This article is first in a two-part series focusing on various issues related to priority claims in U.S. patent applications.  Part 1 is a general overview of how to make a proper priority claim, without addressing how to correct an improper priority claim, which will be examined in Part 2.

In general, for examination purposes at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a priority claim determines the priority date of a patent application.  But why is that important?  Because the priority date effectively determines what references can and cannot be asserted as prior art against a patent application during its examination.  That is, the priority date draws a line in the sand for prior art, and this line cannot be crossed.

Continue Reading Understanding Priority Claims for U.S. Patent Applications: Part 1

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced a propose change to the standard for construing both unexpired and amended patent claims in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings under the America Invents Act (“AIA”). The change would replace the current Broadest Reasonable Interpretation (“BRI”) standard with the standard articulated in Phillips v. AWH Corp. 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc).  This change would harmonize the claim construction standard applied in inter partes review, post-grant review, and covered business method patent proceedings before the PTAB with the one used by federal district courts and the International Trade Commission.  The proposed amendment would also allow the PTAB to consider any prior claim construction determination concerning a term of the involved claim in a civil action, or an ITC proceeding, that is timely made of record in an AIA proceeding.

Continue Reading USPTO Proposes Claim Construction Rule Change from BRI to Phillips in AIA Review Proceedings

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) anticipates issuing the 10 millionth utility patent at some point during the summer 2018. According to the USPTO, “[t]his milestone of human ingenuity perhaps exceeds even the Founding Fathers’ expectations when they called for a patent system in the Constitution to `promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’” (https://10millionpatents.uspto.gov/)

As part of the celebration, and for only the second time in 100 years, the USPTO has redesigned the cover of the U.S. patent (i.e., the seal-and-ribbon document issued with each patent granted). The new design, which according to the USPTO “pays homage to the classic elegance of its predecessors,” was unveiled March 11, 2018, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. (https://10millionpatents.uspto.gov/media-kit.html)

Continue Reading USPTO Prepares to Celebrate the Issuance of the Ten Millionth U.S. Patent

Struggling to keep case law relating to subject matter eligibility organized?  In February 2018, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released an improved Eligibility Quick Reference Sheet, providing patent practitioners with a useful tool for analyzing claims in view of 35 U.S.C. § 101 subject matter eligibility requirements.

Continue Reading Latest Tool in the Fight against <i>Alice</i>: USPTO Publishes a New Eligibility Quick Reference Sheet

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is implementing eCommerce Modernization (eMod), as discussed at a USPTO Patent Quality Chat webinar on February 13, 2018 (click here for the webinar slides).  Highlighted features of the eMod project are described in a May 2017 Global IP Matters article.  This article provides an overview of the eMod project and focuses on updates to the eMod project as explained in the February webinar.

In general, the eMod project will provide a new interface, Patent Center, that combines EFS-Web and PAIR into a single interface for filing and managing patent applications.  Benefits of Patent Center include an improved interface and improved processes for submitting, reviewing, and managing patent applications and increased application processing and publication accuracy. Continue Reading Updates to USPTO eMod Project to Improve E-Filing/Managing Patent Applications

We can take two valuable lessons from a recent decision of the Federal Circuit:

  1. Review all check boxes on forms when filing a U.S. patent application; and
  2. The United States Patent and Trademark Office is not to blame for deadlines falling on federal holidays.

On February 6, 2018, in Actelion v. Matal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).  The dispute centered on the 40-day “A delay” patent term adjustment (PTA) awarded by the PTO to Actelion for U.S. Patent 8,658,675 (“the ‘675 patent”), entitled “Pyridin-4-yl Derivatives.”  Actelion asserted that it was entitled to 45 days of PTA, or alternatively, at least 41 days.

Continue Reading Patent Term Adjustment: Lessons Learned from the Federal Circuit Decision in <i>Actelion v. Matal</i>

On December 19, 2017, an expanded panel of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) ruled that the state of Minnesota waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity to challenges to patent validity by inter partes review (IPR) by filing suit in federal court alleging infringement of the same patent being challenged by IPR.  In Ericsson Inc. and Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson v. Regents of the University of Minnesota (IPR2017-01186; IPR2017-01197; IPR2017-01200; IPR2017-01213; IPR2017-01214; IPR2017-01219), Petitioner Ericsson Inc. filed IPR petitions against five University of Minnesota patents covering wireless communications technology. In response, the University filed a motion to dismiss, arguing its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity exempted the patents from IPR challenge.

Continue Reading Assertion of Patents Results in Loss of Sovereign Immunity for Public Universities

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!”

Continue Reading Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Oil States Regarding Constitutional Challenge to Inter Partes Review

In patent prosecution, the feedback loop between interested parties including patent prosecutors, inventors, and in-house counsel helps to provide the best patent applications and office action responses for a high quality issued patent. However, this work product represents only half of the overall patent prosecution effort, since the patent prosecutor works with a patent examiner sitting on the other side at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Given that, have you ever wondered how a patent examiner’s work product is reviewed to help improve patent quality? In its most recent Patent Quality Chat on November 14, 2017, a panel of USPTO quality experts provided insight on this topic in a presentation entitled “How is an Examiner’s Work Product Reviewed?”, highlights of which are provided in this article. The USPTO has provided the presentation slides and webinar video at their website.

Continue Reading Patent Quality Chat: How Is A USPTO Examiner’s Work Product Reviewed?

Earlier this week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) published a new rule governing when privilege exists for communications between clients and their domestic or foreign patent attorneys and patent agents before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”).   For context, the originally proposed amendment sought to resolve ambiguity as to when privilege extends to USPTO patent practitioners during PTAB discovery proceedings in light of prior Federal Circuit, District Court and PTAB decisions.  The now-published rule codifies the PTAB’s intent to protect communications between patent agents and clients from discovery, stating that:

“communication[s] between a client and a USPTO patent practitioner or a foreign patent practitioner that is reasonably necessary and incident to the scope of the patent practitioner’s authority shall receive the same protections of privilege under Federal law as if that communication were between a client and an attorney authorized to practice in the United States, including all limitations and exceptions[;]”

“USPTO patent practitioners and foreign jurisdiction patent practitioners shall receive the same treatment as attorneys on all issues affecting privilege or waiver, such as communications with employees or assistants of the practitioner and communications between multiple practitioners.”

Continue Reading USPTO Publishes New Rule Governing Privilege for Patent Attorneys and Agents