The patent litigation landscape forever changed on September 16, 2012. 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 America Invents Act, which include Post Grant Review (PGR), Inter Partes Review (IPR) and Covered Business Methods (CBM). Since 2012 roughly 1,000 challenges have been filed as petitions for either Inter Partes Review or the transitional Covered Business Method challenge proceeding. Post Grant Review is only available for patents that were granted as the result of first to file, which did not go into effect until March 16, 2013, so there will be some time before we see Post Grant Review given the tremendous backlog at the Patent Office.
There’s an old expression that Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) “was an optimist.” That expression certainly applies to the recent Federal Circuit panel decision in Novartis AG v. Lee, as well as the companion decision in Exelixis, Inc. v. Lee on the meaning of the Patent Term Adjustment (PTA) Statute (35 U.S.C. § 154(b)), and particularly what’s called the “B period” portion (i.e., 35 U.S.C. § 154(b)(1)(B)) of PTA. In Novartis, this Federal Circuit panel (opinion by Judge Taranto, joined by Judges Newman and Dyk) ruled that the second exclusion from PTA in the “B period” portion (i.e., 35 U.S.C. § 154(b)(1)(B)(ii)) excludes from PTA any time consumed by a Request for Continued Examination (RCE), even if that RCE is filed more than 3 years after the “actual filing date” of the patent application. Not only is this ruling a questionable interpretation of 35 U.S.C. § 154(b)(1)(B)(ii) for reasons I’ll discuss below, but it creates an unfortunate, and surely unintended impact on RCEs specifically, as well as continuation practice generally. And the more I dig into the PTA statute, the more problematical this ruling in Novartis becomes.
Novartis also addresses another thorny issue of when a patent applicant dissatisfied with the PTA determination by the USPTO may timely challenge such a determination (i.e., 35 U.S.C. § 154(b)(4)(A) (and which also went against the patentee, Novartis), but I’m going to focus solely on the B period exclusion issue. I’m also going to provide here a summary of the PTA statute as it relates to these 3 periods used for determining the cumulative PTA that the patent applicant gets. See the 2012 Eastern District of Virginia’s decision in Exelixis, Inc. v. Kappos which was vacated by the Federal Circuit’s companion decision to Novartis, and provides a nice, concise explanation of how these 3 periods work for determining the cumulative PTA owed the patent applicant.
In September 2013,Bernie Knightleft the United States Patent and Trademark Office, where he was General Counsel. Knight took the job of General Counsel at the invitation of David Kappos, and he became one of the core members of the Kappos team, which means he was intimately involved with the rule making and management of the USPTO during the Kappos era.
Knight now calls the Washington, DC, offices of McDermott, Will & Emoryhome, where he focuses his practice on complex patent litigation matters. I met up with Knight on December 16, 2013, at his office for an interview. In part 1 of the interview we discussed why he choose McDermott, what it was like working for David Kappos and working with Federal Circuit Judge Ray Chen when he was Solicitor at the USPTO, and the appointment of Michelle Lee to be Deputy Director of the USPTO. In part 2 of the interview, which appears below, we discuss the new ethics rules adopted by the USPTO, the future of the USPTO, patent reform legislation, abusive patent litigation, and what the AIA was attempting to achieve relative to post grant patent challenges.
It’s 2014, and an angel calls me “grandpa”! What happened to that teenage kid in the mirror — and who is the old man staring back at me? Well, at least the acne is gone. Enough on the personal horrors of aging (which are way worse than any Hollywood syfy). What happens to IP law in 2014?
Near the end of 2013, the Supreme Court granted cert in CLS Bank v. Alice on issues related to software patentability, and many expect that the sagacious Justices will clarify the confusion they created about patent eligibility in earlier decisions, like Prometheus, that were amplified in the splintered en banc panel on CLS Bank at the Federal Circuit. I prophesy that the best we can hope for is a Bilski-esque vague instruction (wherein our top court opined that some business methods are patentable, citing the machine or transformation test as one viable test, without pointing to other valid tests and without enlightening the confused public.)
