WASHINGTON — Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the winners of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patents for Humanity pilot program during an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Launched by the USPTO in February 2012 as part of an Obama administration initiative promoting game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges, Patents for Humanity is a competition recognizing patent owners and licensees who address global challenges in health and standards of living.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director Gayle Smith and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Teresa Stanek Rea delivered remarks at the awards ceremony.
“A strong patent system is crucial to supporting our continued economic growth, and its benefits don’t stop at our borders. Patented inventions are bringing longer, healthier, fuller lives to people across the globe,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank. “As part of the President’s global development agenda, the Patents for Humanity program is a great example of how American innovation is helping solve critical global challenges and creating prosperity in emerging economies.”
Just when you thought that the United States Patent and Trademark Office might be done with rulemaking for at least a bit, taking a collective sigh of relief after the final implementation of first-to-file rules on March 16, 2013, and new fees on March 19, 2013, the USPTO is back at it again. This time the USPTO is proposing rules necessary to implement he Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 (PLTIA). SeeChanges to Implement Patent Law Treaty – Proposed Rules.
First, what is the Patent Law Treaty? The official party line is that the PLT harmonizes and streamlines formal procedures pertaining to the filing and processing of patent applications. Still, I am just worn out from all the changes!
Historically the PLT was concluded on June 1, 2000, and entered into force on April 28, 2005. The United States Senate ratified the PLT on December 7, 2007, but it did not become effective in the United States upon ratification in 2007 because it is not a self-executing treaty. Legislation (i.e., title II of the PLTIA) to amend the provisions of title 35 to become compliant with our new treaty obligations was enacted on December 18, 2012.
The PLTIA amended U.S. patent laws to implement the provisions of the Hague Agreement Concerning International Registration of Industrial Designs (Hague Agreement) in title I, and the Patent Law Treaty (PLT) in title II. However, we have to look forward to additional proposed rules because the USPTO is implementing the Hague Agreement and title I of the PLTIA in a separate rulemaking. This proposed rules package pertains only to the changes required to implement the PLT.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced earlier today that effective May 3, 2013, it will update the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct that govern practitioners who practice before the USPTO. These new USPTO ethics rules are based on the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which were published in 1983, substantially revised in 2003 and updated through 2012.
The Federal Register Notice explains that currently there are approximately 41,000 registered patent practitioners, with at least 75% of the roster of patent practitioners being attorneys who are admitted in one or more States. Given that the ABA Model Rules have been adopted by 49 states and the District of Columbia, nearly all of the attorneys registered to practice at the USPTO are already professionally governed by ethics rules modeled from the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Thus, this change should not be considered to be a substantive change to the rules that apply to patent attorneys.Indeed, the Federal Register Notice explains that this USPTO efforts “benefits and reduces costs for most practitioners by clarifying and streamlining their professional responsibility obligations.” Of course, for those who are patent agents, however, the rules will be different.
This past week was another very prolific one for Apple, as the California-based electronic device developer received 35 patents and had another 36 applications published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many patent applications were concerned with the ways computer users interact with their systems, and we see a number of upgrades to graphical user interfaces coming for device address books and online stores. Of the patents issued to Apple, one protects a webpage retrieval method that can help browsers save a lot of time while searching for information on the Internet.
One of the many patents received by Apple last Tuesday involves an upgrade to the user interface for web browsing applications. Users of browsers like Internet Explorer are able to go back to previous webpage presentations that they’ve visited, often using the “Back” button. However, using this technique, users can only go back one webpage at a time. Users can view their history to pull up a webpage visited further back without having to load every webpage in between. However, in the case of search engine results or webpages with confusing URLs, identifying the proper page in this way can be difficult.
Apple has invented what they call a “page snapback method” to visit a specific webpage that a browser had loaded earlier without loading the intermediate pages first. A page can be recorded either automatically or manually and restored as is when the system receives an input from the user. The language of the patent document seems to suggest that this system is optimized for search engine result page retrieval, so that a user can return to the search engine listings without having to go backwards one webpage at a time.
As readers of IP Watchdog are aware, Federal Circuit Chief Judge Rader recently delivered an important and noteworthy defense of the U.S. patent system at the recent annual meeting of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). I did not attend the event, but others have recounted that Chief Judge Rader’s remarks reminded attendees that the patent system is intended to promote innovation and asserted that patent litigation abuse is the main problem of our patent system.
According to Chief Judge Rader, patent litigation abuse (which he referred to as “litigation blackmail”) occurs when a plaintiff patent owner attributes a high value to an asserted patent with the intention of extracting a small settlement from an alleged infringer defendant. He went on to outline a four step approach to curb patent litigation abuse, summarized simply as:
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Inventors Hall of Fame today announced the inductees for 2013. This year’s class includes inventors behind patented innovations such as the electronic synthesizer, flat panel plasma displays, iris recognition technology, and the code providing the foundation for 3G cellular systems. This year’s induction ceremony will take place on May 1, 2013 at the USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The USPTO founded the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1973 and has been a long-standing partner since the organization’s incorporation as a separate, non-profit educational foundation.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame annually accepts nominations for men and women whose work has changed society and improved the quality of life. The candidate’s invention must be covered by a U.S. patent, and the work must have had a major impact on society, the public welfare, and the progress of science and the useful arts.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently awarded over 200 new claims to Eric Gould Bear, user interface designer, testifying expert witness and co-founder of MONKEYmedia. The four most recently issued patents fall under MONKEYmedia’s “Relativity Controller” family of patents.
