Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Does It Matter If There Is No NIA?

Airbus Helicopters S.A.S. v. Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limitée 2017 FC 170 Martineau J
            2,207,787 / helicopter landing gear

The hot topic in Canadian remedies law lately has been the role of the “non-infringing alternative” or “NIA” in assessing monetary remedies. The legal test for an NIA was set out in Lovastatin 2015 FCA 171 (discussed here and here), and modified by Perindopril 2017 FCA 23 (here). Consequently, it is not surprising that Martineau J’s analysis began with an extended discussion of the issue, concluding on the facts that there was no valid NIA [171]-[214]. But it is a bit odd that in his actual assessment of damages, reviewed in yesterday’s post, his conclusion that there was no valid NIA concept played no particular role in his analysis. In this post I’ll suggest that when reasonable royalties are claimed, there is always a valid NIA; the NIA is, by definition, whatever the infringer would have done in the ‘but for’ world. This means that whether or not an NIA is explicitly identified, we can always work backwards from the damages assessment to figure out the implicit NIA. I’ll also suggest that it probably is not usually helpful to start by applying the modified Lovastatin test to identify the legally available NIA. Rather, it is normally better to start with the key factual question – what would the infringer have done but for the infringement? – and then apply the Lovastatin test to ask whether that NIA-in-fact is also an available NIA-in-law.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

MWA and MWP in Compensatory Damages

Airbus Helicopters S.A.S. v. Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limitée 2017 FC 170 Martineau J
            2,207,787 / helicopter landing gear

The 787 patent claims a type of helicopter land gear known as a “moustache” landing gear [3]. As discussed here (FCA) and here (FC), in Eurocopter v Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limitée 2012 FC 113 aff’d 2013 FCA 219, Martineau J held one claim of the 787 patent, owned by Eurocopter (now the helicopter division of Airbus) to be valid and infringed by Bell. This decision is the damages phase of that bifurcated trial [1]. In the result, Martineau J awarded $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1,000,000 in punitive damages, plus pre-judgment and post-judgment interest [2], [108]. The decision is interesting and important in several ways. It is significant as one of very few Canadian patent cases to award punitive damages. The issue of compensatory damages is also important, because it deals with the inherently difficult problem of assessing reasonable royalty damages for a complex product.

Martineau J’s reasons are correspondingly lengthy and wide-ranging, and a discussion of every issue raised would require a law review article. On the topic of law review articles, Martineau J cited several of my articles, including an article which I co-authored with Tom Cotter, “A New Framework for Determining Reasonable Royalties in Patent Litigation, (2016) 68 Fla L Rev 929, which is so recent that I only received my hard copy in the mail in the same week that the decision was released. (Martineau J evidently cited to the SSRN version.) It is of course very gratifying to me personally to be cited, but I’m particularly excited because Martineau J cited a range of scholarship, including empirical articles on behavioural psychology [107]. In an era when some courts are finding law review articles to be increasingly unhelpful, it is very encouraging to find courts that are willing to engage with the latest scholarship, and scholars who are doing work that the courts do find useful.

Turning back to the decision, I will limit myself to commenting on some of the fundamental points. The first couple of posts will consider compensatory damages. This post provides an overview, and considers the treatment of the hypothetical negotiation, and particularly the concept of the patentee’s minimum willingness to accept and the infringer’s maximum willingness to pay. The next post will consider the problem of the non-infringing alternative, again restricting myself to compensatory damages. A third post will consider the issue of punitive damages.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Side-by-side Comparison of NOC and Impeachment

Apotex Inc v. Shire LLC 2016 FC 1099 Tabib J
            2,547,646 / lisdexamfetamine dimesylate / VYVANSE

I’m still working on my post on the very interesting, but very long, damages decision in Airbus Helicopters v Bell Helicopter 2017 FC 170. I hope to post about it on Wednesday morning. In the meantime, while I don’t usually blog on procedural issues, this decision by Tabib J provides an  interesting side-by-side procedural comparison of an NOC proceeding and an impeachment action.

