All Posts

The Judicial Balancing Act: How Judges Manage Competing Interests in Trade Secret Cases

I was recently reminded of a contest that we often played in Scouts, called Kim’s Game. Derived from a story in Rudyard Kipling’s 1903 novel Kim, it gave you a few minutes to stare at a tray full of diverse objects you might find in a junk drawer – things like a key, pocketknife, nickel, compass, button, crystal. At the end of the allotted time, you were challenged to write down as many as you could remember. My recollection was triggered by a court order. Silicon Valley startups Wisk Aero and Archer Aviation have been slugging it out in trade secret litigation over “flying taxis” that are designed to take off and land like helicopters but fly with wings and propellers. The basic technology has been around for quite a while but making it practical as a battery-powered (and ultimately autonomous) taxi service demands a lot of creative engineering. Wisk, a joint venture between Boeing and a company owned by Google founder Larry Page, has been developing its models for more than a decade. Aero, which has a relationship with United Airlines, is a more recent entrant, and ramped up its workforce by hiring away 17 of Wisk’s engineers, including its vice president of engineering. For more salacious details, see this piece in Fast Company.

Solicitor General Asks SCOTUS to Grant Petition to Reject Tenth Circuit’s Extraterritorial Application of Lanham Act

On September 23, the office of the U.S. Solicitor General filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on the issues at play in Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc., a trademark case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a $90 million damages award for trademark infringement based on infringement occurring almost entirely outside of the United States. The Solicitor General’s brief asks the nation’s highest court to grant cert on Abitron Austria’s appeal in order to properly limit the application of the Lanham Act so that damages are only awarded when the alleged infringement has a likelihood of causing confusion among U.S. consumers.

The Language of Patents (Part I): Equipping Patent Applications for Pre-and Post-Grant Success

Patents that are expected to protect a company’s most valuable innovations must stake a claim to that innovation and be equipped to defend it. This is because being worthy of patent protection doesn’t guarantee that an application’s claims to an innovation will not be rejected and rights to that innovation jeopardized. A major reason for this is that an examiner’s interpretation of a claim drawn to an innovation that may be worthy of patent protection may cause them to determine that the subject matter as claimed is not patentably distinct from the prior art. Such an interpretation can block the patentability of the claim in the absence of evidence that the examiner’s interpretation of the claim is not reasonable. Structural weaknesses of the detailed description that may or may not be addressed by patent drafting orthodoxy can result in a lack of a capacity to successfully manage challenges presented by an examiner’s interpretations of subject matter set forth in claims. An unorganized capacity to respond to such rejection challenges often leaves the practitioner with very little alternative but to amend claims in a manner that narrows protection to less than what the applicant’s invention should have received.

Jump Rope Company Asks High Court to Weigh in on CAFC Approach to Collateral Estoppel for PTAB Invalidations

The inventor of a novel jump rope system (the Revolution Rope), Molly Metz, is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court through her company, Jump Rope Systems, LLC, to seek clarification of the collateral estoppel doctrine as applied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) to bar a patent infringement suit in district court where the CAFC has affirmed a Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) finding of unpatentability. Jump Rope Systems is arguing that the CAFC’s decision in  XY, LLC v. Trans Ova Genetics, L.C. (2018) conflicts with the Supreme Court decisions in B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Indus., 575 U.S. 138 (2015); Medtronic, Inc. v. Mirowski Family Ventures, LLC, 571 U.S. 191 (2014); and Grogan v. Garner, 498 U.S. 279 (1991).

This Week in Washington IP: Securing U.S. Leadership in Emerging Compute Technologies, Managing the Risks of AI, and Incorporating Commercial Drones Into U.S. Airspace

This week in Washington IP news, the Senate Aviation Safety Subcommittee takes a look at incorporating unmanned aerial systems more fully into the U.S. national airspace, while the full Senate Commerce Committee explores how to maintain U.S. leadership in emerging compute technologies. Over in the House of Representatives, the House Science Committee focuses on the risks that must be managed as artificial intelligence (AI) systems become more highly developed. Elsewhere, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hosts the latest public meeting of the Patent Public Advisory Committee, and the American Enterprise Institute hosts a half-day event on Tuesday featuring multiple expert panels discussing topics at the intersection of technology and government.

To Become Transaction-Ready, Startups Need IP Business Strategists

On the second day of the IPWatchdog LIVE conference held in Dallas, Texas, earlier this month, a panel of experts who advise startups and are passionate about the licensing business model discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by intellectual property. The panelists opened the discussion by describing their experiences with the biggest mistakes startups make in regard to patents. Ian McClure, Associate VP for Research, Innovation, and Economic Impact at the University of Kentucky as well as the chair of AUTM, identified two mistakes commonly made by the approximately 1,200 startups that are spun out from university research in the United States each year.

Review Not Warranted: SG Tells SCOTUS to Scrap Amgen’s Case on Enablement Test for Biotech Patents

The United States Solicitor General (SG) on Wednesday accepted the U.S. Supreme Court’s invitation to file an amicus brief regarding Amgen’s petition for certiorari in its case against Sanofi. Amgen is seeking review of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s (CAFC’s) decision invalidating antibody patent claims based on a lack of enablement for genus claims. The High Court invited the SG to file a brief in April and, on September 21, the SG recommended that the Court deny the petition and said Amgen’s argument that the CAFC “erred by treating enablement as a question of law and by examining the full scope of the claims in assessing whether they are fully enabled…. lack merit.”

