Steve Kunin has been in private practice at Oblon, Spivak for over a decade. Today he is on the firm’s Management Committee, serving as General Counsel, and he also co-chairs the firm’sPost-Grant Patent Proceedings practice group. Prior to entering private practice Kunin worked at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, rising to the level of Deputy Commissioner for Patents in charge of Patent Examination Policy. As a result of this experience at the USPTO, Kunin is a sought after expert who has testified as an expert witness by report, deposition or at trial on patent examination policy, practice and procedure in more than 80 cases.
I have known Kunin for years. We occasionally get together and swap e-mails. During one of our latest meetings I suggested that our conversation would make excellent reading. He agreed to once again go on the record for a wide ranging discussion of patents.
My interview with Kunin occurred on Wednesday, February 26, 2014, at his office in Alexandria, Virginia. We discussed everything from the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Ballast Lighting, the CAFC’s continued love affair with de novo review, the Supreme Court refusing to allow bright line rules, patent office administrative trials, the role of a patent procedure expert in patent litigation and more.
If you are familiar with the politics of intellectual property as it is played out inside the beltway you undoubtedly already know Marla Grossman. Grossman is an attorney and partner with the American Continental Group, and her bio page says “she helps her clients with strategic public policy planning and representation before the White House, US federal agencies and the US Congress.” She is a lobbyist who seems to most typically represent clients with a pro-intellectual property position. Her client list is a virtual whose who of the elite entertainment industry.
Grossman is “a mover and a shaker” around DC. Everyone knows Marla, and she knows everyone. You can find her at virtually every IP related event in the Greater DC area, whether it is at the Library of Congress, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, AIPLA, a black-tie affair or other industry event. We have included her in our “insiders” series and in 2013 the National Law Journal referred to her as a “leading copyright attorney and lobbyist.” She is the real deal.
Perhaps the reason Grossman has become so sought after as a representative, particularly in the copyright and entertainment industries, is because of her time working on Capitol Hill. The 1990s saw a number of legislative issues of great importance thanks to the sudden growth of the World Wide Web. During this time, from 1997-1999, Grossman served as minority counsel to the US Senate Judiciary Committee, where she worked to develop policy positions and legislative initiatives for US Senate Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who now Chair’s the Senate Judiciary Committee. During her time working on Capitol Hill Grossman worked on a variety of intellectual property, Internet usage, entertainment, online gaming and technology issues for Senator Leahy, and was directly involved with major reforms including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; Copyright Term Extension Act; Trademark Law Treaty Implementation Act; Domain Name Amendment Act; and US Patent and Trademark Office Reauthorization Act.
On January 6, 2014, I had an on the record conversation with Donald Chisum and Janice Mueller, both exceptional and well known patent scholars in their own right. Together Chisum and Mueller form the faculty of the Chisum Academy, which offers a three-day intense seminar that is limited to ten (10) participants.
In part 1 of the interview we discussed patent reform and started to discuss patent eligibility, particularly as it relates to software. We pick up the discussion there.
QUINN:In looking back, Justice Stevens’ decision in Bilski had pieces that would have made for a much easier régime to live under because he did say in one in particular area that the innovation in question in State Street was patentable because it was a device. I’m optimistic that we’re going to get something good out of the Supreme Court in CLS Bank. But having said that, I’m still worried, because it seems to me that they totally missed the boat in Mayo where they said we’re not going to follow the solicitor’s invitation to let sections 102, 103, or 112 invalidate that claim. That wasn’t really an invitation, that’s what the statute mandates and up until then Mayo that was always what the Supreme Court had mandated. So you just never know what you’re going to get from the Supreme Court, but I can’t imagine we’re going to get anything less intelligible than the Federal Circuit en banc decision in CLS Bank. Now Janice, you have spent a lot of time teaching patent law to students. How would you describe that decision to people who are new to this field?
Don Chisum (left) and Janice Mueller (right) at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
I’ve known Janice Mueller for a number of years dating back to when she was a full time Professor of Law. Mueller wrote, in my opinion, one of the best summaries of patent law and I recommended it to my patent law students, as well as new practitioners, inventors and entrepreneurs. She has now left full time teaching, but she has not left patent scholarship behind. She is now the author of a patent treatise and she co-teaches in the Chisum Academy with Donald Chisum, who everyone in the patent world knows from his definitive encyclopedia of patent law titled simple Chisum on Patents.
Recently Mueller wrote to me to let me know about the upcoming Advanced Patent Law Seminar that the Chisum Academy will host in Cincinnati from March 5, 2013 through March 7, 2013. I floated the idea of doing an on the record conversation with her and Don Chisum, which they both accepted.
In this two-part conversation we discuss everything patents, from patent reform legislation, to patent litigation abuse, to how the Supreme Court and Federal Circuit are handling patent matters and much more.
Without further ado, here is my conversation with these two preeminent patent scholars.
Bernard Knight, known throughout the industry simply as “Bernie,” was an important part of “Team Kappos” during what many are already referring to as the “Golden Years” of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Knight has a resume full of government service, rising through the ranks to become Acting General Counsel of the Treasury Department, and then General Counsel of the United States Patent and Trademark Office during the Kappos era. That means that he was one of core group of leaders tasked with creating and then implementing the rules of practice necessitated by passage of the America Invents Act (AIA).
