Earlier this year, we published our findings on some of the best performing patent firms of 2021. Now, we have evaluated this data at the attorney level, meaning that we can compare the activity and performance of patent attorneys and rank them based on their work. To calculate this ranking, our Data Science Team had to develop an AI-based tool to read tens of millions of PDF documents available through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Public Pair website and then use neural networks to identify the attorney responsible for each application.
Patent Filings Roundup: Light Week Leading up to the Holidays Sees Record District Court Terminations
Happy Holidays! Thanksgiving has come and gone. A light week last week headed into the holidays saw 20 Patent Trial and Appeal Board filings (two more against MemoryWeb, and a lot of one-offs, including one by gaming company Zynga against IGT). District courts saw 58 patent filings, with a whopping 115 terminations again this week—at least a few attributable to transfers, but many, many more attributable to file-and-settle settlements headed into the end of a very lucrative year in monetization, as quarterly statement-minded licensing entities look to wrap things up before the holidays.
The arrival of a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) office action citing no less than six earlier patents directed to various sub-combinations in the features of the main independent claim in an application which I was handling prompted the present note. Readers may recall the decision of Judge Rich In re Winslow 365 F.2d 1017 (C.C.P.A. 1966): “We think the proper way to apply the 103-obviousness test to a case like this is to first picture the inventor as working in his shop with the prior art references — which he is presumed to know — hanging on the walls around him.” However, Boltzmann’s entropy formula S = k log W where S represents entropy, a concept associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty, and W represents the number of possible states in the relevant system, leaves an unforgettable impression on those who have studied it. Even if the fields from which the earlier patents might be selected are restricted to relevant general classifications, the number of combinations of six references which might have been collected together from the body of prior art in the relevant technical field randomly and without knowledge of the invention is mind-boggling.
Much deserved criticism has been leveled at the U.S. patent system in the last decade or so, from all sides. No one branch of the system seems to much appreciate what the other branches are doing. The Supreme Court and Federal Circuit are issuing decisions that seem innocuous at first, but then inevitably snowball into wrecking balls. Regulatory policies, guidelines and statutory prescriptions that are well intended when the ink dries turn lethal to patents—witness the creation of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). But, despite this situation, in the late summer/early fall of this year, in a brief burst of face-to-face patent events, I began to re-appreciate the value of the system and what it means to the country and our collective future.
Experts agree: The COVID-19 vaccines are one of humanity’s greatest achievements. The previous record for vaccine delivery was almost five years; today’s innovators delivered the COVID-19 vaccines in less than one. The achievement is a testament to the dedication of those innovators, as well as the strength of the policy framework that supports their work. Unfortunately, some people want to destroy that framework. Some nations are promoting a dangerous proposal, supported by the administration, to waive intellectual property (IP) protections – such as patents and trade secrets – for COVID-19 vaccines. At the end of November, at a World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting, they’ll present this proposal as the best way to defeat the pandemic. But what they won’t mention is that their approach will actually threaten ongoing vaccine production, hurt our successful health care innovators, patient safety, economic competitiveness, American leadership, and the discovery pipeline in the process.
Question: how do you make money from a secret formula for a product that smells and tastes horrible and that no one wants? Answer: you make everyone believe they have a medical problem that only this stuff can solve. Back in 1879, Joseph Lawrence, a St. Louis doctor, was experimenting with surgical disinfectants. This was a new thing. In the 1860s, a British surgeon named Joseph Lister was the first to perform surgery antiseptically, using carbolic acid as a disinfectant. Inspired by Lister, Lawrence came up with a compound of alcohol and essential oils that seemed to kill whatever bugs it touched. To honor Lister (and presumably to take advantage of his fame), Lawrence named the concoction “Listerine.”
Alice-Insanity (Part Three): How the Star Chamber of Madison Place Violates Basic Principles of Collateral Estoppel
As stated in Part One of this series, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees, inter alia, that no person shall be deprived of property (including intellectual property), without due process of law. However, the Supreme Court has never held that a single appellate court must comply with Fifth Amendment due process of law. The closest the Supreme Court ever came to such a radical idea as requiring any appellate court in the nation to comply with due process of law was at a time when “Three’s Company” and “The Muppet Show” dominated the 7PM-9PM Nielsen’s ratings. See Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106 (1976) (warning the Eighth Circuit that “injustice was more likely to be caused than avoided by deciding the issue without petitioner’s having had an opportunity to be heard,” but not actually requiring the Eighth Circuit to comply with Fifth Amendment due process). In contrast, the Supreme Court has held that even a man classified as an “enemy combatant” by the U.S. government is entitled to at least some measure of due process. See Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004).
Picture this: A paparazzo snaps an unauthorized photo of a celebrity and sells it to a media outlet, making a tidy profit. As unfair as that may sound to the celebrity, most stars are well-aware of the established law that a photograph—even an unwanted one—can be monetized by the paparazzi. The law also is clear that, absent permission, the celebrity cannot monetize the photograph herself. Photographs, like other works of art, can be copyrighted by the paparazzi and, as with copyright, the owner possesses the famed “bundle of rights,” including the right to prohibit others from displaying the photograph for money.
