Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Inc. v. Maersk Drilling USA, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Patents
  • Date Filed: 11-15-2012
  • Case #: 2011-1555
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Moore, Prost, Wallach
  • Full Text Opinion

When a court determines that a patent presents a prima facie case of obviousness, a presumption of invalidity for obviousness is raised. That presumption, however, can be rebutted by strong, objective evidence showing that the patent is nonobvious.

Opinion (Moore): Transocean sued Maersk claiming infringement of three offshore drilling related patents. The district court granted summary judgment for Maersk, which was reversed on appeal. On remand, a jury found Maersk had infringed the patents and awarded damages. The district court, however, granted Maersk’s motion for judgment as a matter law (JMOL), holding that the patents were invalid for obviousness and lack of enablement, and that Maersk did not infringe the asserted claims. Transocean appealed. In the previous appeal, the Court of Appeals concluded that Transocean’s patents “present[ed] a prima facie case of obviousness.” While that conclusion raised a presumption that the patents were invalid, it could be rebutted by showing strong, objective evidence of nonobviousness. At trial, the jury found that seven types of objective evidence of nonobviousness (commercial success, industry praise, unexpected results, copying, industry skepticism, licensing, and long-felt but unsolved need) supported Transocean’s nonobviousness claims. In granting JMOL, the district court decided the evidence did not support those findings. After reviewing the objective evidence considered by the jury, the Court of Appeals concluded that the jury’s findings were supported by substantial evidence, and therefore reversed the district court’s grant of JMOL of obviousness. The Appellate Court similarly determined that the jury’s conclusions on both enablement and infringement were supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, REVERSED the district court’s grant of JMOL on those issues.

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