In September 2013, Knight left the United States Patent and Trademark Office. I bumped into him shortly thereafter and he agreed to go back on the record with me for an interview, which took place on December 16, 2013. To read my first interview with Knight please see Exclusive Interview: USPTO Attorneys Bernie Knight & Ray Chen.
Knight is now a partner in the Washington, DC, offices of McDermott, Will & Emory, where he focuses his practice on complex patent litigation matters. Knight advises clients on intellectual property cases before the United States Supreme Court, as well as engaging in oversight on patent and trademark cases before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the district courts.
There was nothing off the table, so to speak, in this interview. We discuss how and why he choose McDermott, as well as what it was like working for David Kappos and working with Judge Ray Chen when he was Solicitor at the USPTO. We also discuss the future of the Patent Office, the appointment of Michelle Lee to be Deputy Director of the USPTO, substantively what the USPTO was trying to do with respect to post grant procedures, the new ethical rules applicable to Patent Attorneys and Agents, and a variety of other issues.
On July 1, 2013, I spoke on the record with Ray Niro, who is one of the most well known patent litigators in the United States. Throughout his career he has been a champion for the inventor who was facing long odds due to widespread patent infringement. So loathed was Niro, he was the one who was originally referred to as the “patent troll” by the media due to his representing innovators against giant technology companies. Of course, if you are going to call Ray Niro a patent troll you might want to also point out that he is extraordinarily successful, which means he has been very good at proving that large corporations have infringed valid patents, sometimes on fundamentally important innovations.
I have been writing about patent infringement litigation abuses for quite a while, and Chief Judge Rader of the Federal Circuit has this spring in a variety of fora openly discussed the problems he sees. But at the beginning of June 2013 the anti was raised significantly in the ongoing discussion of litigation abuses in the patent arena. The White House chimed in, which you might be inclined to think would be an important development. Sadly the President getting involved in the discussion had more to do with grandstanding and perhaps political payback to investors in his two Presidential campaigns.
On July 1, 2013, we did speak on the record again. What follows is that interview with Ray Niro, the man for whom the media coined the term “patent troll.” Ray unapologetically, and unsurprisingly, comes out in defense of American inventors and those who engage in the hard work that is research and development of new and wonderful innovations. He pulls no punches and in part 1 of our interview he calls out Cisco, a strong critic of non-practicing entities, as a hypocrite for doing the very thing that they rail against.
On May 31, 2013, I spoke with Glen Duff, a client of mine who is the inventor of an exceptionally easy to use wake board. In part 1 of our interview, which kicked off our Fun in the Sun Summer 2013 series, we discussed how the patented Zup™ Boardis the best selling product that Overton’s has ever seen in their 37 year history, as well as the importance of an inventor’s perseverance, bringing on industry experts to advise and engaging in a project you are passionate about.
In part 2, which is the final segment, Glen talks about how the patented Zup™ wake board is being made in America, which at a time when so many larger operations are moving offshore and outsourcing jobs is really quite refreshing. While there is a certain allure to selling products made in America, Glen explains that there is also a very real business reason as well. It is quite difficult to reliably enforce high quality standards when manufacturing is overseas.
We also discuss how Glen views himself as his competition as he continues to engage in research and development for improvements and future products, and how great it is to be able to put on a pair of shorts and jump on a boat as part of R&D efforts. I also ask him if he could go back in time to give himself advise based on what he knows now, what advise would he give? This leads us into an interesting discussion relating to the relative merits of licensing versus manufacturing and distributing yourself.
The Zup™ is perhaps the most cool and innovative wake board you have ever seen. There are a number of other patent applications pending, trademark applications pending and ongoing research and development for future products. The Zup™ is special because literally anyone can ride the board and participate in the fun. I knew that Glen was onto something when he showed me a video of an early prototype in use years ago. There was a giant fellow — 6’8″ and easily 290 pounds — who managed to get up on the board with ease. I thought to myself, “that shouldn’t happen!” Being a big guy myself I understand how difficult, if not nearly impossible, it is to get up on a traditional wake board. In that same video I also saw an elderly grandmother get up on the board. Neither size nor upper body strength mattered. It was then I knew Glen had something special.
Glen will easily be one of my most successful clients ever when all is said and done and we are telling our stories at our retirement parties. An inventor on several patents prior to his entry into the wake board market, Glen has simply done everything right along the way. He has listened to advice and has surrounded himself with an all-star advisory group of industry insiders who are very optimistic about the likely future success. Thus, this is a story of growing success, but also one of perseverance and commitment. It illustrates the importance of moving forward with a patent position to secure rights that can be build upon, and how critical it is to surround yourself with people knowledgeable about the industry. As Glen explains below in our interview he managed to connect with several key industry leaders who helped open doors for the Zup™ and who are on his advisory board.
On May 10, 2013, I had a conversation with patent litigator Rachael Lamkin, who is known to many on Twitter as @Rachael_IP.
In part 1 of the interview we discussed the definition of a patent troll, a pro bono program to help those facing patent troll lawsuits and more. We left off discussing how defendants really need to make patent trolls spend money rather than cave. We pick up our conversation discussing woefully inadequate patent infringement complaints.
QUINN: I agree and I think that Judge Rader is trying to do something to address this problem. I asked him at the AUTM Conference, you know, we’ve got this problem with these complaints that are just — they’re terrible. I mean, maybe they satisfy the Federal rules of procedure.