ROLLS-ROYCE PATENT RESCUED FROM INTERFERENCE

Scott Daniels | May 10, 2010

In 2003, the PTO Board declared an interference between the claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,071,077 belonging to Rolls-Royce, and the claims of a United Technologies patent application.  The invention was a fan blade configuration used in turbofan jet engines.  United Technologies, having an earlier priority date, was named the senior party, and Rolls-Royce, with the later date, the junior party.

Rolls-Royce argued that there was no “interference-in-fact” because its claims were patentably distinguishable over the claims of the United Technologies patent. The PTO Board disagreed, concluding that the parties’ claims did interfere and entering judgment in favor of United Technologies.

Rolls-Royce then filed a complaint in District Court under 35 U.S.C. § 146, challenging the PTO’s judgment.  The District Court narrowly construed the United Technologies’ claims, holding that Rolls-Royce’s claims were non-obvious over the United Technologies’ claims and that there was no interference-in-fact.  Last week, the CAFC affirmed the District Court’s ruling.

On the very same day as its victory at the CAFC, Rolls-Royce sued United Technologies for infringement of the ‘077 patent in the same District Court that had ruled in its favor in the § 146 action.  One wonders whether the narrow claim construction that was successful in the earlier § 146 action will affect Rolls-Royce’s current infringement argument.

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