February 2012

Intellectual Ventures Flexes Some Patent Muscle

The following is a guest post by Patrick Anderson of Patent Calls. Patrick originally published this on his own blog, GametimeIP.

Intellectual Ventures made a name for itself by (originally) negotiating patent licenses outside of litigation.  However, when those prospects started to run dry, IV launched a warning shot–which later appeared a bit underwhelming for a mass aggregator holding tens of thousands of patents.  This opening blow was followed by a series of targeted rifle shots, like their ITC enforcement action against Hynix and Elpida.  What these lawsuits collectively lacked was shock-and-awe, like Jay Walker's bold protestation against widespread, uncompensated use of his company's IP.  Until now, that is.

Intellectual Ventures has now sued AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint Nextel in a single lawsuit over fifteen different patents.  Breaking the news on its IV Insights Blog, the patent owner provided a copy of a complaint and a relatively simple statement noting that the aggregator "previously attempted to discuss licensing options with each of these companies, but none were responsive." The technology appears to mainly deal with techniques for managing cross-carrier text and multi-media messages, hence the combination of carriers in a single suit despite patent reform's partial ban on the practice.  Perhaps even more interesting are the various original sources of patents used in IV's most recent attack.

This week's lawsuit, more than the others IV previously waged, demonstrates the obvious power of massive patent aggregation.  The fifteen patents identified in the suit come from at least 10 different sources, including major companies, research institutions, one university and some individual inventors.  Separately, any given patent could be vulnerable to non-infringement arguments, or susceptible to a momentum-killing reexamination.  Combined, however, the patents are inherently much stronger.  Assume, for example, that for each patent asserted, the wireless carriers believed they had a 90% chance of invalidating all relevant claims at trial.  To prevail, the carriers must prevail in fifteen independent events, which carries only about a 20% likelihood of success.  And there is good reason to treat invalidation and infringement of each patent as an independent event because, although the patents are all related in general subject matter, most come from different sources and thus describe distinct inventions.

In fact, only three patents come from the same original owner–Conexant–who provided 6,977,944, 7,343,011 and 7,136,392.  Remaining contributors to IV's pool of asserted patents are responsible for only one patent each, and include Verizon (the only major wireless carrier absent from the suit), Motorola, Nokia, Telecordia Technologies (formerly BellCore, the Baby Bell's version of Bell Labs), and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Interestingly, while Verizon contributed patents to IV's collection, and managed to avoid this latest lawsuit, Motorola's deal with IV apparently did not come with rights, at least to some portfolios.  Motorola's contribution was part of a 344-asset sale to Torsal Technology Group back in 2008.  Torsal subsequently transferred the Motorola patent to Antozskij Research LLC, which merged with Intellectual Ventures I LLC earlier this month.  All three transactions used the same law firm to record the deal: Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt in Portland.  Telecordia's contribution is part of a transaction involving 45 assets sold to TTI Inventions B LLC in 2010.  TTI Inventions merged with Intellectual Ventures II, LLC earlier this month as well.  Telecordia is currently owned by Ericsson, but the sale to IV's holding company occurred during the ownership tenure of two notable private equity firms: Providence Equity Partners and Warburg Pincus.

Listed as lead counsel for IV is Martin Black of Dechert LLP, marking the sixth different law firm used as lead counsel for the aggregator.  Several are large, well-known law firms (including Susman Godfrey Weil Gothshall, and Irell & Manella).  This is the first lawsuit filed in 2012 for IV, and the first in nearly four months (John Desmarais' firm sued Nikon over five different patents in late October).  While IV's next move remains to be seen, it's safe to say things just got a lot more interesting.

Deference to BPAI: Federal Circuit Affirms Ruling that Monsanto’s Late-Filed Claims Win Priority over Pioneer’s Issued Patent

By Dennis Crouch

Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. ("Pioneer") v. Monsanto Technology LLC ("Monsanto") (Fed. Cir. 2012)

Both Pioneer and Monsanto claim to have invented the genetically modified variety of Zea Mays corn. In 1988, Pioneer filed its patent application and received U.S. Patent No. 6,258,999 in 2001 with a simple broad claim:

1. A fertile transgenic Zea mays plant comprised of stably incorporated foreign DNA, wherein said foreign DNA consists of DNA that is not from a corn plant and that is not comprised of a T-DNA border.

Monsanto filed its related GM Zea mays patent application in 2005 but asserted priority back to a 1990 filing date. The Board declared an interference in 2009 and assigned Pioneer as the senior party based upon its earlier filing date.

Both parties filed motions to the Board asking that the respective priority claims be denied. The board sided with Monsanto – finding that Monsanto's patent claim drafted in 2005 properly claimed priority to the 1990 filing document but that Pioneer's patented claim was not sufficiently disclosed in its 1988 application. That ruling made Monsanto the new senior party. On appeal, the Federal Circuit has affirmed.

