apps and processes differently when a device is in use versus idle; enter a power save mode when the device has been idle for a period of time; disable certain network connections when the device is idle; and allow the user to manually enter a power save mode. These new complaints come on the heels of a recent, split Federal Circuit opinion that denied Google’s improper venue challenge in another Seven Networks lawsuit.
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw activity in August 2018 involving a variety of frequent litigants. This included petitions for inter partes review (IPR) filed against two NPEs controlled by Fortress Investment Group LLC, INVT SPE LLC and Uniloc 2017 LLC, the latter of which has in recent months cofiled a barrage of lawsuits with subsidiaries of Australian NPE Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited (Uniloc). The PTAB also instituted trial in August for IPRs against Uniloc 2017 and some of its campaign coplaintiffs, and in an IPR against an NPE controlled by patent attorney Brian Yates, whose US litigation has waned as he pursues a new patent licensing initiative through his company iPEL, Inc. Finally, the PTAB issued final decisions in August for IPRs against Uniloc, Empire IP LLC, and Quarterhill Inc.
This past May, Seven Networks LLC (an apparent affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC) launched a litigation campaign, filing concurrent Eastern District of Texas suits against Alphabet (Google), Samsung, and ZTE. Within a few weeks, Seven Networks dismissed the complaint against ZTE, in favor of re-filing in the Northern District of Texas. Now, the NPE faces both a motion to dismiss (or, in the alternative, transfer) in the Google case and a new action (3:17-cv-04600), filed by Google in the Northern District of California, seeking declaratory judgments of non-infringement of the same ten mobile communications patents asserted against it in Texas.
The same day that it voluntarily dismissed its case filed in May against ZTE in the Eastern District of Texas (2:17-cv-00440), Seven Networks LLC (an apparent affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC) refiled the suit, this time in the Northern District of Texas (3:17-cv-01495). Seven’s June 6 complaint accuses ZTE of infringing the same seven mobile communications patents (8,811,952; 9,247,019; 9,325,600; 9,351,254; 9,516,127; 9,516,129; 9,553,816) that were asserted in the earlier, Eastern District suit, again through the manufacture and sale of Android devices. Seven’s refiling follows the Supreme Court’s recent TC Heartland decision, in the wake of which another Fortress affiliate, INVT SPE LLC, last month moved cases against Apple and HTC from Delaware to New Jersey.
Seven Networks LLC has filed its first litigation campaign, although not its first patent litigation, with three new lawsuits, one each against Alphabet (Google) (2:17-cv-00442), Samsung (2:17-cv-00441), and ZTE (2:17-cv-00440). All three defendants are accused of infringing seven patents (8,811,952; 9,247,019; 9,325,600; 9,351,254; 9,516,127; 9,516,129; 9,553,816) through the manufacture and sale of Android mobile devices, with three more patents (8,078,158; 9,386,433; 9,444,812) asserted in the case against Google, targeting Google Play Store and Google’s authentication services. Seven’s complaints tout the importance of battery life in mobile devices, linking the purported inventions in many of the patents-in-suit to power-saving techniques and/or results. Seven is the successor to an operating company, appearing to have only recently turned to patent assertion.