The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with California-based Life Technologies Corp. in a patent infringement case that limits the international reach of U.S. patent laws.
The justices ruled unanimously that the company's shipment of a single part of a patented invention for assembly in another country did not violate patent laws.
Life Technologies supplied an enzyme used in DNA analysis kits to a plant in London and combined it with several other components to make kits sold worldwide. Wisconsin-based Promega Corp. sued, arguing that the kits infringed a U.S. patent.
A jury awarded $52 million in damages to Promega. A federal judge set aside the verdict and said the law did not cover export of a single component.
The federal appeals specializing in patent cases reversed and reinstated the verdict.
Patent laws are designed to prevent U.S. companies from mostly copying a competitor's invention and simply completing the final phase overseas to skirt the law. A violation occurs when "all or a substantial portion of the components of a patent invention" are supplied from the United States to a foreign location.
Writing for the high court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the law addresses only the quantity of components, not the quality. That means the law "does not cover the supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention," Sotomayor said.
Only seven justices took part in the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts heard arguments in the case, but later withdrew after discovering he owned shares in the parent company of Life Technologies.
The Supreme Court unanimously sided with smartphone maker Samsung on Tuesday in its high-profile patent dispute with Apple over design of the iPhone.
The justices said Samsung may not be required to pay all the profits it earned from 11 phone models because the features it copied from the iPhone were only a part of Samsung's devices.
Cupertino, California-based Apple had won a $399 million judgment against South Korea-based Samsung for infringing parts of the iPhone's patented design, but the case now returns to a lower court to decide what Samsung must pay.
The case is part of a series of disputes between the technology rivals that began in 2011. Apple accused Samsung of duplicating a handful of distinctive iPhone features for which Apple holds patents: the flat screen, the rounded rectangular shape of the phone and the layout of icons on the screen.
At issue was how much Samsung is required to compensate Apple under an 1887 law that requires patent infringers to pay "total profit." Apple said that means all the profits from the phone sales, while Samsung argued it was limited to profits related to the specific components that were copied.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that the law does not require damages to be based on the entire product, but can be limited to only a component of the product. The decision overturned a ruling from a federal appeals court in Washington, which said that Apple was entitled to all the profits.
But the high court declined to lay out a specific test for how such damage awards should be calculated. Sotomayor said doing so was not necessary and the justices left it up to lower courts to resolve.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday declined to temporarily block a lower court ruling that opens the world's best-selling multiple sclerosis drug to competition from generic rivals next month.
The decision is a victory for rivals challenging the patents of Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., maker of the drug Copaxone.
Teva claims the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit wrongly overturned five of its patents for the drug. That ruling allows rivals Mylan Inc., Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sandoz, Inc., to start selling cheaper generic versions in May instead of September 2015.
The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the case, but arguments won't take place until its new term begins in October and it could be next year before a decision is reached. Teva said it would suffer irreparable harm if the appeals court decision was not postponed. Copaxone brought the company $3.2 billion in U.S. sales last year.
In a one-page ruling, Roberts said he was not convinced Teva would suffer such harm. If Teva ultimately prevails in the case, Roberts said, the company would be able to recover damages from the generic rivals for past patent infringement. He acknowledged that Teva has "a fair prospect" of ultimately winning the case at the high court.
Roberts oversees emergency appeals from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears appeals in patent cases.
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that companies cannot patent parts of naturally-occurring human genes, a decision with the potential to profoundly affect the emerging and lucrative medical and biotechnology industries.
The high court's unanimous judgment reverses three decades of patent awards by government officials. It throws out patents held by Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics Inc. on an increasingly popular breast cancer test brought into the public eye recently by actress Angelina Jolie's revelation that she had a double mastectomy because of one of the genes involved in this case.
Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the court's decision, said that Myriad's assertion — that the DNA it isolated from the body for its proprietary breast and ovarian cancer tests were patentable — had to be dismissed because it violates patent rules. The court has said that laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable.
"We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated," Thomas said.
Patents are the legal protection that gives inventors the right to prevent others from making, using or selling a novel device, process or application. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years, but opponents of Myriad Genetics Inc.'s patents on the two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer say such protection should not be given to something that can be found inside the human body.
A Chinese court has ordered Apple Inc. to pay 1.03 million yuan ($165,000) to eight Chinese writers and two companies who say unlicensed copies of their work were distributed through Apple's online store.
The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court ruled Thursday that Apple violated the writers' copyrights by allowing applications containing their work to be distributed through its App Store, according to an official who answered the phone at the court and said he was the judge in the case. He refused to give his name, as is common among Chinese officials.
The award was less than the 12 million yuan ($1.9 million) sought by the authors. The case grouped together eight lawsuits filed by them and their publishers.
An Apple spokeswoman, Carolyn Wu, said the company's managers "take copyright infringement complaints very seriously." She declined to say whether the company would appeal.
Unlicensed copying of books, music, software and other products is widespread in China despite repeated government promises to stamp out violations.
Apple's agreement with application developers requires them to confirm they have obtained rights to material distributed through the company's App Store.
"We're always updating our service to better assist content owners in protecting their rights," Wu said.
The Chinese writers said they saw applications containing unlicensed versions of their books last year.
Apple Inc. on Monday gave a federal judge a list of eight Samsung Electronics Co. products it wants pulled from shelves and banned from the U.S. market, including popular Galaxy model smartphones.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh asked for the list after a jury in San Jose last week slammed Samsung with a $1.05 billion verdict, finding that the South Korean technology giant had "willfully" copied Apple's iPhone and iPad in creating and marketing the products. Samsung plans an appeal.
The products Apple wants out are all smartphones: Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S2 AT&T, Galaxy S2, Galaxy S2 T-Mobile, Galaxy S2 Epic 4G, Galaxy S Showcase, Droid Charge and Galaxy Prevail.
Koh on June 26 banned the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from the U.S. market after finding it likely violated a "design patent." Samsung is now asking for that ban to be lifted after the jury found the computer tablet didn't infringe that particular patent, but it did find it infringed three Apple's software patents that cover the popular "bounce-back" and pinch-to-zoom features.
The judge has scheduled a Sept. 20 hearing to discuss Apple's demands for the sales bans. She asked Apple on Friday to submit the list of products its wants removed from U.S. stores after Samsung complained that it doesn't have enough time to prepare for the scheduled hearing.
Two tech titans will square off in federal court Monday in a closely watched trial over control of the U.S. smartphone and computer tablet markets.
Apple Inc. filed a lawsuit against Samsung Electronics Co. last year alleging the world's largest technology company's smartphones and computer tablets are illegal knockoffs of its popular iPhone and iPad products. The Cupertino-based company is demanding $2.5 billion in damages, an award that would dwarf the largest patent-related verdict to date.
Samsung counters that Apple is doing the stealing and that some of the technology at issue — such as the rounded rectangular designs of smartphones and tablets — has been industry standards for years.
The U.S. trial is just the latest skirmish between the two over product designs. A similar trial began last week, and the two companies have been fighting in courts in the United Kingdom and Germany. The case is one of some 50 lawsuits among myriad telecommunications companies jockeying for position in the burgeoning $219 billion market for smartphones and computer tablets.
In the United States, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose last month ordered Samsung to pull its Galaxy 10.1 computer tablet from the U.S. market pending the outcome of the trial, though the judge barred Apple attorneys from telling the jurors about the ban.