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Posts Tagged: "Berkheimer v. HP"

A House Divided: Is the PTAB Ignoring the USPTO’s Section 101 Guidance?

The year 2019 was supposed to be when subject matter eligibility examination at the USPTO got better. First, the USPTO published Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance in January 2019 meant to address “how to apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s [Alice] framework for evaluating eligibility [under Section 101].” 84 Fed. Reg. 50 (Jan. 7, 2019) (“PEG”). Then, the USPTO doubled down with the October 2019 Subject Matter Eligibility update (“October Update”). In contemporary parlance, you might say that 2019 was supposed to be the year that the USPTO flattened the Section 101 rejection curve. There is promising evidence that the 2019 Guidance has reduced Section 101 rejections during prosecution before USPTO examiners. See Update on 101 Rejections at the USPTO: Prospects for Computer-Related Applications Continue to Improve Post-Guidance. Unfortunately, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) does not seem to have received the memo. While the PTAB routinely refers to the 2019 Guidance in decisions on Section 101 rejections, there is at least one critical requirement of the 2019 Guidance that the PTAB appears to ignore—the requirement that an examiner must show every claim, individually, is ineligible.

It’s Official: SCOTUS Will Not Unravel Section 101 Web

The Supreme Court this morning released its orders list, in which it denied all pending petitions for certiorari on cases concerning patent eligibility. The Court has now made it fully clear that it does not plan to wade back into the Section 101 debate, leaving it up to Congress to clarify the law. Thus—with an impeachment trial and presidential election looming this year—a quick 101 fix seems increasingly unlikely. The Court considered a number of petitions concerning Section 101 on Friday. Of them, Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services was thought to have the best chance of being granted. In December, the United States Office of the Solicitor General (SG) weighed in on the petition in Hikma Pharmaceuticals v. Vanda Pharmaceuticals, recommending against granting cert in that case in favor of hearing one like Athena instead.

First Jury Verdict on Section 101 Inquiry Post-Berkheimer Finds Asserted Claims Routine and Conventional

On September 12, a jury verdict form  entered in an Eastern District of Texas patent infringement case found in favor of defendant Jack Henry & Associates on its defenses of noninfringement and invalidity regarding patent claims asserted by plaintiff PPS Data. According to information provided to IPWatchdog, the verdict marks the first time that a jury has invalidated a patent under Section 101 since the February 2018 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Berkheimer v. HP Inc., where the appellate court held that factual questions underlie the Section 101 inquiry.

Examining Confusion Between the Chamberlain and Berkheimer Decisions at the Federal Circuit

If you’re reading this blog, then you likely are an avid follower of the Section 101 saga. The most recent episode in this saga, Chamberlain v. Techtronic at the Federal Circuit, is about so much more than a garage door operator being an abstract idea. It’s about the fact that we still have no clue what’s supposed to happen in the 2A and 2B steps of the judicially-created Alice/Mayo test. The Chamberlain panel applied the Alice/Mayo test completely backwards compared to what the Berkheimer panel said. First, the question of improvement was assessed in Chamberlain’s “Step One” (or 2A). Not only that, the panel then immediately went on to find that “(t)he specification admits that the act of transmitting data wirelessly is ‘well understood in the art,’ and no other changes to the generically claimed movable barrier operator are recited in the asserted claims or described in the specification.” 

Federal Circuit Cellspin Ruling Provides Important Clarifications on Aatrix and Berkheimer

On June 25, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an opinion in Cellspin Soft, Inc. v. Fitbit, Inc. (2018-1817, 2018-1819 to 1826), reversing a district court’s grant of various Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss complaints that alleged patent infringement based on U.S. Pat. No. 8,738,794 (the ’794 patent), U.S. Pat. No. 8,892,752 (the ’752 patent), U.S. Pat. No. 9,258,698 (the ’698 patent), and U.S. Pat. No. 9,749,847 (the ’847 patent). The Federal Circuit did so because the district court misconstrued precedent from both Aatrix Software, Inc. v. Green Shades Software, Inc., 882 F.3d 1121 (Fed. Cir. 2018) and Berkheimer v. HP Inc., 881 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2018). The Federal Circuit panel consisted of Judges Lourie, O’Malley, and Taranto. Judge O’Malley authored the panel’s opinion. he Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that the claims were directed to an abstract idea but reversed anyway on the basis of the district court failing to conduct a proper Alice step two. This was because the district court ignored Cellspin’s factual allegations that, when properly accepted as true, precluded the grant of a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.

