Each year sees trends in filings and cases, and 2016 thus far is no different. As I've posted recently, while the biggest trend is the dramatic fall-off in "bulk filer" patent infringement cases, with last year's top three filers off over 90% in the first quarter of 2016, resulting in an overall decrease in filings of around half, there is a second one of interest, which is an uptick in "competitor cases" at trial.
By "competitor cases" I mean a plaintiff that makes products that practice its patents and is accusing a competitor who is making a competing product of infringement. Before this week, four of the district's ten patent verdicts were in competitor cases, and last week saw a fifth tried in Judge Schroeder's court. The cases themselves are not new - they are filed by the dozens (even hundreds) each year, but they don't reach trial with the frequency they have lately.
This past Friday a Tyler jury in Mars Petcare US v. True Science Holdings LLC found the plaintiff, manufacturer of Greenies breath-freshening treats for dogs, accusing the defendant, manufacturer of the competing Minties treats of infringement. The jury found that the accused dog treats didn't infringe - and invalidated the asserted claims (shades of the recent trial in Marshall where the jury found neither sides' products were infringed, and all of the asserted claims were invalid).
Interestingly, the Eastern District hasn't been the only place where these companies have, uh, dueled. True Science filed a dec action seeking a judgment of noninfringement of four Mars patents last week (this time on cat treats) in the Eastern District of Virginia after a Utah court dismissed a similar dec action last year for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. And there is another case pending in Tennessee on patents dealing with pet food for arthritic animals.