Saturday, June 28, 2008

Legal malpractice lawsuit against estate of deceased patent attorney returns to the Nebraska Supreme Court after the Court had rejected the estate's District Court ruling that the plaintiff would not have won a patent infringement suit if the attorney had timely renewed its patent for a tilling device. The Douglas County District Court on remand again ruled for the attorney's estate, this time finding the plaintiff could not win a patent infringement suit because its limited patent claims would estop a patent suit. Nebraska Supreme Court this time affirms summary judgment finding that the US Supreme Court's Festo decision applied and the plaintiff's hypothetical patent lawsuit would not win because the plaintiff would not be able to overcome a patent defendant's prosecution estoppel defense. New Tek Mfg. v. Beehner, S-06-783, 275 Neb. 951 "In this case, the single two-way hydraulic cylinder claim originally asserted as claim 3 was canceled, but the two-cylinder lever-pivoting means originally asserted as claim 4 was retained in the amended application. The drawings incorporated in the ’365 patent and the ’080 patent reflect only the two-cylinder means. Element 4, claim 22, of the ’080 patent, as construed by the district court in its Markman order, describes only a device utilizing two hydraulic cylinders as lever-pivoting means. We conclude that the rejected claim 3 of the original application was replaced by a narrowing claim which may trigger prosecution history estoppel as a legal limitation on the doctrine of equivalents. We conclude as a matter of law that none of the rebuttal criteria identified in Festo II and explained further in Festo III are met in this case. The first criterion is not met because it cannot be said that the claimed equivalent was unforeseeable at the time of the narrowing amendment. The claimed means consisting of a single two-way hydraulic cylinder was canceled in response to a prior art objection. As we noted in New Tek I, there is no evidence that the alleged equivalent is “after-arising technology.”56 The second criterion is not met because the amendment to claim 3 was made to avoid prior art that contained the equivalent in question, and thus it is not tangential, but is central to the allowance of the claim.57 The third criterion is not met because the =claim for the single two-way hydraulic cylinder was rejected on the basis of prior art; there can be no other reason that Schmidt could not have described the accused equivalent

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