Iancu resigns, $2.5B verdict gone, VLSI v. Intel, contact tracing patent

Patent news for the week of Jan. 18

Hey readers, 

This newsletter is still a work in progress, and I’m definitely interested in hearing what types of posts folks find helpful, or less helpful. I got some great feedback on my post from earlier this week about How to Find a Patent Troll. If you want to get in touch, I can be reached at joe@letterspatent.org.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with a letter digging into the details of some January litigation.

Here’s the patent news I found most interesting this week.


USPTO Director Andre Iancu resigned on Tuesday. In his farewell speech, Iancu said that until he “reformed” it, PTAB had been a “death squad” for patents (it wasn’t). He also called for Congress to alter Section 101 of the U.S. patent laws, which is currently the best defense against the worst software patents. (USPTO) 

The biggest patent verdict in history is toast. Merck had won a $2.5 billion jury verdict against Gilead over patents on its Hepatitis C treatment, but lost on appeal. The Supreme Court has now refused to take the case. This could signal the death of broad “genus” patent claims. Fewer broad pharma patents sounds like good news to me, but there are some esteemed IP law professors who defend genus claims. (Susan Decker / Bloomberg) 

VLSI v. Intel is going to trial in Waco, despite the Covid-19 situation. Jury selection is scheduled for Feb. 11 in this case, in which a Fortress-backed NPE is seeking billions in damages from Intel. The Federal Circuit denied Intel’s petition seeking a mandamus order to stop the case from going to trial in Waco. (Scott Graham / Law.com) 

A Utah company wants $1 per resident for its patent on contact tracing. I wrote about this one for EFF’s Deeplinks blog. When USPTO issues a patent on an epidemiological method that’s at least 150 years old, we’re looking at a truly broken system. (EFF Deeplinks)

Photo: USPTO