Posts Tagged: "patentability requirements"

SCOTUS Kicks Patent Eligibility Cases to the Curb in Last Move of the Term

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied certiorari in American Axle v. Neapco Holdings, Inc., leaving it up to Congress and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to restore any semblance of clarity on U.S. patent eligibility law for now. Many expected that the Court would grant the petition after the U.S. Solicitor General in May recommended granting review. The SG’s brief said that inventions like the one at issue in American Axle have “[h]istorically…long been viewed as paradigmatic examples of the ‘arts’ or ‘processes’ that may receive patent protection if other statutory criteria are satisfied” and that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit “erred in reading this Court’s precedents to dictate a contrary conclusion.”

USPTO Report Underscores Split on State of U.S. Patent Eligibility Jurisprudence

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published its study on patent eligibility jurisprudence in response to a March 2021 request from Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Chris Coons (D-DE). The study, titled “Patent eligible subject matter: Public views on the current jurisprudence in the United States,” is based on more than 140 comments received following a USPTO request of July 9, 2021, and unsurprisingly concluded that many (mostly larger) high-tech and computer-related companies like the current state of the law; life sciences, startups and SMEs do not; but everyone agrees that consistency, clarity and predictability are needed. The study did not make any recommendations, and indicated that the Office will be continuing to solicit feedback via listening sessions and written comments and that it is also broadening the scope of stakeholders it reaches out to.

CAFC Reverses January Decision Affirming Sufficient Written Description for Negative Claim Limitation Over Judge Linn’s Dissent

Earlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a precedential decision in Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. v. Accord Healthcare, Inc. granting a petition for rehearing from appellant HEC Pharm Co., Ltd. In granting HEC’s petition, the panel majority of Chief Judge Kimberly Moore, who authored the decision, and Circuit Judge Todd Hughes vacated a previous January ruling by the Federal Circuit, which had affirmed the District of Delaware’s final judgment that Novartis patent claims covering its Gilenya treatment for multiple sclerosis were not invalid for failing to satisfy the written description requirement under 35 U.S.C. § 112. Senior Circuit Judge Richard Linn authored a dissent arguing that the panel majority had improperly adopted a heightened written description standard and failed to take into account expert testimony from Novartis regarding a negative claim limitation that the district court found was supported by ample evidence.

Juno Petition Asks SCOTUS to Clarify Written Description Standard

Juno Therapeutics last week petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to review an August 2021 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) that reversed a jury verdict for Juno and Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, wiping out a $1.2 billion judgment for the entities. The CAFC found that the jury’s verdict with respect to written description was not supported by substantial evidence.

CAFC Clarifies Analysis of Intrinsic Evidence on Indefiniteness, Affirms PTAB’s Denial of Sanctions

On June 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a precedential decision in ClearOne, Inc. v. Shure Acquisition Holdings, Inc. affirming a final written decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which found that a substituted claim  offered by the patent owner, Shure, was not invalid due to an indefinite claim term. The Federal Circuit also affirmed the PTAB’s decision denying ClearOne’s request to file a motion for sanctions against Shure for the patent owner’s alleged violation of the duty to disclose material prior art.

CAFC Affirms PTAB Ruling on Motivation and Expectation of Success Over Newman’s Dissent

On May 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed a decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) from an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding where the PTAB concluded that the challenged claims of U.S. Patent No. 9,844,379 B2 (the ‘379 patent) were unpatentable as obvious. Ethicon on appeal contended that the PTAB improperly placed the burden of proof on them and that the PTAB’s finding of reasonable expectation of success when the asserted prior art was combined was unsupported by substantial evidence. Ethicon owns the ‘379 patent, which relates to an endoscopic surgical stapling tool. The supposed novelty of the ‘379 patent is “the use of both an I-beam firing member and a no-cartridge safety lockout, such that the lockout blocks the advancement of an I-beam firing member when there is no staple cartridge loaded in the stapling assembly.” The safety mechanism is particularly helpful for endoscopic procedures that require a surgeon to work with reduced visual and tactile feedback when compared to open surgery.

Biotechnology at the Supreme Court—Will the U.S. Government Back Amgen’s Petition?

Earlier this year, we discussed Amgen’s petition for Supreme Court review of the Federal Circuit’s affirmance invalidating several antibody patent claims based on a lack of enablement for genus claims. At that time, we believed Amgen had a slim chance of its petition being granted—mainly because the Supreme Court denied a similar petition from Idenix in 2021 (No. 20-380, January 19, 2021).
However, on April 18, the Supreme Court invited the Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the U.S. government on the questions presented. The Supreme Court’s likelihood of granting cert. in any particular case increases by about 10-fold when a Solicitor General’s brief is requested, but more importantly, the Supreme Court follows the Solicitor General’s recommendation about 75% of the time.

CAFC Clarifies Experimental Use Exception, Reduces Damages in Partial Reversal of Sunoco Patent Infringement Win

On April 29, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded a decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois regarding alleged infringement by U.S. Venture Inc., (Venture) of certain patents owned by Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals L.P., (Sunoco). Sunoco sued Venture, alleging that its operation of butane-blending systems infringed claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,032,629 (the ‘629 patent), 6,679,302 (the ‘302 patent), and 9,606,548 (the ‘548 patent). Venture counterclaimed, asserting that the patents were not infringed, were invalid and unenforceable. The district court ultimately awarded Sunoco $2 million in damages, which were trebled to $6 million. Venture appealed the district court decision challenging “(I) [the] rejection of its on-sale-bar defense, (II) [the] determination that it infringed two patents we have since held invalid, (III) [the] construction of two claim terms, and (IV) [the] decision to enhance damages.” On cross-appeal, Sunoco challenged the lower court’s decision not to grant its reasonable-royalty award or lost-profits damages.

