Friday, September 18, 2020

RPX - The PTAB Sees a Relatively Small Percentage of Patents Litigated in District Court - Comment

On September 16, RPX published a short article: The PTAB Sees a Relatively Small Percentage of Patents Litigated in District Court September 16, 2020. It noted that only 22% of the court cases also see an inter partes review (IPR). Thus, the RPX report might give some patent owners a nice feeling: you probably won't face an IPR where more than half of US patents see claims invalidated. 

But think about it. If RPX is correct that IPRs have only been filed against 4,330 patents since available in 2012, while the USPTO reports 11,148 IPR petitions filed from beginning (Sept. 16, 2012) until recently (Aug. 31, 2020), we have a difference. Let's assume both RPX and the USPTO are correct. Why the difference? I am thinking the difference is attributable to the current practice of filing multiple petitions against certain patents. Many patent may escape an IPR, but for valuable patents, it's "war by attrition."

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

USPTO - Trial Statistics IPR, PGR, CBM Patent Trial and Appeal Board August 2020

The USPTO monthly publishes trial statistics for IPRs, PRG, and CBM in the PTAB section of USPTO.gov. Note covered business methods (CBM) expired September 15, 2020. 

Here's the latest report: Trial Statistics IPR, PGR, CBM Patent Trial and Appeal Board August 2020

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 31, 2020

IP Watchdog Annual 11-day Free Virtual IP law conference (September 1-30)

Gene Quinn's IP Watchdog Annual Meeting 11-day virtual conference (September 1-30) with IP law speakers starts at 9 AM (PT) tomorrow: IP Watchdog free registration page.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

RPX - Infringement Is the Top District Court Issue Appealed to the Federal Circuit

RPX published a nice summary on what US patent issues are appealed to the Federal Circuit:

"RPX data on the Federal Circuit show that infringement is the most common issue appealed from district court patent cases, appearing in over 450 appeals. Claim construction and invalidity (under Sections 102/103/112) are the next two most frequent issues, each of which appears in over 300 appeals. Two other key issues round out the top five: damages/fees/costs (appearing in around 275 appeals) and invalidity under Alice/Section 101 (just over 240 appeals)."

Note the low reversal rates of many issues appealed point to the importance of winning at trial. As Judge Rich might say, "the name of the game is the claim."

For more detail: RPX Infringement Is the Top District Court Issue Appealed to the Federal Circuit

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

USPTO - Use of Admitted Prior Art in a Petition for Inter Partes Review

On August 18, 2020, the USPTO issued a Guidance Memorandum to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) regarding reliance on applicant admitted prior art in a petition for inter partes review.

The USPTO stated: "the memorandum, issued under the Director’s authority to set forth binding agency guidance, provides the office’s interpretation of 35 U.S.C. § 311(b) that the basis for an inter partes review (IPR) must be a prior art patent or printed publication, and that statements regarding prior art in the challenged patent therefore cannot serve as the basis for instituting an IPR. Such statements, however, may provide evidence of the general knowledge possessed by a person of ordinary skill in the art, and may be used to support an obviousness argument in conjunction with one or more prior art patents or printed publications."

Thus, the USPTO memo states IPR challengers cannot ground a petition solely in applicant's admissions in the specification, but can use them to support obviousness along with prior art.

This is uncontroversial, but it reminds how you write a US patent application. The popular Pressman, Patent It Yourself (2018) states that "applicants should indicate the problems of the prior art, if any, and describe and knock all prior art" under the heading Background - Prior Art. However, this is not good advice, a big job, and in my view unnecessary. Instead, it is best to avoid risk of a prior admission in describing and knocking all prior art, especially when the USPTO only requires applicants and attorneys disclose prior art they are aware of that is material to patentability in an information disclosure statement for consideration by the examiner.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Federal Circuit - Packet Intelligence LLC v. NetScout Systems, Inc. - Claims Patent Eligible under 35 USC 101

In Packet Intelligence LLC v. NetScout Systems, Inc., the Federal Circuit held claims patent eligible under 35 USC § 101.

