On October 12, 2012, W.L. Gore & Associates Inc. ("Gore") filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the High Court to review the Federal Circuit's denial of joint-inventor status to one of Gore's engineers. The patent-in-suit, U.S. Patent No. 6,436,135 ("the '135 patent") lists Dr. David Goldfarb ("Goldfarb") as the sole inventor (Bard is the assignee.), and Gore argues that Peter Cooper ("Cooper"), head of Gore's vascular prosthetic research program, should be listed as a joint inventor. Gore alleges that the Federal Circuit erred in setting forth a new standard for joint inventorship that directly conflicts with legislative intent and the plain text of the Patent Act.
In the district court, the jury held that Gore willfully infringed Bard's patent, and the judge doubled the jury's damage award, granting $371 million to Bard. The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in February 2012, and Gore filed a combined petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc. In June 2012, the Federal Circuit granted the motion for rehearing en banc, "for the limited purpose of authorizing the panel to revise the portion of its opinion addressing willfulness." Gore then filed the instant petition.
In the petition, Gore alleges that in 1971, it began a research program focused on the use of stretched Teflon® ("Gore-Tex®") in vascular prosthetics, or artificial blood vessels. Gore created implantable vessels with varying features, and hired doctors to implant the vessels and to report which ones were successful. Cooper then started an additional experiment involving the porousity of the tubes. Cooper sent small, medium, and large-pore tubes to the physicians, and the results showed that the large-pore tubes (which had a greater "internodal" distance" or "fibril length") were the winners. Based on this, Cooper conceived of the instant invention on May 1, 1973.