Posts Tagged: "Patent Reform"

It May Be Time to Abolish the Federal Circuit

I don’t really know why we need the Federal Circuit anymore. Witness the denial of en banc rehearing in Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Services, LLC on July 3. This denial of rehearing provoked eight separate opinions, with no single opinion achieving more than four judges in support. With 12 judges deciding whether to rehear the case en banc that means no single opinion gained support from more than one-third of the Court. And that opinion that gained the most support was a dissenting opinion, meaning those judges wanted to rehear the case and specifically said that the claims “should be held eligible”.  In fact, as Retired Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, Paul Michel, noted yesterday, “all 12 active judges agreed that the Athena patent should be deemed eligible, even though seven judges apparently felt helpless in view of Mayo.”  The truth is the Federal Circuit is not helpless. The Federal Circuit is choosing to interpret Mayo—on the life science side—and Alice—on the software side—expansively. The Federal Circuit has one primary job, which is to bring stability and certainty to U.S. patent laws. It would be easy to distinguish both Mayo and Alice, but rather than recognize the peculiar facts of these cases as representing the most trivial of innovations, the Federal Circuit has used Mayo to destroy medical diagnostics and Alice to destroy software. More analytical prowess would be expected from a first-year law student.

This Week on Capitol Hill: DHS Facial Recognition Tech, Coons and Stivers to Reintroduce STRONGER Patents Act, and Think Tanks Explore Tech Issues in U.S.-China Trade War

The U.S. Senate gets busy today with hearings on the tech world’s impacts on America’s youth as well as NASA’s plans for manned missions on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. On Wednesday, Senator Coons and Representative Stivers will reintroduce the STRONGER Patents Act, which is aimed at strengthening the patent system and promoting innovation. NASA’s plans to commercialize low Earth orbit will also be discussed in the House of Representatives, along with biometric technologies employed by the Department for Homeland Security and cybersecurity threats to the U.S. energy grid. Around the U.S. capital, both the Brookings Institution and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will look at tech issues involved in the current trade war between the U.S. and China. ITIF will also explore the potential use of antitrust law to break up American tech giants on Thursday.

Thoughts on the Course of the Federal Circuit After Its Denial of En Banc Rehearing in Athena v. Mayo

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was created to provide much-needed clarity and consistency to the nation’s patent law. In prior decades, the law had become hopelessly confused and incoherent due to disparate decisions of the regional courts of appeals. Two successive presidential commissions called for rectifying the situation because U.S. industrial competitiveness was lagging, and industries were faltering as a result of the weakness that had compromised the effectiveness of the patent system. For the previous century-and-a-half it had helped transform the country from a poor, agrarian land into the most advanced, powerful and wealthy nation on earth. In the 20th Century, nearly every significant scientific invention was created in America. But that was beginning to fade in the 1970s and beyond. Congress responded in 1982 by creating the Federal Circuit to hear all patent appeals…. These welcome developments increased incentives to invest in expensive research and development and the even more costly process of commercializing new inventions, putting new cures, products and services into the public’s hands and onto store shelves. In just the last few years, those incentives have lagged again due to sudden increases in uncertainty in the patent system, particularly regarding eligibility.

Beyond 101: An Inventor’s Plea for Comprehensive Reform of the U.S. Patent System

Inventors are seeing the light and are looking increasingly to the East for protection of their patents. Specifically, to China, where patent protection was once non-existent; China has overhauled its patent system and become more attractive to inventors than the once mighty USPTO. In 2016, the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO) received 1.3 million patent applications. That’s more than the combined total for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO; 605,571), the Japan Patent Office (JPO; 318,381), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO; 208,830) and the European Patent Office (EPO; 159,358).

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.