Athough Packet Intelligence alleged infringement of three US patents, the patent eligibility issue was analyzed using representative claim 19 of US Patent No. 6,954,789:

19.  A packet monitor for examining packets passing through a connection point on a computer network, each packet conforming to one or more protocols, the monitor comprising:

    (a) a packet acquisition device coupled to the connection point and configured to receive packets passing through the connection point;

    (b) an input buffer memory coupled to and configured to accept a packet from the packet acquisition device;

    (c) a parser subsystem coupled to the input buffer memory and including a slicer, the parsing subsystem configured to extract selected portions of the accepted packet and to output a parser record containing the selected portions;

    (d) a memory for storing a database comprising none or more flow-entries for previously encountered conversational flows, each flow-entry identified by identifying information stored in the flow-entry;

    (e) a lookup engine coupled to the output of the parser subsystem and to the flow-entry memory and configured to lookup whether the particular packet whose parser record is output by the parser subsystem has a matching flow-entry, the looking up using at least some of the selected packet portions and determining if the packet is of an existing flow; and

    (f) a flow insertion engine coupled to the flow-entry memory and to the lookup engine and configured to create a flow-entry in the flow-entry database, the flow-entry including identifying information for future packets to be identified with the new flow-entry, the lookup engine configured such that if the packet is of an existing flow, the monitor classifies the packet as belonging to the found existing flow; and if the packet is of a new flow, the flow insertion engine stores a new flow-entry for the new flow in the flow-entry database, including identifying information for future packets to be identified with the new flow-entry, wherein the operation of the parser subsystem depends on one or more of the protocols to which the packet conforms.

The Federal Circuit stated in analyzing patent eligibility, we consider the claim as a whole and read it in light of the specification. The Federal Circuit observed patent-eligibility of computer and network technology often turns on whether claims recite a specific improvement in computer capability or an abstract idea for which computers are merely invoked as a tool.

The Federal Circuit stated that claim 19 was not directed to an abstract idea. Instead, it met a unique challenge to computer networks by describing how to identify disjointed connection flows in a network environment. In other words, the specification presented a new technological solution to a technological problem.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Federal Circuit - Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Hulu LLC - PTAB May Review Proposed Substitute Claims for Patent Eligibility in IPR

In Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Hulu, LLC, the Federal Circuit affirmed PTAB's determination that the patent owner's substitute claims proposed in a motion to amend were patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 in an inter partes review (IPR).

As a reminder, IPR only permits challenges of US patent claims based on prior literature under 35 U.S.C. § 102 and 35 U.S.C. § 103. However, the Federal Circuit is now making a distinction with issued and substitute claims proposed in an IPR and states that PTAB may review substitute claims proposed by the patent owner for patent eligibility.

The dissent stated: "the majority breathes life into a dead patent and uses the zombie it has created as a means to dramatically expand the scope of inter partes review (“IPR”) proceedings. Because the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) is estopped from issuing substitute claims in place of the invalidated claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,566,960 ("'960 patent") and because, even if the Board could issue such claims, it would be improper for it to consider 35 U.S.C. § 101."

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

USPTO - PTAB Motion to Amend Study Updated

The USPTO released an update to the PTAB Motion to Amend Study today.

It seems the data on motions to amend filed under the pilot program is insufficient at this stage to support it is less than a challenge to amend patent claims in PTAB trials.

Here's the USPTO summary:

"The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) has published the sixth installment of its Motion to Amend Study. The study tracks and analyzes all motions to amend filed in America Invents Act trials, including pilot motions, through the end of March 2020.

This installment completes the data on all motions to amend filed before the effective date of the New Pilot Program Concerning Motion to Amend Practice and Procedures in Trial Proceedings Under the America Invents Act Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (84 FR 9497).

Highlights from the installment include:

Some limited data on motions to amend filed under the motion to amend pilot program that the office implemented for cases instituted on or after March 15, 2019.

