Posts in USPTO

Tips From a Former Examiner: Pre-Appeal Brief Review

After two or more U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) office actions on the merits, a patent applicant has the option to appeal the patent examiner’s decision rejecting one or more claims to a higher forum, i.e., the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Since 2005, the USPTO has provided an ongoing pilot program in which an appellant, upon the filing of a notice of appeal, may also request a pre-appeal brief review. Why make this request? What are the pros and cons? What are the risks? In this article, I will explore these issues from my perspective as a former USPTO patent examiner.

What the PTAB’s CRISPR-Cas9 Decision for Broad Institute Means for Gene Editing Patent Landscape

As previously reported here, on February 28, 2022, in Interference 106,115, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a decision in which it awarded inventive priority to the Broad Institute (Broad) over the University of California (U.C.) on an invention covering applications of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system in eukaryotic cells. This decision purports to award substantial control of the CRISPR-Cas9 patent landscape to Broad. This article provides additional background on CRISPR-Cas9 technology, outlines the critical findings in Interference 106,115 that resulted in the PTAB awarding priority to Broad, and describes the impact of the PTAB’s decision for Broad, U.C., and other companies involved in the development of CRISPR-Cas9 technology.

CAFC Gives Google Second Shot at PTAB in Challenge of Communications Patents

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) today vacated and remanded three decisions of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) that had found Google failed to prove the relevant claims of IPA Technologies, Inc.’s patents to be unpatentable. The CAFC found that the PTAB “failed to resolve fundamental testimonial conflicts in concluding that the relied-upon reference was not prior art.” The patents in question are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,851,115 (“the ’115 patent”) and 7,069,560 (“the ’560 patent”). They cover “a software-based architecture . . . for supporting cooperative task completion by flexible, dynamic configurations of autonomous electronic agents.” Specifically, the patents disclose that “[c]ommunications and cooperation between agents are brokered by one or more facilitators” and that “[t]he facilitators employ strategic reasoning for generating a goal satisfaction plan to fulfill arbitrarily complex goals by users and service requesting agents.” The patents list David L. Martin and Adam J. Cheyer as inventors.

Patent Filings Roundup: Petitions on Key Dupe Patents Denied Under Fintiv; Taxidermy Patent Filings Stuffed

It was a slow week at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and a fast one in the district court, with 82 new patent complaints and 85 terminations, but just 18 patent filings at the PTAB. Those few filings were mostly a battery company challenging Maxell patents, a few bigger NPE cases, and Apple and Samsung filing against assertor Smart Mobile Technologies from the middle of last year. Askeladden had a petition denied on the merits, Microchip Technology had a petition denied on General Plastics, and The Hillman Group got four inter partes reviews (IPRs) denied under Fintiv, guaranteeing they will head to trial in the Eastern District of Texas; more below.

Tips from a Former Examiner on How to Conduct Interviews at the USPTO

The “interview” during the patent prosecution process is a meeting typically held between a patent examiner and the applicant’s representative (i.e., a patent practitioner). In some cases, the inventor, assignee, or a subject matter expert may also be present. During my time as a United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) patent examiner, I would almost always encourage scheduling an interview with applicant’s representative to discuss the merits. Curiously, many patent practitioners are not proactive in initiating an interview with the examiner. Why is an interview so important? When and how should it be held? How does an applicant’s representative conduct an effective interview?

Hyatt Returns to SCOTUS with Request to Clarify Standard for Summary Judgment, APA Scope of Review Provisions

Gilbert Hyatt, an inventor who has been granted more than 70 patents and has filed more than 400 applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Justices to weigh in on his challenge of a policy he alleges the USPTO implemented in the 1990s to categorically deny him issuance of any additional patents. Hyatt has been embroiled in litigation with the USPTO for decades and won a previous Supreme Court appeal in 2012.  

CAFC Dismisses Appeal of PTAB Determination Because it Partially Involved Time-Bar

On May 13, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dismissed Bennett Regulator Guards, Inc.’s (Bennett) challenge of a Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) decision to vacate the institution of an inter partes review (IPR), citing a lack of jurisdiction, since the PTAB’s decision was based in part on its reconsideration of whether the petitioner was time barred from petitioning for IPR under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b). Judge Pauline Newman dissented.

A Tale of Two Googles: Patent System Champion or Crux of the Problem?

On April 28, Google published a blog by their general counsel, Halimah DeLaine Prado, about the crisis condition of the U.S. patent system. Prado portrays Google as a strong supporter of the patent system, citing their history in initiatives to spur new inventions and technologies. For example, Google was a key player in 2013 in starting the Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge (to not sue on open-source software). Google was also instrumental in the beginnings of the License On Transfer network (which helps members who have been sued by “patent trolls”). Google has provided technical support for the Prior Art Archive. Prado notes that Google has 42,000 patents, which she says they license at “fair value,” and sell to grow the portfolios of other companies, all in the interest of small businesses.