Understanding the Importance of Words in Design Patents

Is the scope of a design patent determined by the figures alone? Two recent Federal Circuit decisions highlight that the words describing the article of manufacture in the title and claims can indeed limit the scope and enforceability of a design patent. In particular, the title and claims of the design patent contain important information that provide a more accurate and predictable notice of what is and is not protected by the design patent. Thus, the title and the claims of a design patent are particularly relevant to the scope of the patent—both for procurement and enforcement.

DABUS Sent Back to Drawing Board Following Reversal of Inventorship Decision by Australia Court

On April 13, 2022, the Federal Court of Australia, on appeal, reversed its 2021 decision that DABUS, an artificial intelligence (AI) machine, qualified as an inventor for a patent application under Australian law. DABUS is a computer built, programmed and owned by Dr. Stephen Thaler. Thaler has filed patent applications in several countries around the world for inventions created by DABUS. Each application names DABUS as the sole inventor. Patent offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia determined that the applications were incomplete, since a human inventor was not identified. Thaler appealed each application in the patent offices, all of which continued to rule that an AI machine was not an inventor. On further appeals, courts in the United States and the United Kingdom have agreed with the patent offices and ruled against Thaler. However, in 2021, the Federal Court of Australia issued an opinion by a primary judge, who reversed the Australian Patent Office and held that Australia’s law did not require an inventor to be a natural person.

CAFC Vacates Section 112 Indefiniteness Ruling, Sending St. Jude Medical Back to Court

On April 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued a precedential decision in Niazi Licensing Corp. v. St. Jude Medical S.C., Inc. in which the court affirmed most of a ruling from the District of Minnesota, including sanctions against Niazi for improper use of expert testimony, as well as a finding of no induced infringement by St. Jude on one of Niazi’s asserted patent claims. However, the Federal Circuit’s decision reversed the Minnesota district court’s ruling invalidating most patent claims asserted by Niazi for indefiniteness under Section 112. The CAFC found that Niazi’s asserted claims were not invalid simply for including descriptive words or terms of degree, as long as the intrinsic record and extrinsic evidence enable a skilled artisan to identify the boundaries of a claim’s scope.

CAFC Says District Court’s Claim Construction Rendered Dependent Claims ‘Meaningless’

On April 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued a precedential decision in Littelfuse, Inc. v. Mersen USA EP Corp. clarifying how U.S. district courts handling claim construction are to construe a patent’s independent claims in light of limitations included in dependent claims. While the Federal Circuit found that the District of Massachusetts was correct to give meaning to the term “fastening stem” by looking to uses of “fastening” and “stem” within the patent, the appellate court vacated and remanded a stipulated judgment of non-infringement, as the district court’s construction of certain independent claim terms would render superfluous other claim terms from dependent claims.

Judge Michel Implores Full CAFC to Fix ‘Fuzzy’ Rebuttable Presumption of Nexus Jurisprudence

On March 20, Zaxcom, Inc., the owner of U.S. Patent No. 9,336,307 for Engineering Emmy® and technical OSCAR award-winning wireless microphone technology, petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) for rehearing en banc after the court found its original patent claims unpatentable as obvious. Zaxcom argued that the CAFC’s precedent in Fox Factory, Inc. v. SRAM LLC, 944 F.3d 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2019), “confused the law” regarding a rebuttable presumption of nexus. Now, former CAFC Chief Judge, Paul Michel, has filed an amicus brief supporting Zaxcom and asking the full CAFC to resolve “unintentional confusion and conflict” in the court’s obviousness jurisprudence.

CAFC Says Dyfan Claim Limitations are Not Invalid Due to Means-Plus-Function Format

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) reversed and remanded a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas that Dyfan, LLC’s claims were invalid as indefinite. The CAFC concluded that the disputed claim limitations were not drafted in means-plus-function format, and therefore 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 6 did not apply. Patent owner Dyfan sued Target Corp. for infringement of various claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 9,973,899 and 10,194,292. Following a claim construction hearing, the district court found that the disputed (1) “code”/“application” limitations and (2) “system” limitations of the patents-in-suit were invalid as indefinite. Specifically, the district court found that: (1) these claim limitations of the patents-in-suit are in means-plus-function format under Section 112 ¶ 6 and (2) the specification does not disclose sufficient structure corresponding to the recited functions. Dyfan subsequently appealed.

Lessons from Junker v. Medical Components, Inc. on Commercial Offers for Sale Invalidating a Patent

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) further explained the “on-sale” bar in Junker v. Medical Components, Inc., Case No. 2021-1649 (Feb. 10, 2022). As previously reported here, the case hinged on whether a letter between Larry Junker’s business partner and Boston Scientific Corporation (BSC) was a “commercial offer for sale” before the one-year grace period took effect. The CAFC held that all necessary terms for a commercial offer were present in the letter, and therefore, the letter qualified as a commercial offer for sale invalidating Junker’s patent.