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Posts Tagged: "Mayo v. Prometheus"

WIPO Report Validates Fears About U.S. Patent Decline

Each year the World Intellectual Property Organization releases a report titled World Intellectual Property Indicators. The latest edition of the report, the 2019 version, is a look back on the filing statistics for 2018. The report is eye-opening and should be mandatory reading for policy makers and legislators in the United States. For the first time since 2009, the United States saw a decline in the number of patent applications filed. This remarkable statistic comes at a time when patent applications are growing in number across the rest of the world. And let’s not forget that 2009 was a time of particular economic crisis both in the United States and around the world due to the global financial crisis and Wall Street meltdown brought on by the housing market collapse.  

Athena v. Mayo: A Splintered Federal Circuit Invites Supreme Court or Congress to Step Up On 101 Chaos

On July 3, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied en banc rehearing in Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services. The 86-page order from the Federal Circuit includes eight separate opinions—four concurring with the en banc denial and another four dissenting from the decision. The separate opinions reflect a Federal Circuit that isn’t divided so much on the issue of the importance of Athena’s now invalidated patent claims but, rather, the application of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Section 101 jurisprudence under Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories (2012). Throughout the opinions, it seemed clear that the Federal Circuit was eager to have the Supreme Court take this case up on appeal in order to clarify Mayo’s judicial exception to laws of nature and its impact on patent claims covering medical diagnostics.

Mayo Response Brief in Athena v. Mayo at CAFC Argues Athena Claims Impede Treatment Decisions

The presently pending petition for en banc review in Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Servs., LLC has been addressed by Sherry Knowles and Meredith Addy and is supported by a number of amicus briefs. The patent in issue has been described by the present author as a paradigm of patent eligibility, supporting the argument that en banc review is merited. Mayo has now filed its response brief, submitted on May 7, and argues that the panel’s decision invalidating the asserted claims as ineligible properly applied the two-step Alice framework in light of precedent, that the full Court need not re-examine it, and accordingly, that Appellants’ petition should be denied.

Alice Five Years Later: Hope Wanes as 101 Legislative Discussions Dominated by Big Tech

On June 19, it will be five years since the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, 134 S.Ct. 2347 (2014), which significantly changed the way courts and patent examiners evaluated patent eligibility of computer implemented innovation in the United States. While the Supreme Court ostensibly extended the patent eligibility analysis applied in the life sciences context that had previously been adopted in Mayo Collaborative v. Prometheus Labs., 132 S.Ct. 1289 (2012), even a cursory review of allowance rates from the USPTO and invalidity rates in federal courts shows that Alice changed the prevailing analysis in profound ways. We will be commemorating this anniversary on June 24-25 in Washington, DC with a dedicated event examining the damage, discussing real solutions, and offering strategies for innovators who need protection in these uncertain times (see below for more detail). Almost immediately after Alice, patent examiners started to issue new subject-matter eligibility rejections for computer implemented innovations using the abstract idea exception to the statutory categories of patent eligibility. “The ubiquity of subject-matter eligibility rejections in office actions exploded, leading many to wonder whether software implemented inventions remained patentable at all,” explained Kate Gaudry and Samuel Hayim, who have done a series of articles on IPWatchdog detailing their statistical analysis. “This effect was largely centered in business method art units of [USPTO technology center] (TC) 3600. For example, the number of allowances issued from business-method art units dropped from 24% in the months before Alice was decided to about 3% in months after.” For months there has been growing hope that a legislative fix spearheaded by a few dedicated Members of Congress would provide a solution. But in recent weeks, that hope is waning as the uncomfortable reality that big tech is dominating the discussions has started to set in.

Patent Eligibility of Medical Diagnostic Inventions: Where Are We Now, and Where Are We Headed?

