The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) remained at the center of a heated public debate over the issue of tribal sovereign immunity in December 2017. Motions to dismiss filed by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in IPRs against several Allergan patents—acquired by the tribe and licensed back to their original owner to shield them through sovereign immunity—remain pending as the PTAB considers a wave of amicus briefs filed on both sides of the issue. The Board has since denied the tribe’s motion for an oral hearing on discovery related to alleged bias held by the USPTO and its leadership, and that bias’s effect on the selection of judges for the tribe’s case. Meanwhile, among the petitions for inter partes review (IPR) filed in December was one brought by Apple against MEC Resources, LLC, an entity owned by another Native American tribe, which took over an existing lawsuit asserting the challenged patent against Apple in the fall. Also in December, the Board issued institution decisions in petitions against Iridescent Networks, Inc.; Lone Star Silicon Innovations LLC; and publicly traded Quarterhill Inc.; while an IPR against Packet Intelligence LLC ended in an adverse judgment after petitioner Sandvine prevailed in a November trial.
Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. and Uniloc USA, Inc. (collectively, Uniloc) continue to grow the campaigns begun in 2017, of which there have been a dozen so far, even as USPTO assignment records suggest more litigation from the NPE may be coming. Last week, Uniloc added Lenovo (Motorola Mobility) (1:17-cv-01657) and Wink Labs (1:17-cv-01656) to a campaign over a patent, received from HP Enterprise (HPE), broadly related to exercising remote control over a wireless network. Motorola Mobility (1:17-cv-01658) was also added to the Uniloc campaign litigating another patent received from HPE, this one generally related to the exchange of information from a “portable computer” and a telephone, while Huawei (2:17-cv-01746) has been added to a sixth Uniloc campaign in 2017, that one litigating a former Fullpower Technologies patent broadly related to waking up a device based on its motion.
So far in 2017, Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. and Uniloc USA, Inc. (collectively, Uniloc) have initiated ten litigation campaigns, all of them against Apple, six asserting patents received from HP Enterprise (HPE), three asserting patents originally developed by Fullpower Technologies, and one asserting Uniloc’s own patent. In August and September, Uniloc added cases against Samsung to four of those campaigns, and it has now added cases against LG Electronics (LGE) to seven of them. All of the cases brought so far this month have been filed in the Northern District of Texas.
Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. and Uniloc USA, Inc. (collectively, Uniloc) have filed ten separate suits against Apple in 2017, adding a second case, against Samsung, in early August to one of those new campaigns. Within two weeks, Uniloc dropped that Samsung suit, without prejudice, but the NPE has now filed three more cases against Samsung, again adding the tech giant to campaigns begun earlier in the year against Apple. The first suit (2:17-cv-00650) asserts three patents broadly related to a device for monitoring human activity; the second (2:17-cv-00651), a single patent generally related to a device for counting its user’s steps; and the third (2:17-cv-00652), a single patent generally related to waking up a device based on its motion. Uniloc received all five patents, which were developed at Fullpower Technologies, in a May 2017 assignment. Various mobile devices made and sold by Samsung with the capacity to sense motion are the accused products.
Since the US Supreme Court issued its decision in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, RPX has seen an upswing in venue-related filings by both plaintiffs and defendants—with indications that some NPEs may be throwing in the towel on Texas, while others are seemingly digging in. Defendants have also begun to adapt their defensive strategies, asserting more comprehensive interpretations of the patent venue statute and proactively maintaining their right to bring venue challenges down the road.
On May 17, 2017, DP Technologies, an affiliate of California-based Fullpower Technologies, assigned five US patents to Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. The NPE, as patent owner, along with its affiliate Uniloc USA, Inc., as exclusive licensee, (collectively, Uniloc), has filed two separate lawsuits against Apple, each asserting one of the patents received from DP Technologies. The first case (2:17-cv-00469) accuses Apple of infringing a single patent (8,872,646) generally related to waking up a device based on its motion through the manufacture and sale of iPhones and the Apple Watch with “Raise to Wake functionality”. The second case (2:17-cv-00470) accuses Apple of infringing another former Fullpower Technologies patent (7,690,556), this one generally related to a device for counting its user’s steps. Infringement allegations focus on iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches capable of calculating steps taken, distance covered, and elevation changed. Both cases have been brought in the Eastern District of Texas, where Uniloc contends venue is proper.