Apotex brought an NOC application in respect of a generic version of Vyvanse, and in response Shire applied for a prohibition order. Ten days later, Apotex brought an action seeking a declaration that the 646 patent is invalid and not infringed [2]. Shire then brought this application to partially consolidate the proceedings, with a common hearing on viva voce evidence, but subject to the parties’ ability to argue the admissibility or relevance of evidence to one or the other proceeding, in light of the different burden and the fact that the allegations in the NOC application are circumscribed by the NOA [3]. Apotex resisted, arguing that it would be disadvantaged in several ways, one being that if the NOC proceeding and the declaratory action were heard together, this would de facto, though not de jure, erase the difference in the burden of proof applicable to each proceeding “effectively robbing Apotex of the advantage it enjoys in the prohibition proceeding” [17]. Tabib J rejected Apotex’s arguments, and ordered the proceedings to be consolidated in the manner suggested by Shire. The decision generally is of interest for its detailed discussion of the procedural differences between the types of proceedings, and the implications for expense and strategy.

With that said, I can’t resist commenting on one point. Tabib J did not accept Apotex’s argument that when the court was relying on a common evidentiary record, the court “might be unable or unwilling to properly apply the burden of proof, or that it might be unwilling or unable, where the application of the evidentiary burden requires it, to reach a result which is not uniform but is nevertheless appropriate to each process” [19], saying that there was no evidence for authority for this proposition. I note that in Gleevec, in which, as Tabib J noted [13], an NOC proceeding 2013 FC 142 and declaratory action 2013 FC 141, were consolidated on consent [13] (see here), Snider J dismissed the impeachment action, holding the key claims not to be invalid. She consequently granted the prohibition order, saying simply that “it follows that the allegations of invalidity contained in the NOAs cannot be justified” [2013 FC 142, 7]. This suggests there may be some basis for Apotex’s concern, because Snider J did not find it necessary to decide whether the allegations of invalidity in the NOC proceeding might be justified, if considered in light of the fact that the burden is on the patentee rather than the generic in the NOC proceeding. 

Even if Apotex's concern has more merit than Tabib J was willing to accept, I don’t know that it would have affected the outcome, as Tabib J held that the partial consolidation proposed by Shire “would lead to very significant savings of time and expense for both parties, [and] represents the most efficient and judicious use of the Court’s resources, eliminates wasteful duplication.” [25]. She also noted that

It was Apotex’s decision to trigger both proceedings at the same time that makes the litigations particularly taxing, but it is also that decision which makes the partial joinder possible and necessary to alleviate the burden. Apotex cannot impose its own schedule on Shire and on the Court while at the same time resist reasonable and just means to make the most efficient use of scarce judicial resources, all for the sake of preserving its own perceived tactical advantage” [27].

While that was explicitly only an observation, and not the basis for her decision [26], it’s a strong point, and it seems to me that Apotex would have had to make a case for some kind of significant procedural or substantive injustice in order to have been able to successfully resist the order for consolidation.

UPDATE: Tabib J's decision was affirmed 2017 FC 139 Strickland J

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How Much Experimentation Is Permitted Before a Specification Is Insufficient?

Bombardier Recreational Products Inc v Arctic Cat Inc. and Arctic Cat Sales Inc, 2017 FC 207 Roy J
            2,293,106 / 2,485,813 / 2,411,964 / 2,350,264

As discussed in yesterday’s post, the Rider Position Patents at issue in Bombardier v Arctic Cat survived all validity attacks but one, and Roy J held they would have been infringed if valid. However, Roy J held the patents invalid for insufficiency, on the basis that the patents “do not describe how the inventions are to be put in operation [605]. That a person skilled in the art would be able to make the invention in light of the disclosure, was, according to Roy J, “beside the point” [561]:

Ever since Consolboard, the law has been clear that the specification alone is to be used to put the invention into practice, without the assistance of a minor research project.”

See similarly [549], [568], emphasizing that if even a “minor” research project is required, the specification is inadequate. The above reference to Consolboard notwithstanding, Roy J’s primary authority for this point is the Viagra decision, Teva Canada Ltd v Pfizer Canada Inc, 2012 SCC 60, which was cited throughout Roy J’s decision.

