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Posts Tagged: "ex parte"

Berkheimer, the Administrative Procedure Act, and PTO Motions to Vacate PTAB § 101 Decisions

After several years in which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) did not seem to have an official position on the issue, and many Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) panels took a position that was clearly at variance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the PTO recently seems to be acquiescing to principles that the patent bar has been urging for years: (a) the PTO is subject to the same Administrative Procedure Act obligations as any other agency, and therefore cannot make factual findings without substantial evidence, and (b) there’s no carve-out for factual findings underlying § 101 subject matter eligibility rejections.

Still No Answer From PTAB on Apple Sanctions Request Against VoIP-Pal After Six Months

And yet, despite this apparent vindication of VoIP-Pal’s patents against the strongest of odds in an executive branch tribunal where APJ panels are stacked in the interest of achieving policy objectives, VoIP-Pal and its current CEO Emil Malak still find themselves to be stuck in patent purgatory over a sanctions motion which the PTAB hasn’t decided for more than half a year… The fact that ex parte communications have caused such a stir in Apple’s IPRs against VoIP-Pal is very interesting given how the PTAB has reacted to allegations of such communications in the past. Anyone who followed the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s case at the PTAB will likely remember that the agency revoked the tribe’s ability to file motions in response to a request for discovery on the potential of political pressure caused by ex parte communications between APJs assigned to the case and their superiors at the PTAB. The PTAB denied that motion and restricted the St. Regis tribe’s ability to file motions within a month of St. Regis’ discovery request. That the PTAB has dragged its feet for more than six months on Apple’s request for sanctions on ex parte communications without the same level of punitive response is very telling.

Rethinking Article III Standing in IPR Appeals at the Federal Circuit

In 2011, as part of the American Invents Act (“AIA”), Congress significantly restructured the way in which previously issued patents could be challenged.   In some cases, existing post-issuance proceedings, like ex parte reexamination and reissue proceedings, were kept intact as such proceedings existed prior to the AIA.  In other cases, existing post-issuance proceedings, like inter partes reexamination, were replaced with new proceedings, such as the inter partes review proceedings (“IPRs”).    In addition, brand new proceedings were created, such as post-grant review proceedings (“PGRs”), covered business method patent review proceedings (“CBMs”), and supplemental examination proceedings.  In each instance, Congress made policy choices as to who could (or could not) bring and/or participate in such proceedings, and who could (or could not) raise challenges to decisions made by the government in such proceedings. 

Allegations of ex parte PTAB Communications raise more questions of due process, APA violations

Apple raised concerns of due process implications of ex parte communications and their impact on its trial. Apple’s motion demonstrates that PTAB does not publish ex parte communications into the administrative record as required by the APA, which is the exact issue Saint Regis requested discovery on and was denied… The PTAB’s decision to largely prevent the Saint Regis tribe from filing any additional papers in the case to which they are a party seems remarkable given the fact that the PTAB has opened up the proceedings of the Saint Regis trials to allow amicus briefings from third parties with an interest in the case. So, it would seem that the PTAB seems more interested in giving the agency’s supporters a say in these cases than the actual patent owner whose property rights are on the line, hardly the result one would anticipate if the PTAB were a court operating with any true sense of justice.

Cognitive Dissonance: How the PTAB Reported Appeal Statistics Ruins the Data for Everyone

The PTO reports a case as affirmed if all claims are rejected for at least one issue on appeal and reversed if all claims are reversed for at least one ground of rejection. A case is only reported affirmed-in-part by the PTO’s statistics if at least one claim remains standing, regardless of which legal issue ((§101, §103, §112, etc.) the claim was originally rejected. Since a large portion of PTAB ex parte appeals involve rejections over more than one ground of rejection (between 35%-45% according to this statistical estimate), this reporting process masks what the PTAB is deciding on each legal issue presented to it. Because the USPTO data does not report the outcome of each legal issue in multiple issue cases, it is impossible to collect statistically meaningful data on outcomes of specific legal issues from the data set from the FOIA website.

Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse for Cost of the USPTO’s High ex parte Appeal Reversal Rates

As the old saying goes: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. So there seems to be no good reason that the Examining corps’ inability to apply the law to the facts in ex parte appeals should be costing applicants this much money yearly. We should not have 2X higher reversal rates for novelty and obviousness than statutory subject matter. However, until something changes about how the USPTO decides to take cases to the board, it is apparent that patent applicants will continue to have to be patient and pay.

