Washington– The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host a public forum on May 9, 2014 at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, to solicit feedback from organizations and individuals on its recent guidance memorandum for determining subject matter eligibility of claims reciting or involving laws of nature, natural phenomena, and natural products (Laws of Nature/Natural Products Guidance). The Laws of Nature/Natural Products Guidance implemented a new procedure to address changes in the law relating to subject matter eligibility in view of recent Supreme Court precedent.
“We are always interested in receiving feedback from the public and this forum will provide an opportunity for participants to present their interpretation of the impact of Supreme Court precedent on the complex legal and technical issues involved in subject matter eligibility analyses during patent examination.” said Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced the creation of a new Office of International Patent Cooperation (OIPC). The OIPC will be led by Mark Powell who will serve as USPTO’s first Deputy Commissioner for International Patent Cooperation and report directly to the Commissioner for Patents Margaret (Peggy) Focarino. The establishment of the OIPC reflects USPTO’s strong commitment to work with global stakeholders and intellectual property (IP) offices to develop means to increase quality and create new efficiencies within the complex processes of international patent rights acquisition, and its commitment toward global patent harmonization, which both protects America’s ideas and makes it easier to do business abroad.
“The establishment of the Office of International Patent Cooperation reflects the USPTO’s strong commitment to the IP community in improving the international patent system,” said Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle Lee. “It will allow us to increase certainty of IP rights while reducing costs for our stakeholders and moving towards a harmonized patent system.”
Last week the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced that they will be holding a roundtable event on April 10, 2014, to discuss President Obama’s desire to find ways to allow the public to provide the Patent Office with prior art.
The patent laws already allow the public to submit prior art, and the public has hardly noticed. In fact, the America Invents Act (AIA) ushered in a new era of so-called crowdsourcing of prior art with the institution of third-party preissuance submissions. Despite how sexy this initiative seemed at the time or may seem in a social media, crowdsourcing conscious public, the reality is that during the first 15 months one could make a third-party preissuance submission there were only 1,228 such submissions filed, During this same time there were never fewer than 584,998 applications at the Patent Office awaiting first action.
The number of applications third party submissions could be filed in during this time would be much, much higher since a third-party submission can be filed prior to the earlier of: (1) The date a notice of allowance; OR (2) The later of: (i) 6 months after the date on which the application is first published by the USPTO, or (ii) The date of the first rejection of any claim by the examiner. But even if we conservatively assume that 584,998 application were available for such a filing that means that a minimum of 99.8% of applications have received no third-party preissuance submission. So much for the popularity of crowdsourcing prior art, at least prior to patent issuance.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Many no doubt are familiar with Carl Oppedahl, who for the last 10+ years has been writing an e-mail based newsletter. Carl has now joined the ranks of the blogging community and has asked me to notify readers of his new blog. With that in mind, and with Carl’s permission, what follows is a republication of his first blog post, which published on February 21, 2014.
In our office we try to track pretty closely the status of the cases that we have put on the Patent Prosecution Highway. It is a rare PPH case that reaches its first Office Action without at least one problem within USPTO that requires us to poke the USPTO. Today one of our PPH cases presented a problem that we had not seen before — a big delay in examination because the USPTO misclassified the case.
This case had been made Special on the Patent Prosecution Highway in October of 2013 because of a favorable Written Opinion from a PCT Searching Authority. For a Special case, USPTO’s case management system normally starts ringing an alarm on the Examiner’s desk after a couple of months. So we should have seen an Office Action at least a month ago, maybe two months ago. But that only works if the case has been assigned to an Examiner. Often the USPTO first assigns the case to a SPE and then it is left to the SPE to figure out which Examiner in the SPE’s art unit should actually examine the case. This case got assigned to the SPE in a particular art unit. Let’s call him “SPE V”. It seems that SPE V decided that this case had been misclassified and should not have gone to his art unit. So he tried to get rid of it.
The Myriad/Mayo guidelines include an example that discusses the patent eligibility of a purified amazonic acid. The USPTO guidelines read as follows:
“The Amazonian cherry tree is a naturally occurring tree that grows wild in the Amazon basin region of Brazil. The leaves of the Amazonian cherry tree contain a chemical that is useful in treating breast cancer. However, to be effective, a patient must eat 30 pounds of the leaves per day for at least four weeks. Many have tried and failed to isolate the cancer-fighting chemical from the leaves. Applicant has successfully purified the cancer-fighting chemical from the leaves and has named it amazonic acid. The purified amazonic acid is structurally identical to the amazonic acid in the leaves, but a patient only needs to eat one teaspoon of the purified acid to get the same effects as 30 pounds of the leaves…”
The view of the USPTO now is that a claim to purified amazonic acid is not patent-eligible because there is no structural difference between the purified acid in the claim and the acid in the leaves, and the claim does not include features that demonstrate that the recited product is markedly different from what exists in nature. However the proposition that only a structural difference suffices and that differences e.g. in purity and utility do not suffice is derivable neither from the opinion in Prometheus nor from the opinion in Myriad. It is abundantly clear from study of the opinion in Myriad that the reasons why the BRCA1 gene claim did not survive were that the gene had been defined in terms of its informational content rather than its chemical structure, and that no new utility for the isolated full-length gene had been disclosed. Such an interpretation is wholly consistent with the concession made on behalf of the Petitioners in oral argument.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced that it will host a public forum to discuss the first-inventor-to-file (FITF) provisions of the America Invents Act (AIA). The forum marks the first anniversary of the implementation of FITF, and will be held on March 17, 2014, at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee, along with experts from the offices of the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy and the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations, will participate in the event.
