Friday, December 27, 2013

Blonder-Tongue Laboratories v. University of Illinois Foundation case brief

Blonder-Tongue Laboratories v. University of Illinois Foundation case brief summary
402 U.S. 313 (1971)

Petitioner patent licensor challenged an order of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which affirmed findings that respondent assignor's patent for a high quality television antenna for color reception was both valid and infringed by petitioner, that claim 5 of the petitioner's patent was invalid for obviousness, and that petitioner's unfair competition and antitrust counterclaims were properly dismissed.

Petitioner, a patent licensor, challenged an order of a federal appeals court affirming a judgment that respondent assignor's patent was both valid and infringed by petitioner's products. An appeals court in another circuit had determined respondent's patent was invalid for obviousness. Petitioner sought certiorari, assigning the conflict between the circuits as to the validity of respondent's patent as a primary reason for granting the writ. Petitioner sought modification of case law holding that a determination of patent invalidity was not res judicata as against the patentee in subsequent litigation against a different defendant. Petitioner argued the precedent should be modified to provide for comity on estoppel grounds where substantially the same documentary evidence was before both courts, and where respondent had the chance to present witnesses in the earlier litigation but failed to do so.

The appellate court agreed and reversed the judgment, holding that Triplett v. Lowell, 297 U.S. 638, (1936), was overruled to the extent it foreclosed a plea of estoppel by one facing a charge of infringing a patent that had once been declared invalid.

Given its partial overruling of Triplett v. Lowell, the court reversed the judgment because Triplett v. Lowell precluded petitioner from pleading estoppel, and respondents never had an opportunity to challenge the appropriateness of a plea of estoppel.

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