Interference Claim Filing Date: On appeal, Pioneer argued that Monsanto's late-filed patent claim was time-barred by 35 U.S.C. § 135(b)(1). Under the statute, an interference can only be declared if the junior party makes a claim "prior to one year from the date on which the [senior party's] patent was granted." Here, the Federal Circuit affirmed the BPAI's ruling that Monsanto's patent claim submitted in 2005 was not time-barred even though it was filed four years after Pioneer's patent. That odd conclusion is based upon the [factual] conclusion that the 2005 was "sufficiently congruent" to patent claims filed by Monsanto before the critical date, even though no prior claim included all of the limitations found in the 2005 claim.

Burden of Proving/Disproving Priority: The second point on appeal focused on whether Pioneer's patent could properly claimed priority to its 1998 filing. Pioneer argued that the BPAI had improperly shifted the burden onto Pioneer for justifying an early priority date rather than forcing Monsanto to prove that Pioneer's patent claim was not entitled to the early filing-date priority. On appeal, the Federal Circuit agreed that Monsanto had the burden of showing why Pioneer should be deprived of its interference priority. However, the court agreed with the Board that Monsanto had met that burden by demonstrating that Pioneer's original application lacked any express reference to an embodiment in which the foreign DNA did not comprise a T-DNA border.

Deference: The case is perhaps most interesting for the clear deference that the appellate panel gives to the USPTO Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences – repeatedly focusing on whether the board committed reversible error rather than jumping to the underlying question of whether the Board made the correct decision. The Supreme Court's decision in Dickinson v. Zurko requires substantial deference be given for BPAI factual findings, although questions of law are still reviewed de novo.

Notes:

  • How this Relates to Marine Polymer: For this statute, the court provides a broad interpretation of the word "claim" that is not bound to the actual and literal text of the claim that is the subject of the interference. It is a parallel approach that led Judge Dyk to his conclusion in Marine Polymer that arguments made during prosecution change the scope of the claim and therefore should count as "amendments" under 35 U.S.C. 252. The issue of claim amendments under is important for reexaminations and reissue patents because those post-grant amendments (when "substantial") lead to absolute intervening rights for anyone using the invention prior to the amendments. The Federal Circuit has agreed to rehear the Marine Polymer case en banc later this year.
  • My Friend Dr. Zuhn has more at PatentDocs
  • Factual: In the text is bracket the word "factual" because it is not clear to me whether the conclusion of sufficiently congruent claims is a factual question regarding the scope of invention or a question of law based upon claim construction.

Political Candidates Sued for Patent Infringement

by Dennis Crouch

EveryMD v. Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich (C.D. California)

In a recent filing, Hollywood patent attorney and inventor Frank Weyer has sued Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and an estimated 4 million FaceBook business account holders for infringing Weyer's U.S. Patent No. 7,644,122. The lawsuit was filed by Weyer's company EVERYMD. That company provides communications services to over 300,000 medical doctors.

The complaint alleges that FaceBook business account holders infringe the patent by creating individual home pages for members of a group of members that contain controls for sending messages to and for submitting comments about the members. Download Complaint. In 2011, the patentee offered an open license to FaceBook business account holders for $500 per account. The complaint states that that reduced price license program "has ended."

The patent itself is in the midst of an inter partes reexamination originally requested by FaceBook. ?See Reexam No. 95/001,411. In the reexamination, all of the claims are currently on appeal to the Patent Office's internal Board of Appeals (BPAI) following a final rejection of the claims by an examiner in the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU). At least two other continuations of the application are pending and claim priority to the original 1999 filing date.

022812_1403_PoliticalCa1 In 2005, I reported on Weyer's case against Ford for infringing his patent on user-selectable multi-color instrument panel illumination. In an earlier case Weyer sued Network Solutions and Register.com for violating his patent on the selection of an e-mail address based on a domain name. He has also sued Harley Davidson, Bosch, and MySpace. Those cases have all settled. Prior to law school, Weyer was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho and now works as a volunteer engineer in Antarctic expeditions. I should also mention that Weyer's book M.I.T. Can Be Murder is for sale on Amazon. His screenplay based upon the book has received multiple honors.