As Congress Contemplates Curbing Alice, More Than 60% of Issued U.S. Patents are Software Related

It has been more than two years since I last wrote here that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank decision has left the IP bar without a clear and reliable test to determine when exactly a software (or computer-implemented) claim is patentable versus being simply an abstract idea “free to all men and reserved exclusively to none.” It is now mid-2019, and the USPTO’s newest Section 101 guidelines interpreting Alice—and the accompanying examples—have not cleared the confusion, and Alice continues to distract the USPTO, courts, and practitioners from focusing properly on Sections 102 (novelty) and 103 (obviousness). The net effects still being increased cost, lower patent quality, lower patent portfolio valuations, wasted patent reform lobbying dollars and, in many instances, the denial of patent protection for worthwhile software inventions. Meanwhile, in the real world, which is experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution—where even the average modern car contains roughly 150 million lines of code—the importance of software is undebatable.

Urge Congress to Keep the Established and Efficiently Working Sections 100 and 112 of the U.S. Patent Act

Now that the Senate Subcommittee on Intellectual Property has concluded its hearings on patent eligibility reform, it appears that the draft changes to Sections 100 and 112 are the last great danger in the overall patent eligibility debate and we must not let our guard down. A new version of the bill is due out sometime after the July 4 holiday; please send the following text with any of your edits to IntellectualProperty@tillis.senate.gov.

Patent Masters™ Symposium Delivers Three Recommendations to Congress on Patent Reform

IPWatchdog’s third Patent Masters Symposium was held this past week in Arlington, Virginia, and included some of the best and brightest in the patent world. The event focused on the effects of Alice five years on, but more importantly, identified practical approaches for navigating Section 101 law now and in the future. Throughout the event, I also asked attendees to vote on several statements in an effort to come to consensus on certain points relating to the pending patent reform legislation. Those statements that received at least 80% of the vote are included in the letter below, which will be sent to the Senators and Representatives working on the next draft of the new Section 101.

Other Barks & Bites for Friday, June 28: Supreme Court Grants Trademark Cases for Next Term, Senators Reiterate Need for Patent Eligibility Reform, and Four Pharma Bills Advance in Senate

This week in Other Barks & Bites: The Supreme Court today agreed to hear two trademark cases next term; Senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons issue a statement regarding the recent round of patent eligibility hearings by the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee; four bills that would impact pharmaceutical patents and practices have passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Huawei publicly calls out negative impact of Senator Marco Rubio’s legislative amendment preventing it from seeking U.S. patent infringement damages, one day after losing its trade secret case against CNEX Labs; Spotify settles a pair of major copyright suits targeting its music streaming service; Intel will reportedly auction thousands of IP assets related to wireless device technology; and revised data shows that U.S. GDP grew 3.1% during the first three months of 2019.

Congress Must Work to Understand the Language of Inventors

One of the more dramatic moments in my $20 million dollar patent brawl occurred in the pivotal preliminary injunction hearing at the courthouse in downtown Tyler, Texas. I learned that Walmart was coming to monitor the proceedings. I think they were curious to meet the crazy inventor who dared to sue the largest retailer on the planet. The proposal on the table was that I dismiss the suit with prejudice (i.e., drop the suit and waive all my rights) or else Walmart would never buy another product from my exclusive licensee, Zuru—no balloons, no robotic fish, no dart guns. Distraught, I hid in a side room and didn’t show for the meeting where my lawyers had advised me to capitulate. Curiosity heightened; the Walmart attorney unexpectedly suspended all demands and invited me to sit down and explain my point of view. I pointed to the infringing spiral-faced Battle Balloons and told her they were selling my invention without permission, thereby harming me and my family. The Walmart attorney was flummoxed and suggested that I didn’t understand how the patent system worked and was overreaching. Here I was claiming to have invented this apparatus that looked different than mine. It had a spiral face and mine was flat. This is the problem with our patent system; it is run by people who don’t understand invention. Think about it, we have to use this bizarre legal document not only to describe our discovery but to describe the boundaries of it. For inventors, there are no boundaries—why would we stop applying and extending our discoveries? We do our best to describe it, but in the end, non-inventors write and interpret the laws that determine our rights.

