Patent News Grab–Bag
Some news of note for this Valentine’s Day week:
- N.D. Cal. Orders Early Damages Disclosures: The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has amended its local patent rules to require the parties to (1) provide the court with a good–faith (non–binding) estimate of the damages range expected for the case at the initial case management conference; and (2) to exchange damages contentions within 50 days after the service of invalidity contentions. The foregrounding of damages information is a welcome development, as it will enable judges to better oversee discovery that is proportionate to the value of the case. This move will make it harder for patent trolls to use the high cost of scorched earth discovery to extract a nuisance value settlement in a case where the underlying technology is not worth much.
- IPO Seeks To Undo Alice: As reported by Patently O, the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), a group of 50 or so patent–focused intellectual property counsel, have proposed an amendment to the patent laws that would have the effect of reversing the Supreme Court’s holding in Alice v. CLS Bank, that abstract ideas cannot be patented. The proposal attempts to take the Alice question out of the hands of the courts. Although it is not clear where patent law and patent litigation stand among the priorities of the new Congress, we would hope that this proposal goes nowhere fast. The two–step analysis of Alice has proven both legally effective and economically efficient in enabling courts to determine that vague patents to abstract ideas can be adjudicated unpatentable at an early stage in patent litigation.
- Microsoft Opens Patent Umbrella for Customers: Finally, Corporate Counsel (subscription required) reports on an announcement by Microsoft that it will make 10,000 patents available to customers facing lawsuits over innovations that run on Azure, the company’s cloud computing platform. In addition, the company says that it will expand its indemnification program for Azure users. This too is a welcome development in which too many potential indemnitors beat a hasty retreat from any claim from users to defense or indemnification from accusations of patent infringement.