The proposition that a specification is insufficient if it requires the skilled person to carry out a minor research project to put the invention into practice, is with due respect, an error of law. This proposition is not entirely novel. Some very early cases did indeed suggest that the specification had to explain in detail how to work the invention, “without the necessity of trying experiments” Turner v. Winter (1787) 99 Eng. Rep. 1274, 1276-77, 1 WPC 77, 80 (KB); and see R v Arkwright (1785) 1 WPC 64, 66; Morgan v Seaward (1836), 1 WPC 170, 175. But these cases did not address the precise degree of experimentation permissible. The difficulty with a strict rule excluding any experimentation at all, is that in almost any field there are some steps that require some degree of routine trial and error. To require a patentee to describe all steps with sufficient particularity to avoid such trials would leave the patent open to technical attacks. In some cases it might be impossible to frame a valid claim, even though a skilled person would easily be able to work the invention on the basis of the disclosure. Such remarks were therefore immediately tempered by the principle that they are addressed to a person skilled in the relevant art; as Jessel MR said in Otto v. Linford (1882) 46 L.T.(NS) 35 at 41, in the course of holding that the disclosure was not insufficient because it did not specify the precise proportions for fuel and air necessary for combustion, “[t]he first thing to be remembered, in specifications of patents, is that they are addressed to those who know something about that matter.” And even before that, in Morgan v Seaward, Alderson B at 175, stated that the specification “must actually and plainly set forth what the invention is, and how it is to be carried into effect, so as to save a party the trouble of making experiments and trials,” but he went on to say, at 176, that the workman brings his “ordinary knowledge” to the job and if the size of the parts is not specified, this is not fatal: “He says, ‘I see this will not work because it is too small,’ and then he makes it a little larger, and finds it will work.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Experimental Use Exception to Anticipation Applied

Bombardier Recreational Products Inc v Arctic Cat Inc. and Arctic Cat Sales Inc, 2017 FC 207 Roy J
            2,293,106 / 2,485,813 / 2,411,964 / 2,350,264

In Bombardier Recreational Products v Arctic Cat Roy J held that the asserted patents were invalid by reason of insufficiency and ambiguity [572], but all other validity attacks failed, and the patents would have been infringed if valid. Today’s post provides an overview of the case and a few points, the most interesting of which is that Roy J applied the experimental use exception to anticipation. Tomorrow’s post discusses the insufficiency issue.

In the late 1990s, Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) made a “significant breakthrough” in snowmobile design [415]. Its so-called radical evolution vehicle (REV), introduced in 2002, moved the rider weight forward, so that instead of sitting back as if on a couch, the rider is balanced forward, as if riding a dirt bike [414]. The REV was a great commercial success that left other snowmobile makers “swallowing hard and running fast to catch up” [417]. BRP obtained four patents related to its new design. The three Rider Position Patents (106, 813 and 964), claimed a snowmobile with a rider forward position; the 264 patent, aka the Frame Construction Patent, claimed a new frame design with enhanced rigidity [100]. While it seems that the frame construction claimed by the 264 patent was used in BRPs commercial REVs, the frame construction was not specifically directed at the rider forward position, so that the two groups of patents were quite distinct. Roy J held that the 264 patent was not infringed, in a holding which turned on claim construction [379], [382], but the Rider Position Patents were infringed – or would have been had they been valid. While the patentee fended off attacks based on anticipation [521], obviousness [539-40], and material misrepresentation [574], Roy J held the Rider Position Patents to be invalid for ambiguity and insufficiency [560].

Non-infringement of the Frame Construction Patent turned on standard claim construction issues, so I will say no more about it, in order to focus on the more interesting Rider Position Patents. 

The key point on both infringement and validity was the way in which these patents were drafted. They all claimed a snowmobile comprising all the usual parts, but the key innovation was not described in terms of the structure of the snowmobile itself, but rather in terms of the position of the rider on the snowmobile. For example, Claim 1 of the 106 patent was as follows:

1. A snowmobile, comprising: [standard parts] constructed and arranged such that, when the standard rider is . . . in a biomechanically neutral position . . . the snowmobile has a first center of gravity without the standard rider and a second center of gravity with the standard rider and a distance between a vertical line passing through the first center of gravity and a vertical line passing through the second center of gravity is between 0 cm and 14 cm inclusive.

Since the rider is a significant part of the weight of a snowmobile, and the rider sits behind the center of gravity of the snowmobile itself, the center of gravity of the combination of the rider and sled will be behind the center of gravity of the sled alone. The further back the rider sits, the further back the combined center of gravity will be. By defining a maximum distance between the two, the claim is to a snowmobile constructed such the rider will normally sit in a forward position. As another example, Claim 1 of the 964 patent claims a snowmobile constructed such that, when the rider is in the normal position, “the hips of the standard rider are disposed above its knees.” That is contrasted with the prior art, where the rider was in a more reclined position. Other claims added refinements, such as specifying that the ankles should be behind the knees. The 813 patent was similarly drafted, except it defined the rider position in terms of angles, rather than body parts or centre of gravity. None of the claims specify how the sled should be constructed to achieve this result.

