United States: Danisco v. Novozymes: Declaratory Judgment Action For Non-Infringement And Invalidity Improper And Dismissed Where Action Was Filed Prior To Or Simultaneously With The Issuance Of The Patent

Last Updated: January 22 2013
Article by Stanley M. Gibson

Danisco US, Inc. ("Danisco") filed a declaratory judgment action asserting that its Rapid Starch Liquefaction products ("RSL products") do not infringe certain patents held by Novozymes and that the patent-in-suit is invalid. Danisco and Novoyzymes are two of the major competitors in the field of developing and supplying industrial enzymes used in the process of converting corn into ethanol fuel.

Novozymes moved to dismiss the action and asserted that Danisco did not allege, and could not allege, that Novozymes took any affirmative act to enforce the patent-in-suit against Danisco. Danisco asserted that there was an actual controversy between the parties because it could be reasonably inferred that Novozymes obtained the patent with the hopes of asserting it against Danisco's products.

As explained by the district court, "Danisco insists there is an actual controversy here, ripe and justiciable, because under "all the circumstances" it should be obvious that Novozymes' very aim in obtaining the '573 patent was to be in position to charge Danisco's RSL's products with infringement. The circumstances to which Danisco points, including the parties' status in the industry, past litigation, and the prosecution history and timing, may all very well support a reasonable inference that Novozymes pursued the El 18P claim in the '573 patent with the hope of wielding it against the RSL products, and even that Novozymes may still be harboring the intent to pursue infringement claims at a time of its own choosing. Nevertheless, Danisco has not shown any affirmative act by Novozymes to enforce its patent rights. While matters such as a prior litigation history and statements made during prosecutions sometimes support a conclusion that an actual controversy exists, there is no precedent for finding jurisdiction based on such pre-patent issuance events alone, without any affirmative act of attempted enforcement."

The district court disagreed with Danisco's position and rejected its reliance on the recent 3M case: "[t]he decision in 3M Co. v. Avery Dennison Corp., 673 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2012), on which Danisco places heavy emphasis, illustrates the potential relevance of a prior history of litigation. Around the time the patents involved in that case issued, the patent holder's Chief Intellectual Property Counsel telephoned his counterpart at the patent holder's primary competitor, and expressly asserted that the competitor's product 'may infringe' and that "licenses are available. Id. at 1379. Counsel also subsequently advised that claim charts would be provided. Id. Because declaratory relief jurisdiction requires more than just 'a communication from a patent owner to another party, merely identifying its patent and the other party's product line,' Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Acceleron LLC, 587 F.3d 1358, 1362 (Fed.Cir. 2009), the question was whether these express and specific communications between the parties regarding the patents and potentially infringing products, taken together with all the other circumstances, provided a sufficient basis for a declaratory relief claim. In that context, the 3M court observed that prior litigation, if involving sufficiently related products and patents, 'is one circumstance to be considered.' 3M, 673 F.3d at 1380. In other words, where a patent holder has engaged in some communications--taken some 'affirmative act'--but there is ambiguity as to whether the statements or acts rise to the level of an attempt to enforce patent rights, then conduct predating issuance of the patent, such as prior litigation, may provide a relevant lens through which to interpret the import of the otherwise arguably vague or indefinite communications and acts. Nothing in 3M suggests that prior litigation or other pre-issuance conduct can constitute an affirmative act of enforcement."

The district court also found that jurisdiction was improper because Danisco had filed the action before the patent had even issued. "Furthermore, jurisdiction is also lacking for the more technical (but related) reason that Danisco filed this action prior to the time the patent even issued. See GAF Bldg. Materials Corp. v. Elk Corp. of Dallas, 90 F.3d 479, 482-83 (Fed. Cir. 1996) ('[A] threat is not sufficient to create a case or controversy unless it is made with respect to a patent that has issued before a complaint is filed.') Danisco's complaint was filed on August 27, 2012. The '573 patent issued the following day, August 28, 2012."

Finally, the district court determined that, at a minimum, Danisco filed the complaint nearly simultaneously with the issuance of the patents and Danisco had not shown any basis for leave to amend. "Regardless of the precise sequence of events, or what filing date the complaint should be given, it is clear that Danisco filed this action no later than virtually simultaneously with issuance of the patent. There is no indication that Novozymes did, or even could have, issued some implied or express enforcement threat so closely upon issuance of the patent such that it could be said to have taken any affirmative act to enforce its patent rights prior to the time the complaint was filed. Accordingly, the motion to dismiss must be granted. Additionally, while Danisco urges that it be given leave to amend, it has suggested no basis on which it could cure the jurisdictional defect by amending any of the allegations, under these circumstances. Accordingly, leave to amend will not be granted."

Danisco US Inc. v. Novozymes A/S and Novozymes North America, Inc., Case No. C 12-4502 RS (N.D. Cal. Jan. 8, 2013)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Stanley M. Gibson
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.