Of the 5,359 trials that have gone to completion or settled, patent owners sought to amend the claims in 562 trials—504 pre-pilot program trials and 58 pilot program trials.

Of the 504 trials with pre-pilot motions to amend, the PTAB decided the merits of 335 motions. In the remaining 170 completed trials, the motions to amend were rendered moot because the PTAB did not find the original claims unpatentable, were not decided because the trial terminated prior to a final written decision, or contained an amendment that only sought to cancel claims.

Of the 335 pre-pilot motions to amend that the PTAB decided, the PTAB granted or granted-in-part 46 motions. For 92% of the 289 motions denied or denied-in-part, the PTAB determined that the proposed amended claims did not satisfy at least one statutory requirement of patentability—akin to an examiner rejecting a proposed amended claim because it is anticipated, obvious, not adequately described in the written description, indefinite, or directed to non-statutory subject matter—or found that the patent owner failed to satisfy the statutory requirements for a motion to amend under 35 U.S.C. §§ 316(d) or 326(d).

For the limited number of motions to amend filed under the pilot program and included in the study, patent owners requested preliminary guidance in 83% of motions and filed a revised motion to amend in 58% of trials after receiving preliminary guidance (when taking into account cases that terminated, cases in which the motion to amend was withdrawn, or cases in which the deadline to file a revised motion to amend had not yet passed)."

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Supreme Court - USPTO v. Booking.com - Generic.com can be federally registered

In USPTO v. Booking.com, the Supreme Court held a term styled "generic.com" can be federally registered as a mark if evidence supports that consumers consider the term to not mean a generic name of a class of goods or services.

Booking.com provides travel-reservation services and sought federal registration of the domain name: "Booking.com." The USPTO refused registration because it considered it a generic name for online hotel-reservation services. The courts below the Supreme Court sided with Booking.com.

It should be noted, the Supreme Court expressly rejected the USPTO's argument for a per se rule when a generic term (e.g., booking) is combined with an Internet-domain name suffix like “.com,” the resulting combination remains generic. Thus, we may see trademark surveys being filed in support of domain names.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

USPTO - Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program - Decision within Six Months?

The USPTO announced a program to expedite decision for patent applications on appeal.

From the Federal Register:

"The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is initiating the Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program to provide for the advancement of applications out of turn in ex parte appeals before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). An appellant who has filed an ex parte appeal and received a notice that the appeal has been docketed may file a petition, accompanied by a petition fee, to expedite the review of his or her appeal. The Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program sets a target of reaching a decision on the ex parte appeal within six months from the date an appeal is entered into the Pilot Program."

"The Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program is offered on a temporary basis, and petitions to request inclusion of an ex parte appeal in the Pilot Program will be accepted until 500 appeals have been accorded fast-track status under the program, or until July 2, 2021, whichever occurs earlier. The USPTO may extend the Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program (with or without modification) on either a temporary or a permanent basis, or may discontinue the program for either insufficient usage or after July 2, 2021."

For more details see the Federal Register Notice.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Federal Circuit - Extensive Revisions to Rules and Forms

The Federal Circuit published Revisions to the Rules of Practice and the filing forms that must be respectively followed and used for cases pending on or after July 1, 2020.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

USPTO - Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) Revised

Today, the USPTO announced:

"The ninth edition of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure was revised to include updated information on patent examination policy and procedure related to a number of issues, including subject matter eligibility and examination of computer-implemented functional claim limitations.

The June 2020 revision updates sections of chapters 100-1000, 1200-1500, and 1700-2800. The updated sections have a revision indicator of [R-10.2019], meaning these sections have been updated to reflect USPTO patent practice and relevant case law as of October 31, 2019. In addition, the June 2020 revision updates Chapter FPC - Form Paragraphs Consolidated, the Foreword, the Introduction, the Subject Matter Index, and all Appendices, except Appendix I and Appendix P."