In each of the recent Federal Circuit decisions on medical diagnostics inventions, Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services, 2017-2508, (Fed. Cir. Feb. 6, 2019) (“Athena”) and Cleveland Clinic Found. v. True Health Diagnostics LLC, 2018-1218 (Fed. Cir. April 1, 2019; non-precedential) (“Cleveland Clinic II”), the court affirmed a district court ruling that found a medical diagnostic or a related patent invalid for being directed to ineligible subject matter. Athena and Cleveland Clinic II follow the hard stance taken by the Federal Circuit against medical diagnostics inventions, first in Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc., 788 F.3d 1371, 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (“Ariosa”) and next in Cleveland Clinic Found. v. True Health Diagnostics LLC, 859 F.3d 1352, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (“Cleveland Clinic I”). In Athena, the patent covered a method for diagnosing a disease in a subpopulation of affected individuals based on the discovery of a correlation between the disease and certain autoantibodies found only in that subpopulation. In Cleveland Clinic I, the patent claims were directed to diagnosing the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) based on the correlation between elevated levels of a protein found in the blood and occurrence of atherosclerotic CVD. In Cleveland Clinic II, the claims were directed to methods of identifying elevated levels of the protein but did not include any recitation of the correlation…. The requirement for an improvement to the technology involved in carrying out the claimed method is a steep hurdle for the eligibility of most medical diagnosis inventions, since the essence of such inventions is applying a newly discovered correlation to deliver a practical benefit—not improving the technology used to provide the diagnosis. In this regard, medical diagnostic inventions are unique. This point was highlighted by the Athena dissent through reference to the amici curiae Five Life Sciences Patent Practitioners’ brief, which stated, “[medical] diagnostic methods . . . are so tightly bound to underlying natural laws and phenomen[a], they are especially susceptible to undue expansion of the eligibility standards…” Athena Dissenting opinion at 13.

Post-Myriad Legal and Policy Considerations for Patenting Genetic Inventions

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics changed the landscape of what is considered patentable material in the context of genetic inventions. In the five years since Myriad, companies have pushed the boundaries of patenting certain types of genetic materials. Despite Myriad’s express statement that it was not considering “the patentability of DNA in which the order of the naturally occurring nucleotides has been altered,” the courts have not yet established the contours of how much nucleotide sequences need to be altered in order to “create something new” in order to be patentable. However, as we discuss in the next section, we expect the Court to address these questions as biotechnology companies increasingly invest resources into emerging, expensive technologies involving genes and seek to protect their investments through patents.

Why the Federal Circuit is to Blame for the 101 Crisis

When the Supreme Court believes that the Federal Circuit has made an error, they will reverse and remand with broad guidance, but often are not able to determine what the proper test should be. The Supreme Court wants, and expects, the Federal Circuit to determine the proper test because, after all, it is the Federal Circuit that is charged with being America’s chief patent court. But the Federal Circuit has become myopic. It is getting tiring to read in case after case— where real innovation is involved—the Federal Circuit saying that they are constrained, even forced by either Alice or Mayo, to find the very real innovation to be declared patent ineligible. This madness has to stop! It is time for the judges of the Federal Circuit to stand up and fulfill their Constitutional Oaths. They must interpret Supreme Court precedent—all of it—consistent with the statute and the Constitution.

Federal Circuit Affirms Athena’s Diagnostic Method Claims Are Patent Ineligible as Directed to a Law of Nature

The Federal Circuit recently issued an opinion affirming the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which held that Athena’s medical diagnostic methods were directed toward laws of nature and patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Servs., LLC, No. 17-2508, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3645 (Fed Cir. Feb. 6, 2019) (Before Newman, Lourie, and Stoll, Circuit Judges) (Opinion for the Court, Lourie, Circuit Judge) (Dissenting Opinion, Newman, Circuit Judge).
The inventors of U.S. Patent 7,267,820 (the 820 Patent) discovered that about 20% of patients with the neurological disorder myasthenia gravis (MG) generate autoantibodies to a membrane protein called MuSK. Until their discovery, no disease had ever been associated with the protein. The ‘820 patent disclosed and claimed methods for diagnosing neurological disorders by detecting antibodies that bind to MuSK. Athena Diagnostics (Athena), the ‘820 Patent’s exclusive licensee, sued Mayo Collaborative Services (Mayo) for infringement. Mayo moved to dismiss, and the district court granted Mayo’s motion, concluding that the patent claimed ineligible subject matter and was invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Athena appealed, and the Federal Circuit affirmed.

The Federal Circuit is Shirking Its Constitutional Duty to Provide Certainty for Critical Innovation

Here we go again! Another patent whose claims have been invalidated at the Federal Circuit—predictably, another medical diagnostic patent. Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative (Fed. Cir. Feb. 6, 2019). This is getting old, tired and fundamentally ridiculous. The statute, which is all of one-sentence long, specifically lists discoveries as patent eligible. So why are discoveries being declared patent ineligible? To the extent these decisions are mandated by the Supreme Court, they directly contradict the easy to understand and very direct language of the statute. The Federal Circuit is wrong, period. Perhaps they are so close to these cases and trying so hard to do what they think is right that they have lost perspective, but these rulings are fundamentally saying that discoveries are not patent eligible. We are told repeatedly that they are mandated by Supreme Court precedent. Obviously, that cannot be correct. The statute says: “Whoever invents or discovers… may obtain a patent…” Clearly, Congress wants discoveries to be patented, and in our system of governance, Congress has supremacy over the Supreme Court with respect to setting the law unless the law is unconstitutional. 35 U.S.C. 101 has never been declared unconstitutional, so discoveries must be patent eligible, period. It is time to face the facts—the Supreme Court has considered only bad cases, with bad facts, where there was really no innovation presented in the claims, or even in the patent application as a whole. These decisions have absolutely no meaning or proper application with respect to any inventions, let alone inventions of monumental complexity such as true artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, or new medical diagnostics that allow risk-free testing of common ailments, where previously existing tests required potentially catastrophic risk.

