United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

On September 6, 2017, an expanded panel of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board issued an “informative” decision in General Plastic Industrial Co., Ltd, v. Canon Kabushiki Kaisha setting forth the Board’s framework for analyzing follow-on inter partes review (IPR) petitions.  In response to five concurrent requests for rehearing, a panel of seven administrative patent judges reviewed the factors articulated in NVIDIA Corp. v. Samsung Elec. Co., IPR2016-00134, Paper 9 (PTAB May 4, 2016) and, in doing so, denied all five requests.  While acknowledging that multiple petitions challenging the same patent may be permitted based on specific facts of each case, the Board explained that follow-on petitions run the risk of undue inequities and prejudices to patent owners, and petitioner’s submission of multiple, staggered petitions constituted “an inefficient use of the inter partes review process and the Board’s resources.”

Continue Reading General Plastic Industrial Co. v. Canon Kabushiki Kaisha: PTAB Explains Factors for Follow-On Petitions

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.

Continue Reading AQUA PRODUCTS: The Federal Circuit Shifts The Burden of Proof On Amending Claims During An IPR From The Patent Owner To The Petitioner

This post is a follow-up to our prior post To Seek Design Protection or Not, That is the Question! where we discuss situations where it is worth considering seeking a design patent.  Here we highlight takeaways from a USPTO Inventor Info Webinar (the “Webinar”) held on September 21, 2017, that focused on design patent drawing requirements, as well as on other issues on design patents. The Webinar’s slides can be found here.

As a brief recap, 35 U.S.C. § 171 states that “Whoever invents any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”  Thus, the statute requires that a design be for an article (i.e., rather than a disembodied design, a design per se) and that the article have one or both of some surface ornamentation and configuration that differs this article from others.

Continue Reading Recap on Design Patent Drawings

The Federal Circuit yesterday issued an opinion in In re: Smith Int’l, Inc., No. 2016-2303 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 26, 2017) reversing an affirmance by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the rejection of several claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,732,817 being challenged in ex parte reexamination.  In so doing, the Court held the Board’s construction of “body” in the ’817 Patent claims to be unreasonable as inconsistent with the specification.

The ’817 Patent concerns a downhole drilling tool for oil and gas operations.  In affirming the examiner, the Board found it “perfectly reasonable” to interpret the “body” of the tool as encompassing other components because neither the claims nor the specification explicitly limit the scope of the term.  Even though the specification describes the body as separate from other elements, the Board reasoned that it doesn’t expressly define “body” or otherwise preclude the examiner’s interpretation.  But according to Smith, the ’817 Patent consistently refers to and depicts the body as a component distinct from other components of the drilling tool – like the “mandrel” or “piston” located inside the drilling tool – and should be interpreted simply as an “outer housing.”

Continue Reading “In Light of the Specification”: Federal Circuit Weighs in on the Broadest Reasonable Interpretation

This article is second in a series focusing on various issues related to Patent Term Adjustment for U.S. patent applications.  While Part 1 is a general overview of how to calculate patent term adjustment (“PTA”), this article addresses how the filing of various papers during prosecution can affect PTA.  In particular, Requests for Continued Examination (RCEs), terminal disclaimers, and information disclosure statements (IDSs) can all cause adverse PTA effects if not carefully considered.

General Overview

Typically, U.S. patent term is 20 years from the earliest effective filing date, regardless of how long it takes the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to examine and issue the patent.  In an effort to minimize the possibility of shortened patent term, Congress created the system of PTA, codified at 35 U.S.C. § 154(b), that allows, in certain circumstances, the effective patent term to be extended past 20 years from an application’s earliest effective filing date.  But as with many rules, there are exceptions.

Continue Reading Calculating Patent Term Adjustment: Part 2

On August 25, 2017, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board issued a precedential opinion in Ex Parte McAward, reaffirming the Patent Office’s use of a lower pre-issuance threshold for indefiniteness distinct from the Supreme Court’s Nautilus standard.

A Tale of Two Standards

Under 35 U.S.C. § 112(b), the specification must conclude with “one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter” regarded as the invention. This definiteness requirement “secure[s] to the patentee all to which he is entitled” and “apprise[s] the public of what is still open to them.” Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 373 (1996).

During examination, the Patent Office applies the broadest reasonable interpretation of a claim and thereafter determines indefiniteness using the In re Packard standard, in which a claim is indefinite when it contains words or phrases whose meaning is unclear. See In re Packard, 751 F.3d 1307, 1310 (Fed. Cir. 2014)(per curium).

Continue Reading Am I Being Clear Enough? – PTAB Reaffirms Lower Pre-Issuance Threshold for Indefiniteness in Ex Parte McAward

In a first of its kind decision with important ramifications for patentees, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) denied a petition to suspend or temporarily rescind remedial orders issued in Investigation No. 337-TA-945 pending appeal of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (“PTAB”) separate finding that the patent claims at issue are invalid.  The ITC has therefore decided to continue to exclude products it found to be infringing certain patents, regardless of the PTAB invalidating the very patents the exclusion order is based upon in separate IPR proceedings.  While this decision aiding patentees may surprise some, it is consistent with the ITC’s practices regarding stays and of giving little deference to IPR proceedings.

Continue Reading ITC Denies Suspension or Temporary Rescission of Remedial Orders After PTAB Invalidates Patents at Issue

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.

Continue Reading Federal Circuit Puts the Brakes on PTAB Final Written Decision For Procedural APA Violation

On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it would be extending the Cancer Immunotherapy Pilot Program, which permits patent applications pertaining to cancer immunotherapy to be examined in an expedited fashion.  As earlier discussed in this blog, the Pilot Program was established in support of the Obama White House’s National Cancer Moonshot initiative.  The goal of the Pilot Program is to complete examination of an application within 12 months of special status being granted.  Patent applications that qualify for the Pilot Program will be advanced out of turn for examination without meeting all the current requirements for accelerated examination.

Continue Reading Extension of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Cancer Immunotherapy Pilot Program

This article is first in a series focusing on various issues related to Patent Term Adjustment.  Part 1 is a general overview of how to calculate patent term adjustment, without addressing the numerous factors that can affect patent term adjustment that will be examined in future articles.

Why PTA Exists

Under the pre-GATT regime, Patent Term Adjustment (“PTA”) did not exist in the U.S. because patent term was 17 years from issuance.  Consequently, any delay during examination, on the part of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) or Applicants, was not a concern.  In fact, during this time, Applicants were in a way incentivized to, and sometimes would, delay examination to prolong their effective patent term, particularly since at the time publication of applications did not occur until issuance of the patent.  However, in 1995 GATT was adopted in an effort to harmonize U.S. patent term with the rest of the world, with patent term in the U.S. now being limited to 20 years from the earliest effective filing date.  As a result, any delays during examination would now erode a patent’s period of enforceability, which could cost Applicants millions of dollars or more.  Unfortunately, the onus was only on Applicants to avoid delays during examination, resulting in USPTO delays costing Applicants days or years of patent term without any recourse.  In an effort remedy this, Congress created PTA.

Continue Reading Calculating Patent Term Adjustment: Part 1