See Details at the MPEP page of the USPTO website.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Federal Circuit - Facebook v. Windy City Innovations LLC - No Same-Party Joinder In Inter Partes Review

In Facebook v. Windy City Innovations LLC, the Federal Circuit held that 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) does not authorize same-party joinder, and does not authorize joinder of new issues (e.g., for cancellation), including issues that would otherwise be time-barred under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b) from inter partes review (IPR).

Unless Federal courts require infringement contentions well within one year of the service of an infringement complaint, this seems to increase legal fees for effective IPR petitions and increase the value of US patents with diverse claims.

See Bloomberg Law Patent Challengers Reassess Strategies After Ruling Bars Tactic.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Federal Circuit - Anneal v Almirall - Reverses Attorney Fee Award for Work on Inter Partes Review

In Anneal v Almirall, the Federal Circuit held that a court cannot award attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285 for work incurred on an inter partes review (IPR) and on appeal from IPR decision, because 35 U.S.C. § 285 is limited to "judicial proceedings."

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

N.D. Cal. - Google Countersues Sonos for Infringement of Five US Patents

On June 11, Google countersued Sonos for infringement of US patents related to mesh networks, echo cancellation, digital rights management, content notification and search:
  • 7,899,187 Domain-based digital-rights management system with easy and secure device enrollment 
  • 8,583,489 Generating a media content availability notification
  • 10,140,375 Personalized network searching
  • 7,065,206 Method and apparatus for adaptive echo and noise control
  • 10,229,586 Relaying communications in a wireless sensor system
See Patently Apple article: The Sonos vs. Google Court Battle has Escalated with Google filing a Countersuit yesterday in a California Court

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Federal Circuit - Munchkin v. Luv n’ Care - Reverses Attorney Fee Award

In Munchkin, Inc. v. Luv n’ Care Ltd. the Federal Circuit reversed a district court's award of attorney’s fees to defendant Luv n’ Care, because the court had abused its discretion in determining the case "exceptional."

The Federal Circuit noted Munchkin's attorney fee motion failed to present facts and the analysis required to establish "Munchkin’s patent, trademark, and trade dress infringement claims were so substantively meritless to render the case exceptional."

See 35 U.S.C. § 285 and 15 U.S.C.§ 1117(a) which require an "exceptional case" to award attorney fees to a prevailing party in patent and trademark cases.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 1, 2020

USPTO - Patents 4 Partnerships - A New IP Marketplace

On May 4, the USPTO launched an intellectual property (IP) marketplace Patents 4 Partnerships. Initially, the marketplace will focus on patents and applications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Privately run IP marketplaces have been not been very successful, but the USPTO doesn't take a commission so this would reduce transaction costs (e.g., broker's fee 30%) . Further, the USPTO, unlike a private marketplace, may have more time to grow the IP listings to attract buyers/licensees.

For details see Anthony Trippe's Forbes article: Companies Miss Out On Billions In Value, New Patent Marketplace Could Change That.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Mueller - Patent Law Sixth Edition 2020

Janice Mueller's Patent Law (2020, Sixth Edition) was released on May 18, 2020. It looks like another useful edition. It is an introduction to US patent law with lots of detail (1296 pages). It also looks complete based on my review of the table of contents.  I am not affiliated with the author nor her publisher and only post because it has merit for those that need an introduction or review of US patent law. I like the Kindle version so its on several devices, but if you like things in paper here's the link. To get a Kindle version just click on the e-textbook tab.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Professor Lemley - Without Preamble

Professor Mark Lemley's article Without Preamble (2019-2020) relates to the topic of claim construction, which can determine the outcome of patent litigation.

As background, a US patent claim has three parts: (1) a preamble, which states what the invention is or its environment, (2) a transitional term (e.g., comprising), and (3) a body that lists the steps of a method or the structure of a system. Generally, courts hold a preamble is a claim limitation "if it gives life, meaning and vitality" to the claim or recites essential structure or steps. Yes, it's a case by case determination. Perhaps a more practical test is whether the preamble is referenced repeatedly in the body. If so, the preamble is a claim limitation, i.e., for purpose of determining validity and infringement. See Mueller, Patent Law (2020).

