141 F.3d 1059 (Fed. Cir. 1998), 96-1463, Nobelpharma AB v. Implant Innovations, Inc.

Docket Nº:96-1463.
Citation:141 F.3d 1059
Party Name:46 U.S.P.Q.2d 1097 NOBELPHARMA AB, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant-Appellant, and Nobelpharma USA, Inc., Counterclaim Defendant-Appellant, and Per Ingvar Branemark and Institute for Applied Biotechnology, Counterclaim Defendants, v. IMPLANT INNOVATIONS, INC., Defendant Counterclaimant-Appellee.
Case Date:March 20, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
 
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Page 1059

141 F.3d 1059 (Fed. Cir. 1998)

46 U.S.P.Q.2d 1097

NOBELPHARMA AB, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant-Appellant,

and

Nobelpharma USA, Inc., Counterclaim Defendant-Appellant,

and

Per Ingvar Branemark and Institute for Applied

Biotechnology, Counterclaim Defendants,

v.

IMPLANT INNOVATIONS, INC., Defendant Counterclaimant-Appellee.

No. 96-1463.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

March 20, 1998

Rehearing Denied; Suggestion for Rehearing In Banc

Declined April 29, 1998.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Donald R. Dunner, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, L.L.P., Washington, DC, argued, for plaintiff/counterclaim defendant-appellant and counterclaim defendant-appellant. With him on the brief were Robert D. Bajefsky and David A. Manspeizer. Of counsel on the brief were Robert A. Bourque, Kathleen M. Scanlon, and Lawrence M. Young, Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett, New York City, and Alan I. Becker, Burditt & Radzius, Chartered, Chicago, IL.

D. Dennis Allegretti, Burns & Levinson, LLP, Boston, MA, argued, for defendant counterclaimant-appellee. With him on the brief were Stephen G. Rudisill, Arnold, White & Durkee, and Edward L. Foote and Peter C. McCabe, III, Winston & Strawn, Chicago, IL.

Before RICH, PLAGER, and LOURIE, Circuit Judges.

LOURIE, Circuit Judge.

Nobelpharma AB and Nobelpharma USA, Inc. (collectively, NP) appeal from the judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois holding that (1) U.S. Patent 4,330,891 is invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 112, p 1 (1994), for failure to disclose the best mode of carrying out the invention, (2) Implant Innovations, Inc. (3I) did not infringe the '891 patent, and (3) NP was not entitled to JMOL or, in the alternative, a new trial following the jury verdict in favor of 3I on its antitrust counterclaim against NP, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, and the Institute for Applied Biotechnology. See Nobelpharma

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AB v. Implant Innovations, Inc., 930 F.Supp. 1241 (N.D.Ill.1996). We conclude that the district court did not err in granting judgment that the patent is invalid as a matter of law at the close of NP's case-in-chief, and that it did not err in denying NP's motion for JMOL or a new trial on the antitrust counterclaim. Accordingly, the decision of the district court is affirmed. 1

BACKGROUND

Drs. Branemark and Bo-Thuresson af Ekenstam are the named inventors on the '891 patent, the application for which was filed in 1980 and claimed priority from a Swedish patent application that was filed in 1979. The patent claims "an element intended for implantation into bone tissue." This "element," when used as part of a dental implant, is placed directly into the jawbone where it acts as a tooth root substitute. The implants described and claimed in the patent are preferably made of titanium and have a network of particularly-sized and particularly-spaced "micropits." These micropits, which have diameters in the range of about 10 to 1000 nanometers or, preferably, 10 to 300 nanometers, allow a secure connection to form between the implant and growing bone tissue through a process called "osseointegration."

Branemark is also one of the authors of a book published in 1977, entitled "Osseointegrated Implants in the Treatment of the Edentulous Jaw Experienced from a 10-Year Period" (hereinafter "the 1977 Book"). As its title suggests, this book describes a decade-long clinical evaluation of patients who had received dental implants. The 1977 Book includes a single page containing four scanning electron micrographs (SEMs) of titanium implants that exhibit micropits. The caption describing these SEMs reads, in part: "Irregularities are produced during manufacturing in order to increase the retention of the implants within the mineralized tissue." 3I determined, based on measurements and calculations that it presented to the trial court, that the micropits shown in the 1977 Book have diameters within the range claimed in the '891 patent. However, the 1977 Book does not specifically refer to "micropits."

