Posts in Inventors Information

CAFC Affirms District Court Finding that Dual-Access Lock Patents are Invalid Under 101

On February 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed the Eastern District of New York’s grant of summary judgment that inventor David Tropp’s patents were invalid because they claim ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The appeal was brought by Tropp against Travel Sentry, Inc. and other lock and luggage makers. The asserted claims relate to U.S. Patent Nos. 7,021,537 (the ’537 patent) and 7,036,728 (‘728 patent). Representative claim 1 of the ’537 patent relates to a method of making available a dual-access lock having a combination-lock portion and a master-key-lock portion. The dual-access lock allegedly enables travelers to lock their bags while still allowing luggage screeners to access luggage (with a marked lock) with a master key.

Word Salad, Fact Confusion, and Lawyering: One Take on ParkerVision v. Qualcomm

Last month, I followed a hearing in a case called ParkerVision v. Qualcomm in Federal Court in the Middle District of Florida and reviewed the court briefs. This patent infringement case is potentially one of the largest of the year and is related to very important technology that miniaturized radio frequency (RF) transceivers, thus paving the way for the invention of the smartphone. Lawyer arguments in these hearings are very interesting, and you can learn a lot about the law. You can also learn how lawyers distort and twist the facts by confusing the court with word games, something I call word salad. Courts are pretty good at figuring out word games in most subject matter, but technology is foreign territory to many courts, so a well-tossed word salad can bring about an unjust decision.

Ten Mistakes to Avoid When Drafting Information Disclosure Statements

Preparing an Information Disclosure Statement (IDS) can be stressful. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has very strict guidelines which must be followed precisely to avoid errors. Failure to adhere to these guidelines will result in additional costs and time spent in filing the Information Disclosure Statement (IDS). Often, errors are made due to changes in requirements made by the USPTO, failing to adhere to deadlines, and lack of providing adequate reference materials. While these mistakes can happen frequently, there are steps patent filers and intellectual property (IP) professionals can take to avoid errors. Below are some of the most common IDS-related mistakes made by patent filers and practitioners.

Defanging Descriptive Material Rejections

Non-functional descriptive material is a throwback to an earlier time. Historically, the non-functional descriptive matter doctrine was used by examiners to argue that limitations related to the content of information should be given little to no patentable weight. However, current subject matter eligibility jurisprudence provides tools to simply treat content-based inventions as ineligible (e.g., Electric Power Group, LLC v. Alstom S.A.), and so it is not clear that non-functional descriptive material rejections should continue to play a role in examination. Nevertheless, the doctrine still exists, and so this article presents three examples illustrating how you can respond to non-functional descriptive material rejections when they arise in your practice.

Inventor Argues USPTO Officials’ Motion to Dismiss Due Process Violations Case Based on Immunity Defense Fails

On January 21, inventor Martin David Hoyle and his company B.E. Technology filed a response in opposition to a consolidated motion to dismiss that was filed last November by defendants Michelle K. Lee, former Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a pair of officials at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and three administrative patent judges (APJs) who sat on PTAB panels invalidating Hoyle’s patent claims. Hoyle and B.E. Tech’s response brief argues that the motion to dismiss filed by the former and current USPTO employees is based on factual disputes that are inappropriate to decide on a motion to dismiss, and that plaintiffs have made out a sufficient due process claim under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1971).

Tillis to Garland/ Kanter: Pursuit of New Draft Policy on SEPs Shows a ‘Failure of innovation Leadership’

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) today sent a second letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General – Antitrust Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Jonathan Kanter expressing concern over the process for releasing, and the substance of, a revised version of the Joint DOJ-U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)-National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary FRAND Commitments. Tillis sent an initial letter on December 10, 2021, four days after the DOJ published the latest iteration of the Policy Statement for public comment.

IFI CLAIMS Rankings Show Increasing Role of Chinese Entities in U.S., Global Patent Ownership

Today, patent data analytics firm IFI CLAIMS released its annual report of the top U.S. patent recipients and active patent family owners, providing the IP world with a look at the patent ownership landscape that developed throughout the course of 2021. For yet another year, information technology R&D giant International Business Machines (IBM) earned the top spot among entities obtaining patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), while South Korean tech conglomerate Samsung Electronics enjoys the largest portfolio of global active patent families.