Patently-O Bits & Bytes by Lawrence Higgins

Conference on Industry/Academic Collaborations: Lessons from the Trenches

  • Innovation remains a major driver of economic growth in this country, and research universities provide a key reservoir of innovation. Increasingly, universities and industry have joined forces to translate that potential into jobs and commercial industries. Designing the complex legal and business frameworks for these collaborations is an evolving art, which will be discussed by those at the forefront of these transactions. On February 29, at UC Hastings College of Law, individuals from some of the biggest companies in the world will discuss their relationships with Universities. Google, Hoffman-LaRoche, Intel, Pfizer and BP will speak about their collaborations. The Keynote Speaker will be Chris Vein, The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Guest speakers include: Robin Feldman, Susan Capello, Paul Willems, Louisa Daniels, Jeff Walz, Laura Berner, and many others. This event will also be streamed online for individuals who are unable to attend. [Link]

Federal Court Dismisses OSGATA Lawsuit

  • The OSGATA suit against Monsanto has been dismissed by the US District Court for the Southern District of NY. OSGATA claimed that they did not want or intend to grow crops containing Monsanto patented gene traits and they feared being sued by Monsanto. Judge Naomi Buchwald noted that, Monsanto averages about 13 patent infringement lawsuits targeted towards farmers per year, which is considered insignificant compared to the number of farms in the US. The court held that there was no case or controversy because Monsanto has yet to take action against any of the plaintiffs. [Link]

USPTO Detroit Office Update

  • The Elijah J. McCoy United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will open in Detroit, Michigan in July 2012. The USPTO plans to hire for more than 100 positions, including patent examiners and Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences judges. The USPTO hopes to fill more than 50 percent of the positions by the end of the summer. Vacancy announcements for patent examiner positions and judges have been posted on the USA Jobs website.

Student Writing Contest

  • The Pennsylvania Bar Association IP Law Section is accepting papers for its annual IP writing contest. The competition is open to all students enrolled in one of the Pennsylvania law schools and Pennsylvania residents enrolled at other law schools within the US. The first place winner will receive $2500 and the paper will be published. [Link]

Patent Jobs:

  • Banner & Witcoff is seeking an International IP Manager with a minimum of 10 years of experience in management to work in their DC or Chicago office. [Link]
  • Axiom is looking to hire patent attorneys with 7+ years of experience to work remotely. [Link]
  • Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox is looking for electrical IP attorneys with 1-4 years of experience to work in their DC office. [Link]
  • Hiscock & Barclay is seeking patent attorneys/agents with a minimum of 3-5 years of experience to work at their Syracuse & Rochester offices. [Link]
  • The Coca-Cola Company is searching for a patent agent with 2-4 years of experience to work at their Atlanta location. [Link]
  • The USPTO is looking for patent examiners with a BS degree in engineering to work at their Alexandra location. [Link]
  • Steptoe & Johnson is seeking IP associates with a minimum of 4 years of experience in IP litigation to work in their DC office. [Link]
  • Fish & Richardson is looking for technical advisors with a background in EE, physics, or CS to work at one of their several offices. [Link]
  • Klemchuk Kubasta is searching for a patent associate with at least 4 years of experience to work in their Dallas office. [Link]
  • Guntin Meles & Gust is seeking patent attorneys with 3+ years of experience and a degree in EE or Computer Engineering to work in their Chicago office. [Link]
  • Levine Bagade Han is looking for a patent associate with 2-6 years of experience to work in their Palo Alto office. [Link]
  • Myers Wolin is searching for a patent attorney with 3-5 years of experience and a degree in EE to work at their Morristown, NJ office. [Link]
  • Young Basile is seeking a patent attorney with 2+ years of experience and a degree in ME, EE, or CS to work in their Ann Arbor office. [Link]

Upcoming Events:

