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Posts Tagged: "covered business methods"

The Covered Business Methods Program Must Finally Be Laid to Rest

Rather than allowing it a quiet death, the financial services industry is making a quiet effort to keep the Covered Business Methods (CBM) Program at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) alive. The special interest group has reportedly enlisted Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to push for an extension of the CBM program for one year. A rider on the next COVID supplemental appropriations package, or possibly a FY 2021 Commerce Department appropriations bill, would carry the grant of CBM’s stay of expiration.

Next Steps After Celgene: Federal Circuit Ruling on Takings Clause and IPRs Leaves Open Questions

Since the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of inter partes review (IPR) a little more than a year ago in Oil States, several patent owners have brought other constitutional challenges to America Invents Act (AIA) trial proceedings. These cases have been slowly percolating at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In many cases, however, the Federal Circuit has declined to address these constitutional claims on the merits, finding them unnecessary to resolve or insufficiently developed by the parties. But early last week, the Federal Circuit for the first time addressed the applicability of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to IPRs, holding in Celgene Corp. v. Peter, Case No. 18-1167 (Fed. Cir. 2019) “that the retroactive application of IPR proceedings to pre-AIA patents is not an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment.” While the court’s holding may appear on its face to forestall current and future Takings Clause challenges to AIA proceedings, its analysis leaves some questions unanswered, and may even provide a narrow path forward for future takings claims. Furthermore, given the Supreme Court’s predilection for addressing both AIA and Takings Clause issues, the Federal Circuit panel’s decision may not be the last word on this interesting issue.   

Trading Technologies Petitions Federal Circuit for En Banc Rehearing, Likening Its Invention to Mechanical Tool Claims

On July 31, Trading Technologies, a firm that develops software used for electronically trading derivatives, filed a combined petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The appellant is seeking review of the Federal Circuit’s earlier decision this May in Trading Technologies International v. IBG LLC (IBG IV), which confirmed the results of four covered business method (CBM) review proceedings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) that invalidated patent claims owned by Trading Technologies as unpatentable under Section 101 of the patent law. In doing so, Trading Technologies argues that the Federal Circuit panel failed to follow both U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Circuit precedent, as well as previous Federal Circuit decisions upholding the validity of other Trading Technologies patents that share a specification with one of the invalidated patents.

PTAB Grants Additional Briefing to Consider the Impact of USPTO’s Revised 101 Guidance

The PTAB not only assented to Mirror Imaging’s suggestion that a five-page brief be entered in advance of the hearing but added that parties may submit one brief for each of the four CBM review proceedings which were petitioned by Fidelity… This could be a pivotal moment in the history of the PTAB specifically, and the USPTO more generally. If Director Iancu can achieve the goal of having the Patent Office speak with one voice, with patent examiners and the PTAB all following the same law and guidance, he will have achieved a united Patent Office that has been elusive, but desperately needed.

PTO Proposes Rulemaking to Implement Phillips Claim Construction at PTAB

Earlier today the USPTO announced proposed rulemaking that would change the prior policy of using the Broadest Reasonable Interpretation (BRI) standard for construing unexpired and proposed amended patent claims in PTAB proceedings under the America Invents Act and instead use the Phillips claim construction standard.. The new standard proposed by the USPTO is the same as the standard applied in Article III federal courts and International Trade Commission (ITC) proceedings, a change critics of the PTAB process have urged for many years in order to bring uniformity to post grant challenges across forums… The USPTO is also proposing to amend the rules for PTAB trials to add that the USPTO will consider any prior claim construction determination concerning a term of the claim in a civil action, or an ITC proceeding, that is timely made of record in an Inter Partes Review (IPR), Post Grant Review (PGR), or Covered Business Method (CBM) proceeding.

Patent Review in an Article I Tribunal is Unconstitutional Under the Public Rights Doctrine

This experiment in patent validity review an executive agency by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, an Article I tribunal in the PTO, has been unsuccessful…The chief constraints of the public rights doctrine involve consent and due process by an Article I tribunal and review of tribunal determinations by an Article III court. None of these features are present in the PTAB review of issued patents. In fact, the PTAB has shown a massive number of institutional abuses of IPRs that have undermined its legitimacy and negated its determinations… Ultimately, it will be shown that PTAB has vastly worse patent validity review results than federal district courts because of a blatant disregard for due process. As a consequence of these observations, it should be clear that the PTO is susceptible to political influences by the powerful technology lobby’s false narrative of poor quality patents that resulted in creation of a sanctimonious mechanism for patent validity review to constrain competition from market entrants, with an effect to promote technology incumbent profits.

Five Years after the AIA Created the PTAB

I want to believe Congress ultimately sought to strengthen the U.S. patent system with the AIA by providing a mechanism to more easily remove a small percentage of granted patents that were being inappropriately used in litigation. Specifically, patents that were being asserted with claim constructions not contemplated when the patent was examined. After all, Congress had been heavily lobbied with the narrative that NPE’s had been stretching patents well beyond the four corners of the granted patent and hurting the integrity of the patent system.

