Posts Tagged: "patent eligible"

Top Issues for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2022

Incoming U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal’s answers to Senators’ written questions following her recent confirmation hearing provide reasons for hope to those concerned about the current state of the patent system. Vidal’s responses emphasize three priorities: strengthening patents and trademarks, ensuring that U.S. intellectual property is protected abroad, and expanding the reach of the patent system to underrepresented groups. This article focuses on five important issues that any new USPTO Director will need to address—and looks for clues as to how she may approach them.

In Written Responses to Senators’ Questions, Vidal Supports Iancu’s 101 Guidance ‘In Principle’

In written answers to Senators’ questions for the record submitted today by Kathi Vidal, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the next U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director, Vidal said that she “support[s] the principle of” former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu’s Patent Eligibility Guidance for examiners, but stopped short of wholly endorsing the present guidance or committing to keeping it in place. Instead, Vidal said she would review the guidance in light of intervening case law and comments on the USPTO’s study on the state of patent eligibility jurisprudence to determine if updates are needed.   

Alice-Insanity (Part Three): How the Star Chamber of Madison Place Violates Basic Principles of Collateral Estoppel

As stated in Part One of this series, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees, inter alia, that no person shall be deprived of property (including intellectual property), without due process of law. However, the Supreme Court has never held that a single appellate court must comply with Fifth Amendment due process of law. The closest the Supreme Court ever came to such a radical idea as requiring any appellate court in the nation to comply with due process of law was at a time when “Three’s Company” and “The Muppet Show” dominated the 7PM-9PM Nielsen’s ratings. See Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106 (1976) (warning the Eighth Circuit that “injustice was more likely to be caused than avoided by deciding the issue without petitioner’s having had an opportunity to be heard,” but not actually requiring the Eighth Circuit to comply with Fifth Amendment due process). In contrast, the Supreme Court has held that even a man classified as an “enemy combatant” by the U.S. government is entitled to at least some measure of due process. See Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004).

J.E.M.: The Supreme Court’s Last Expansion of Patent Protection, 20 Years Ago

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that plants could be protected with utility patents. J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc., v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. 534 U.S. 124. This landmark decision, originating in the agricultural heartland of Iowa, was the last time the Supreme Court effectively increased patent protection for inventors and patent owners. Most, if not all, of the Supreme Court’s patent rulings in the past two decades have not been favorable to patent owners. Rather, these “recent” decisions have restricted patent rights and made it more difficult to enforce these rights against infringers.

Massie Introduces Bill to Repeal PTAB, Abrogate Alice

Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) on November 5 introduced a bill, titled the Restoring America’s Leadership in Innovation Act of 2021 (RALIA), HR 5874, that would repeal the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), return the patent system to a “first-to-invent” model, rather than first-to-file, and would end automatic publication of patents. Inventor groups such as US Inventor and conservative groups are supporting the legislation.

Alice Insanity (Part Two): How the Dunning-Kruger Effect Influences the Outcome of Federal Circuit Decisions

The Dunning-Kruger effect is often defined as a type of cognitive bias whereby people are prone to vastly misjudge their competence. For example, smart and capable people tend to evaluate their skills and competence downward. That is, they tend to not just understand, but deeply internalize the idea that there’s a lot in life that they don’t understand. Circa 500BC, Confucius coined this wisdom stating, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” Then there’s the flip side, where low ability and/or low knowledge people overestimate their own capabilities while simultaneously being unable to recognize their own incompetence. One-hundred and thirty years (give or take) before David Dunning and Justin Kruger conducted their studies on the issue, Charles Darwin described this effect, stating, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

Alice-Insanity (Part One), or Why the Alice-Mayo Test Violates Due Process of Law

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees, inter alia, that no person shall be deprived of property (including intellectual property), without due process of law. For instance, it is settled law that a federal statute may be so arbitrary and capricious as to violate due process. Similarly, it is settled that an administrative agency, e.g., the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), cannot escape the due process of law requirement when processing patent applications. In theory (less in reality), due process of the law extends to judicial as well as political branches of government, and judgments that violate constitutional limitations and guarantees are void or voidable.

Comments on USPTO Patent Eligibility Study Reveal Stark Contrast in Viewpoints of Some U.S. Patent Stakeholders

Friday, October 15, marked the final day of the public comment period for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s patent eligibility jurisprudence study. By the close of the comment period, 43 public comments were submitted from entities with very different viewpoints on the U.S. patent system. Public comments will be used to determine how the current state of Section 101 patent eligibility case law is impacting investment in U.S. innovation. Many comments raised dire concerns about the uncertain nature of Section 101 eligibility and how that uncertainty has been impacting R&D activities across the nation.

An Ax(le) Needs Grinding: Can the Federal Circuit Turn the Wheel?

