SanDisk Corporation v. STMicroelectronics Inc. CAFC 05-1300
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SanDisk Corporation v. STMicroelectronics Inc. CAFC 05-1300

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SanDisk Corporation v. STMicroelectronics Inc. CAFC 05-1300 SanDisk Corporation v. STMicroelectronics Inc. CAFC 05-1300 Presentation Transcript

  • Presented by Randolph A. Smith Smith Patent Office © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • INTRODUCTION
      • The SanDisk case relates to Declaratory Judgment Jurisdiction by the court.
      • This discussion will review:
        • 1) the past and present standards for Declaratory Judgment Jurisdiction;
        • 2) The basic facts which started this case;
        • 3) The rejection of the Federal Circuit’s previous standard by the US Supreme Court; and
        • 4) Factors and strategies for approaching licensing discussions in view of the new standard.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • Introduction:
      • SanDisk is in the flash memory storage market and owns several patents related to flash memory storage products.
      • ST Microelectronics (ST) traditionally made semiconductor integrated circuits, and recently entered the flash memory market. ST has a sizeable portfolio of patents related to flash memory storage products.
      • On 4/16/04, ST’s VP of IP sent a letter to SanDisk’s CEO requesting a meeting for discussing a cross-license agreement.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008 View slide
    • On 7/21/04, SanDisk’s Chief of IP replied by letter stating that his “understanding that both sides with to continue … friendly discussions” such as those between the business representatives in May and June.
    • Those business meetings were related to the possibility of ST selling flash memory products to SanDisk (no patents were discussed).
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008 View slide
    • On 7/27/04, ST’s VP of IP replied again urging a meeting and noted that it was “best to separate the business discussions from the patent license discussions”.
    • On 8/5/04, at the next business meeting, SanDisk presented an analysis of three of its patents and orally offered ST a license. ST declined to present an analysis of any of its patents, stating that these should be discussed separately.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • On the same day, SanDisk’s Chief of IP wrote back objecting to the separating of the business and IP issues and stated that “it has been SanDisk’s hope and desire to enter into a mutually beneficial discussion without the rattling of sabers”.
    • On 8/11/04, ST wrote back and discussed a licensing meeting and SanDisk should come to that meeting prepared to present an analysis of infringement and ST would discuss 12 ST patents.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • On 8/27/04, the licensing meeting was held. SanDisk asked that the parties’ discussion be treated as “settlement discussions” under the Fed. Rules of Evidence 408.
    • ST presented a slide show and 4-5 hour presentation where they discussed specific claims and alleged that they were infringed by SanDisk.
    • SanDisk then made their own presentation discussing infringement by ST.
    • At the end of the meeting, ST handed a packet of materials including each patent, reverse engineering reports and diagrams about how the ST’s patent claims covered SanDisk’s product.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • When handing SanDisk the packet of material, ST’s VP of IP apparently stated words to the effect that:
    • “ I know that this is material that would allow SanDisk to DJ [ST] on. We have had some internal discussions on whether I should be giving you a copy of these materials in light of that fact. But I have decided that I will go ahead and give you these materials”.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • ST’s VP of IP also told SanDisk that “ST has absolutely no plan whatsoever to sue SanDisk”.
    • SanDisk’s Chief of IP responded that “SanDisk is not going to sue you on Monday” and that another meeting might be appropriate.
    • On 9/1/04, ST wrote SanDisk and enclosed copies of their presentations and materials. ST also requested that SanDisk provide ST a copy of their presentation materials.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • On 9/8/04, SanDisk replied and sent a copy of their presentation materials and stated that it was his “personal feeling… that we have got to trust one another during these negotiations” and SanDisk sought a non-disclosure agreement.
    • On 9/15/04, SanDisk wrote again and enclosed a confidential version of SanDisk’s cross licensing offer which would expire on 9/27/04.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • ST destroyed the confidential offer and did not retain a copy and on 9/16/04, requested a non-confidential version for their consideration.
    • SanDisk refused and on 9/27/04, SanDisk sent another confidential version or they offered to communicate the offer orally. SanDisk also stated that they did not need further information from ST because SanDisk was quite comfortable in their position.