  • The Florida Bar 3rd Annual IP Law Symposium will be held on March 1-2 on Orlando. The IP Symposium will address recent developments and important issues in IP law, including: Perspectives on the America Invents Act, Copyright Law and the First Sale Doctrine, Third Party Liability in IP, Enforcing IP on the Internet, Latest Developments in Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Law, and Recent Developments at the TTAB. Guest speakers include; Anne Gilson LaLonde, Scott Bain, John Welch, and many others. [Link]
  • Section 101 Gatekeepers: Finding the Patentable Subject Matter Line in a Judicial Sandstorm, webinar will be hosted by AIPLA on March 7. The webinar will be presented by Professor Christopher Holman and attorney Robert H. Fischer. [Link]
  • LES (USA & Canada) 2012 Winter Meeting will be held March 12-14 in Anaheim, CA. The meeting will focus on cutting-edge issues in the high tech space with overlapping content in related industries, including clean tech, nanotech, and medical devices. Featured speakers include Honorable Randall Rader, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Catherine Casserly, CEO, Creative Commons; and Patrick Ennis, Head of Global Technology, Intellectual Ventures. Patently-O readers save $100 with code PO1. [Link]
  • The New Jersey Intellectual Property Law Association will hold a half-day Patent Litigation Seminar on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 11:45 am to 5:45 pm. Guest speakers include: Paul Berghoff, Kara Stoll, William McElwain, Richard Bress, Barbara Fiacco, and Lewis Ho. [Link]
  • C5's 22 Forum on Biotech Patenting conference will take place March 14-15 in Munich, Germany. The conference brings together experienced in-house counsel from both innovator and generic pharma and biotech companies and their expert legal advisors from various jurisdictions across the globe. Session will cover the patentability of gene sequence patents in Europe and the US, current developments on biotech products and patent considerations for bio-deposits, and many other sessions. (Patently-O readers register with PO 10 for a discount). [Link]
  • American Conference Institute's FDA Boot Camp conference is scheduled for March 20-21 in New York, NY. ACI's FDA Boot Camp has been designed to give products or patent litigators, as well as patent prosecutors, industry in-house counsel, and life sciences investment and securities experts, a strong working knowledge of core FDA competencies. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]
  • American Conference Institute's PTO Procedures Under the America Invents Act conference is scheduled for March 26-27 in New York, NY. This conference will serve as a practical and tactical guide for PTO practice post-Patent Reform. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]
  • The ABA Section of IP Law will hold its 27th Annual IP Law Conference March 28-30 in Arlington, VA. The conference is recognized for its national and international scope and preeminent programming. It attracts IP practitioners from across the nation and around the world. Speakers and moderators include: Sharon Marsh, Keisha Hylton-Rodic, Alexander Wilson, Steven Emmert, Teresa Rea, James Bikoff, David Kappos, and many others. The discounted early registration deadline is March 14. [Link] [Link]
  • The IP Section of the Atlanta Bar Association and Georgia State University Law School will hold its 8th annual SpringPosium at the Barnsley Gardens resort on April 13 &14. Some example seminars will include: the new America Invents Act, Federal Court best practices, IP law and life practice management, and recent developments in damages law. Guest speakers include: Clerk of Court and Chief Deputy Clerk of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Jan Horbaly and Pamela Twiford and Clerk of Court of the US District Court for the North District of Georgia, James Hatten.
  • The European Generic Medicines Association is hosting the 10th EGA International Symposium regarding Biosimilar Medicines on April 19-20 in London. Greenblum & Bernstein is providing a pre-symposium workshop on April 19, 2012 titled: Biosimilars In America: IP Strategy and Due Diligence. The workshop will explore the mechanics of the Biologics Act with an emphasis on how the Act relates to the involved intellectual property and how the intellectual property may impact the biosimilar applicant's strategy for entering the market. [Link]
  • ACI will hold its 6th Annual Paragraph IV Disputes conference on April 24-25 in New York City. The conference will cover topics such as: the impact of the AIA on Hatch-Waxman litigation, claim construction, prior art obviousness and obvious-type double patenting, and many other topics. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]

Contact Lawrence.Higgins@patentlyo.com with leads for future Bits and Bytes.

Patently-O Bits & Bytes by Lawrence Higgins

Conference on Industry/Academic Collaborations: Lessons from the Trenches

  • Innovation remains a major driver of economic growth in this country, and research universities provide a key reservoir of innovation. Increasingly, universities and industry have joined forces to translate that potential into jobs and commercial industries. Designing the complex legal and business frameworks for these collaborations is an evolving art, which will be discussed by those at the forefront of these transactions. On February 29, at UC Hastings College of Law, individuals from some of the biggest companies in the world will discuss their relationships with Universities. Google, Hoffman-LaRoche, Intel, Pfizer and BP will speak about their collaborations. The Keynote Speaker will be Chris Vein, The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Guest speakers include: Robin Feldman, Susan Capello, Paul Willems, Louisa Daniels, Jeff Walz, Laura Berner, and many others. This event will also be streamed online for individuals who are unable to attend. [Link]

Federal Court Dismisses OSGATA Lawsuit

  • The OSGATA suit against Monsanto has been dismissed by the US District Court for the Southern District of NY. OSGATA claimed that they did not want or intend to grow crops containing Monsanto patented gene traits and they feared being sued by Monsanto. Judge Naomi Buchwald noted that, Monsanto averages about 13 patent infringement lawsuits targeted towards farmers per year, which is considered insignificant compared to the number of farms in the US. The court held that there was no case or controversy because Monsanto has yet to take action against any of the plaintiffs. [Link]

USPTO Detroit Office Update

  • The Elijah J. McCoy United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will open in Detroit, Michigan in July 2012. The USPTO plans to hire for more than 100 positions, including patent examiners and Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences judges. The USPTO hopes to fill more than 50 percent of the positions by the end of the summer. Vacancy announcements for patent examiner positions and judges have been posted on the USA Jobs website.