I recently opened a Bordeaux and re-read the petition for certiorari in American Axle v. Neapco. Not because I like watching horror films or black-and-white footage of a piano sliding downstairs, mind you. But well, you know. The Petition is well written and the Bordeaux did its job; however, it was still painful to read the recounting of the successive bad decisions to invalidate American Axle’s patents in light of the arguments made by accused infringer Neapco. Yet, in context, it’s just another of the thousand blows against U.S. inventors and our innovation ecosystem. It’s shameful that a company with a new and useful technology in the automotive industry was stymied in its appeal by our nation’s highest patent court.

CareDx v. Natera: The Latest in Patent Eligibility of Medical Diagnostics

The latest ruling involving patent eligibility of medical diagnostics comes from Chief Judge Connolly of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware in a consolidated case brought by CareDx, Inc. and the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University against Natera, Inc. (Civil Action No. 19-0567-CFC-CJB) and Eurofins Viracor, Inc. (Civil Action No. 19-1804-CFC-CJB). After initially denying the Defendants’ motions for summary judgment of invalidity of the asserted patents under 35 U.S.C. §101 in December 2020, the Court then later denied certification motions for interlocutory appeal and instead ruled sua sponte to reconsider its own denial of summary judgment. Following an evidentiary hearing during which expert testimony was heard, the Court reversed its previous ruling to find all claims of the asserted patents invalid as a matter of law under §101.

Employing a Trademark Test to Determine When a Patent is ‘Directed To’ a Section 101 Judicial Exception

Under U.S. trademark law and court precedent, determining whether there is a likelihood of confusion involves weighing a number of factors (13 factors to be exact), known as the “Dupont factors,” set out in In re E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 177 USPQ 563 (CCPA 1973). The CCPA (Court of Customs and Patent Appeals) is a predecessor court to the Federal Circuit. As noted by the Federal Circuit, not all the DuPont factors may be relevant or of equal weight in a given case and any one of the factors may control a particular case. Under 35 U.S.C. §101, patent-eligible inventions include any process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter and any new and useful improvement thereof. There are, in addition, three judicially created exceptions to the broad recitation of Section 101: laws of nature; natural phenomena; and abstract ideas…. If the goal of Section 101 is to act as a gatekeeper, rather than a roadblock, the factors approach seems appropriate to employ in a patentability analysis.

Reyna Concurs in CAFC Reversal of Ineligibility Holding, But Blasts Majority’s Approach to Alice

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) today reversed a district court decision that patent claims directed to an “authentication method” were ineligible as abstract under Section 101. The CAFC said that the claims at issue satisfied Alice step two because they “recite a specific improvement to a particular computer-implemented authentication technique” and were thus eligible for patenting. The opinion was authored by Judge Stoll and a concurring opinion was filed by Judge Reyna.

IPWatchdog LIVE Panel Asks if Federal Circuit is Killing Software Patents and Answers Definitively, ‘Yes’

On Day 2 of IPWatchdog LIVE, a lively morning panel was convened on the subject of “Is the Federal Circuit Killing Software Patents?” Though that question was answered in the first few seconds of the panel session, the following hour of discussion yielded various ideas on how disastrous jurisprudence on Section 101 subject matter eligibility could be addressed at the Federal Circuit. Speaking on this panel was Robert Stoll, Co-Chair of the IP Group at Faegre Drinker and Former Commissioner of Patents, USPTO; Russ Slifer, Principal at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner and Former Deputy Director, USPTO; Raymond Millien, CEO at Harness Dickey; and Benjamin Cappel, Partner at AddyHart P.C.

It’s All in the Hardware: Overcoming 101 Rejections in Computer Networking Technology Classes

Technologies such as computer networking, which, unlike software inventions, typically incorporate at least some hardware elements, may be less vulnerable to rejection under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank. However, responding to these rejections when they are issued still requires some finesse. In these cases, rejections usually revolve around whether the hardware included in the claims serves as an improvement over existing hardware or is merely used as a tool for a mental process or other abstract idea. If the examiner concludes that the networking hardware merely serves as a tool, the claims usually fail the Alice/Mayo test. However, if you can show that the networking hardware either presents novel features or is improved by the invention to become a more effective tool, you may overcome the rejection.

The U.S. Patent System and Quantum Cryptography: An Awkward Relationship

Quantum computing continues to gain traction as an emerging technology, with potentially far-reaching and dangerous applications in the United States and worldwide. However, there are some applications for the technology which have not yet passed theoretical muster. In other words, the case for quantum advantage cannot be made by reference to known mathematical algorithms. But many applications, including quantum decryption (discussed below), have been concretely mapped out on a theoretical level and are now subject to only “engineering limitations” (i.e., implementation details).