Advocating for Ethics-Driven Regulation for Blockchain Technologies

Blockchain technology can serve as a shared database ledger that tracks assets and transactions with little to no oversight but, in theory, unlimited users. Its potential applications spanning smart contracts to blockchaining intellectual property, indicate promise for fluid collaborations, efficient remuneration and thorough intellectual property management. However, there are still crucial issues, including privacy, compatibility, liability and jurisdiction that remain undefined. Moreover, because all fields necessitate specialized codes of conduct and ethics, if blockchain technology is expected to make a significant difference in society, then it too, deserves its own field of ethics, like artificial intelligence (AI), nuclear technology, biotechnology, and space exploration. Leading minds across disciplines need to contemplate how this technology can be shaped to have a positive impact, first by examining what this field is capable of doing and its potential consequences.

Other Barks & Bites for Friday, September 23: Thaler Seeks Rehearing of CAFC Decision on DABUS AI, the Solicitor General Urges SCOTUS to Deny Cert in Amgen, and FTC Orders Amazon’s Jassy and Bezos to Testify in Prime Investigation

This week in Other Barks & Bites: the Journalism Protection and Competition Act moves out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a content moderation amendment securing Republican support; the U.S. Solicitor General files a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court recommending denial of a petition for writ of certiorari in Amgen; the Federal Trade Commission tells Amazon that it hasn’t shown that demands for testimony from CEO Andy Jassy and founder Jeff Bezos are unduly burdensome; Ford announces that it has broken ground on its $5.6 billion BlueOval City campus outside of Memphis; the Court of Federal Claims affirms a Section 101 invalidation of Audio Evolution Diagnostics’ patent claims; the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board finds no clear and convincing evidence of an earlier priority date in a cancellation proceeding on the mark “Happiest Hour”; and Stephen Thaler files a petition for rehearing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in his ongoing attempts to have DABUS AI recognized as an inventor under U.S. law. 

Patent Filings Roundup: Western District Waters Tested; IP Edge Runs from Disclosure in Delaware

Twenty-three inter partes reviews (IPRs) and no post grant reviews were filed this week; plaintiffs filed an average-ish 79 new district court filings, though many were associated with older campaigns. The Daedalus Prime subsidiary asserting Intel patents has filed suits against Samsung and TSMC; Volkswagen filed a number of IPRs against Fortress-backed Neo Wireless. There were, again, no discretionary denials at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), though certainly merits-based denials continue apace; many challenges against Magnetar entity Scramoge have been instituted; and Red Hat filed a declaratory judgment action for non-infringement against litigation-funded Valtrus [Centerbridge Capital, run by Key Patent Innovations] on patents not yet asserted in district court, just as Google began challenging a different set of patents asserted against just them.

Exploring the CAFC’s Ridiculous Written Description Standard for Life Sciences Patents

The written description requirement is really the backbone of the quid pro quo between the public and the patent applicant. In exchange for information about an invention, society is willing to grant the applicant a patent, which conveys exclusive rights for a limited period of time to what is claimed, not described. But the description provided in the specification must demonstration that the applicant really has an invention in the first place and what the boundaries of that invention are—this is the written description requirement in lay terms.

Vidal Drills into Data on PTAB Use of Sanctions Since AIA in Response to Senators

In June of this year, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal replied to a late April request by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) for answers to a number of questions surrounding abuse of the inter partes review (IPR) system, explaining that she was working on the problem. Now, Vidal has sent a follow-up letter providing more detail on two of the questions raised in the letter, specifically with respect to the USTPO’s authority to issue sanctions for bad faith petitions. In addition to providing statistics on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s use of sanctions since the America Invents Act (AIA) was passed, Vidal also said she plans to seek stakeholder input to explore further options for addressing misconduct.

Journalism Competition and Preservation Act Moves Out of Committee Despite Concerns

This morning, the full U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary convened an executive business meeting during which the committee advanced S. 673, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA). Though the bill was reported favorably with an amendment drawing support from the Republican members of the committee, others on the Senate Judiciary raised concerns that could presage further debate after it hits the floor of the Senate. The JCPA was first introduced into both houses of Congress last March, with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) sponsoring the Senate version and Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Ken Buck (R-NY) sponsoring the version introduced into the House of Representatives.

IP Leaders Join Forces to Counter Anti-IP Narratives

A new intellectual property (IP) organization launched today will be headed by former vice president of U.S. policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), Frank Cullen, and features a Board of Directors comprised of bipartisan frontrunners in the IP realm. The Council for Innovation Promotion (C4IP) will aim to educate on the importance of innovation to the U.S. economy at a high level, and to fill the void its creators say exists with respect to clarifying the often-negative public narrative about the role of IP in access to innovation. The Board includes former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Directors Andrei Iancu and David Kappos, Retired U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) Judge Kathleen O’Malley and Retired CAFC Chief Judge Paul Michel.

Novartis to Appeal CAFC’s ‘Unprecedented’ U-Turn in Ruling on Multiple Sclerosis Drug Claims to SCOTUS

Novartis Pharmaceuticals announced today that it will appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s (CAFC’s) June decision invalidating its patent for a dosing regimen for its multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya to the U.S. Supreme Court, after the CAFC denied its request to rehear the case. The CAFC in June vacated a different three-judge panel’s January opinion upholding Novartis’ U.S. Patent No. 9,187,405. In the original ruling, Chief Judge Moore had dissented from the majority; in the rehearing, Moore authored the opinion vacating the January decision, with Judge Linn dissenting.