The defendant Arctic Cat raised a number of claim construction issues related to phrases such as a “standard rider,” but Roy J had no difficulty construing these in light of the disclosure, with “a mind willing to understand” [298], and stressing that “common sense is not excluded from the Court room” [299]. In light of the recent debate, it is worth noting that Roy J used a disclosure-first approach rather than a claim-first approach, but this did not appear to have been a point of contention. Very unusually, Roy J also adverted to the prosecution history during claim construction, but this did not have any impact on the claim construction [323].

The claim drafting method came to the fore in determining infringement.“In order to perform measurements that would be compared, it was deemed necessary to follow a protocol which would reflect the three Patents-in-suit” [429], and there questions, for example, as to what position should be taken by the rider to determin the steering, footrest and seating position [430], and to define the “biomechanically neutral” position that was specified in the 106 and 813 patents [431]. BRPs experts were able to follow the definitions provided by the patents, so as to replicate the conditions – down to the drop in height caused by the weight of the rider – to calculate the various centers-of-gravity [432]. Roy J was very impressed with the experts [425], [434], who “had nothing to hide and had excellent expertise” [434]. One further obstacle was that BRP’s experts had only measured 17 of Arctic Cat’s models, while 378 models were alleged to infringe. BRP was nonetheless able to establish that all models infringed [469]. BRPs expert showed that AC’s models fell into nine groupings, with models in each grouping sharing the same overall geometry, and the models that were measured were representative of each group [452-54]. AC’s response was to challenge the validity of the groupings, and rather than offering its own measurements. While the defendants are entitled to adopt this strategy, Roy J was not impressed: “the Defendants take the posture that they should sit back and challenge peripherally groupings that they are capable of reviewing with great precision” [457], and he concluded that AC’s challenge to the groupings was not sufficient to displace BRP’s evidence. (Of course, that is not to suggest that AC’s strategy was unsound, as direct measurements of its own models might have reinforced BRPs conclusions even more forcefully.)

Turning to validity, Roy J held that the Rider Position Patents were not anticipated or obvious [476], and they also survived a few other “last-ditch” attacks [581]. The holding of non-obviousness was straightforward on the facts [536], particularly in view of the “overwhelming” secondary evidence of non-obviousness, such as commercial success [540].

Several of the anticipation arguments similarly turned on the facts. The most interesting anticipation issue was one of the “last-ditch” arguments. Some of the testing of BRPs prototypes was carried out in public or semi-public locations, though precautions, such as riding at night or while shielded between other sleds, were taken to avoid being seen. AC argued that that constituted public disclosure “because someone could have witnessed the rider’s hips above his knees, and the ankles behind the knees, and the hips behind the ankles” [581]. Roy J rejected this argument primarily on the authority of Conway v Ottawa Electric Railway Co., (1904), 8 ExCR 432, 442, which was recently revived in litigation related to YAZ, as discussed here and here. He noted that “Conway would appear to be good law” [492], citing Hughes J in the YAZ litigation, 2014 FC 436. I summarized Hughes J’s decision as holding that “This seemingly establishes a broad experimental use exception to what would otherwise be anticipating disclosure, which applies to any clinical trial, so long as reasonable steps are taken to ensure that the unused tablets are returned.” Roy J went on to apply this law to the facts:

[582] There is not even a suggestion by AC that the use of public trails was anything but for reasonable experimentation. Since at least 1904, our law has recognized the need to experiment in order to bring the invention to perfection [Conway]. This exception was recognised recently by our Court. In this case, the evidence is that BRP was conscious of the need for confidentiality and took steps to ensure it would be protected. The experimentation was necessary in view of the many uses that would be available for that new configuration. Actually, AC did not address at all the well-recognized experimental use exception, making its argument on the sole basis that prototypes were out on public trails and that a passerby would have been able to identify the positioning. In my view, the experimental use exception would suffice to dispose of that argument.