The Court is once again likely to limit software patentability in some arcane way that harms job creation and stifles economic growth. The bright side is that the Court’s failure to protect our largest growth industries may help spur the legislative branch into further action. A decade of intermittent patent reforms has created a permanent cadre of patent lobbyists very willing to focus their considerable efforts and talents on a new patent issue. It would be advantageous to the patent system if that attention were productively channeled to specifically include our emerging technologies in our patent statutes, and to legislate patent eligibility in a manner that treats 101 as the broad filter it was intended to be, while employing the other patent statutes, such as 112 and 103, to correctly provide the narrower filters.
2013 turned out to be a very big year for IP, and especially patents, and the year took a course that few would have predicted this time last year. At that time, the senior team at the PTO was primarily focused on the imminent departure of our then-boss, David Kappos, and the end of what had clearly been an extraordinarily active and successful tenure. The AIA had been almost entirely implemented, the new Patent Trial and Appeal Board was up and running, and most of us expected 2013 to be focused on implementation and execution of the AIA and the other initiatives that had been set in motion under Director Kappos.
But things turned out rather differently. Nobody would have predicted a year ago that President Obama would personally call for additional patent reform legislation to curb patent troll litigation. Or that a comprehensive patent litigation reform bill would speed through the House by a lopsided margin and be heading to Senate consideration with a full head of steam. Nobody also would have predicted that the USPTO would also fall victim to sequestration and once again be denied full access to its fees so shortly after the passage of the AIA, which held forth the promise of full access to fees. And few would have predicted that the PTO would be without stable political leadership since Dave Kappos left eleven months ago. Or that a new Chief of Staff and a new Deputy and Acting Director would be named before a new Director was nominated. This unusual and lengthy transition period has caused understandable concern in the IP community, but we should all be pleased that a new Acting Director has been named and will take the reins on an acting basis in just two weeks.
The Ethics & OED series continues, today looking at three more orders in reciprocal disciplinary proceedings at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The totality of this series will make up the backbone of my ethics presentation at the 8th Annual Patent Law Institute sponsored by the Practising Law Institute, which will take place in New York at the beginning of February 2014, and which will be reprised live in San Francisco in mid-March 2014.
These three proceedings, like every other reciprocal disciplinary proceeding, demonstrate the overwhelming importance of obtaining the best resolution possible when the State ethics authorities come knocking. Because there is a presumption that reciprocal discipline is appropriate, to prevail at the USPTO you would need to demonstrate that there was a lack of due process, complete lack of evidence or that there is some manifest injustice that would occur if discipline were to be handed out by the USPTO.
Whether we like it or not, you are going to be disciplined by the USPTO to the same extent you were disciplined by the State ethics panel, or a Federal Court (see Graham below). However, this sometimes seems to lead to unequal treatment of practitioners who are similarly situated but for the State in which they are admitted. Eventually someone will raise an equal protection argument, but you don’t want that to be you. It would have a significant uphill battle no doubt like all such arguments, but it would be very nice for OED to take a step back and consider whether it is fair to simply defer its own disciplinary authority to the States.
The Japan Patent Office (JPO), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market(Trademarks and Designs) (OHIM), the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), (hereinafter referred to as the “Partners”) held the 2013 TM5 Annual Meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea on 5-6 December 2013.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was present as an observer, as it had been at the previous TM5 meeting. In addition, representatives of various user associations participated in the open session of the meeting. That session was productive and useful.
During the Meeting, the Partners exchanged views and information on practices and programs, as well as on common projects aiming at promoting cooperation and collaboration among the Partners and contributing to increasingly user-friendly trademark systems.
How to Write a Patent Application is a must own for patent attorneys, patent agents and law students alike. A crucial hands-on resource that walks you through every aspect of preparing and filing a patent application, from working with an inventor to patent searches, preparing the patent application, drafting claims and more.
Without hesitation I recommend One Simple Idea and think it should be required reading for any motivated inventor. There is so much to like about the book and so much that I think author Stephen Key nails dead on accurate. The book is educational, information and inspirational. For the $14 cover price it is essential reading.
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