What Happens to Diagnostic Method Patents After Athena?

I am sure that the justices of the Supreme Court did not anticipate the confusion they created when they issued their controversial decision in Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank in 2014. That case effectively upended well-established precedence when the Court unanimously held that a computer-implemented scheme for mitigating settlement risk was not patent eligible subject matter because the claims were drawn to an abstract idea, and that merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform the claims to eligible subject matter. The Court itself said their holding was to be narrowly construed, but in providing a vague, two-step test to determine whether something is patent eligible, they unleashed a world of hurt on some of our domestic industries seeking patents in cutting-edge technologies. The application of the Alice test to some of our health-related industries is having disastrous effects. On February 6, 2019, in a split decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) found in Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services that diagnostic methods are not patent subject matter eligible unless they embody a separate technical improvement beyond the correlation of certain antibodies in bodily fluids to particular diseases. In a footnote, the majority lamented that they felt compelled by Supreme Court precedence to render their decision, but recognized that protection of diagnostic methods would be for good for society. The Athena case does not portend well for the CAFC adoption of the recent USPTO guidance on Section 101. The courts will eventually be able to either put their imprimatur on those guidelines or discard them. The sooner that is done, the better.

The ‘Iancu Effect’ Won’t Matter if Not Supported by the Courts or Congress

The Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued its annual International IP Index ranking the intellectual property environments in 50 of the most important economies. The 2018 edition saw the United States rank #1 overall for intellectual property, as the top jurisdiction in the world broadly speaking for intellectual property protection. The 2019 edition, released February 7, 2019, again saw the U.S. maintain its dominance as the top jurisdiction in the world for intellectual property protection as a whole. In 2018, however, the U.S. sank to twelfth place in the Chamber rankings relative to patent protections. In 2019, the U.S. rose to a tie for second place. This is certainly welcome news, but it is worth mentioning that the historic lead the U.S. had as the top patent jurisdiction in the world since the early 1980s has largely been forfeited over the last decade. There is great optimism among patent owners and innovators that things are changing and will continue to improve at the USPTO under Director Iancu’s guidance. The question that remains for patent industry observers is whether the Federal Circuit will ultimately agree with what Director Iancu is doing in order to implement predictability.

As the Climate for U.S. Patents Turns Brighter, Now is the Right Time to Invest in These Assets

The cost of obtaining a U.S. patent has not significantly changed for the past 10 years. This remarkable stability is confirmed by the AIPLA Economic Survey, our own fees, and our general knowledge of the market. The major costs for obtaining a U.S. patent include the drafting fee, the cost of responding to USPTO office actions and the USPTO fees. The first two fees have not increased in over 10 years for many firms and the government fees have increased but remain relatively low compared to the other fees. With respect to the price of issued patents, the 2018 IAM Benchmarking Survey points to a bear market for U.S. patents, which are “cheaper” year after year. A fall in prices is reported, with 24% of corporate respondents stating that patents are cheaper than a year ago; the previous year’s survey had 36% reporting a fall in prices. Such relatively stable cost and low price are disharmonious with the fact that a U.S. patent covers the largest market in the world—and a growing market. Despite a slight dip in 2009, the U.S. GDP has grown steadily for the past 20 years. Even if the recent volatility in the stock market is a sign of a difficult 2019, the long-term positive trend is likely to continue.

Bioinformatics Innovations Thrive Despite 101 Chaos

Bioinformatics is a growing interdisciplinary technological field in which computing and software resources are applied to biological data and solve biological problems. For example, bioinformatics can be used to predict protein sequences through analysis of large databases of biological data to enable the development of new drug therapies. Advances in computing and software, like artificial intelligence (AI), open increasing possibilities in bioinformatics. Bioinformatics is growing rapidly—the market is predicted to exceed $16 billion by 2022. As with most growing industries, mechanisms that protect and promote innovations are key to supporting that growth. Thus, it is no surprise that the number of patent applications filed and assigned to the designated bioinformatics art unit was 40% higher in 2017 than it was in 2010. Despite this significant increase in applications, for the last five years, the subject-matter-eligibility requirement (codified as 35 U.S.C. § 101) of the U.S. patent law has been particularly vexing to applicants of computer-related inventions like bioinformatics.

