Federal Circuit Panel Majority Reaches Past Alleged Procedural Hurdles to Invalidate Ericsson Patent Under Alice, and Judge Newman Sounds an Alarm

April 15, 2020

A split panel of the Federal Circuit has reversed the denial of an Alice motion in the Eastern District of Texas, granting summary judgment in TCL’s favor—wiping away a $75M jury verdict for Ericsson, plus a $25M enhancement for willfulness, at the same time. The two-judge majority opinion characterizes the invalidated claims, recited in a patent generally related to “controlling access to a platform for a mobile terminal for a wireless telecommunications system”, as patent-ineligibly directed to the abstract idea of “controlling access to, or limiting permission to, resources”. To get there, the panel majority cleared away objections to its authority to hear an appeal on this issue at all—because the denial came in a pretrial summary judgment motion and because TCL did not preserve the issue for appeal throughout the ensuing trial—by, among other things, characterizing the denial of summary judgment as an “effective grant of patent validity”. That move prompted a dissent that takes issue with nearly every aspect of the panel majority’s decision, including to hear an appeal of this issue at all and its treatment of the substance, which, warns the dissent, could “import Section 101 invalidity into virtually all existing patents”.

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