    • On 9/28/04, ST repeated their request for a non-confidential version. The next day, SanDisk sent another confidential version.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • On 10/15/04, after several more communications trying to establish another meeting, SanDisk filed the instant lawsuit in the Northern District of California.
    • SanDisk alleged infringement of one of its patents and sought declaratory judgment of noninfringement and invalidity of 14 ST patents.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • Also on 10/15/04, SanDisk filed a complaint under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (as amended) titled, "In the matter of certain NAND flash memory circuits and products containing same" in the United States International Trade Commission, naming STMicroelectronics N.V. and STMicroelectronics, Inc. as respondents.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • On 1/4/05, the district court stayed SanDisk’s claim that ST infringes pending an outcome in the ITC action.
    • On 1/20/05, the district court issued an order granting ST’s motion to dismiss the declaratory judgment causes of action.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • On 2/4/05, ST filed two complaints for patent infringement against SanDisk in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The complaints sought damages and injunctions against unspecified SanDisk products.
    • On 4/22/05, SanDisk filed counterclaims on two patents against ST. The counterclaims sought damages and injunctive relief against STMicroelectronics N.V. and STMicroelectronics, Inc. flash memory products.
    • These Texas cases are not related to this Federal Circuit decision as the appeal was taken from the Northern District of California.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • Initially, the court noted SanDisk’s argument that the district court erred as a matter of law when requiring an express accusation of patent infringement coupled with an explicit threat of judicial enforcement to support declaratory judgment jurisdiction.
    • ST argued that under the totality of the circumstances, ST’s conduct did not give rise to declaratory judgment jurisdiction.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • The previous standard stated by the Federal Circuit, prior to MedImmune, was a two part test:
    • Part 1) Whether the conduct by the patentee creates a reasonable apprehension on the part of the declaratory judgment plaintiff that it will face an infringement suit; and
    • Part 2) Whether the conduct by the declaratory judgment plaintiff amounts to infringing activity or demonstrates concrete steps taken with the intent to conduct such activity.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • In the MedImmune case, there is a famous footnote, footnote number 11, where the US Supreme Court basically holds that the reasonable apprehension of suit test conflicts with several cases and is in tension with other cases.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • “ [e]ven if Altvater could be distinguished as an “injunction” case, it would still contradict the Federal Circuit’s “reasonable apprehension of suit” test (or, in its evolved form, the “reasonable apprehension of imminent suit” test, Teva Pharm. USA, Inc. v. Pfizer, Inc. , 395 F.3d 1324, 1333 (2005)). A licensee who pays royalties under compulsion of an injunction has no more apprehension of imminent harm than a licensee who pays royalties for fear of treble damages and an injunction fatal to his business. The reasonable-apprehension-of-suit test also conflicts with our decisions in Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co. , 312 U.S. 270, 273 (1941), where jurisdiction obtained even though the collision-victim defendant could not have sued the declaratory-judgment plaintiff-insurer without first obtaining a judgment against the insured; and Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth , 300 U.S. 227, 239 (1937), where jurisdiction obtained even though the very reason the insurer sought declaratory relief was that the insured had given no indication that he would file suit. It is also in tension with Cardinal Chemical Co. v. Morton Int’l, Inc. , 508 U.S. 83, 98 (1993), which held that appellate affirmance of a judgment of noninfringement, eliminating any apprehension of suit, does not moot a declaratory judgment counterclaim of patent invalidity.”
    • MedImmune , 127 S. Ct. at 774 n.11.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • “ The Supreme Court, in MedImmune, addressed the “reasonable apprehension of suit” aspect of this court’s two-part test and concluded that it conflicts with Aetna Life Insurance and Maryland Casualty , and is in tension with Cardinal Chemical Co. v. Morton International, Inc. ”
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • “ The Supreme Court’s opinion in MedImmune represents a rejection of our reasonable apprehension of suit test”.
    • Then in a footnote, the CAFC Judge Linn notes “In this case, we address only the first prong of this court’s two-part test. There is no dispute that the second prong is met. We therefore leave to another day the effect of MedImmune , if any on the second prong.”
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • The Federal Circuit announced a new test which looks for a dual assertion of rights.
    • The new test for the existence of declaratory judgment jurisdiction based on preliminary exchanges was stated as:
    • “ where a patentee asserts rights under a patent based on certain identified ongoing or planned activity of another party, and where that party contends that it has the right to engage in the accused activity without license, an Article III case or controversy will arise and the party need not risk a suit for infringement by engaging in the identified activity before seeking a declaration of its legal rights.”