Two of the patents issued deal with commonly-used techniques that are utilized with regard to Blu-rays and DVDs to give a viewer a variety of versions of the same film all on the same disc. More specifically, long videos can be abbreviated by viewers who have the ability to choose to pass by any sequence or scene that they want.
Another one of the recently issued patents deals with techniques regarding the auto-summarization of documents that are used in online research tools and various word processor applications. In particular, a user’s search results and/or long documents are shortened by showing only the important portions of content sought by a user based on his or her preferences, and contracting the non-important content.
A patent practitioner prosecuting an application would not normally worry about an issued patent having a much later filing date. The CAFC’s Hubbell decision shows, however, that such a patent can create a problem under the doctrine of obviousness-type double patenting, that prevents the earlier-filed application from issuing.
Hubbell is an inventor of U.S. Application 10/650,509. Hubbell appeals from the decision of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences affirming the Examiner’s final rejection of his claims for obviousness-type double patenting over U.S. Patent No. 7,601,685, which also names Hubbell as an inventor. The ‘509 application was filed on August 27, 2003, but claims benefit of a provisional application filed in 1997 when Hubbell was a professor at CalTech. Thus, the ‘509 application is assigned to CalTech.
Hubbell left CalTech and joined the faculty at Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zurich (“ETHZ”) in 1998. The application which issued as the ‘685 patent was filed on December 17, 2002 and is jointly assigned to ETHZ and Universitat Zurich. It is undisputed that the ‘509 application and the ‘605 patent do not have identical inventive entities, nor do they have common assignees. It is also undisputed that the ‘685 patent is not available as prior art under 35 USC §§ 102 or 103. The Patent Office concluded that the ‘685 patent claims “are a species of the instantly claimed invention and thus anticipate the claimed invention,” in making its obviousness-type double patenting rejection.
The Patent Office should be estopped from raising a § 112 (a) rejection after raising a § 102 or § 103 rejection in an earlier office action. 35 U.S.C. § 112 (a) states:
The specification shall contain a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same, and shall set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor or joint inventor of carrying out the invention
Logically, if the application does not describe an invention in terms that allows one skilled in the art to make and use it, then the Patent Office should not have sufficient information to suggest that the application is not novel or obvious. In order to determine something is not novel or obvious you first have to know what it is. I have no objection to the Patent Office putting a 35 U.S.C. § 112 (a) and novelty/obviousness rejection in the same Office Action, where the PTO explains that to the best of their understanding of the invention it would not be novel or obvious for the following reasons.
With only 11 patent applications published last week by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, this marks a meager week for Apple Inc. Of the patent applications published by the USPTO, three are interrelated applications for managing access to rights-protected digital media. Other patent applications pertain to improvements to internal computer systems, including temperature control and serial bus connectivity.
Digital rights management, or DRM, has long been a major concern among computer systems manufacturers. The pervasiveness of digital media content, and the ease with which media files can be shared among computers, has made it difficult to adequately compensate media creators for their digital products. In some cases, computer developers have created DRM software that restricts access to a single user.
Judge Richard Linn, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Feb. 8, 2013.
On Friday, February 8, 2013, I had the honor to interview Judge Richard Linn of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Those in the industry know that Judge Linn is one of a small group of Judges who are patent attorneys. He is one of us in so many ways. He is a very real and genuine person, he is a great believer in the patent system, and he has long been a friend to patent groups and a mentor to many. Judge Linn started his a career as so many patent professionals have — as the newest patent examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. We learn in the interview that his interest in patent law started well earlier, thanks to his Uncle who was a patent illustrator.
After leaving the Patent Office Judge Linn rose through the ranks to become a prominent patent attorney in Washington, DC. Ultimately, he was in the right place at the right time, and he was fortunate enough to be recognized by the right people. He was appointed to the Federal Circuit to replace the legendary Giles Sutherland Rich. Big shoes to fill no doubt, but in terms of influence on the Court and impact on the profession few can compare to Judge Linn. He has, and continues, to carve out his own legacy as one of the preeminent patent leaders in the United States.
We spent approximately 60 minutes on the record with my iPhone recorder on, meeting in his chambers at the Federal Circuit, which overlooks Lafayette Park. Judge Linn recently took senior status, and lives full-time in Florida. He returns approximately every other month, sometimes more frequent, to hear cases. He will soon be giving up this office once the President’s appointments to the Court are confirmed. Judge Linn assures me he will remain active with the Federal Circuit.