Turning to Professor Lemley's Abstract:

"The Federal Circuit is ignoring a significant share of the words of patent claims. That's a bad idea as a matter of policy. It is virtually impossible to tell when the court is going to do it. And it’s inconsistent with the idea that the claims define the scope of the invention, and with how the Supreme Court thinks about claim construction and its closest analogies, statutory interpretation and construing contracts.

The culprit is a labyrinthine set of rules the Federal Circuit uses to decide whether or not to include the 'preamble' to a patent claim as a part of the claim. The words of the preamble, which can sometimes amount to more than half of the whole claim, might or might not be treated as part of the invention depending on a complex of factors, including whether the claim reads as a complete sentence without it, whether the same words are used in both the preamble and the body of the claim, whether the body of the claim includes the magic word 'said,' whether the preamble merely claims a use, benefit, or environment for the claim, and whether the preamble 'is necessary to breathe life and meaning into the claim.'

In Part I I discuss the bizarre body of law around patent claim preambles and how the law got to its current confused state. In Part II I suggest that the rule serves no useful purpose, and that if and when the Supreme Court gets such a case it should and will sweep the rule away. Patent applicants should be drafting patents with that fact in mind, and the rest of us should be interpreting claims with one eye on the fact that this is a doctrine whose days are numbered."

In short, this article asks courts drop the case by case determination test we use today on whether the preamble is a part of the claim just as much as the body of the claim. Saying the preamble always counts as proposed removes uncertainty, but means more patent claims will be held to not infringe. Further, this helps defendants rather than patent owners since a non-infringement defense is preferred to proving invalidity in court.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 25, 2020

National Law Review - To promote Innovation, Congress Should Lessen Restrictions on Injunctive Relief for Patent Owners

In a National Law Review article: To promote Innovation, Congress Should Lessen Restrictions on Injunctive Relief for Patent Owners, Paul Michel, retired Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit, tackles the issue of injunctive relief for valid and infringed US patents.

Read the article for the argument, but here are a few of his observations:

"For much of our country’s history, permanent injunctions were the norm once patent infringement and validity were proven at trial by the patent owner. And getting an injunction depended on facts, not the patent owner’s business model – for example, whether they manufactured or licensed their invention. The practice was stable for all of that time – until recently."

"In 2006, in the Supreme Court’s eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C. decision, the Court upended this settled practice, ruling that injunctions should not be automatically issued in patent cases and clarifying that courts must apply a four-part test to determine whether an injunction should be granted."

"For some years after, the pattern of injunction grants changed little. But eventually, it shifted greatly, as lower courts began to make injunction determinations based primarily on the patent owner’s identity. Those who manufacture products continued to get injunctions, while those who chose to license their patents instead, no longer did."

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Federal Circuit - Uniloc v. LG - Software Claims Not Patent Ineligible

In Uniloc v. LG, the Federal Circuit held the claims were not patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

As background, Uniloc sued LG for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,993,049 ('the 049 patent) and LG moved to dismiss the complaint under FRCP 12(b)(6) arguing the claims of the '049 patent are ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

Section 101 provides that whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof may obtain a patent, but the Supreme Court has held that "abstract ideas are not patent eligible." Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 573 U.S. 208, 216 (2014).

In Alice, the Supreme Court stated two-steps for determining patent eligibility. A court: (1) determines whether the claims are directed to an abstract idea; and (2) if so, considers the claim elements individually and as an ordered combination to determine whether the additional elements transform the claim into a patent-eligible application.

In cases relating to software, step one often turns on whether the claims focus on specific improvements in computer or network capabilities or instead focus on a process or system that is an abstract idea for which computers are invoked merely as a tool.

The Federal Circuit reminded it has "routinely held software claims patent eligible under Alice step one when directed to improvements in the functioning of computers or network platforms itself."  The Federal Circuit then buttressed this statement by summarizing some of its patent eligibility decisions: DDR Holdings v. Hotels.com, Enfish v. Microsoft, Visual Memory v. NVIDIA, Ancora v. HTC, Data Engine v. Google, Core Wireless v. LG.

