EDITOR’S NOTE: I will host a free webinar discussion of the PTAB past, present and future with Scott McKeown on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 11:00 am Eastern. You can register by CLICKING HERE.
On September 16, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the most sweeping changes to U.S. patent law since at least the 1952 Patent Act, perhaps ever. One of the dramatic changes to the U.S. patent system was the creation of post grant administrative proceedings where a challenger could in a contested forum akin to a trial challenge one or more claims of a patent already issued. These new proceedings — post grant review, inter partes review and covered business method review — went into effect on the one year anniversary of the signing of the America Invents Act (AIA) on September 16, 2012.
The patent litigation landscape has forever changed thanks to the AIA. On that date the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) was born. The precursor to the PTAB was the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI), which would hear appeals from applicants who had their patent applications rejected and also conducted interference proceedings. With the signing of the America Invents Act (AIA) the PTAB was born and the jurisdiction of the appellate body within the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) was greatly expanded.
This Board, the adjudicative body of the USPTO, consists of technically and scientifically trained administrative patent judges (APJs). The PTAB was created, in part, to adjudicate the new patent challenge mechanisms of the AIA. Between September 16, 2012, and August 7, 2014, there were 1793 post grant challenges instituted. See USPTO PTAB Update, slide 5. Of those challenges 1,585 (or just over 88%) were inter partes reviews. There have been 201 covered business method challenges, 6 derivation proceedings and only a single post grant review. The fact that there has been only a single post grant review is not surprising giving that a PGR can only be instituted to challenge patents that were examined under the first to file rules of the AIA, which did not go into effect until March 16, 2013. The relatively low number of covered business method challenges suggests that this form of review is not nearly as popular as it was thought to have been prior to the enactment of the AIA.
From U.S. Patent No. 8,729,723, entitled “Removable Offshore Wind Turbines with Pre-Installed Mooring System.”
Alternative forms of energy which can create electricity in much cleaner processes than fossil fuels have been an area of intense development in recent years. Here at IPWatchdog, we’ve covered recent developments in solar and hydrogen energy generation technologies in the past, and alternative energy is a frequent topic, particularly during our Earth Day coverage each year. We dive into this topic given that reports from the U.S. Department of Energy have led to a lot of optimism in recent days about the future of wind energy, specifically wind energy collected from offshore sources.
A developed network of offshore wind turbines could power the entire United States of America. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there is a potential 4,150 gigawatts of energy which can be collected from offshore wind collection around the country’s waters. The total electric generating capacity of the entire nation was 1,010 gigawatts as of 2008. All of this energy can be collected from waters within 50 nautical miles of America’s shorelines.
The most significant obstacle to achieving patent breadth in contemporary patent law lies in the Federal Circuit’s proclivity to import imitations from the specification into the claims. The Court justifies its actions as merely discerning the inventor’s intent to limit the invention. The most effective counter to that activity is claim differentiation—the concept that claims are presumed to have different meanings, so a limitation expressly present in one claim should not be read into another claim, particularly where the narrower claim is dependent upon the broader. The Federal Circuit’s formulation of that rule was well stated in SRI Int’l v. Matsushita Elec. Corp.: “It is settled law that when a patent claim does not contain a certain limitation and another claim does, that limitation cannot be read into the former claim in determining either validity or infringement.”
Courts often express this principle in terms of avoiding claim redundancy. The Phillips court faced that question in dealing with steel-shell panels that can be welded together to form vandalism-resistant walls. The broadest claim included a limitation “internal steel baffles extending inwardly from the steel shell walls.” The court was required to determine exactly what characteristics were implicit in the term “baffles,” and one technique employed for that purpose was an examination of the other claims. For example, dependent Claim 6 recited, “the internal baffles of both outer panel sections overlap and interlock at angles providing deflector panels extending from one end of the module to the other.” “If the baffles recited in claim 1 were inherently placed at specific angles,” the court reasoned, “claim 6 would be redundant.” Thus, a construction of Claim 1 that included a specific angle would be improper, based on the doctrine of claim differentiation.
Over the years I have been invited to participate in more and more events, and I try and attend a handful of conferences each year regardless of whether I am presenting. I have a packed schedule this Fall, traveling from New York to Washington, DC to Toledo to Chicago to New Jersey back to Washington, DC to San Francisco and ultimately to Orange County, California. If your schedule permits, and I’m visiting an area close, perhaps you can join me at one or more of the events listed below.
Over the years, I have developed and observed a wide variety of best practices for fostering and establishing on a sustainable basis a genuine culture of innovation. These must be embraced at all levels of the organization to be effective. What follows is discussion of some key lessons for maintaining a culture of innovation.
Innovation, like the spreading of fertilizer, is messy, lumpy, smelly, expensive, and unpredictable. Innovation rarely happens in a neat and sequential fashion. Imposing too many rules or protocols will retard or overly restart the process. And there must be a commitment to spread the fertilizer frequently, consistently, and across the entire field, not just once in a while to “pet” projects. And the results are not always what you would predict or expect. If you create processes that are appropriate for the levels of innovation and creativity goals that have been set, you create an environment that supports this process. If you are overly process oriented budget driven or linear in your thinking, you may be putting too many walls around a process that needs room to breathe.
Many within the independent inventor community are well acquainted with John Calvert. Calvert originally started out working for the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a patent examiner, but by the time he retired twenty-four years later he was in charge of the independent inventor outreach efforts of the USPTO. I have known him for a long time, he is a friend, and he has been a champion for the independent inventor community.
When Calvert retired in June 2014 I was saddened to see a him leave, but also saddened because I know how tirelessly he works to inform, educate and assist independent inventors. While he has no doubt earned a quite retirement I am extremely pleased to say that in retirement Calvert will continue to work with independent inventors; he was recently hired as the new Executive Director of the United Inventors Association (UIA). His energy, passion, knowledge and contacts should dramatically impact the UIA in a positive way. Good things are no doubt on the horizon.
There was a lot riding on Alice v. CLS Bank, and the Supreme Court got it wrong. There is no point in sugar-coating it, or pretending that everything will be alright. The Supreme Court is openly hostile to patents, and increasingly so is the Federal Circuit. Simply stated, strong patent rights are an absolute prerequisite for a high tech economy.
It is a sad realization, but we are indeed at a point were commercially viable claims worth litigating are virtually assured to be invalid claims. Until this changes the economy suffer in due course. After all, it isn’t the copycats who create new things. Copycats copy and innovators innovate. You cannot infringe patents owned by an innovator and claim that because the product is new to you it is an innovation. NO! It is merely new to you and a rip-off from the true innovator.
The Companies We Follow series is visiting this major manufacturer of medications as we continue our survey of recent innovations in pharmaceutical fields. Patent applications recently published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office show that Pfizer’s recent development goals have focused on a broad spectrum of diseases and disorders. We discuss a trio of patent applications related to treatments involving the nervous system, including a couple of medications treating Alzheimer’s disease along with a host of other ailments. A couple of patent applications are also related to novel treatments for cancer, especially in the area of preventing cancerous growth.