Posts Tagged: "Judge Alan Lourie"

Bancorp Services: Further Fracturing of the Patent Eligibility Landscape for Business Methods and Systems*

In holding the method, system, and media claims of the ‘792 and ‘037 patents to “cover no more than abstract ideas and therefore do no recite patent-eligible subject matter,” Judge Lourie’s opinion trivializes the relevance of computer implementation in these claims. That’s brought out when he later says that the “interchangeability of certain mental processes and basic digital computation” makes the “use of a computer in an otherwise patent-ineligible process for no more than its most basic function” (i.e., making calculations or computations) inadequate “to circumvent the prohibition against patenting abstract ideas and mental processes.” In fact, Judge Lourie went even further by saying that “a computer must be integral to the claimed invention, facilitating the process in a way that a person making calculations or computations could not” to “salvage an otherwise patent-ineligible process,” citing the 2010 case of SiRF Technology, Inc. v. ITC (method for calculating the position of a GPS receiver satisfied the MOT test). In other words, computer implementation of the claimed business method (or system) must be absolutely necessary to its usefulness to satisfy Judge Lourie’s criteria for reaching the patent-eligibility zone.

Federal Circuit Panel Rehears ACLU, Myriad Gene Patent Case

Although predictions on the outcome of an unusual case such as this are probably worthless, I think that it is most likely that this panel will rule in 2012 the same way that it ruled in 2011. It is probably safe to presume that the judges are fairly entrenched in their positions. In my view, no arguments were presented which show that Mayo was a game-changer with respect to the isolated DNA claims and the screening method claim. In particular, AMP’s main point about the relevance of Mayo—the preemption argument—was harshly criticized by Judge Moore. Among the three members of the panel, Judge Moore would appear to be the most likely to change sides, and I do not see this happening. Thus, I expect the same outcome as last year. However, the long-term outcome is much murkier, with an en banc hearing and/or a Supreme Court appeal almost certain.

Obviousness When All Elements Not Present in Prior Art?

The Tokai and Ritchie rationale seems to have never been cited by any other panels of the Court. While this may be due to many reasons, the fact that this reasoning could so easily invalidate virtually any claim in any patent, combined with the fact that it has only scarcely been utilized by the Court, suggests that this is an extraordinarily important issue for the Court as a whole to consider.

CAFC Muddle: Deciphering the Marine Polymer En Banc Ruling*

Where the en banc decision gets particularly interesting (and adversarial) is with respect to the second question, namely when does “intervening rights” apply to reexamined claims? By a 6 to 4 vote, (and a reversal of the panel decision), a majority of the en banc Federal Circuit also concluded “as an alternative ground for affirmance” of the district court’s judgment that “intervening rights do not apply to claims that have not been amended and are not new.” The majority opinion by Judge Lourie (the dissenter in the panel decision) was joined by Chief Judge Rader, and Judges Newman, Bryson, Prost, and Linn (who was one of the 5 “nay” votes on the meaning “biocompatible). The dissenting opinion on the “intervening rights” question by Judge Dyk (who wrote the majority opinion in the panel decision) was joined by Senior Judge Gajarsa (who also joined the majority opinion in the panel decision), Judge Reyna, and Judge Wallach.

CAFC Makes Murky Anticipation Ruling on Overlapped Process Ranges in ClearValue*

In the recently issued case of ClearValue, Inc. v. Pearl River Polymers, Inc., Judge Moore, writing for the Federal Circuit panel, distinguished the holding in the 2006 case of Atofina v. Great Lakes Chemical Corp. In ClearValue, Judge Moore ruled that a process having a claimed raw alkalinity of “less than or equal to 50 ppm” was anticipated under 35 U.S.C. § 102 by a prior art process disclosing an alkalinity of “150 ppm or less.” I believe Judge Moore was correct in ruling that the claimed alkalinity of “less than or equal to 50 ppm” was anticipated by the art disclosed alkalinity of “150 ppm or less.” But her basis for distinguishing Atofina in ClearValue is very problematic in a number of respects, and could create further unnecessary confusion as to when a narrower claimed range in a process is anticipated by a broader range disclosed by the prior art. As illustrated by the ClearValue and Atofina cases, one area where the Federal Circuit sometimes struggles in articulating clear doctrine is when is a narrower claimed range in a process is anticipated under 35 U.S.C. § 102 by a broader range disclosed by the prior art.

