There were many huge intellectual property cases in 2014. Some were mammoth due to the sheer size of awards, while others made a mark because of the products and services involved. As we begin to consider the cases that are likely to make the headlines in 2015 we take a little look back at three of the biggest intellectual property law cases of 2014, which were played out in the US.
Those who are not directly involved with the field of intellectual property are most likely to come across battles between big names reported by the media, this often means a focus on everyday objects and big brands. Today we are looking at three high-profile cases that took place in the US and had technology at their core but the coverage, case outcomes, motives and direction for resolution are quite different.
Apple v. Samsung
In the lucrative smartphone and tablet race there have been a series of claims and counter-claims. At the forefront, Apple and Samsung have been at IP war since 2011 with the most recent instalment of the battle coming when Apple filed a complaint (Feb 2012) that the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy note breached their intellectual property in a number of ways, though the sentiment of the claim ran much deeper.
In the words of the suit: “[Samsung] has systematically copied Apple’s innovative technology and products, features, and designs, and has deluged markets with infringing devices in an effort to usurp market share from Apple.”
As has come to be a tradition in the long running Apple v. Samsung saga, Samsung then filed counterclaims.
The trial itself started on March 31st 2014 and lasted for a month during which time over 52 hours of testimony were heard.
In the end, neither brand came out on top; both companies were found guilty of making some infringements but cleared of others.
Why it’s so interesting
Though there remains room for appeal, the main buzz of Apple versus Samsung is largely over. In August 2014 they agreed to drop all non-US patent suits against each other. The Apple and Samsung story is particularly interesting because it highlights how mobile tech firms have come to be consistently reliant upon intellectual property suits to decide who owns the rights to new innovations.
Medtronic v. Edward Lifesciences
These med tech firms were in dispute for many years over the tricky topic of transcatheter heart valve development. Much like the Apple v. Samsung IP law case this one has been a long drawn out story, though this time the technology in question related to a non-invasive alternative treatment for people suffering from aortic valve stenosis rather than snazzier, smoother running smartphones. Medtronic and Edward Lifesciences produce transcatheter heart valves that can be inserted into stenotic aortic valves.
In May 2014 the two firms reached an agreement whereby Medtronic will pay royalties totalling over $1 billion to Edwards Lifesciences in relation to the Medtronic CoreValve product. This will be the sum of payments over the agreed period until 2022.
The agreement came one month after courts found in Edwards Lifesciences favour, agreeing that the CoreValve product breached intellectual property.
Why it’s so interesting
Though the courts found in against Medtronic they were not prevented from producing the CoreValve. This gives medical professionals the ability to choose for themselves between products. The language of some of the earlier patents was also of particular interest in this case.
Enercon vs Siemens
With the world trying to wean itself off gas and onto other fuels, the business of alternative energy is big business. Right now Enercon holds a patent for “storm control” used in its wind turbines, however, the patent, which has been disputed by Siemens (among others) is due to expire in 2016.
During a hearing of the dispute between Enercon and Siemens at London High Court in October 2014 the presiding judge Mr Justice Morgan is on the record as stating that Siemens have incorporated the technology into some of their customer’s turbines but not yet activated it, so as to avoid charges of breaching the patent.
Enercon requested to know which customers of Siemens had the technology fitted so that they would know if it were to become activated and therefore in breach of the patent. Justice Morgan concluded this request should be met.
Why it’s so interesting
Aside from the validity of the patent still being contended, it is interesting to note that Siemens agree the mere fitting of the technology itself does not constitute a breach, though use of that technology would be because of the financial implications. As noted by Justice Morgan in the hearing: “It is said use of the technology is very profitable both for Siemens and for a customer who uses it.”