When I sit down to interview someone I sometimes have a sense where things may lead, but inevitably interesting topics arise, sometimes based off a seemingly innocuous question. In Part I, which is below, I asked a familiar question: Do you find that the harder you worked the luckier you got? Judge Linn used this to discuss the importance of practicing law with integrity while managing to be a zealous advocate and without sacrificing civility. This theme carriers over into Part II of the interview and should, in my opinion, be mandatory reading for law students and associates. In fact, it is a good reminder for more senior attorneys who sometimes might lose sight of the forest for the trees.
Did you know that there is clothing available to assist jails, mental hospitals and others with the prevention of suicide? Special protective wear has been issued to inmates and patients with suicidal tendencies for years. As a matter of fact, you can go online and see a variety of items that are available for facilities that might need them — much of which is made out of a very uncomfortable, yet strong nylon shell that is held together with nylon thread. However, that type of material can be quite rough on the skin and quite irritating to the wearer in the long run.
For example, isolation/safety smocks are often used in prisons and/or mental health settings, and these smocks (which are sleeveless and one piece) are typically made from a tear-resistant nylon or polyester so that it can’t be used to make a noose. The material chosen for the smocks is generally selected because of its strength and durability — not for its comfort, and when these items are worn over an extended period of time, the discomfort to the wearer can be such that it causes the already fragile-minded individual a great deal of irritation and aggravation, further compromising that person’s mental stability.
So what can be done to make anti-suicide clothing more comfortable for wearers, yet remain just as effective in preventing suicides? Inventors Robert Schilling and Ayla Tasezen, the inventors listed on U.S. Patent No. 8,375,466, believe that they have come up with the perfect solution.
One year ago, the USPTO Museum packed away 30 man-sized, glowing iPhones. It was the last day of an exhibit commemorating the life and inventions of Steve Jobs, and the oversized mock-smartphones were displaying trademarks and patents in his name. But is it as easy to view those patents on your ordinary, pocket-sized iPhone? Or file a patent application from an iPad?
The USPTO is one of many federal agencies struggling to comply with the mandates of the White House Digital Government Strategy for 2013 – namely, that digital information and services must be available “anywhere, anytime, on any device”. Meeting the government standard will entail not just polishing USPTO.gov for use on smartphones and tablets, but also a substantial overhaul of the way the agency exposes data to patent practitioners and the public.
Washington — The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the AutoHarvest Foundation today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together to spur innovation and generate jobs in advanced manufacturing. The two organizations will collaborate on the creation of an online environment for innovators to exchange information, facilitate technical discussions, and encourage the growth of entrepreneurial activities. The USPTO opened its first-ever satellite office in Detroit in July 2012, and the MOU is part of the agency’s outreach into the community.
Through the MOU, entrepreneurs and corporate executives will have direct access to a centralized online collection of databases, information resources, software and analytical tools designed to help inventors better understand the process of obtaining, maintaining and commercializing their intellectual property (IP). Through a series of actionable interfaces, innovators will also have the ability to view, directly respond to and potentially enter into business transactions to commercialize their IP or provide their technologies to emerging companies seeking advanced manufacturing solutions.
Almost two weeks ago the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued two Federal Register Notices in anticipation of the U.S. converting from first-to-invent to a first-to-file regime. The first were the Changes to Implement First to File and the second was First to File Examination Guidelines. Both are important. The new regulations that make up 37 CFR are found in the former, but much of the meat and potatoes are found in the later. The Guidelines, which the USPTO says they are not obligated to follow, is where the Office spends most of the time comparing and contrasting old pre-AIA 102 with AIA 102. The Guidelines is also where the USPTO explains which cases they believe have been overruled (i.e., Hilmer and Metallizing Engineering) and which cases continue to have relevance. They also selectively cherry pick portions of the legislative history to back up their interpretations.
Frankly, we know that when the Supreme Court ultimately gets involved interpreting the AIA, which is a virtual certainty, the legislative history will play absolutely no role in interpreting the statute. This Supreme Court holds legislative history in near contempt. It is hard to argue with them on that point knowing how easy it is for something to be included into the legislative history. More interesting, however, will be whether the Federal Circuit will consider legislative history, or at least to what extent. But, as for now, the Patent Office is deferring to legislative history with respect to a number of items. On first glance nothing caught me as out of place particularly, and the Office has to rely on something given that Congress re-wrote the law and used different terminology for things that have had long-standing, well-known meanings.
Therefore, the question really has to be this: Did Congress mean what they said? Of course, that has multiple components: (1) Did Congress mean what they said in the actual text of the bill, which leaves a great many things open to interpretation; and (2) Did Congress mean what they said in the legislative history, which at times is some of the most clear writing you will ever read. The trouble, of course, is that they voted on the text, not the legislative history. Moreover, in one particular instance (relating to Metallizing Engineering) the USPTO relied on comments from Senator Leahy that only occurred after the Senate acted, which hardly seems reasonable to do give that the comment was after the fact and the exact type of remark that Justice Scalia and others seem to detest. How do we know that anyone other than one Senator believed that? How do we even know that was what that Senator believed when he voted? What a mess!
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. The treatise is continuously updated to address relevant Federal Circuit and Supreme Court decision impacting patent drafting.
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