In CAFC Holding Finding Dice Games Abstract, Judge Mayer Delivers Concerning Concurrence

On December 28, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an opinion in In re Marco Guldenaar Holding B.V. (2017-2465) in which the claims of a patent application directed to a dice game were held to be patent-ineligible for being directed to an abstract idea, with “the only arguable inventive concept relat[ing] to dice markings, which constitute printed matter.” The holding in the case is unsurprising post-Alice, but Judge Mayer’s concurrence reveals some concerning views on patent eligibility. The concurrence concludes by alleging that “Alice, for all intents and purposes, articulated a ‘technological arts’ test for patent eligibility.” The statute certainly does not hint at the sort of “technological arts” test that Judge Mayer would prefer and that Alice itself never required, despite Judge Mayer purportedly being concerned with precedent.

Boston Patent Law Association Announces Support for IPO-AIPLA Section 101 Legislative Fix

The Boston Patent Law Association (BPLA) has announced its support for a proposal for a legislative fix to 35 U.S.C. § 101, the statute governing basic patentability in U.S. patent law, which was jointly offered earlier this year by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) and the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA). The BPLA now becomes the latest patent law organization to support the proposed legislative amendment to Section 101 that is designed to address major uncertainties in patentability stemming from various cases decided in recent years by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Smartflash Petitions Supreme Court to Challenge PTAB under Appointments Clause

In early August, patent owner Smartflash filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal a case stemming from covered business method (CBM) review proceedings carried out at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Smartflash is asking the Supreme Court to decide whether PTAB administrative patent judges (APJs) are principal officers of the United States who are subject to the terms of the Appointment Clause, whether CBM review of patents disclosed prior to passage of the America Invents Act (AIA) violates the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, and whether undisputed evidence that an invention is not unduly preemptive is relevant to answer questions of patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101. At issue in this petition are a total of 30 CBM reviews petitioned by Apple, Samsung and Google against Smartflash, which were instituted by APJ panels at the PTAB.

The Death of Invention

George Santayana is attributed with the aphorism: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is modern § 101 in a nutshell. Every horror we in the patent community are now experiencing under Alice/Mayo isn’t new, but a repeat of a drama played out long ago… Every great horror story has a monster… In the patent world, the monster is “invention.”

No Light at the End of the Tunnel, Not Even Close

It’s been over eight years since the Supreme Court issued its Bilski v Kappos decision, over six years since the Supreme Court issued its Mayo v. Prometheus decision and over four years since the Supreme Court issued its Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision.  In case anyone missed it, each of these three landmark cases was decided based on evidence on the record.  Thus, the Supreme Court not only contemplated the need for evidence when determining patent eligibility for abstract ideas of man-made origin, but wholly embraced the practice. Yet despite the Supreme Court’s trio of evidence-based holdings, it was February of this year before a single three-judge Federal Circuit panel definitively ruled on the evidence issue in Berkheimer v. HP, and it was the end of May before a majority of the Federal Circuit signed on to the idea that determining whether a man-made something is well-understood (or well-known), routine and conventional is an issue of fact that should be based on objective evidence. That’s the better part of a decade of the Federal Circuit wandering the desert.

Legislation Introduced in House to Repeal the PTAB and the AIA

There are 13 sections to Massie’s bill, many of which are geared towards the abolition of various statutes of the AIA. Perhaps the most salient portion of the proposed bill are sections regarding the abolishment of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) as well as the elimination of both inter partes review (IPR) and post-grant review (PGR) proceedings currently conducted by the PTAB. As the bill states, both IPR and PGR proceedings “have harmed the progress of science and the useful arts by subjecting inventors to serial challenges to patents.” The bill also recognizes that those proceedings have been invalidating patents at an unreasonably high rate and that patent rights should adjudicated in a judicial proceeding and not in the unfair adjudication proceedings which occur within the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Ex parte reexamination proceedings would be preserved by this bill as well.