Posts in Inventors Information

Tillis and Leahy Urge USPTO to Address Inconsistent Prior Art Statements by Patent Applicants at the FDA

On Thursday, September 9, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sent a letter addressed to Drew Hirshfeld, performing the functions and duties of the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), discussing the issue of inconsistent statements made by patent applicants pursuant to their disclosure requirements at the USPTO and other federal agencies, especially the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Senators are asking the USPTO to take swift action to ensure that applicants are disclosing all known prior art at both the USPTO and the FDA.

U.S. District Court Holds that AI Algorithms Cannot Be Listed as Inventors on Patents

On September 2, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued a decision granting a Motion for Summary Judgment for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and upholding the Office’s view that AI algorithms cannot be listed as inventors on U.S. patents. The court pointed to the Administrative Procedures Act’s (APA’s) strong deference to final agency decisions, barring any egregious errors. DABUS generated outputs corresponding to (1) a fractal design for food container surfaces that may help prevent stacked containers from sticking together and (2) a technique for controlling the timing of flashing warning lights to help attract attention. Dr. Stephen Thaler (DABUS’s creator and owner) filed patent applications on these inventions that were filed around the world, listing Thaler as the applicant and listing only DABUS as the inventor.

USPTO’s Patent Quality and Pendency Programs are Bearing Fruit

According to Strategic Goal 1 of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) FY2020 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR), the USPTO is committed to high-quality patent examination in a timely manner. From submission to approval, the USPTO has established groundbreaking quality assurance programs, metrics, and training programs. It has also established IT modernization programs to improve the overall quality of the office’s work products and processes. These steps have made it possible for the agency to introduce new programs to significantly reduce pendency. A high-quality patent must adhere to the requirements of Title 35, and to the corresponding and applicable case law. To monitor and drive quality, the Office has been conducting both internal and external stakeholder perception surveys semiannually since 2006. In response to stakeholder feedback, the USPTO is providing detailed data at the technology center level, including filings, pendency, staffing, productivity, and inventory levels.

Building High-Quality Patent Portfolios in the United States and Europe: Part II – Software Patents

In Part I of this series, we discussed how patent portfolio managers should be careful when generating company-owned prior art or reviewing competitor prior art, and how a patent litigation or licensing campaign can be significantly hamstrung based on how the United States and Europe consider intervening prior art. In Part II, we will focus on software patents with U.S. and EP family members. The number of software related patent applications that are filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and European Patent Office (EPO) continues to increase despite heightened scrutiny during examination. Further, U.S. courts and national courts in Europe continue to critically analyze the eligibility of software patents.

It’s All in the Hardware: Overcoming 101 Rejections in Computer Networking Technology Classes

Technologies such as computer networking, which, unlike software inventions, typically incorporate at least some hardware elements, may be less vulnerable to rejection under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank. However, responding to these rejections when they are issued still requires some finesse. In these cases, rejections usually revolve around whether the hardware included in the claims serves as an improvement over existing hardware or is merely used as a tool for a mental process or other abstract idea. If the examiner concludes that the networking hardware merely serves as a tool, the claims usually fail the Alice/Mayo test. However, if you can show that the networking hardware either presents novel features or is improved by the invention to become a more effective tool, you may overcome the rejection.

CAFC Clarifies Standard for Damages Under Patent Marking Statute

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), in a precedential opinion authored by Judge Dyk, partially reversed a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California that had awarded damages to Lubby Holdings LLC for patent infringement by Henry Chung. While the Federal Circuit agreed that Chung directly infringed, it held that the court erred in awarding damages for the sales of infringing products prior to commencement of the case, which represents the date Chung received actual notice of the ’284 patent under the patent marking requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 287. Judge Newman concurred in part and dissented in part.

Building High-Quality Patent Portfolios in the United States and Europe: Part I – Intervening Prior Art

One ingredient that distinguishes a good patent portfolio from a great patent portfolio can be the synergistic strength of its U.S. and European patent family members. To develop this strength, it is not enough to have a U.S. attorney and a European attorney simply coordinate the procedural strategy for filing an application; rather, the drafter and manager of the application should analyze important issues upfront and prepare a patent application that accounts for the substantive differences between U.S. examination, U.S. courts, European examination, and national courts in Europe.

Thomas Edison and the Consumer Welfare Benefits of Patent Enforcement

Would you believe the following scenario could happen under our patent system? An inventor of a fundamental technology receives a patent less than three months after filing; despite the public disclosure of the patent, industry contemporaries fail to appreciate the invention’s significance for nearly two years; once appreciated, widespread adoption and infringement of the patent ensues. Commanding 50% market share in unit sales of the patented product, the patent holder prevails in patent infringement suits obtaining court injunctions against all major rivals and maintaining a strict no-licensing policy. What happens next during the patent enforcement period would defy all conventional anti-patent narratives:

In First Half of 2021, 63% of U.S. Patents, 48.9% at EPO and 40.1% in China Were Software-Related

As an update to my posts from 2017, 2019, 2020, and March 2021, it has now been 86 months since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision. Yet the debate still rages over when a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none” (as eloquently phrased over 73 years ago by then-Supreme Court Justice Douglas in Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kalo Inoculant Co.). Further, it has been 10 years since famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote the influential and often-quoted op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Software Is Eating the World.” Today, the digital transformation where software is “eating the world” is undeniable. Let’s look at some facts and figures from the USA, Europe and China.

