Is there any possible danger in using the abbreviation “i.e.” in the specification of a U.S. patent application? The Federal Circuit’s recent decision in TF3 Limited v. TRE Milano, LLC shows that the answer is “yes.” The court provided a reminder that use of “i.e.” in the specification signals an intent to define the term to which it refers. Thus, the court held that the term cannot be interpreted to be broader than the definition provided in the specification by the use of “i.e.” when interpreting the term under the broadest reasonable interpretation standard before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
As we noted in our blog post last week, the USPTO held its “Chat with the Chief on SAS” webinar on April 30, 2018, to advise the public on the implications of the Supreme Court’s opinion in SAS Institute for practice before the Board going forward. The panelists were Chief Judge David Ruschke, Vice Chief Judge Tim Fink, and Vice Chief Judge Scott Weidenfeller.
The panelists noted that out of approximately 800 cases currently pending before the Board, about 18-20% have been instituted on fewer than all challenged claims. (The percentage of petitions instituted on only a subset of all challenged grounds was not available as of the date of the webinar.)
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two important patent law opinions that relate to the inter partes review procedure introduced by the America Invents Act: Oil States Energy Servs., LLC v. Greene’s Energy Grp., LLC, which upholds the constitutionality of inter partes review, and SAS Institute, Inc. v. Iancu, which requires the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to adjudicate the validity all patent claims challenged in a petition for inter partes review if the Board decides to adjudicate the validity of any claim challenged in that petition. Yesterday, the PTO issued a memo describing how pending trials will be conducted and how new petitions will be addressed in light of SAS Institute, but important questions remain.
The Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s inter partes review decision declaring various claims of patent owner Thales’ U.S. Patent No. 6,474,159 (“the ‘159 patent”) nonobvious. In doing so, the Federal Circuit clarified what constitutes the substantial evidence required to sustain the Board’s factual findings on appeal.
When trying to overcome an obviousness rejection of a patent claim, an argument that two or more cited references cannot be combined may be used. For example, it can be argued that the combination is improper because the modification of a reference completely changes its “fundamental principle of operation.” However, it can be difficult to overcome obviousness rejections using this argument, which is highlighted in a recent Federal Circuit decision in University of Maryland v. Presens. In this case, the court affirmed an inter partes reexamination (IPR) decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) that affirmed the examiner’s rejection of claims in U.S. Patent 6,673,532 (“’532 patent) as obvious despite the plaintiff’s “changes the principle of operation” argument. Although the decision is non-precedential, it provides helpful information to patent practitioners and litigators for arguing obviousness based on changes to a reference’s fundamental principle of operation.
The ’532 patent discloses an optical method of monitoring various cell culture parameters. Claim 1 of the ’532 patent, deemed as representative, reads as follows: Continue Reading Overcoming Obviousness Rejections: Arguing Changes to Fundamental Principle of Operation
On December 19, 2017 the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) held a “Chat with the Chief” webinar in which Chief Judge David Ruschke presented very recent developments on a variety of topics related to practice before the Board, including Aqua Products guidance for motions to amend, new procedures for handling remands, and the expanded panel process.
We first covered the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in Oil States Energy Servs., LLC v. Greene’s Energy Grp., LLC, 137 S. Ct. 2239 (2017), a case with the potential to substantially alter the patent litigation landscape, back in June. On Monday, November 27, 2017 the Court heard oral arguments on whether inter partes review – an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) since September 16, 2012 to analyze the validity of existing patents – violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum and without a jury.
Advocates and commentators on both sides of the argument weighed in extensively prior to Monday’s argument, culminating in almost 60 amicus curiae briefs, the most of any case this term. Parties urging the Court to reject Oil States’ argument included, for example, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, GE, Apple, the Internet Association (which represents Amazon, Facebook and Google), and the current Solicitor General of the United States, Noel Francisco. On the other side, inventors, venture capitalists, law professors, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, amongst others, urged the Justices to abolish inter partes review. Protesters, including some organized by websites such as www.usinventor.org, gathered outside the Court on Monday to support Oil States armed with signs stating “PTAB Kills American Dreams” and “Innovation: Don’t Kill it!”
In June, we covered the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in Oil States Energy Servs., LLC v. Greene’s Energy Grp., LLC, 137 S. Ct. 2239 (2017). The Court will decide whether inter partes review – an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) since September 16, 2012 to analyze the validity of existing patents – violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury. With its remarkably high rate of invalidating challenged patents, inter partes review (IPR) has become an effective method for defendants in patent disputes to apply pressure on patent holders, often utilizing serial IPRs to take multiple shots at invalidating patents they infringe. With the potential for IPRs to be declared unconstitutional, some parties have asked courts to stay active litigation until after Oil States is decided. One court in the Northern District of Texas recently denied such a motion to stay in Leak Surveys, Inc. v. FLIR Systems, Inc., 3-13-cv-02897 (TXND 2017-11-13, Order) (Lynn, USDJ). Continue Reading District Court Denies Motion to Stay Pending Supreme Court Decision in Oil States
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Aqua Products Inc., v. Matal materially changes the burden of proof associated with the patentability of amended claims during an inter partes review (“IPR”), shifting the burden from the Patent Owner seeking the amendment to the IPR Petitioner opposing it.
Prior to the Aqua decision, if a Patent Owner sought to amend claims during an IPR, the Patent Trial and Appeals Board (the “Board”) placed the burden on the Patent Owner to prove that the proposed amended claims were patentable. When Patent Owner Aqua attempted to amend its claims during an IPR challenge to its U.S. Patent No. 8,273,183, the Board found that Aqua had not met its burden and denied Aqua’s motion to amend.
In EmeraChem Holdings LLC v. Volkswagen Group of Am. Inc., the Federal Circuit reminded the PTAB that it must abide by the APA’s requirements of adequate notice and an opportunity to respond when conducting a post-grant review. While affirming certain challenged claims as being obvious under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. § 103(a), the Court reversed the PTAB’s obviousness determination on a trio of claims and remanded them for further consideration and clarification. The PTAB’s conclusion that claims 3, 16 and 20 were obvious was based on the inclusion of a reference that was not properly identified in the petition or Institution Order and which the patent owner never had the opportunity to address during the inter partes review proceeding.