On August 12, 2014, I had the opportunity to speak with Zeidman on the record. As the dust begins to settle from the Supreme Court’s Alice v. CLS Bank decision I thought it might be interesting to talk about the issues with a computer expert who regularly works with patent attorneys and technology clients, and who has been advising both attorneys and clients how to handle the Alice decision from a technical standpoint. In our three part interview we discuss the decision and various ways attorneys might be able to move forward to provide disclosure sufficient to satisfy even the Alice standard.
As I was reading recent Federal Circuit decisions I initially skipped right past I/P Engine, Inc. v. AOL, Inc. (CAFC, August 15, 2014). After all, this decision was non-precedential, so how important could it really be? But the Federal Circuit seems to have a peculiar definition of “non-precedential” these days.
In this case the jury found that the asserted claims were infringed, the jury found that the asserted claims remained non-obvious because the defendants’ evidence did not establish obviousness with clear and convincing evidence, and the plaintiff won a verdict of over $30 million with an ongoing royalty rate of 3.5%. The district court judge reviewed the jury determinations, particularly with respect to obviousness, and found that the jury was correct. The Federal Circuit, in their infinite wisdom, disagreed and found the asserted claims obvious. To do so the majority provided no deference to the factual determinations of the jury.
In today’s Companies We Follow segment here at IPWatchdog, we’re returning to this giant of IT development to see the latest innovations coming out of its research facilities. As always, we start off with a look at the patent applications assigned to HP and recently published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. What we noticed in our most recent search was a bevy of technologies for business services, including a couple of software technologies for enterprise network security. We also share some printing technologies, as well as one intriguing innovation designed to help music fans better hear their favorite bands or orchestras when attending live concerts.
Earlier this summer the United States Patent and Trademark Office published a Request for Comments on Trial Proceedings Under the America Invents Act Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. This request for comments pertains to the new administrative trial proceedings ushered in by the America Invents Act (AIA), which President Obama signed into law on September 11, 2011. The administrative trial proceedings at the USPTO did not go into effect immediately, but rather went into effect on September 16, 2012, the first anniversary of the signing of the AIA.
The administrative trial proceedings created by the AIA are: (1) Inter partes review; (2) post-grant review; (3) covered business method patents review; and (4) derivation proceedings. To bring these new proceedings into being, the USPTO issued a number of final rules and a trial practice guide in August and September of 2012. It is now time for the USPTO to take a step back and take account of these new proceedings, aided by public input. This is not an unexpected occurrence. Many will recall that during the rule making phase the USPTO held roundtable discussions in a number of cities across the country. During this timeframe the USPTO committed to revisiting the rules and practice guide once the Board and public had operated under the rules and practice guide for some unspecified period of time and had gained experience with the new administrative trial proceedings. With nearly two years of practical experience with these new proceedings, the time has now come for the USPTO to revisit and quite possibly revise the rules.
For over a decade, design patent filings and grants have enjoyed uninterrupted growth and, according to the 2014 IP Record, the trend continues unabated. According to the data, in 2013, 1517 more design patents were granted compared with 2012, and the prospects are good for continued growth in design patent applications.
Along with their ABC’s and multiplication tables, patent lawyers learn two basic principles. First, claims define the invention. Second, a court should not read limitations from a single embodiment into the claims, absent a demonstrated clear intention by the patentee to do so.
Don’t believe them.
When the Federal Circuit brings up the principle that one should not import the limitations of a single embodiment into a broader claim, expect the opinion to show how, under the particular, specifically limited facts of the present case, the inventor actually intended to limit the claims to the disclosed embodiment. The decision in Abbott Labs. v. Sandoz, Inc. provides an excellent example of the court’s reasoning. There, the specification described only a single embodiment, but the claims extended beyond the embodiment, but no issues of either prior art of enablement were present. The fact that the patent presented only a single example served as a starting point, after which the court was able to find “clear intent” to limit a broad claim term, “crystalline,” to a particular crystal.
Back on June 2, 2014, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wrote to President Obama expressing concern with the fact that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has been without a director for more than 16 months. A further 11 weeks has passed and we are still without a presidential nominee to run the USPTO. The letter from Senator Hatch to President Obama is reproduced below.
In the letter, Senator Hatch also questions whether USPTO Director Michelle Lee was appointed consistent with 35 U.S.C. § 3(b)(1). Dennis Crouch and Hal Wegner have covered that issue with some detail, so there is no need to rehash that here, but suffice it to say that the Director is supposed to nominate the Deputy Director for the position, but there has not been a Director of the Office since David Kappos left in January 2013. At the time Lee was nominated Peggy Focarino, the Commissioner for Patents, had been vested with the powers and duties of the Director by the Obama Administration, although not given the title.
Since retiring as the director of the National Security Agency in March of this year, General Keith Alexander has co-founded a company, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., that reportedly charges up to $1 million a month to assist companies in protecting their computer networks from hackers. Gen. Alexander has suggested that this fee is justified in part because his company’s technology is based on his inventions relating to a “unique” approach to detecting hackers. Alexander has stated that he plans to file at least nine patent applications relating to this technology.
Certainly, Gen. Alexander can seek to leverage his NSA experience and expertise in developing a lucrative post-government career, however, the filing of the patent applications so soon after leaving government service and their cybersecurity subject raises serious questions about who actually owns these inventions and whether Gen. Alexander is seeking to profit from inventions that actually belong to the government. In interviews, Gen. Alexander has asserted that he discussed the ownership of these patent applications with lawyers at the NSA and has been assured that his inventions are not related to any work he did for the NSA, and, consequently, the inventions belong to him and not to the government. That NSA lawyers have purportedly concluded that his inventions are unrelated to his work is cold comfort in this era of Edward Snowden revelations.