The Increasingly Powerful PTAB: Underutilized Precedential Designations Undermines Efficiency and Consistency

The PTO has increased the number of Board decisions as being precedential (so as to serve as a binding authority) by 36% within the last two years. With respect to the increase in precedential decisions: while a 36% increase is substantial, that translates into only an additional 10 precedential decisions – 2 ex parte appeals and 8 IPRs. The current total number of precedential decisions is 38, broken down into 27 ex parte appeals, 2 interferences, 8 IPRs and 1 CBM. Compare these numbers to the number of ex parte appeals and AIA petitions received in 2017 alone (10165 ex parte appeals, 1853 IPR petitions, 54 CBM petitions, and 40 post-grant review petitions).

The only solution for the transgressions of the PTAB is to disband this runaway tribunal

Hiring senior associates to be Administrative Patent Judges was a mistake, hiring so many senior associates from the same firm was an even bigger mistake. Making it clear that their job was to kill patents at all costs was inexcusable. Interpreting the rules at every turn to be disadvantageous to patent owners is un-American, violates fundamental notions of fairness of procedure, and tilts the balance so heavily toward challengers that it has become more feared by patent owners than any government agency or body. In short, the PTAB has destroyed the U.S. patent system and the value of U.S. patents. In my opinion, the only solution for the very serious transgressions of the PTAB is to disband this runaway tribunal.

Federal Government Not Barred from Petition for CBM Review

In a case of first impression, a majority of a Federal Circuit panel held that the U.S. Postal Service and the United States (collectively, “USPS”) were not statutorily barred from filing a petition for review of a covered business method patent (“CBM”). The majority also affirmed the Board’s determination that all challenged claims of the patent are directed to ineligible subject matter… The government qualifies as a “person” who may petition for CBM, and a party suing the government for improper use of a patented business method may be required to litigate issues before the Board in a CBM proceeding, and further the government appears to be exempt from the AIA’s CBM estoppel provision in a parallel litigation.

Federal Circuit upholds CBM instituted in conflict with Unwired Planet decision

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in Return Mail, Inc. v. United States Postal Services (USPS), which affirmed a finding of patent invalidity stemming from a December 2015 decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Although not an issue discussed in the Federal Circuit decision, there is some question as to whether this particular covered business method (CBM) review was properly limited to financial service business method patents in light of at least one previous decision by a different Federal Circuit judicial panel, which overturned an invalidity finding for improper institution of a CBM.

Federal Circuit says U.S. government is a ‘person’, can file CBM to challenge patents

the Federal Circuit also upheld a controversial ruling of the PTAB, which determined that the United States has standing to bring a CBM challenge. Legally speaking, the United States, or in this case the United States Postal Service, is considered a “person” within the meaning of AIA § 18(a)(1)(B). To put this into perspective, despite the fact that the America Invents Act (AIA) does not specifically identify the United States as qualifying to be considered a “person” under AIA § 18(a)(1)(B), and despite the fact that the United States Supreme Court has unequivocally ruled that a sovereign such as the United States government is not a “person” absent an explicit statement of intent by Congress, the Federal Circuit (over a convincing and persuasive dissent from Judge Newman) decided that the United States federal government can challenge patents issued by the United States federal government in a post grant CBM proceeding.

Federal Circuit Affirms CBM Unpatentability Holding; Finding Estoppel Did Not Apply

In Credit Acceptance Corp. v. Westlake Servs. the Federal Circuit affirmed a decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) in a Covered Business Method (“CBM”) review proceeding, agreeing with the Board that petitioner Westlake was not estopped from maintaining a CBM review of the challenged claims and confirming that the challenged claims are unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101… Dissenting-in-part, Judge Mayer would have held that the Court does not have jurisdiction to review a decision by the Board regarding a motion to terminate a post-grant review proceeding as barred by § 325(e)(1).

En Banc Federal Circuit Dodges PTAB Constitutionality

Patlex, which dealt with reexamination of applications by an examiner — not by an Article I tribunal — could be considered a next step beyond McCormick. MCM, however, simply cannot be viewed as consistent with either Patlex or McCormick on any level. Indeed, the Supreme Court was abundantly clear in McCormick, which remains good law. The courts of the United States (i.e., Article III courts), not the department that issued the patent, is the only entity vested with the authority to set aside or annul a patent right. Since the PTAB is not a court of the United States, it has no authority to invalidate patent rights. It is just that simple.

Is the ethical bar for practitioners higher than it is for PTAB judges?

Had APJ Clements not been a member of the PTAB and one of the patent owners – let’s say Smartflash for example – had come to him and asked him to represent them in a PTAB proceeding against Apple, the conflict of interest question would have been a much easier question. Having represented Apple previously as defense counsel it would seem that the duty to a former client under 37 CFR 11.109 would prevent Clements from representing the patent owner adverse to Apple and now charging Apple with patent infringement, which is a prerequisite to the filing of a CBM petition. Had Clements represented Smartflash in any of the CBM proceedings brought by Apple on which he sat as a judge there would seem to be a direct and irreconcilable violation of the ethics rules applicable to patent attorneys and patent agents. How truly ironic, and pathetically sad, it would be if the ethical bar set for practitioners is so much higher than the ethical bar the USPTO sets for its own Administrative Patent Judges. How could that possible? In what universe would it make any sense to have a lower ethical bar for judges deciding cases than for patent practitioners?