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WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

‘AXLE’ ROWS - At the moment, the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming term is looking like it could be an uneventful one for the IP crowd—that is unless the justices decide to grant cert in American Axle and Manufacturing v. Neapco, a patent eligibility case that could be an instant blockbuster. As Law.com’s Scott Graham reports, the high court last spring asked for the solicitor general’s views on whether it should take up the case, which centers on a disputed patent for an automotive drive shaft that is tuned to be less noisy. If that doesn’t exactly sound enthralling, consider this: A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held the invention ineligible for patenting under Section 101 of the Patent Act and then split 6-6 on whether to reconsider the ruling en banc, prompting Judge Kimberly Moore to describe the court as “bitterly divided.” The SG is expected to deliver its answer to SCOTUS sometime this fall. If the justices do end up taking the case, the case is sure to be closely watched since a ruling reversing the Federal Circuit would be a blow to technology companies that have used Section 101 challenges to defuse patent suits early in litigation, before high costs can be leveraged for a settlement.

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