Bio/Pharma Amici Brief Filed in Marine Polymer Reexam Appeal

On September 26, 2011, the a three-judge-panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a ruling in Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc. v. HemCon, Inc., which found intervening rights due to certain patent claims due to the fact that Marine Polymer made arguments about claim language during reexamination, but without actually amending the claims. See Marine Polymer vacated opinion. On January 20, 2012, the full Federal Circuit decided to hear this case en banc and ordered that the original panel decision be vacated and the appeal reinstated. No additional briefing by the parties was requested, but on January 26, 2012, the Federal Circuit issued an Order allowing amicus briefs to be filed on or before February 10, 2012. On February 10, 2012 the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America filed a joint Amici Curiae Brief supporting the appellee and seeking affirmance of the district court decision.

CAFC Refuses to Clarify Claims Construction Law, Deference

I have wondered out loud whether the Judges of the Federal Circuit realize that the outcome is unpredictable until the panel has been announced. It seems that at least some do. How is that defensible? How do others not on the Court not see a problem? The law needs to be certain and predictable and at the Federal Circuit far too many times it is neither. Claims construction is but one of the areas as clear as mud. The Federal Circuit was created to bring certainty to the law, but what has transpired over the course of the last 10 years or so seems to be anything but certainty and stability. For crying out loud a patent is a property right and for any property rights regime to flourish it must be stable and certain! In the words of this generation: OMG!

A Winning Patent Infringement Defense: Reexamination Creates Intervening Rights, Erases $29.4 Million Verdict

Companies accused of patent infringement are increasingly looking at patent reexamination at the Patent Office as an attractive avenue for challenging the patent’s validity. Reexamination offers a number of well-known advantages as a forum for such validity challenges over District Court, among them the absence of a presumption of validity and a lower burden of proof. Less well-known, however, is the potential for reexamination to eliminate an accused infringer’s liability for past damages – even if the PTO confirms the validity of a patent in reexamination, the accused infringer might be entitled to “intervening rights,” effectively eliminating past damages, if the patent owner amends its claims to distinguish its invention over the prior art. This possibility of “intervening rights” received a big boost last week with the CAFC’s decision in Marine Polymer Techs. v. HemCon, finding that such rights may be created even without an amendment of the claims if the patent owner presents arguments in reexamination that “effectively amend” the claims.

CAFC: Intervening Rights for Claims Unamended During Reexam*

I like writing about esoteric patent law topics and the question of “intervening rights” in reexaminations/reissues is one of the more esoteric. See my 1998 JPTOS article entitledIntervening Rights: A Potential Hidden Trap for Reexamined Patent. The case of Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc. v. HemCon, Inc. is one of those rare instances in this esoteric area of patent law where the Federal Circuit announced a new “wrinkle” on when “intervening rights” apply in reexamination. Unfortunately, the rule announced by the majority in Marine Polymer Technologies (“intervening rights” apply to unamended claims based on statements made during reexamination) is squarely in conflict with the express language of 35 U.S.C. § 307(b), as Judge Lourie’s dissent vigorously (and more importantly, correctly) points out.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Rader Rules in Utramercial that Breadth and Lack Specificity Does Not Make Claimed Method Impermissibly Abstract*

