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    Featured Litigation Cases of the Week: July 3, 2019

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    In this post, we take a look at HIP’s meat product that fails to meet the right definition of their ‘610 patent, and consecutive patent suits by an Irish non-practicing entity against seven tech giants.

    HIP’s Meat Product Fails to Meet the Right Definition of Their ‘610 Patent

    HIP, Inc. is an Oklahoma corporation running their bacon business in the state of Texas. On December 6, 2016, U.S. Patent No. 9,510,610 (“Process for Producing Precooked Bacon Slices”) was assigned to HIP. The inventor is Mr. David Howard, president of the firm. The patent contains 3 claims describing a “Unitherm Process” that explains how they cook bacon in an oxygen-free superheated steam environment in a spiral oven at a temperature of at least 325° F to produce pre-cooked sliced bacon which resembles pan-fried bacon.

    On July 20, 2007, Howard and Hormel Foods Corporation (Hormel) signed a Mutual Confidential Disclosure Agreement and a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) to replace microwave bacon lines with the unitherm process. After learning the process, Hormel attempted to manufacture pre-cooked bacon on its own, without informing Mr. Howard. The bacon slices were preheated in a microwave oven prior to cooking in the unitherm mini spiral oven and this process was called a “Hybrid Process”. This hybrid process was one of the possible alternative preheating techniques invented by Mr. Howard.

    On April 1, 2010, Hormel sent Mr. Howard a letter terminating the JDA and on February 2012, Hormel started manufacturing its own bacon products using the hybrid process, knowing that the hybrid process infringed each claim of the ‘610 patent. Hormel named their product “Bacon 1”.

    On April 24, 2018, HIP lodged a patent infringement suit (1:18-cv-00615) against Hormel for willful infringement of claims 1, 2 and 3 of the ‘610 patent. During the claim construction hearing, the Defendant, Hormel, argued that neither the claim nor the written description in the patent clearly explain the scope of the term or criteria to measure the distinguishing features from pan-fried bacon. As a result on June 24, 2019, Judge Colm F. Connolly declared claims 1, 2 and 3 of the ‘610 patent INVALID.

    Furthermore, the patent family members of the ‘610 patent (CA 2,711,889A1, CA 2,711,889C, CA 2,961,098A1, EP 2,230,922A1, EP 2,230,922A4, EP 2,230,922B1, US 10,286,236B2, US 2,009,181,138A1, US 2,012,148,719A1, US 2,015,250,213A1, US 2,017,120,091A1 and WO 2,009,088,556A1) are prone to litigation in the near future.

    Meanwhile on December 9, 2018, Hormel Foods Corp. filed a petition in PTAB for Inter Partes Review (IPR2019-00469) of claims 1-3 of ’610 patent and the case status is yet pending.

    Back to Back Patent Suits by Irish Non-Practicing Entity against Seven Tech Giants

    Touchscreen technology plays an important role in numerous electronic devices in today’s world. E.A. Johnson invented touch screen technology in mid-1965. Since then, the technology has evolved and been refined such that it is now used in smartphones, tablets, notebooks and many other electronic devices.

    Seven months ago, Neodron Ltd., an Irish non-practicing entity (NPE) filed 13 litigation cases against seven tech giant companies. Neodron is the third Irish NPE organization to file litigation cases in the U.S. District Courts, in the last six months. On February 5, 2019 the rights of US patent numbers 8,432,173, 9,372,580, 8,791,910 and 9,024,790 were assigned to Neodron. These patents-in-suit mainly deal with the touch sensors that are used in hardware like computers, mobile phones, laptops, etc.

    On May 21, 2019 Neodron filed 7 patent litigation suits against Amazon (6:19-cv-00317), Dell (6:19-cv-00318), HP (6:19-cv-00319), Lenovo (6:19-cv-00320), Microsoft (6:19-cv-00321), Motorola (6:19-cv-00322), and Samsung (6:19-cv-00323) in the Western District Court of Texas, claiming infringement of Neodron’s patents. Neodron asserted that the Lenovo Tab 4 10.1 and Yoga 730, Amazon Fire HD 10, Amazon Kindle, Samsung Galaxy S9+, Galaxy Tab S4 10.5 and Notebook 9 Pro 15, Motorola Moto G6, Microsoft Surface Book 2 13.5, HP X360 15-br095ms, 15-bs289wm, 15-bw030nr products and similar others, infringed the claims of the patents-in-suit.

    One day later, Neodron filed a complaint (337-TA-3389) against the same seven respondents with the International Trade Commission (ITC) for the same patents-in-suit. On June 26, 2019, Judge Alan D. Albright of the Western District Court of Texas ordered to stay the District Court cases in accordance to an unopposed motion filed by the Defendants, pending the investigation outcome of United States International Trade Commission.

    Meanwhile, Neodron lodged five more patent infringement suits on the similar defendants; Amazon, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft and Samsung in the Western District Court of Texas for infringing different sets of patent numbers, which also deal with the touch sensor technology.

    The patents-in-suit have patent family members in Canada, Germany, Taiwan, the European Patent Office as well as WIPO patent applications. If the seven tech giants prove these patents-in-suit to be invalid, then there is a high likelihood that their family members could also be invalidated.


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