Towards the end of 2019, I was finishing a book, AI Concepts for Business Applications. The last chapter was titled, “The Future.” I wrote about quantum computing and a version of deep learning that was related: a “quantum walk neural network.”In 1980, the idea of a quantum processing unit was proposed. Such a processing unit doesn’t use the 1s and 0s with which we’re familiar. That “classical” way of thinking is the way we think, with a 1 for true and a 0 for false, and combinations—for example, a “false positive.” Quantum computing is based on a “superposition” of states called “quantum bits” or “qubits” for short. But there’s a big difference between the way we think and the way nature behaves. In 1981, the late Caltech professor, Richard Feynman (a Nobel Prize co-winner for his work with “quantum electrodynamics”) summed it up: “Nature isn’t classical, dammit, and if you want to make a simulation of nature, you’d better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it’s a wonderful problem, because it doesn’t look so easy.” Now, quantum computing is beginning to emerge.
Director Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 Pulp Fiction, considered among the most influential films in modern history, has emerged as a test case of sorts for issuing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that relate to a copyright-protected work. The NFTs are being sold independent of Miramax, the producer and owner of the rights to the film, who says its ownership rights are being violated. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California last week, also accused Tarantino of breach of contract, trademark infringement and unfair competition, according to court documents.
The USPTO’s New Guidelines on Prophetic and Working Examples in Patent Applications and Corresponding Practices in India and China
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) publishes a large number of notices in addition to guidelines for patent applicants. These guidelines are frequently updated, and it is critical to stay informed of those updates. On July 1, 2021, the USPTO published a notice in the Federal Register titled “Properly Presenting Prophetic and Working Examples in a Patent Publication.” In this notice, the USPTO defined prophetic and working examples, distinguished these concepts, and described their use and importance within patent applications. In contrast, this distinction is not made under Indian or Chinese law or practice. Furthermore, applicants are generally not required to provide prophetic or working examples, and the concept of prophetic examples is not recognized under Indian or Chinese patent law.
Patent Filings Roundup: Judge Albright Hits Back at Federal Circuit; APJ Urges Board to Consider Litigiousness Under Fintiv; PTAB Reverses Fintiv Denial after ITC Termination
District court patent filings this week remained slightly elevated, at 78, with a fair number of Rothschild, Raymond Anthony Joao, and Jeffrey Gross entities filings complaints; but oddly—after their explosion of new litigations the past two weeks—there was not a single IP Edge case to speak of. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), for its part, was up slightly too, with 37 new petitions (one post grant review and 36 inter partes reviews). Speaking of Jeffrey Gross, though it consists of two patents issued in 2013, the Jeffrey Gross-run Auth Token LLC appears to have waited until the sunset of covered business method (CBM) petitions to turn around and slap virtually all of the nation’s banks, credit card companies, and some financiers with a lawsuit over two pretty identical point-of-sale authentication patents. The cases now include Mastercard, Visa, M&T Bank, PNC Bank, Regions Bank, TD Bank, Trust Financial, and US Bancorp (US Bank), among the 32 defendants thus far. But the real action was between the Federal Circuit and Judge Albright, as the words and rulings of each become increasingly confrontational toward the other.
“Fair Use” is a flexible defense to claims of copyright infringement. It is a doctrine that evolves as technology and the way in which people use copyrighted works advance. As an exception to the general law prohibiting copying others’ works, it permits copying for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as commentary, criticism, teaching, news reporting, scholarship, or research. Naturally, the way courts analyze the “fair use” defense must adapt as technology advances and the way in which creative content is developed evolves. Earlier this year, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a landmark fair use case involving the “copying” of an Application Programming Interface (API).
On September 20, 2021, Judge John Robert Blakey in the Northern District of Illinois issued an opinion in a Walker Process patent fraud antitrust case denying defendants’ motion for summary judgment on their statute of limitations defense. TCS John Huxley America, Inc. v. Scientific Games Corp., No. 1:19-cv-1846, 2021 WL 4264403 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 20, 2021). The opinion established important principles regarding application of the statute of limitations to the “discovery rule” in a Walker Process antitrust case. The author’s firm, Freeborn & Peters, was one of the firms representing the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs had sued Scientific Games Corp. alleging a violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. The complaint alleged that Scientific Games, through its acquired entity, SHFL Entertainment, brought patent infringement litigation in 2009 and 2012 based on fraudulently obtained patents for automatic card shufflers used in licensed casinos.
In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that plants could be protected with utility patents. J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc., v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. 534 U.S. 124. This landmark decision, originating in the agricultural heartland of Iowa, was the last time the Supreme Court effectively increased patent protection for inventors and patent owners. Most, if not all, of the Supreme Court’s patent rulings in the past two decades have not been favorable to patent owners. Rather, these “recent” decisions have restricted patent rights and made it more difficult to enforce these rights against infringers.