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • Three main points to remember:
    • 1) an assertion of patent rights;
    • 2) based on identified ongoing or planned activity; and
    • 3) a contention of the right to engage in the accused activity without a license.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • 1) ST sought a royalty under its patents based on specific, identified activity by SanDisk”.
    • 2) ST presented SanDisk with a detailed presentation which identified, on an element-by-element basis, the manner in which ST believed each of SanDisk’s products infringed the specific claims of each of ST’s patents.
    • 3) ST liberally referred to SanDisk’s present, ongoing infringement of ST’s patents and the need for SanDisk to license those patents.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • 4) ST also gave SanDisk a packet of materials…showing a detailed infringement analysis of SanDisk’s products.
    • 5) ST communicated to SanDisk that it had made a studied and determined infringement determination and asserted the right to a royalty based on this determination.
    • 6) SanDisk, on the other hand, maintained that it could proceed in its conduct without payment of royalties to ST.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • The Federal Circuit also pointed out that “SanDisk need not bet the farm…and risk a suit for infringement by cutting off licensing discussions and continuing in the identified activity before seeking a declaration of its legal rights (citing to MedImmune ).
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • Remember that ST’s VP of IP stated that ST “has absolutely no plan whatsoever to sue SanDisk”.
    • The Federal Circuit stated that “We decline to hold that Jorgenson’s statement that ST would not sue SanDisk eliminates the justiciable controversy created by ST’s actions, because ST has engaged in course of conduct that shows a preparedness and willingness to enforce its patent rights despite Jorgenson’s statement”.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • In MedImmune , the US Supreme Court reminded everyone that the district courts have discretionary authority to dismiss DJ actions.
    • However, in SanDisk, the Federal Circuit did not characterize the district court dismissal as error. Rather they stated that the district court’s decision was based on the wrong test without the benefit of the Supreme Court’s views in MedImmune .
    • Therefore, this discretionary authority will need to be developed in Federal Circuit law.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • Judge Bryson wanted to write a separate opinion to discuss the practical effect of the new test:
    • “ In practical application, the new test will not be confined to cases with facts similar to this one. If a patentee offers a license for a fee, the offer typically will be accompanied by a suggestion that the other party’s conduct is within the scope of the patentee’s patent rights, or it will be apparent that the patentee believes that to be the case. Offers to license a patent are not requests for gratuitous contributions to the patentee; the rationale underlying a license offer is the patentee’s express or implied suggestion that the other party’s current or planned conduct falls within the scope of the patent. Therefore, it would appear that under the court’s standard virtually any invitation to take a paid license relating to the prospective licensee’s activities would give rise to an Article III case or controversy if the prospective licensee elects to assert that its conduct does not fall within the scope of the patent.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • The SanDisk court suggested that a patentee may avoid the risk of a declaratory judgment by conducting licensing negotiations under a confidentiality agreement. Footnote 1 of SanDisk reads: “To avoid the risk of declaratory judgment action, ST could have sought SanDisk’s agreement to the terms of a suitable confidentiality agreement.”
    • For example, a nondisclosure agreement that nothing from the negotiations may be used in court to establish DJ jurisdiction.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • Judge Bryson suggested that if you try to use a non-disclosure agreement to prevent DJ jurisdiction, only a negotiating party who would not bring a DJ action is likely to enter into a such a confidentiality agreement. He stated:
    • "The court suggests that ST could have avoided the risk of a declaratory judgment action by obtaining a suitable confidentiality agreement. The problem with that suggestion is that it would normally work only when it was not needed – only a party that was not interested in bringing a declaratory judgment action would enter into such an agreement. A party that contemplates bringing a declaratory judgment action or at least keeping that option open would have no incentive to enter into such an agreement."
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
    • What can be done in the future to help prevent licensing negotiations from causing DJ jurisdication?
    • The main suggestion from commentators is that Congress could legislate that discussions in the context of licensing negotiations cannot form the basis of DJ jurisdiction.
    • Until that happens, patentees should proceed with caution when entering into license negotiations.
    © Randolph A. Smith 2008
  • © Randolph A. Smith 2008