In Transweb, LLC v. 3M Innovative Properties Co., Appeal No. 2014-1646, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s: (1) finding of inequitable conduct; (2) finding of a Walker Process antitrust violation; and (3) finding that trebled attorney’s fees was appropriate for the Walker Process violation.
3M sued TransWeb for infringement of two patents related to respirator filters. A jury found that TransWeb did not infringe the asserted claims, that the claims were invalid as obvious, and that 3M had committed aWalker Process antitrust violation by asserting fraudulently-obtained patents. The jury also provided an advisory verdict that the patents were unenforceable due to inequitable conduct, which the district court agreed with. 3M appealed.
The Federal Circuit affirmed the jury’s obviousness and inequitable conduct holdings. Regarding inequitable conduct, the Federal Circuit upheld the district court’s findings that 3M had withheld information about TransWeb’s public disclosure of samples rendering the claims obvious, and that 3M had intentionally done so by misrepresenting that such samples were obtained under the terms of a nondisclosure agreement.
Regarding the Walker Process violation, 3M did not contest that a finding of inequitable conduct satisfied the requirement that the patents be obtained via fraud. 3M only contested whether the district court properly defined the relevant market for determining whether there was a dangerous probability that 3M had market power and whether the award of attorney fees was appropriate. The Federal Circuit found that there was substantial evidence to support the jury’s finding that 3M had market power. The Federal Circuit also found that an award of attorney’s fees was proper because, in defending the infringement suit, TransWeb had been forced to incur attorney’s fees.