Vestas says it will challenge GE’s claims in lawsuit filed over wind turbine patent

Boston, MA-based global digital industrial firm General Electric filed a complaint for patent infringement against Dutch wind turbine company Vestas Wind Systems A/S. GE filed the lawsuit in response to alleged infringement conducted by Vestas in the field of power grid technology. The suit is filed in the Central District of California. GE is asserting one patent in the case: U.S. Patent No. 7629705, titled Method and Apparatus for Operating Electrical Machines. Issued in December 2009, it discloses a method for operating an electrical machine by coupling an electrical machine to an electric power system, and configuring the machine so that it remains electrically connected to the power system during and after any instances in which the operating voltage of the power system is outside of a predetermined range for an undetermined period of time.

Sovereign Immunity of Patents: While a Strong Benefit to Patent Owners, These Patents Remain Subject to Traditional Challenges

The United States Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) recently dismissed another inter partes review (“IPR”) based on an assertion of 11th Amendment sovereign immunity.  This decision demonstrates the willingness of the PTAB to permit State agencies (such as public universities, medical schools, and research centers) to effectively shield their patents from the threat of post-grant proceedings at the PTAB.  While this is certainly a benefit to entities that can take advantage of sovereign immunity, it does not completely insulate government-held patents from any validity challenge, as more traditional approaches of invalidating patents still remain viable avenues for those accused of infringement.

PTAB chief judge Ruschke discusses ex parte appeals, PGR reform and more with PPAC

Ruschke’s claim that only PTAB judges familiar with the technology involved are assigned in ex parte appeals seems false based on what we know has happened in at least one high-profile matter. As previously mentioned, in Ex parte Hiroyuki Itagaki the PTAB ruled a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine to be patent ineligible because it is an abstract idea. See PTAB rules MRI machine an Abstract Idea. Judge Hubert Lorin, who authored the opinion in Itagaki, has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a B.S. in Chemistry according to his LinkedIn profile. Similarly, Judge Matthew Meyers, who was also on the panel, has a B.S. in Biology according to his LinkedIn profile. The third judge, Judge Bibhu Mohanty, does not list his technical expertise on his LinkedIn profile, but we have been told his expertise is also in the chemical area. Therefore, the PTAB does in at least some cases assign cases to judges who are not technically trained in the technology area of the invention

Ex Parte Appeal Oral Hearings: Making Your Case Right Before Decision Time

This data set shows that Oral Hearings are rarely conducted. (See Figure 1.) Across the 72,443 appeals, only 459 (0.63%) appeals had an Oral Hearing… As shown in Figure 4, Oral Hearings were associated with more full-rejection reversals (blue bars). Specifically, the full reversals accounted for 40.3% of the appeals with Oral Hearings, as compared to 32.5% of the appeals without Oral Hearings.

Alice on Dulany Street: How the PTAB handles 101 in ex parte appeals

In many of the decisions, the examiners and appellants had an opportunity to make arguments based on Alice before the PTAB reached a decision. Yet, the outlook has become only more grim for appellants who are hoping that the PTAB will overturn a § 101 rejection. As indicated above, the reversal rate for a § 101 rejection in December 2016 based on Alice was less than 9%. Equally worrying for potential appellants is that some decisions introduced a § 101 rejection even when prior art rejections were reversed. The PTAB seems to have stopped the practice of urging examiners to review the claims for compliance under § 101 in light of Alice, and, instead, has become more active in introducing § 101 rejections on their own.

What’s New with the Changes to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Rules of Practice

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB or the Board) Rules of Practice will change on January 14, 2017. The new rules will be applicable to all inter partes (oppositions, cancellations, concurrent use) and ex parte appeal proceedings, including those pending on January 14, 2017. The main changes to be aware of are outlined below:

Ex Parte Appeals in the Post-Alice World

Amongst the appeals involving patent-eligibility rejections, the most recently filed appeal brief was filed in November 2015. Thus, all of the appeal briefs and most of the PTAB decisions were filed prior to the development of more recent case law that has further illustrated why and how various software technologies can be patent eligible. Further, most of the eligibility-involved PTAB decisions were issued prior to these recent cases, which may further have disadvantaged the appellants. Continued assessment of PTAB decisions on post-Alice appeals will provide further insight as to the Board’s interpretation of this area of law fraught with uncertainty and applicant frustration.