Student Writing Contest

  • The Pennsylvania Bar Association IP Law Section is accepting papers for its annual IP writing contest. The competition is open to all students enrolled in one of the Pennsylvania law schools and Pennsylvania residents enrolled at other law schools within the US. The first place winner will receive $2500 and the paper will be published. [Link]

Patent Jobs:

  • Banner & Witcoff is seeking an International IP Manager with a minimum of 10 years of experience in management to work in their DC or Chicago office. [Link]
  • Axiom is looking to hire patent attorneys with 7+ years of experience to work remotely. [Link]
  • Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox is looking for electrical IP attorneys with 1-4 years of experience to work in their DC office. [Link]
  • Hiscock & Barclay is seeking patent attorneys/agents with a minimum of 3-5 years of experience to work at their Syracuse & Rochester offices. [Link]
  • The Coca-Cola Company is searching for a patent agent with 2-4 years of experience to work at their Atlanta location. [Link]
  • The USPTO is looking for patent examiners with a BS degree in engineering to work at their Alexandra location. [Link]
  • Steptoe & Johnson is seeking IP associates with a minimum of 4 years of experience in IP litigation to work in their DC office. [Link]
  • Fish & Richardson is looking for technical advisors with a background in EE, physics, or CS to work at one of their several offices. [Link]
  • Klemchuk Kubasta is searching for a patent associate with at least 4 years of experience to work in their Dallas office. [Link]
  • Guntin Meles & Gust is seeking patent attorneys with 3+ years of experience and a degree in EE or Computer Engineering to work in their Chicago office. [Link]
  • Levine Bagade Han is looking for a patent associate with 2-6 years of experience to work in their Palo Alto office. [Link]
  • Myers Wolin is searching for a patent attorney with 3-5 years of experience and a degree in EE to work at their Morristown, NJ office. [Link]
  • Young Basile is seeking a patent attorney with 2+ years of experience and a degree in ME, EE, or CS to work in their Ann Arbor office. [Link]

Upcoming Events:

  • The Florida Bar 3rd Annual IP Law Symposium will be held on March 1-2 on Orlando. The IP Symposium will address recent developments and important issues in IP law, including: Perspectives on the America Invents Act, Copyright Law and the First Sale Doctrine, Third Party Liability in IP, Enforcing IP on the Internet, Latest Developments in Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Law, and Recent Developments at the TTAB. Guest speakers include; Anne Gilson LaLonde, Scott Bain, John Welch, and many others. [Link]
  • Section 101 Gatekeepers: Finding the Patentable Subject Matter Line in a Judicial Sandstorm, webinar will be hosted by AIPLA on March 7. The webinar will be presented by Professor Christopher Holman and attorney Robert H. Fischer. [Link]
  • LES (USA & Canada) 2012 Winter Meeting will be held March 12-14 in Anaheim, CA. The meeting will focus on cutting-edge issues in the high tech space with overlapping content in related industries, including clean tech, nanotech, and medical devices. Featured speakers include Honorable Randall Rader, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Catherine Casserly, CEO, Creative Commons; and Patrick Ennis, Head of Global Technology, Intellectual Ventures. Patently-O readers save $100 with code PO1. [Link]
  • The New Jersey Intellectual Property Law Association will hold a half-day Patent Litigation Seminar on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 11:45 am to 5:45 pm. Guest speakers include: Paul Berghoff, Kara Stoll, William McElwain, Richard Bress, Barbara Fiacco, and Lewis Ho. [Link]
  • C5's 22 Forum on Biotech Patenting conference will take place March 14-15 in Munich, Germany. The conference brings together experienced in-house counsel from both innovator and generic pharma and biotech companies and their expert legal advisors from various jurisdictions across the globe. Session will cover the patentability of gene sequence patents in Europe and the US, current developments on biotech products and patent considerations for bio-deposits, and many other sessions. (Patently-O readers register with PO 10 for a discount). [Link]
  • American Conference Institute's FDA Boot Camp conference is scheduled for March 20-21 in New York, NY. ACI's FDA Boot Camp has been designed to give products or patent litigators, as well as patent prosecutors, industry in-house counsel, and life sciences investment and securities experts, a strong working knowledge of core FDA competencies. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]
  • American Conference Institute's PTO Procedures Under the America Invents Act conference is scheduled for March 26-27 in New York, NY. This conference will serve as a practical and tactical guide for PTO practice post-Patent Reform. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]
  • The ABA Section of IP Law will hold its 27th Annual IP Law Conference March 28-30 in Arlington, VA. The conference is recognized for its national and international scope and preeminent programming. It attracts IP practitioners from across the nation and around the world. Speakers and moderators include: Sharon Marsh, Keisha Hylton-Rodic, Alexander Wilson, Steven Emmert, Teresa Rea, James Bikoff, David Kappos, and many others. The discounted early registration deadline is March 14. [Link] [Link]
  • The IP Section of the Atlanta Bar Association and Georgia State University Law School will hold its 8th annual SpringPosium at the Barnsley Gardens resort on April 13 &14. Some example seminars will include: the new America Invents Act, Federal Court best practices, IP law and life practice management, and recent developments in damages law. Guest speakers include: Clerk of Court and Chief Deputy Clerk of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Jan Horbaly and Pamela Twiford and Clerk of Court of the US District Court for the North District of Georgia, James Hatten.
  • The European Generic Medicines Association is hosting the 10th EGA International Symposium regarding Biosimilar Medicines on April 19-20 in London. Greenblum & Bernstein is providing a pre-symposium workshop on April 19, 2012 titled: Biosimilars In America: IP Strategy and Due Diligence. The workshop will explore the mechanics of the Biologics Act with an emphasis on how the Act relates to the involved intellectual property and how the intellectual property may impact the biosimilar applicant's strategy for entering the market. [Link]
  • ACI will hold its 6th Annual Paragraph IV Disputes conference on April 24-25 in New York City. The conference will cover topics such as: the impact of the AIA on Hatch-Waxman litigation, claim construction, prior art obviousness and obvious-type double patenting, and many other topics. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]

