Network Signatures, Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins., Inc., No. 12-1492 (Fed. Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
The patent, entitled “Intermediate Network Authentication,” concerns internet security, and was developed by a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). The NRL allowed the patent to lapse for nonpayment of the 7.5-year maintenance fee. Two weeks after the lapse, NRL received an inquiry from Network Signatures about licensing the patent and successfully petitioned the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to accept delayed payment of the fee. Network Signatures sued State Farm for infringement of the patent. In defense, State Farm asserted that the patent was permanently unenforceable on the ground that the NRL patent attorney had engaged in inequitable conduct by “falsely representing” to the PTO that the NRL’s non-payment of the maintenance fee was “unintentional.” The district court granted summary judgment of inequitable conduct, and found the patent unenforceable. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the PTO Director acted in accordance with law and within his discretion in excusing the delayed payment, and that inequitable conduct was not established.