The comment that “BRP was conscious of the need for confidentiality and took steps to ensure it would be protected,” echoes Hughes J’s comment in YAZ [121] that “Bayer took reasonable steps to ensure the confidentiality of the relevant documents and to ensure that unused tablets were returned.” Roy J did go on to hold that even if there was disclosure, it was not enabling, though I am not entirely satisfied with this reasoning on that point, for reasons I will explain in tormorrow’s post. In any event, the experimental use exception to anticipation was clearly the primary basis for his decision. In YAZ, Hughes J had described the exception as long established [119], and in my post I suggested that “ one decision more than a century old is not strong enough authority to say this point is well-established.” Now we have another decision holding that a public disclosure that is necessary for reasonable experimentation will not constitute anticipation if the inventor took reasonable steps to ensure confidentiality. In both YAZ and BRP v Arctic Cat, it was not clear that there was actually enabling disclosure at all, and the true test of this doctrine will come when the disclosure is clearly enabling on the facts, notwithstanding the reasonable efforts to keep it confidential. But for now we can at least say that the rule is increasingly well-established.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Interlocutory Injunctions Update Part III: Trade-marks

Sleep Country Canada Inc v Sears Canada Inc 2017 FC 148 Kane J

Reckitt Benckiser LLC v Jamieson Laboratories Ltd 2015 FC 215 Brown J aff’d 2015 FCA 104 Noël CJ: Gauthier, Webb JJA

This is the third in a series of three posts looking at some more-or-less recent interlocutory injunction decisions. Last Thursday’s post considered some patent cases, Friday’s post discussed copyright cases, and today’s post focuses on a couple of trade-mark decisions. As discussed in Thursday’s post, most Canadian jurisdictions use a risk-balancing approach to interlocutory injunctions. In contrast, for about the last 25 years, the Federal Courts have used a high-threshold approach to irreparable harm, with the result that interlocutory injunctions have been very difficult to get in IP cases. Sleep Country and Reckitt are two trade-mark cases in which interlocutory injunctions have been granted. The question is whether the approach used in these cases can be reconciled with the high-threshold approach.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Interlocutory Injunctions Update Part II: Copyright Cases

Unilin Beheer BV v Triforest Inc 2017 FC 76 Gascon J
            2,475,076 2,522,321 / glueless locking laminate flooring

As discussed in yesterday’s post, most Canadian jurisdictions use a risk-balancing approach to interlocutory injunctions. The Federal Courts, in contrast, use a high-threshold approach to irreparable harm, with the result that interlocutory injunctions have been very difficult to get in IP cases. However, a series of copyright cases have held that in cases of blatant copying, the threshold for irreparable harm is much lower, and perhaps even nonexistent. These include the following copyright cases in which an interlocutory injunction was granted: IBM v Ordinateurs Spirales Inc (1984), 80 CPR (2d) 187 (FCTD), Reed J; Universal City Studios (1983), 73 CPR (2d) 1 (FCTD), Walsh J; Jeffrey Rogers Knitwear 6 CPR (3d) 409, Dubé J; 75490 Manitoba (1989) 29 CPR(3d) 89, Rouleau J; Diamant Toys 2002 FCT 384 Nadon J; Bell Canada 2016 FC 612 Tremblay-Lamer J. The question is whether these copyright cases can be reconciled with the patent cases, such as Unilin, and TearLab 2016 FC 606 J aff’d 2017 FCA 8 (discussed in yesterday’s post).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Interlocutory Injunctions Update Part I: Patent Cases

TearLab Corp v I-Med Pharma Inc 2016 FC 606 Manson J aff’d 2017 FCA 8 Scott JA: Boivin, de Montigny JJA
2,494,540 / TearLab System / i-Pen System

Unilin Beheer BV v Triforest Inc 2017 FC 76 Gascon J
            2,475,076 2,522,321 / glueless locking laminate flooring

In TearLab and Unilin v Triforest, interlocutory injunctions were refused in two patent cases. This is not very surprising, as this result is line with the restrictive approach adopted by the Federal Courts, as discussed in my article on "Interlocutory Injunctions and Irreparable Harm in the Federal Courts," (2010) 88 Can Bar Rev 517. TearLab was a particularly strong case for granting an interlocutory injunction, and, unusually, the decision was appealed, and affirmed; but otherwise these cases serve mainly to affirm the established restrictive approach to interlocutory injunctions in patent cases. However, there have also been some more or less recent cases that have granted interlocutory injunctions in copyright and trade-mark cases. This invites the question of whether all of these cases can be reconciled, particularly as Gascon J addressed the copyright cases at length in his Unilin decision. Today’s post will provide some background, and discuss the patent cases, and the next couple of posts will discuss the copyright and trade-mark cases.