The Federal Circuit then held the claims are directed to a patent-eligible improvement to computer functionality, namely the reduction of latency experience in parked secondary stations in communications systems.

The Federal Circuit explained:

"The claims at issue do not merely recite generalized steps to be performed on a computer using conventional computer activity. Instead, they are directed to 'adding to each inquiry message prior to transmission an additional data field for polling at least one secondary station.' See, e.g., ’049 patent at Claim 2. And this change in the manner of transmitting data results in reduced response time by peripheral devices which are part of the claimed system.

As the patent explains, for secondary stations joining a piconet in the prior art systems, “it could take half a minute or more from the time a user moves a mouse to a cursor moving on a screen.” Id. at 2:10–12. Because polling was “suspended during this cycle, for up to 10.24 seconds at a time,” parked secondary stations in prior art systems could experience similar delays after each period of inactivity. Id. at 2:13–16. The claimed addition of a data field for polling to the inquiry message significantly reduces the response time, enabling secondary stations to respond a fraction of a second later. See, e.g., ’049 patent at 5:36–41. Even LG concedes that this reduction in latency 'is the very reason for polling during the inquiry process in the first place.' Appellees’ Br. 54 (citing, e.g., J.A. 1375–77, 1394). To the extent LG argues that the claims themselves must expressly mention the reduced latency achieved by the claimed system, LG is in error.

Claims need not articulate the advantages of the claimed combinations to be eligible. We conclude that the claims at issue are not directed to the abstract idea of performing additional polling in wireless communication systems or performing additional polling using inquiry messages. These claims are directed to a specific asserted improvement to the functionality of the communication system itself.

The claimed invention’s compatibility with conventional communication systems does not render it abstract. Nor does the fact that the improvement is not defined by reference to “physical” components."

As a patent attorney, Uniloc and its predecessors define a significant patent eligibility space for claims directed to "computer and network specific improvements."

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Supreme Court - Thyrv, Inc. v. Click-to-Call Technologies, LP - No Appeal from PTAB's One Year Time Bar Decision on IPR

In Thyrv, Inc. v. Click-to-Call Technologies, LP, the Supreme Court held that a Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) determination on whether a petition is filed timely for inter partes review (IPR) is not appealable.

As background, an IPR permits a petitioner to request the review the validity of claims in view of written prior art. To institute the review, PTAB must find that the petitioner is likely to succeed with respect to at least one claim and the petition was timely filed (within one year of service of an infringement complaint).

In other words, the Supreme Court states 35 USC § 314(a) permits the patent owner no appeal to the Federal Circuit from an incorrect PTAB decision that a petition was timely filed as required in 35 USC § 315(b). Note in this case the infringement complaint (dismissed without prejudice) was filed 12 years before the IPR petition!

Thus, a patent owner must make every effort to win on the merits of the institution decision and the untimeliness of the petition before PTAB. On the other hand, if the IPR is instituted, the patent owner can still appeal a final decision of invalidity to the Federal Circuit.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Federal Circuit - Hologic v. Minerva Surgical - Assignor Estoppel Does not Bar PTAB Invalidity Decision

In Hologic v. Minerva Surgical, the Federal Circuit held assignor estoppel barred the assignor from asserting invalidity of a patent in district court, but not the assignor relying on the Federal Circuit's affirmance of PTAB invalidating claims of another patent in an inter partes review (IPR).

See further details in the opinion. One detail caught my eye as a patent attorney, Judge Stoll questioning if it is time to revisit assignor estoppel en banc (entire panel) on the construction of the America Invents Act (AIA) due to the illogical regime being perpetuated.