Contact Lawrence.Higgins@patentlyo.com with leads for future Bits and Bytes.

Bar to Courts: Please Define “Unpatentably Abstract”

By Dennis Crouch

Fort Properties, Inc. v. American Master Lease LLC, __ F.3d __ (Fed.Cir. 2012)(Judge Prost joined by Judges Schall and Moore.

American Master Lease (AML) owns a patent that covers a method of creating a tax-deferred real estate investment instrument. U.S. Patent No. 6,292,788. Claim 1 includes three primary steps: aggregating title to real property to form a real estate portfolio; encumbering the property in the real estate portfolio with a master agreement; and creating a plurality of deedshares by dividing title in the real estate portfolio into a set of tenant-in-common deeds with each of the deedshares subject to a reaggregation provision in the master agreement. This method is designed to take advantage of a federal income tax loophole that allows investment properties to be traded tax free in some circumstances.

This litigation arose after AML threatened Fort Properties with an infringement lawsuit and Fort Properties filed an action in the Central District of California asking for a declaratory judgment of invalidity. In a decision predating Bilski v. Kappos, the district court ruled the patent invalid for failing the machine-or-transformation test (MoT). On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed – finding the invention unpatentably abstract.

Unpatentably Abstract: Courts have long recognized patent claims as abstractions that tend to generalize and broaden the scope of a particular invention. That small level of abstraction is acceptable and encouraged. However, if a claim is too abstract then it becomes unpatentably abstract. At a conference this weekend, Chief Judge Rader, USPTO Solicitor Chen, and I held an interesting discussion on drawing that line. In my view, “preemption” is largely unhelpful because it falls into the same line drawing trap: A patent is only useful if it sufficiently preempts (i.e., excludes) others, but at some point too much preemption renders a claim unpatentably preemptive. I believe that all three of us see the current jurisprudence on abstract ideas as problematic. It leaves the courts and patent examiners without any real standards for determining an outcome other than asking whether the particularly claimed invention is “too much like Bilski, Benson, or Flook?”

Here, the appellate panel reviewed the tax strategy patent and decided that it counts as abstract because the invention is too much like Bilski.

We view the present case as similar to Bilski. Specifically, like the invention in Bilski, claims 1-31 of the ’788 patent disclose an investment tool, particularly a real estate investment tool designed to enable tax-free exchanges of property. This is an abstract concept. Under Bilski, this abstract concept cannot be transformed into patentable subject matter merely because of connections to the physical world through deeds, contracts, and real property. . . . When viewing the claimed invention as a whole, the physical activities involving the deeds, contracts, and real property are insufficient to render these claims patentable.

Some of the claims included a computer limitation. However, the court held that limitation did not impose any meaningful limits on the claim scope for subject matter eligibility purposes. “AML simply added a computer limitation to claims covering an abstract concept—that is, the computer limitation is simply insignificant post-solution activity. Without more, claims 32-41 cannot qualify as patent-eligible.”

The problem with the court’s jurisprudence here is that “unpatentably abstract” is not defined. Rather, the court simply recited the core function of the invention and the conclusion that it is abstract.

Does Agency Funding Affect the PTO’s Decisionmaking?

By Jason Rantanen

Both practitioners and academics constantly debate the extent to which factors other than the "true" patentability of an invention affect the patent office's decision to grant or deny an applicant a patent.  A recent empirical study by professors Michael Frakes of Cornell and Melissa Wasserman of Illinois explores one such potential externality: the influence of the PTO's budgetary structure on the decision whether or not to grant a patent.

In Does Agency Funding Affect Decisionmaking?: An Empirical Assessment of the PTOs' Granting Patterns (available here), Frakes & Wasserman theorize that elements of the PTO's fee schedule that are collected only in the event that patents issue create incentives for the PTO to grant additional patents, and that these incentives have their greatest effect in times of agency underfunding.  If this hypothesis is correct, the current funding structure of the PTO may bias it in unintended directions, such as towards granting patents associated with large enterprises rather than individuals and small entities.

