Whether a patent is invalid for a public use or sale [depends upon] "whether the subject of the barring activity met each of the limitations of the claim, and thus was an embodiment of the claimed invention."
On May 8, 2012, in Leader Techs., Inc. v. Facebook, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Lourie,* Moore, Wallach) affirmed the district court's judgment entering the jury verdict that U.S. Patent 7,139,761, which related to software that allows users on a network to communicate and collaborate on a large scale, was invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b). The Federal Circuit stated:
Under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b), a patent is invalid if "the invention was . . . in public use or on sale in this country" more than one year prior to the date the patent application is filed. "Whether a patent is invalid for a public use or sale is a question of law, reviewed de novo, based on underlying facts, reviewed for substantial evidence following a jury verdict." One of those underlying facts is "whether the subject of the barring activity met each of the limitations of the claim, and thus was an embodiment of the claimed invention." Because we presume that an issued patent is valid, 35 U.S.C. § 282, the party challenging the validity of a patent must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the product used or on sale prior to the critical date was embodied by the claimed invention.
In this case, Leader does not contest that a Leader2Leader® product was offered for sale and publicly used prior to December 10, 2002, the critical date. Nor, for the purposes of the on-sale bar, does Leader contest that the invention was "ready for patenting" prior to the critical date. Instead, Leader argues that Facebook failed to offer clear and convincing evidence that the version of Leader2Leader® offered for sale or used prior to December 10, 2002 fell within the scope of the asserted claims. Specifically, Leader argues that Facebook failed to offer any evidence, such as expert testimony, source code, or schematics, to prove when Leader incorporated the patented technology into the Leader2Leader product. Indeed, Leader argues that the only evidence at trial was testimony that showed that Leader did not use or offer for sale the invention until after the critical date. Leader asserts that even if the jury found that testimony incredible, incredible testimony is not affirmative evidence of its opposite, viz., that the invention was on sale or used prior to the critical date. Thus, argues Leader, Facebook failed as a matter of law to prove invalidity by clear and convincing evidence. In the alternative, Leader argues that the district court abused its discretion in denying its request for a new trial because the verdict of invalidity was against the great weight of the evidence. . . .
We agree with Facebook that legally sufficient evidence supported the jury's verdict that the version of Leader2Leader® demonstrated and offered for sale prior to the critical date was an embodiment of the asserted claims. Contrary to Leader's arguments, the record is not devoid of the minimum quantity of evidence to support the jury's verdict. First, Leader admitted in its interrogatory responses that Leader2Leader® powered by the Digital Leaderboard® engine "embodies" the asserted claims of the '761 patent. Leader argues that, by employing the present tense, its admissions were limited to only the instance of the Leader2Leader® powered by the Digital Leaderboard® engine that existed at the time Leader served its responses on Facebook. But Leader did not qualify its interrogatory responses in that manner. The responses did not specify any date ranges nor did they identify versions or builds of the software -- information that Leader appears to have tracked. Coupled with Leader's admission, the record contains legally sufficient evidence linking the pre-critical date software to the software that Leader admitted fell within the scope of the asserted claims. In its offer to Wright Patterson in January 2002, Leader offered for sale the exact software product that Leader admitted fell within the scope of the asserted claims -- the Digital Leaderboard® engine supplied under the Leader2Leader brand -- and described that software as "fully developed" and "operational." Like Leader's admissions, Leader did not identify a specific build or version of the software in the offer for sale. Moreover, in the offer, Leader depicted the fully developed system as powering a browser-accessible "Big Board" that allows analysts and agencies to collaborate and share information, a disclosure that matches the embodiments of the '761 patent in material respects. This description is consistent with Leader's other pre-critical date documents, which describe the software as facilitating the same type of user interaction described in the '761 patent's embodiments, such as document management, collaborative meetings and file sharing. Those documents also state that, by December 3, 2002, Leader had "flawless[ly]" demonstrated the software, which contained the company's "full suite of technology services," and had been "built."
In upholding the verdict, we recognize that as a general matter a computer scientist can easily modify and change software code and that two versions of the same software product may function differently. But, in this case, Leader fails to point to any contemporaneous evidence in the record that indicates that the Leader2Leader® powered by the Digital Leaderboard® engine that existed prior to the critical date was substantively different from the post-critical date software; indeed, the evidence points in the opposite direction. As for [the] testimony that Leader was constantly revising the software and just completed the final version right after the pre-critical date demonstrations and offers for sale, the jury was entitled to disbelieve such a transparently convenient assertion in light of all of the evidence before them. On appeal, we cannot reweigh the evidence or supplant the record. We are bound by the record developed below, viewed in the light most favorable to Facebook, and can only reverse the verdict if the record is critically deficient of the minimum quantity of evidence from which the jury might have reasonably rendered a verdict against Leader. Even if we may have reached a different verdict had we sat on the jury, it is not our role as an appellate court to overturn the jury's verdict when it was supported by substantial evidence.