In the opinion on page 30:

"In Arista, we held that the judge-made doctrine of assignor estoppel does not apply in the context of an inter partes review. In other words, an assignor who sold his patent rights may file a petition for IPR challenging the validity of that patent. Arista Networks, Inc. v. Cisco System, Inc. At the same time, we continue to bar assignors from challenging in district court the validity of the patents they assigned. See, e.g., Mentor Graphics Corp.v. EVE-USA, Inc. 

Our precedent thus presents an odd situation where an assignor can circumvent the doctrine of assignor estoppel by attacking the validity of a patent claim in the Patent Office, but cannot do the same in district court. Do the principles underlying assignor estoppel—unfairness in allowing one
who profited from the sale of the patent to attack it—apply in district court but not in Patent Office proceedings?

Should we change the application of the doctrine in district court, or should we revisit our construction of the America Invents Act and reevaluate our interpretation of the statute as prohibiting the doctrine of assignor estoppel? Given the odd circumstance created in this case, I suggest that it is time for this court to consider en banc the doctrine of assignor estoppel as it applies both in district court and in the Patent Office.

We should seek to clarify this odd and seemingly illogical regime in which an assignor cannot present any invalidity defenses in district court but can present a limited set of invalidity grounds in an IPR proceeding. A petitioner in an IPR proceeding may request to cancel as unpatentable one or more claims of a patent, but “only on a ground that could be raised under section 102 or 103 and only on the basis of prior art consisting of patents or printed publications.” 35 U.S.C. § 311(b)."

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 24, 2020

USPTO - Adjusting to Alice: USPTO patent examination outcomes after Alice Corp v. CLS Bank International

The USPTO published a report: Adjusting to Alice: USPTO patent examination outcomes after Alice Corp v. CLS Bank International. Here's a link to the Supreme Court's Alice v. CLS Bank decision.

The report indicates that the USPTO has taken measures (e.g., January 2019 Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance, "2019 Guidance") to increase the predictability of determinations of patent eligibility. For example, one year after the 2019 Guidance based on the Federal Circuit's Berkheimer v. HP decision, the likelihood of Alice-affected technologies receiving a first office action with a rejection for patent-ineligible subject matter had decreased by 25%.

This should encourage innovators with software related inventions to consider patenting.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 20, 2020

USPTO - Patent Center Beta Available

Today, the USPTO announced:

"Patent Center Beta is now available for all users. Patent Center is a new tool for electronic filing and management of patent applications in a single unified interface.

Patent Center and DOCX filing features:
Single unified interface for patent applicants
Use of existing USPTO.gov accounts and sponsorships
Submission of the specification, claims, and abstract in a single DOCX document without the need to manually separate sections
Elimination of user conversion from DOCX into a PDF for filing
Security of documents through automatic DOCX metadata detection and scrubbing
Practice filing in DOCX format in Patent Center training mode

Electronic filing provides multiple benefits, such as immediate routing of documents to USPTO internal systems, an acknowledgement receipt to show that the USPTO has received the submission, reduced manual processing and paper waste, elimination of wait times associated with conventional mailing, and the ability to save your submission package to complete, review, or submit at a later time.

We encourage you to provide feedback on Patent Center Beta by visiting the eMod IdeaScale. Additionally, you can send questions and comments to eMod@uspto.gov.

More information about Patent Center Beta is available on the Patent Center information page or you can register for an upcoming Patent Center Beta and DOCX training session.

For technical questions or assistance, please contact the Patent Electronic Business Center at ebc@uspto.gov or 866-217-9197."

Note this announcement arrived after all but April 21 and 23 USPTO training sessions had occurred. Also the USPTO plans to charge a $400 fee for non-DOCX applications. As a patent attorney, I think the USPTO has not shown any user benefit in filing an application in DOCX rather than PDF other than avoiding a fee. And early feedback from users is not favorable. Further electronic filing over paper is a red herring as both PDF and DOCX are electronic filing.

On April 27, the USPTO added training session dates but must register to attend:

  • April 30: 1-2 pm ET
  • May 4: 10:30-11:30 am ET
  • May 6: 2-3 pm ET

Copyright © 2020 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.