Posts in Inventors Information

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. 

Humanizing Technology: Back to Basics on DABUS and AI as Inventors

With South Africa’s patent office having recently granted the first patent to an AI inventor, and an Australian court ruling in favor of AI inventorship, it’s time to review how we got here—and where we’re going. The number of artificial intelligence (AI) patent applications received annually by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grew from 30,000 in 2002 to more than 60,000 in 2018. Further, the USPTO has issued thousands of inventions that utilize AI. According to a 2020 study titled “AI Trends Based on the Patents Granted by the USPTO”, the total number of AI-related patents granted by the USPTO per year increased from 4,598 in 2008 to 20,639 in 2018. If AI-related patent applications and grants are on the uptick, what was the problem with DABUS?

PPAC Announcements: Hirshfeld Doubles Down on Director Review Authority; Commerce Department to File for Registration of USPTO Trademarks; Committee Requests Release of $64 Million in User Fees

During the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) quarterly meeting held today, participants provided an update on the Director Review process under the Supreme Court’s Arthrex v. Smith and Nephew ruling, among other announcements. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Senior Advisor and Judge Linda Horner noted that, since the ruling, 14 timely requests for Director Review have been received; 11 of those were for a batch of related inter partes reviews (IPRs). Hirshfeld this week issued two decisions on the first two requests, denying both; the rest remain pending.

We Have to Believe: Keeping an Open Mind on AI is Vital to the Future of Our Patent System

In response to articles on implementing AI into our patent system, and specifically to the suggestion that we should consider developing AI to replace some aspects of human decision making in the patent space, we have received a number of comments and even objections to the idea. A common objection: it is likely impossible and impractical for us to advance AI to the point where it can make reliable subjective decisions (e.g., infringement and obviousness), let alone reliably replace human decision making. At the outset, we challenge the presumption of this argument.  

CAFC Holds Bylaws Failed to ‘Effectuate Present Automatic Assignment’, Thwarting Apple’s Attempt to Dismiss Infringement Suit

On August 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California’s denial of Apple’s motion to dismiss in Omni MedSci, Inc. v. Apple, Inc. The majority, with Judge Linn writing, determined that the University of Michigan’s (UM’s) bylaws did not effectuate a present automatic assignment of patent rights from one of its faculty members…. The CAFC concluded that paragraph 1 of Bylaw 3.10 does not unambiguously constitute either a present automatic assignment or a promise to assign in the future and is instead best read as a “statement of intended disposition and a promise of a potential future assignment . . .”

DABUS Scores Again with Win on AI Inventorship Question in Australia Court

The Federal Court of Australia on Friday ruled in Thaler v Commissioner of Patents [2021] FCA 879 that an artificial intelligence (AI) system can be an inventor under the Australian Patents Act. The Honorable Justice Beach, in a very thorough judgment, set aside the decision of the Deputy Commissioner of Patents that patent application no. 2019363177 did not comply with reg 3.2C(2)(aa) of the Patents Regulations 1991 (Cth), which “requires that the applicant, who in this case is Dr Stephen Thaler, must provide the name of the inventor of the invention to which the application relates.” The Deputy Commissioner of Patents said that Thaler could not name an inventor because an AI simply cannot be an inventor under the Act. But Justice Beach said “that position confuses the question of ownership and control of a patentable invention including who can be a patentee, on the one hand, with the question of who can be an inventor, on the other hand.”

How J.E.M. and Chakrabarty Make the Case for DABUS

Twenty years ago, 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 (2001). Forty-one years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that living organisms were patentable. Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (19080). Before these landmark cases, plants and living matter were not protectable with patents. The rationale of the Supreme Court in J.E.M. and Chakrabarty supports patent protection for inventions by non-humans, i.e., artificial intelligence inventors.