Software Patent Drafting Lessons from the Key Lighthouse Cases

Obtaining a U.S. software patent is still harder than it was five years ago, but studying these “lighthouse” cases can improve one’s chances of success. While the Federal Circuit’s decision in Berkheimer v. HP Inc., 881 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2018) and the USPTO’s guidance to patent examiners on the Berkheimer decision have recently improved the landscape for software patents, the following cases contain critical lessons for drafters that can further ensure claims are patent eligible.

What Mattered in 2018: Industry Insiders Reflect on the Biggest Moments in IP

There is near unanimity that the Supreme Court’s decisions in Oil States Energy v. Greene’s Energy Group, 138 S.Ct. 1365 (2018) was among the most significant events of the year. Several also point to the Federal Circuit’s decisions in Berkheimer v. HP Inc., 881 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2018) and Aatrix Software v. Green Shades Software, 882 F.3d 1121 (Fed. Cir. 2018), the impact Director Iancu has had on the USPTO and the patent system, and Congress passing the The Music Modernization Act. Beyond those events, there were others identified by this diverse panel that might have gone unnoticed if we were to focus only on the top-line events of the year.

The Year in Patents: The Top 10 Patent Stories from 2018

Before proceeding it is worth noting two things. First, that my list focuses on specific and identifiable events. Second, there are a number of stories worth mentioning, but which just missed the cut for one reason or another. The two that will probably be most glaring omissions are the Federal Circuit’s decision in Vanda Pharmaceuticals v. Westward Pharmaceuticals, 887 F.3d 1117 (Fed. Cir. 2018), and the final rules implementing the Phillips claim construction standard. With respect to Vanda, while it is a pro-patent decision, the claims found eligible are virtually indistinguishable from those held ineligible in Mayo, so it seems virtually certain a different panel of the Federal Circuit would have ruled differently. Thus, all Vanda did was seem to create uncertainty, which may be good for settlements, but likely not a repeatable decision. As for the Phillips standard, while it makes perfect sense for the PTAB to be using the same claim construction standard as used in federal district courts, many have questioned whether it will make any real difference in outcomes. Still, it is a big event and would have been 11th on my list. Had a chance to Phillips been accompanied by patent claims being presumed valid and requiring clear and convincing evidence to be declared invalid at the PTAB, that would certainly be worthy of top 10 inclusion. Alas, that would require an amendment to the statute and beyond the powers of Director Iancu. Thus, the banishment of BRI, while important, finds itself on the outside looking just in at this year’s top 10.

Five Patent Law Lessons Learned in 2018

As we look ahead towards 2019, it is worth reflecting on several high-profile patent cases and brewing developments from the past year. Here are five lessons we learned from 2018 that may be useful in developing IP litigation strategies in 2019.

Supreme Court Refuses Another 101 Patent Eligibility Appeal

REAL argued in its petition that step two of the Alice test used to determine invalidity under Section 101 requires questions of fact that were never asked by the lower court. To invalidate without asking those questions contradicts the Federal Circuit’s recent holdings in Berkheimer v. HP and Aatrix Software v. Green Shades Software. REAL’s appeal to the Federal Circuit was decided by a panel including Circuit Judges Alan Lourie, Evan Wallach and Kara Stoll, a trio where the majority has held that step two of Alice is a pure question of law, which is a misapplication of the Alice standard. REAL further contended that both the district court and the Federal Circuit disregarded the factual record in their Alice analysis; that the patents-in-suit claim patentable improvements to computer user interface technology; and that the district court found that there were material facts in dispute while also finding that the claims were well-understood, routine and conventional.

Cardiac Monitoring Patent Invalidated Under § 101 as Patent Ineligibility

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani of the District of Massachusetts signed an order dismissing a patent infringement suit brought by Malvern, PA-based wireless medical technology company CardioNet against Lowell, MA-based patient monitoring tech developer InfoBionic. Judge Talwani dismissed the suit after CardioNet’s asserted patent, which covers systems and techniques for monitoring cardiac activity, was found to be directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101… CardioNet filed a motion for leave to file a supplemental brief in support of the eligibility of the ‘207 patent arguing that the Federal Circuit’s decisions in Aatrix Software v. Green Shades Software and Berkheimer v. HP changed Section 101 precedent impacting several aspects of the district court’s patent eligibility analysis. However, Judge Talwani denied CardioNet’s motion a few days after it was filed.