What is AI and How is it Treated by the USPTO, EPO and CNIPA?

Generally, artificial intelligence (AI) is an automation of a thing that a human being can do, or the simulation of intelligent human behavior by a machine. In other words, AI performs what a human can but with vastly more data and processing of incoming information. Unfortunately, claiming AI in adherence to its typical definition is akin to asking for a Section 101 subject matter eligibility rejection in the United States. Europe and China have already updated their patent examination procedures for AI. If the United States sustains its current examination procedure of machine intelligence in accordance with the abstract idea doctrine under the Alice and Mayo framework established by the Supreme Court, will we be leaving this industry behind?

In re Killian: Harvey the Rabbit Comes to the Federal Circuit

In 1950, Jimmy Stewart starred in the iconic movie “Harvey,” which is the story of Elwood P. Dowd, an affable but eccentric man who pals around with an invisible 6’4” rabbit with an affection for martinis and that has the magical power to stop time. In the end of the movie, the viewer is left to believe that some level of insanity in people is good, and that there is some possibility that Harvey actually exists in some form. Fast forward to May 5, 2022. While many Americans were celebrating Cinco de Mayo, the Federal Circuit was asked to address an entity far more fictitious and unbelievable than Harvey the Rabbit, known as “inventive concept,” during oral hearing in In re Killian (Appeal No. 21-2113).

Tax, Metaverse, and Sustainability in Focus at INTA Annual Meeting—Plus Speeches by Tang and Vidal

An understanding of tax issues is increasingly important for trademark practitioners—and a new report by the International Trademark Association (INTA) focusing on the European Union, Switzerland and the United Kingdom aims to help them achieve that. The “Report on the Taxation of Trademarks and Complementary Rights in Europe” was unveiled at the 144th INTA Annual Meeting Live+, which was held in Washington, D.C. and online from April 30 to May 3. There were more than 6,700 registrants from 130 countries.

New USPTO Director Quickly Focuses on Much Needed Protection of Virtual Designs

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) new director wasted no time getting down to business in terms of protecting design innovation in the United States. Only two days after being sworn in, Director Kathi Vidal announced the release of the USPTO’s Summary of public views on the article of manufacture requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 171. This report summarized public comments received in response to a December 2020 request by the USPTO. It is fitting to see the USPTO giving attention to protecting design innovation in new and emerging technologies since, as Director Vidal noted, design patents have been shown to provide a “catalyst for growth” and a “competitive edge” for U.S. manufacturers. With advancements in technology since the USPTO first issued guidelines for examining computer-generated designs in 1996, the Office wisely sought the public’s comments on whether its approach to 35 USC § 171’s requirement that a design be for an article of manufacture should be revised to account for new and emerging technologies.

USPTO Issues Update on Relations with Russian Patent Office

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced today that certain intellectual property (IP)-related transactions are now authorized in Russia, following publication by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of General License No. 31. The authorized transactions include the filing and prosecution of any application to obtain a patent, trademark, or copyright, as well as renewal and maintenance fees.

Patent Filings Roundup: Third VLSI Trial on Fintiv-Denied Patents Postponed Over COVID Outbreak; Funded Single-Patent Semiconductor Campaign Files in ITC, District Courts; 225 Anonymous Platform Defendants Sued on Single Patent

My 40th birthday this week brought another litigation explosion (I assume no causation), with 120 new suits, double the average, though a spike is common at the ends of months and quarters; the new filings are dominated by filings by IP Edge, DynaIP, IP Valuation, and to a far lesser extent, Leigh Rothschild’s subsidiaries. There were a typical 30 inter partes reviews (IPRs) and no discretionary denials last week, coupled with an average 79 terminations in district court. A new abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) Paragraph IV suit was launched—GE Healthcare challenging the three remaining patents over their ANDA application to bring a generic Lexiscan® drug to market, against brand Astellas and Gilead. New funded semiconductor litigation and further trial postponements in VLSI rounded out this week.

Weaponization of the PTAB Presents First Challenge for Vidal

On April 27, Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), both members of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, wrote to Kathi Vidal, the newly confirmed Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to inquire as to why the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is allowing itself to become weaponized. “We write to express our concern about the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB’s) recent decisions to institute inter partes reviews (IPRs) in OpenSky Industries, LLC v. VLSI Technology LLC and Patent Quality Assurance, LLC v. VLSI Technology LLC,” wrote Hirono and Tillis, who would go on to point out that the “facts and circumstances” suggest that the challengers “brought the proceedings to manipulate the [USPTO] for their own financial gain.”