Drafting AI Patents: Challenges and Solutions

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the latest buzzword across all sectors. Every tech and non-tech company is vigorously filing, strategizing or planning to enter the AI patent domain. However, the journey is not as easy as it may seem. While drafting AI-based patent applications, drafters often face challenges in formulating the right strategy for writing claims and identifying the correct scope of the application. Thus, it’s important to know the challenges in detail and to develop practical solutions for drafting a patent-worthy application.

CAFC Dismisses USPTO’s Appeal on Expert Witness Fees in Hyatt II Based on Supreme Court NantKwest Analysis

On August 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a precedential decision in Hyatt v. Hirshfeld (Hyatt II), the latest in a line of court rulings regarding a series of much maligned patent applications filed by prolific inventor Gil Hyatt with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the 1990s. While the Federal Circuit’s most recent decision, which denied the USPTO’s request to shift expert witness fees even while the appellate court vacated attorney’s fees awarded to Hyatt, could be seen as a mixed victory for Hyatt, it continues to shine a light on an unfortunate legal situation in which an independent inventor continues to be denied patent rights despite strong evidence that the USPTO dragged their feet on examining Hyatt’s patents.

Parliamentary Committee Report Outlines Policy Changes to Improve Indian IP Regime

Despite India’s progress in many areas, from science to literature to technology, protection for intellectual property rights (IPR) is a topic that has come under scrutiny. The IP laws in India have remained vastly unchanged and unreviewed over the past few decades. Recently, however, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce (PSCC) decided to review IPRs in India. The Committee, led by Chairman Shri V. Vijayasai Reddy, was made up of 11 members of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and 21 members from the Lok Sabha (lower house). On July 23, 2021, the PSCC presented a report to the Rajya Sabha titled Review of the Intellectual Property Rights Regime in India (the Report). In the Report, the Committee pointed out the “challenges in strengthening the country’s IPR regime, the related procedural and substantive constraints, legal aspects and other issues, such as low awareness of IPR, counterfeiting and piracy, IP financing, and IPRs in agriculture and pharmaceutical sector, etc.”

Patent Owner Sues Former USPTO Officials for ‘Improperly Stacking the Deck’ Against Him

A patent owner has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee against former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Michelle Lee, and a number of other former USPTO officials, for allegedly depriving the plaintiffs “of their valuable property rights in quasi-judicial administrative proceedings before the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (‘PTAB’).” The complaint further claims that PTAB proceedings have been “tainted by various improprieties and underhanded tactics, designed to stack the deck against [plaintiffs] and in favor of their far more powerful opponents. In short, the system had been rigged all along, due to the unconstitutional actions of the Defendants named herein.”

MicroSurgical Decision Reiterates PTAB’s ‘Wide Net’ Approach to Transition Applications Under the AIA

March 16, 2013 marked a watershed date in the practice of patent law as the effective date of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA). Per Section 3 of the AIA, patent applications having an effective filing date prior to the effective date of the AIA are subject to first-to-invent/ pre-AIA law, whereas applications claiming an effective filing date after the effective date of the AIA are subject to the first inventor-to-file provisions of the AIA, including post grant administrative challenges introduced as part of the AIA. Not surprisingly, there were a number of patent applications filed that bridged the March 16, 2013 AIA effective date. These so-called “transition applications” were filed after March 16, 2013 but claimed priority to an application filed before March 16, 2013. These applications would not be subject to the provisions of the AIA unless the application contained a claim that did not properly find support in the pre-AIA priority document(s). The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is taking aim at these transitional applications, and patents issuing therefrom, by casting a wide net with respect to eligibility under the AIA and closing apparent loopholes such that patent owners cannot reverse a finding that a patent is subject to AIA law, even if all of the claims of said patent are entitled to a pre-March 16, 2013 priority date.

Government Must Reform the ITC to Keep Pace with Innovation and Curb Trolls

In 2001, six years before the iPhone appeared, a futurist named Ray Kurzweil wrote that humankind would cram 20,000 years of technological progress into the century that had just begun. There were skeptics, but today any of the world’s six billion smartphone subscribers can read his essay on their devices practically any time, any place they choose. As we move into an era of Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum computing, and 5G telecommunications that supports Kurzweil’s vision, we must make sure that our laws and federal agencies match the pace of invention and protect innovators from trolls who would game the legal system and government functions for their ill-gained profit. 

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