Published 04/29/2022 by CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)
Zipit Wireless Inc., (“The Respondent”), a Delaware corporation, is the owner of two US patents (Nos. 7,292,870 and 7,894,837), both (the “Patents-in-suit”). The Patents-in-suit are generally directed to wireless instant messaging devices that send and receive messages over Wi-Fi.
Apple Inc. (“The Appellant”) petitioned for inter partes review (“IPR”) of the Patents-in-suit before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent and Appeal Board (“The Board”).
The Appellant challenged the Patents-in-suits, maintaining the position that it does not need a license to the Patents-in-suit because it does not practice any claims of the Patents-in-suit, and thus, the claims are invalid. However, the Board held that the Respondent’s claim of the Patents-in-suit was patentable.
Following a series of exchanges between the parties, which took up to three years (2013-2016), in June 2020, the Respondent sued the Appellant in the United States District Court of the Northern District of Georgia (the “District Court”), accusing the Appellant of infringing the Patents-in-suit.
Two weeks later, the Respondent voluntarily dismissed the suit without prejudice. However, a few days later, the Appellant filed a complaint for a declaratory judgement of non-infringement of the Patents-in-suit. The Respondent sought to dismiss the Appellant’s complaint, citing a lack of personal jurisdiction under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) as its basis.
In February 2021, the District Court granted the Respondent’s motion as it held that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over the Respondent. Although, the District Court concluded that the Appellant had established the requisite minimum contacts, which made the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over the Respondent “presumably reasonable”. However, the District Court, in analyzing whether the Respondent has established a “compelling case” that the exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable, following an analysis of each of the factors outlined in Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, concluded that the Respondent had not done so. Specifically, the District Court observed that jurisdiction over the Respondent would not be unreasonable based on the weight of majority of the reasonableness factors.
Notwithstanding all of the above, the District Court then dismissed the Appellant’s declaratory judgement suit for lack of jurisdiction on two grounds. One, the Respondent’s lack of binding obligations tying it to California and two, the Respondent’s contacts with California all related to the attempted resolution of the status of the Patents-in-suit.
The Appellant appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the “Federal Circuit). Before the Federal Circuit was a sole issue regarding whether the district court erred in dismissing Apple’s declaratory judgment action for lack of specific personal jurisdiction over the Respondent. In determining this issue, the Federal Circuit resolved a fundamental inquiry, i.e., whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction comported with due process, alongside the facts in the case and held that the district court erred in dismissing the Appellant’s claim for declaratory judgement. Thereby upholding the appeal.
Following the US Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit considered the three factors relevant to determining whether the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction is appropriate in this case. It held that the Respondent purposefully directed their activities at California and that it did not make a compelling case that the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable.
Although, the Federal Circuit agreed with the District Court that adjudication in California would create some burden for the Respondent, considering its ties to South Carolina. However, it was not convinced that the general allegations adduced by the Respondent would be so unreasonably burdensome as to be unconstitutional.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed throughout this blog are the views and opinions of the individual author(s) and/or contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of our firm, CIONCA IP Law. P.C.
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