Tillis Backs Vidal for USPTO Head, Dubbing Her a ‘Visionary Leader’

Senator Thom Tillis has come out on the record in support of Kathi Vidal to be the next Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), on the eve of a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on her confirmation. Despite recent scrutiny of her ties to big tech and Silicon Valley, Tillis in a statement today said that he was satisfied with Vidal’s responses to his “tough questions” during the confirmation hearing process and feels he has received her commitment that she will continue the reforms implemented by former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu.

In Written Responses to Senators’ Questions, Vidal Supports Iancu’s 101 Guidance ‘In Principle’

In written answers to Senators’ questions for the record submitted today by Kathi Vidal, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the next U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director, Vidal said that she “support[s] the principle of” former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu’s Patent Eligibility Guidance for examiners, but stopped short of wholly endorsing the present guidance or committing to keeping it in place. Instead, Vidal said she would review the guidance in light of intervening case law and comments on the USPTO’s study on the state of patent eligibility jurisprudence to determine if updates are needed.   

Albright Grants Rare Preliminary Injunction Against Fitness Company

On December 1, Judge Alan Albright, sitting in the Waco Division of the Western District of Texas, granted a preliminary injunction (PI) to Gonza LLC, finding that all four factors of the judicial test for injunctive relief favored Gonza. IPWatchdog is told it is one of only a handful of PIs Albright has issued. On July 28, 2021, Gonza LLC sued Mission Competition Fitness Equipment (MCF) in the Waco Division of the Western District of Texas. Gonza sought both injunctive relief and damages arising out of MCF’s alleged infringement of its U.S. Patent No. 11,007,405 (the ‘405 patent). Gonza asserted that it developed the subject matter of the ‘405 patent, which discloses a neck exercise device with resistance bands that can be used to improve neck capabilities, during a period of over two years. In its complaint, Gonza contended that MCF released a knock-off device that used lower quality materials, but nonetheless infringed the ‘405 patent. Gonza argued that MCF’s infringement of their ‘405 patent created a loss of goodwill, eroded the market price, and caused extreme negative consequences for Gonza’s business.

Inventing Chaos with the Moderna/NIH Dispute

Moderna and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are poised for a legal battle over inventorship of a vaccine for COVID-19. While a court may resolve the dispute over inventorship for the patent application, court review of current inventorship rules could be a slippery slope to chaos. Moderna and NIH collaborated on developing a functional vaccine for COVID-19, which is not in dispute. As a result of the collaboration, a vaccine labeled “mRNA-1273” was created and a U.S. patent application was filed by Moderna, with no NIH scientists listed as inventors. Moderna has commented that, after an internal review, no NIH scientists designed the actual vaccine claimed in the U.S. patent application. NIH has commented that it believes three scientists should be included in the U.S. patent application as co-inventors with the Moderna scientists.

The PTAB Desperately Needs Reform, Not Preservation

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), created by the America Invents Act (AIA) just over 10 years ago, is the most electrifying lightning rod in the industry. As explained repeatedly by Members of Congress at the time the AIA was enacted, the purpose was to create a streamlined, less expensive, alternative administrative means to challenge the invalidity of issued patents. Sadly, with that being the stated purpose, the creation of the PTAB can be objectively characterized as nothing other than an abysmal failure. What has evolved is anything but streamlined, and certainly not inexpensive, even compared with district court litigation.

Can You Refile a Provisional Patent Application?

The question that we receive most frequently from inventors, usually independent inventors, relates to whether a provisional patent application can be refiled with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  Before giving the correct answer, it is critically important for everyone to understand that if a provisional patent application is refiled it may become impossible for a patent to ever be obtained, period.  Can a provisional patent application be refiled? The short, easy answer to the question is yes, of course you can refile the provisional application. The USPTO will be happy to have you refile the application, take your filing fee, and send you a new filing receipt. The problem for you, as an inventor, however, is the consequence of refiling a provisional application. So, while it may be very easy to do, and seem like you’ve just extended the life of your original provisional application, that is precisely NOT what has happened, and you may have – indeed likely have – made it impossible to ever obtain a patent anywhere in the world.

Hindsight Bias: An Ovine Survey

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.

The U.S. Patent System is Still Worth Saving

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.