The authors then empirically test their predictions using a natural experiment approach revolving around the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1990, an Act that both greatly increased the fees assessed by the PTO and left the PTO essentially fully funded by user fees.  After applying sophisticated statistical techniques to address a variety of complications flowing from the nature of the problem examined, they present results suggesting that the PTO's fee structure induces the agency to grant at an incrementally higher rate to high renewal rate technologies and to applicants with large entity status, and that these effects are consistent with a PTO that seeks to maximize its funds during times in which it is in greater need of funds as opposed to a PTO that acts in all instances as a self-interested budget maximizing entity. 

A copy of the article can be downloaded here

Political Candidates Sued for Patent Infringement

by Dennis Crouch

EveryMD v. Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich (C.D. California)

In a recent filing, Hollywood patent attorney and inventor Frank Weyer has sued Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and an estimated 4 million FaceBook business account holders for infringing Weyer's U.S. Patent No. 7,644,122. The lawsuit was filed by Weyer's company EVERYMD. That company provides communications services to over 300,000 medical doctors.

The complaint alleges that FaceBook business account holders infringe the patent by creating individual home pages for members of a group of members that contain controls for sending messages to and for submitting comments about the members. Download Complaint. In 2011, the patentee offered an open license to FaceBook business account holders for $500 per account. The complaint states that that reduced price license program "has ended."

The patent itself is in the midst of an inter partes reexamination originally requested by FaceBook. See Reexam No. 95/001,411. In the reexamination, all of the claims are currently on appeal to the Patent Office's internal Board of Appeals (BPAI) following a final rejection of the claims by an examiner in the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU). At least two other continuations of the applicatoin are pending and claim priority to the original 1999 filing date.

022812_1403_PoliticalCa1 In 2005, I reported on Weyer's case against Fordfor infringing his patent on user-selectable multi-color instrument panel illumination. In an earlier case Weyer sued Network Solutions and Register.com for violating his patent on the selection of an e-mail address based on a domain name. He has also sued Harley Davidson, Bosch, and MySpace. Those cases have all settled. Prior to law school, Weyer was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho and now works as a volunteer engineer in Antarctic expeditions. I should also mention that Weyer's book M.I.T. Can Be Murder is for sale on Amazon. His screenplay based upon the book has received multiple honors.

New IP Hall of Fame Members

Several years ago, Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) Magazine started the Intellectual Property Hall of Fame.  Each year, the organization requests nominations from the public and then asks members of its IP Hall of Fame Academy to vote for inductees. The fifty–member Academy is made up of living Hall of Fame inductees and a handful of others (including myself).

This year, six inductees were selected, including USPTO Director Dave Kappos and former Director Q. Todd Dickinson, former Copyright Register Marybeth Peters, trademark expert Professor Thomas McCarthy, Beatrix de Russe who has built Technicolor’s amazing patent licensing operations, and Alan Drewsen who is retiring from his position as longtime executive director of INTA. Congratulations on these new inductees.

Link

Mettler-Toledo v. B-Tek: Limiting Claim Elements to the Preferred Embodiment

By Jason Rantanen

Mettler-Toledo, Inc. v. B-Tek Scales, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2012) Download 11-1173-1200
Panel: Bryson, Moore (author), Reyna

547 patentIn my Introduction to Intellectual Property class this week we discussed the classic tension between (1) reading the claims in light of the specification and (2) not importing limitations from the specification into the claims.  In most instances the court attempts to strike a balance between these two canons (exemplified by Phillips).  When means-plus-function claims are involved, however, different rules apply – as this case illustrates.

At issue in Mettler-Toledo was technology for weighing objects, such as large commercial trucks. The first of Mettler's asserted patents, No. 4,815,547, describes an individual load cell; the second, No. 4,804,052, describes a system and method for correcting weight measurements based on the location of objects on a scale.  Following jury findings that the patents were not infringed and that the '052 patent would have been obvious, the district court denied Mettler's JMOL.  Mettler appealed.

On appeal, Mettler challenged a key construction of the '547 patent claims: that several of the means-plus-function terms require a multiple slope integrating A/D converter, and equivalents thereof, rather than any generic A/D converter.  Mettler contended that by limiting the claims in this way the district court erred by importing the structure of only the preferred embodiment into the claims. 

The CAFC rejected this argument.  "Our case law is clear that a means-plus-function claim limitation is limited to the structures disclosed in the specification and equivalents."  Slip Op. at 7.  Here, the patentee chose to disclose only a single embodiment; thus, the means-plus-function claim was necessarily limited to that embodiment.  "If a patentee chooses to disclose a single embodiment, then any means-plus-function claim limitation will be limited to the single disclosed structure and equivalents thereof."  Id.  Nor was a single reference to an "A/D converter" in the Abstract sufficient to compel a broader structural disclosure because it was not linked to any claimed function.