The public meeting will serve as an opportunity for USPTO subject matter experts and stakeholders to discuss the FITF provisions and updates since its implementation. The forum will begin with an informal meet-and-greet session, followed by remarks and a question and answer session with USPTO experts. Topics to be discussed include FITF statistics to date, how to know whether an application will be examined under FITF or not, and the exception provisions of the FITF statutory framework. The experts will present a variety of example scenarios to illustrate the FITF provisions.
During the State of the Union address to Congress in January 2014, President Obama called for passage of a patent reform bill that would allow businesses to stay focused on innovation, not litigation. Today, in what was billed as part of the “Year of Action: Making Progress Through Executive Action,” the Obama Administration highlighted progress made on previously announced executive actions, and also announced three new actions to further respond to the President’s desire to increase patent quality.
Currently the President is under fire for Executive Actions, which is something that he railed against when he was Presidential Candidate Obama in 2008, but increasingly embraces. The criticism of the President with respect to Executive Action has heretofore been related to the fact that through executive fiat the President has single handedly re-written laws passed by Congress. Of course, there is no Constitutional authority for the President to re-write laws, but that hasn’t stopped him, at least with respect to the health care law.
No such re-writing of law seems to be implicated in the Executive Actions announced today relative to the patent system. In fact, the Executive Actions on the patent front are largely much ado about nothing and seem most intended to grab headlines. Still, there are a few items that make perfect sense, such as the USPTO working with industry to train patent examiners on cutting edge scientific developments and an expansion of the pro bono program. Still, other initiatives claim to address patent quality but I can’t for the life of me understand how that could be possible. How accurate ownership records kept after the issuance of a patent will help patent quality is a mystery to me, and unexplained by the White House.
Washington – The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced that the USPTO’s draft Strategic Plan for fiscal years (FY) 2014-2018 is posted for public review and comment on the USPTO website. The draft plan sets out the USPTO’s mission-focused strategic goals: to optimize patent quality and timeliness; to optimize trademark quality and timeliness; and to provide global and domestic leadership to improve intellectual property (IP) policy, protection, and enforcement worldwide.
In order to represent clients before the U.S. Patent Office it is necessary to take and pass the Patent Bar Examination. In order to be registered to practice before the Office the individual seeking registration must: (1) Apply to the USPTO Director in writing by completing an application for registration form supplied by the OED Director and furnishing all requested information and material; and (2) Establish to the satisfaction of the OED Director that the applicant possesses good moral character and reputation and the requisite scientific qualifications and competence to advise and assist patent applicants in the presentation and prosecution of their applications before the Office.
In recent years the registration exam to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office has undergone significant change. For example, effective April 12, 2011, the patent bar examination was updated to test MPEP 8th edition revision 8, as well as KSR v. Teleflex, Bilski v. Kappos and the 112 Guidelines. This update in testable material brought the patent bar exam current through Winter of 2011.
Effective January 2012, the USPTO updated the patent registration examination to cover two new rules issued September 26, 2011 that relate to the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. These new rules permit prioritized examination of patent applications (Track I) and revise the standard for granting inter partes reexamination requests. Additionally, the patent registration examination was also at this time updated to include questions concerning the November 22, 2011 rules governing practice in ex parte appeals before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences.
On February 17, 2011, Teresa Stanek Rea was announced as the new Deputy Director at the USPTO. Yesterday Teresa Rea, who is now the Acting Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, announced that she will be leaving the Office, ending speculation that she may be announced as the next Director of the Patent Office.
Now the wait continues for the announcement of a new Director, which could come at any time. I have been hearing rumors about who it may be, but at this time I’m not ready to publicly speculate. There seems to be a political candidate with ties to the tech industry that has risen to the top of the Obama White House list.
Upon joining the USPTO, Rea, who is known both inside and outside the Office as “Terry,” took the mantle of U.S. government employee with the longest title; Rea’s full title prior to becoming Acting Director was Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Terry is no stranger to the intellectual property world, and she will undoubtedly be coveted by firms and corporations alike as she re-enters the private sector. She is a former President of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), and a long time patent practitioner who is highly regarding in the intellectual property community.