India’s Patent Law is No Model for the United States: Say No to No Combination Drug Patents Act

The United States is on the brink of making changes to the U.S. patent law that would be modeled on India’s Patent Law. At a Senate Judiciary Committee markup scheduled for tomorrow, June 27, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) plans to offer language as an amendment in the form of the No Combination Drug Patents Act. The language of the bill would prohibit the patenting of new forms, new uses and new methods of administration of new medicines unless the patent applicant can show “a statistically significant increase in efficacy”. This language is oddly similar to India’s Section 3(d), something the Trump Administration’s U.S. Trade Representative has complained “restricts patent eligible subject matter in a way that poses a major obstacle to innovators” (see here, page 49). Other Senators have also weighed in against “a generally deteriorating environment for intellectual property” in India (see here), including Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Judiciary Committee members Mike Crapo (R-ID), Amy Klobuchar(D-MN)and Chris Coons (D-CT).

U.S. Companies and Groups to Congress: the Section 101 Reform Draft is Good and Genes are Safe

Seventy-two companies and organizations, ranging from Tivo to Bristol-Myers Squibb and from the American Conservative Union to the Alliance of U.S. Startups & Inventors for Jobs (USIJ)— as well as retired Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel—have sent a letter to Senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons and Representatives Hank Johnson, Doug Collins, and Steve Stivers in support of the current draft language to reform Section 101 of the U.S. Patent Act. The letter comes as the patent community eagerly awaits a new version of the bill, following three hearings and 45 witnesses in which most voiced their general support for the approach taken in the draft, but several sticking points were identified. The next iteration is expected soon after Congress’ July 4 recess.

USPTO Commissioner for Patents on Life Five Years After Alice: We’ve Come a Long Way

Panelists in this past Thursday’s IPWatchdog webinar, “Dissecting Alice,” gave credit to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the steps it has taken to minimize the damage caused by the courts’ lack of action on patent eligibility, but expressed concern that it simply isn’t enough. USPTO Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld joined the webinar to report on the progress made since the decision came out and said that, while Alice undoubtedly caused some confusion and disarray for practitioners, “we’re in a better place today than we were two or five years ago.” Hirshfeld explained that the Office’s initial approach to providing guidance for examiners on Alice was to use a “case law matching process,” which eventually became untenable after years of case law had built up. He said that the January 2019 Guidance—which Hirshfeld noted is also binding on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board—was developed over an intensive eight-month period by a small team of people that included Director Andrei Iancu himself and involved at least one full Sunday. He added that the examiner training effort for the 101 Guidance has also been more thorough than any he’s seen in his 25 years at the USPTO. The Office is currently in the process of developing additional concrete case examples for examiners and practitioners to work with in order to further enhance the guidance.

Inventors Must Oppose the Draft Section 101 Legislation

When it was announced that I would be testifying to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on IP about Section 101, I was surprised. Not only did they grant a critic of the 101 roundtables a chance to speak, but not one inventor who used patents to fund a startup has testified in any patent-related hearing in decades. This gave me faith that Senators Tillis and Coons are serious about fixing 101 right by considering what inventors need. When the hearing was announced, several inventors contacted me. They wanted to personally tell their stories to Congress. They trusted the government to protect them, but instead lost their careers, their secrets, and their investments of hard work and money. A few even lost their families, their home, or their health. The inventors were happy about eliminating all 101 exceptions, but the draft language of 100(k) and 112(f) transfer the damage to those sections.

Congress Adds TERM Act and No Combination Drug Patents Act to List of Drug Patent Bills Being Considered

The growing debate over the effects of patents on the rising price of pharmaceuticals continues to encourage the introduction of drug pricing-focused bills in Congress over the past few months. Most recently, a pair of proposed bills have been introduced which seek to limit the ability to patent follow-on innovations involving medicines which have already received patent protection in one level of dosage or method of administration. On June 12, a press release announced the introduction of the Terminating the Extension of Rights Misappropriated (TERM) Act into the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is sponsored by a bipartisan coalition including Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Doug Collins (R-GA), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) and Ben Cline (R-VA). According to the release, this proposed law looks to change the burden of proving patentability of a drug-related invention under existing patent statute from generic drugmakers challenging drug patents to the pharmaceutical research and development firms filing patent applications.