2013年10月1日,美国最高法院同意审查在两个单独的专利侵权案件中判给律师费的“例外”案件标准。两种情况均与非执业实体的专利权人有关。这些案件的结果可能会阻止非执业实体提起的专利案件,因为主要的被告可能更容易获得律师费。

审查标准

Highmark 在c.诉Allcare Health Management Systems,Inc.。, Dkt. 12-1163, filed March 25, 2013, the question presented is “[w]hether a district court’s 非凡-case finding under 35 U.S.C. §285, based 上 its judgment that a suit is objectively baseless, is entitled to deference.”

Section 285 provides that a “court in 非凡 cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.” 35 U.S.C. § 285. A case is “exceptional” if it is objectively baseless and brought in bad faith.

Allcare, a non-practicing entity, sued Highmark, asserting that Highmark’s transaction-processing systems infringed Allcare’s 专利, U.S. Patent No. 5,301,105.  Highmark fought back, suing Allcare and seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, invalidity and unenforceability of all claims of Allcare’s 专利.  Highmark moved for summary judgment of non-infringement and prevailed.  Subsequently, Highmark moved for an 非凡 case determination, seeking attorneys’ fees and sanctions against Allcare pursuant to Section 285 and Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  The district court ordered Allcare to pay nearly $5 million in attorneys’ fees and expenses for bringing a baseless suit against Highmark.

在上诉中,联邦巡回法院部分推翻了地区法院的裁决,认为地区法院对案件“客观上毫无根据”的裁定是在不加推论的情况下进行审查的,而不是仅针对明显的错误进行审查。根据Highmark的说法,这与联邦巡回法院的先例背道而驰。经过审查,联邦巡回法院发现Allcare的某些索赔并非客观上毫无根据。

最高法院裁定,“客观无根据”组成部分的审查标准应作为“法律问题”(不加尊重),还是作为“事实认定”(只能为以下目的保留): “明确的错误”,因此应受尊重。

特殊性标准

在第二种情况下 Octane Fitness,LLC诉Icon Health& Fitness, 在c.,Dkt。 2013年3月27日提交的第12-1184号决议提出的问题是,“联邦巡回法院是否颁布严格而排他的两部分测试,以判定35 U.S.C下的案件是否为“例外”。第285条不当地授予地方法院酌处权,以违反法定意图和本法院的判例向占优的被告侵权人判给律师费,从而提高了被告侵权人(但非专利权人)的赔偿标准,并鼓励专利原告带来虚假专利权造成竞争损害或胁迫被告无理和解的案件。”

Icon(一家非执业实体)对Octane提起诉讼,称Octane’的Q45和Q47椭圆机侵犯了Icon的美国专利号6,019,710。有争议的索赔重点在于“linkage system”通过“stroke rail.”地方法院认为,“stroke rail” and “means for connecting” limitations were absent in the Q45 and Q47 machines and granted Octane’s motion for summary judgment of non-infringement.  在 addition, Octane moved for an 非凡 case determination, seeking attorneys’ fees and sanctions against Icon pursuant to Section 285.  The district court denied Octane’s motion, finding that Icon’s suit was not objectively baseless and was not brought in bad faith.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment with respect to both 专利 infringement and Octane’s motion for attorneys’ fees.  With respect to Octane’s argument that the case was 非凡 for purposes of a fee award, the Federal Circuit stated that the district court “did not err in denying Octane’s motion” and that it found “no reason to revisit the settled standard for 非凡ity.”

最高法院授予证书,以决定是否联邦巡回法院’用于确定案件是否存在的两步检验“exceptional”为了授予律师的目的’向当前的被告侵权者收取费用是对第285条的适当解释。欧坎指出,当前的标准(要求“例外”案件必须客观上是毫无根据的并且是恶意的),与法规的意图背道而驰。而且,Octane认为,当前的标准要求比起主要的专利权人,当前的被告侵权者要有更高的证明。此外,Octane建议,在败诉方“客观上成功的可能性很低”的情况下,法院应判给律师费,而不是现行标准。