In preparing to file the Swedish patent application, af Ekenstam submitted a draft written description of the invention to the inventors' Swedish patent agent, Mr. Barnieske. This draft referred to the 1977 Book in the following translated passage:

In ten years of material pertaining to titanium jaw implants in man, Branemark et al. [in the 1977 Book] have shown that a very high frequency of healing, as stated above, can be achieved by utilizing a carefully developed surgical technique and adequately produced implants.

However, Barnieske deleted all reference to the 1977 Book from the patent application that was ultimately filed in Sweden. Similarly, the 1977 Book is not mentioned in the U.S. patent application filed by Barnieske on behalf of Branemark and af Ekenstam.

In June 1980, while the U.S. patent application was pending, Branemark entered into an exclusive license agreement with NP covering the claimed technology. 2 Barnieske kept NP informed of the prosecution of the U.S. patent application and received assistance from NP's U.S. patent agent. The '891 patent issued in 1982; NP has since asserted it in at least three patent infringement suits.

In July 1991, while Branemark was a member of NP's Board of Directors, NP brought this suit alleging that certain of 3I's dental implants infringed the '891 patent. 3I defended on the grounds of invalidity, unenforceability, and non-infringement. 3I also brought an antitrust counterclaim, based in part on the assertion that NP attempted to enforce a patent that it knew was invalid and unenforceable. Specifically, 3I alleged that when NP brought suit, NP was aware that the inventors' intentional failure to disclose

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the 1977 Book to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) would render the '891 patent unenforceable.

During its case-in-chief, NP introduced portions of a deposition of Branemark that apparently was conducted several years before this trial began in connection with a lawsuit involving neither NP nor 3I. NP also introduced into evidence portions of that deposition that were counter-designated for introduction by 3I. Branemark's deposition testimony included his admissions that one "could consider" the procedure used to manufacture the micropitted surface a trade secret, and "it might be" that there are details "important to making" the micropitted surface that are not disclosed in the patent. At the close of NP's case-in-chief, the district court granted 3I's motion for JMOL of invalidity and non-infringement. The court held that the patent was invalid under § 112, p 1, for failure to disclose the best mode and that NP had failed to prove infringement. The court then denied NP's motion for JMOL on 3I's antitrust counterclaim, proceeded to inform the jury that the court had held the patent invalid, and allowed 3I to present the counterclaim to the jury.

After trial limited to the antitrust issue, the jury found in special verdicts, inter alia, that 3I had proven that (1) "the inventors or their agents or attorneys obtained the '891 patent through fraud," (2) NP "had knowledge that the '891 patent was obtained by fraud at the time this action was commenced against 3I," and (3) NP "brought this lawsuit against 3I knowing that the '891 patent was either invalid or unenforceable and with the intent of interfering directly with 3I's ability to compete in the relevant market." The jury awarded 3I approximately $3.3 million in compensatory damages, an amount the court trebled pursuant to section 4 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 15 (1994). The court declined to rule on whether the patent was unenforceable for inequitable conduct, concluding that its judgment of invalidity rendered the issue of enforceability moot. Nobelpharma AB v. Implant Innovations, Inc., 875 F.Supp. 481, 34 USPQ2d 1090 (N.D.Ill.1995).

The court then denied NP's renewed motion for JMOL on the counterclaim or, in the alternative, for a new trial on both the counterclaim and the infringement claim. Nobelpharma AB, 930 F.Supp. at 1246. In denying NP's post-verdict motion for a new trial on the issue of infringement, the district court again concluded that the patent was invalid for failure to disclose the best mode. Id. at 1247-49. The court also concluded that NP was not entitled to JMOL on the counterclaim because, inter alia, "NP, as the assignee of the patent, maintained and enforced the patent with knowledge of the patent's fraudulent derivation." Id. at 1257. The court denied NP's motion for a new trial on the counterclaim, holding, inter alia, that it did not err in its evidentiary rulings or in refusing to instruct the jury that in order to impose antitrust liability against NP, it must find NP's lawsuit "objectively baseless." Id. at 1264.

NP appealed to this court, challenging the district court's grant of 3I's motion for JMOL of invalidity and non-infringement and its denial of the post-verdict motion for JMOL or a new trial. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1) (1994).

DISCUSSION

  1. Invalidity

    At the close of NP's case-in-chief, the district court granted 3I's motion for judgment of invalidity under § 112, p 1, as a matter of law for failure to disclose the best mode of practicing the invention. NP then filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied, in order to reopen the evidence and offer proof regarding its compliance with § 112, p 1. After the jury returned its verdict in favor of 3I on its antitrust counterclaim, NP moved for a new trial, again arguing that the court had erred in granting 3I's motion for JMOL. In reaffirming its decision to grant 3I's motion for JMOL, the district court held that...

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