Some will undoubtedly view the Chief Judge’s basis in Ultramercial for distinguishing the ruling in CyberSource as being “slight of hand” and using “mirrors,” but it certainly illustrates the wide gulf of views between the various members on the Federal Circuit on the patent-eligibility question. I wouldn’t be surprised (and frankly it needs to happen) if both Ultramercial and CyberSource ended up before the en banc Federal Circuit. As I’ve noted previously, we’ve currently got what appear to be irreconcilable decisions in the Classen, Prometheus, and AMP cases in determining the patent-eligibility of certain medical (e.g., diagnostic) methods. With what appears to be similarly conflicting decisions in Ultramercial and CyberSource, the gauntlet has truly been thrown down. An en banc Federal Circuit needs to step in soon, or the conflagration that currently exists in the patent-eligibility “war” might soon consume us all.

Indicia of Extortion – Federal Circuit Slams Patent Troll

It was also determined that the underlying patent litigation was brought for no other reason than to extract nuisance payments despite the fact that there was no infringement. Specifically, the district court determined that Eon-Net filed the lawsuit against Flagstar had “indicia of extortion” because it was part of Eon-Net’s history of filing nearly identical patent infringement complaints against a plethora of diverse defendants, where Eon-Net followed each filing with a demand for a quick settlement at a price far lower than the cost to defend the litigation.

As Predicted, Federal Circuit Rules Isolated DNA Patentable

After much anticipation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit earlier today issued a decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics. The decision on first glance will seem to be a split decision, particularly by Federal Circuit standards. The majority opinion was written by Judge Lourie, Judge Moore wrote a concurring opinion and Judge Bryson concurred in part and dissented in part. Having said that, the outcome largely seems to be what was predicted by the patent community. On the major substantive issue — are isolated DNA molecules patent eligible subject matter — the Federal Circuit reversed the decision of the district court and ruled that isolated DNA molecules do constituted patent eligible subject matter. The Federal Circuit also ruled that methods relating to the screening for potential cancer therapeutics are, likewise, patent eligible subject matter. All three Judges also found the “comparing” and “analyzing” claims to be ineligible for patent protection because they were not transformative, and thus were merely abstract mental steps.

Federal Circuit Again Rules Equivalent Foreseeable in Duramed

In Duramed, the invention claimed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,908,638 (the “’638 patent”) involved a conjugated estrogen pharmaceutical compositions for use in hormone replacement therapies. The critical aspect of the claimed invention was the moisture barrier coating (MBC) which surrounded the composition. Claim 7 (which depended from independent Claim 1) specified that this MBC “comprises ethylcellulose.” During patent prosecution, the examiner rejected both Claims 1 and 7 for obviousness under 35 U.S.C. § 103. As a result of an interview with the examiner, Claim 1 was amended to include the recitation in Claim 7, and in due course, the ‘638 patent issued. Sounds to me like a classical instance of prosecution history estoppel coming into play and barring any application of the doctrine of equivalents.

The Doctrine of Claim Differentiation: Who Got It Right in Retractable Technologies?

Whether the term “body” encompassed “multi-piece” structures became the crux of the claim construction issues in Retractable Technologies. The District Court for Eastern Texas, apparently applying the doctrine of claim differentiation, construed independent Claims 1 and 43 to cover a “body” which might be a “multi-piece” structure. Accordingly, the District Court denied post-trial motions by the alleged infringer (Becton Dickinson or “BD”) to overturn the jury verdict that BD infringed these Claims of the ‘224 patent. Judge Lourie (writing for the panel majority) reversed the District Court, ruling that the term “body” was limited to a “one-piece” structure in light of the ‘224 patent specification.

Supreme Court Accepts Appeal on Patented Medical Diagnostics

Earlier today the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., which sets up another foray into the patent eligible subject matter waters for the Supreme Court in the October 2011 term. This appeal by Mayo will challenge the December 17, 2010 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, one of the first patentable subject matter cases for the Federal Circuit in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bilski v. Kappos. In fact, this case was returned from the Supreme Court to the Federal Circuit for further consideration in light of the Supreme Court ruling in Bilski v. Kappos.