The Long Way Around

Jang v. Boston Scientific

Savvy travelers in the land of patent litigation occasionally use the stipulated judgment short-cut to speedy appellate review of the district court's claim construction.  In order to have a final, appealable judgment, litigants on this usually expedited route agree that the accused products would or would not infringe (as the case may be) in light of the district court's claim construction.  This allows the case to proceed up to the Federal Circuit for review of the claim construction, without wasting a lot of time at the district court litigating under the disputed construction.

However, the decision in Jang v. Boston Scientific makes clear that such stipulated judgments don't always end up in the fast lane.  In Jang, the stipulation between the parties failed to explain clearly the impact the disputed construction had on infringement.  As a result, the Federal Circuit found it lacked the proper context for a meaningful claim construction.  The Court sent the parties to the back of the line, remanding the matter to the district court for further clarification-something parties in a hurry never want to see happen.

The patent holder in Jang may have been the one in a rush.  The patents at issue involved cardiac stents and Dr. Jang, the inventor and patent holder, claimed Boston Scientific owed him $100 million under a patent licensing agreement between the parties.  Boston Scientific asserted it only owed a smaller $10 million non-commercialization fee.  The proper payment owed depended upon whether certain subsequent Boston Scientific products were "covered" under the parties' licensing agreement.  Answering that question depended upon the district court's construction of certain claims within Jang's patent.

After the district court issued its claim construction order, the parties entered into a stipulation conceding that infringement could not be shown if the district court's claim constructions were upheld on appeal.  Unfortunately, the stipulation did not explain how an appellate reversal of the district court's particular claim construction would affect the infringement dispute.  Additionally, the stipulation lacked a factual context for the issues presented by the parties and nothing in the stipulation explained how the disputed claim construction impacted the allegedly infringing products.

The Federal Circuit said these ambiguities required the remand it ordered.  Stipulated judgments must meet the same jurisdictional requirements as other judgments.  If the court cannot ascertain the basis for the stipulated judgment, it cannot review it, particularly if the ambiguities involved impact the court's jurisdiction.  Here, the court could not tell why the accused products did not infringe under the district court's construction or why they would infringe under the alternative construction Jang offered.  Without further clarification the court found that appellate review was simply not possible.

Jang makes clear what we've always known: the Federal Circuit won't skip over necessary analysis just because the parties have agreed to the circumstances giving rise to the appeal.  Stipulated judgment or not, clear drafting that serves to educate the court regarding the disputed claims and the accused products are always necessary elements for success.  Our advice?  When it comes to stipulated judgments, patent litigators should follow Jang's road signs that the fast lane is reserved for properly-constructed vehicles.

The articles on our Website include some of the publications and papers authored by our attorneys, both before and after they joined our firm. The content of these articles should not be taken as legal advice.