Obviousness: The CAFC also affirmed the district court's denial of JMOL of nonobviousness of the '052 patent.  Mettler's challenge was based on the argument that a prior art reference did not teach correcting for load position, an element of each claim of the '052.  The CAFC rejected this argument, first noting that the issue of what is disclosed by a prior art reference is a question of fact, then concluding that substantial evidence supported the jury's finding as to the teaching of the 'prior art reference. 

B-Tek's Cross Appeal for Sanctions: During the litigation B-Tek requested documents relating to Mettler's manufacturing capacity in order to rebut Mettler's lost profits damages claim.  Although Mettler stated that it had no such documents, during trial a Mettler employee admitted that certain documents existed (a production schedule and plant diagram).  Mettler further admitted that it provided some of these documents to its damages expert.  The district court denied B-Tek's motion for sanctions on the grounds that the possible existence of these documents had been disclosed during a deposition, these documents were of marginal relevance, and that B-Tek could not show any harm or prejudice given that it prevailed on the issue of infringement. 

On appeal, the CAFC concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to sanction Mettler, correctly considering the relevance of the documents and the any harm to B-Tek.

Edited to clarify the first sentence. 

Federal Circuit: COACH not a sufficiently famous brand and therefore cannot oppose a similar mark on a trademark dilution principle.

Coach Services v. Triumph Learning (Fed. Cir. 2011)

Coach is a famous American handbag maker.  Coach bags sell for $300 or more each and the company typically earns billions of dollars in revenue each year selling Coach branded products.  Triumph Learning makes test prep materials it also sells under the trade name "Coach."  Triumph's success has been driven by the no-child-left-behind testing requirements and the company sells most of its Coach-branded products to schools hoping to prepare their students for state mandated exams.

The dispute here arose when Coach Services opposed Triumph's trademark registration for use of the COACH mark. Triumph won at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) and has now won on appeal.

Here, Coach Services had little success showing a likelihood of confusion because the two companies operate in such distinct market areas and offer products that are distinct from one another.  The most interesting aspect of the appeal for trademark law is the court's rejection of Coach Services' dilution claim under the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006 ("TDRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c).  For patent attorneys considering practicing before the future Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) the most important aspects of the opinion focus on the odd but forceful rules of evidence applied by the Board and supported here by the Federal Circuit.

Trademark Dilution: The holder of a famous mark has trademark rights that go beyond the normal likelihood of confusion test found in the Lanham Act. In a dilution claim a famous mark holder can also stop uses that are likely to blur or tarnish the mark even in the absence of potential customer confusion.  Here, Coach Services argued that Triumph's use of COACH for its services blurred the power of the mark by using it for non-related, non-luxury goods.

Not Famous: In a dilution claim, the law requires that the mark holder prove that its mark is widely recognized by the general public. When the mark is also a common word – such as COACH – the mark holder must also demonstrate that those ordinary "uses of the mark are now eclipsed by the owner's use of the mark . . .  in almost any context" and that the mark has become "a household name."  Coach services failed to convince the judges that its mark was sufficiently famous to qualify.

For its case, Coach presented a set of facts to prove that its mark was sufficiently famous. These included: (1) sales and advertising figures for years 2000-2008; (2) its sixteen federal trademark registrations on the mark; (3) extensive unsolicited media attention referring to the mark; (4) joint marketing efforts for the mark; (5) two Second Circuit decisions finding the Coach hang-tag, which features the COACH mark, to be famous; and (6) Coach Services' internal brand awareness survey showing extensive awareness among 18-24 year old consumers.

None of these factual arguments persuaded the judges that the COACH mark was famous. In particular, the court rejected the company's sales and advertising figures because they had not been properly authenticated and admitted as evidence before the TTAB. Further, none of the facts presented by Coach Services actually lead to the conclusion that the word mark COACH is a household name that overwhelms the ordinary use of the word coach.

Notes:

  • In some of my courses, I have historically used an image of a Coach brand bag to think through some trademark and trade dress principles. This year, I had to go through three students before someone recognized the brand.

Suffolk Law Event

by Dennis Crouch

On Friday (2/24) I will be speaking at a Suffolk University Law School day-long patent law symposium.  My panel will focus on patentable subject matter and will include commentary from Chief Judge Rader, USPTO Solicitor Ray Chen, and Boston attorneys Marry Murray, Paul Cronin, and Scott Pierce. Later in the day panels will discuss patent reform as well as ongoing litigation strategies.  I hope to see you there. http://www.law.suffolk.edu/academic/als/coursedetail.cfm?cid=746

 

Tune in today (Feb 21) for the USPTO’s Senior Leadership Webinar at 4:30-5:30 pm EST. (Submit questions early to webinar@uspto.gov). The webinar will include Director Dave Kappos; Deputy Director Terry Rea, Patents Commissioner Peggy Focarino, General Counsel Bernie Knight, and BPAI Chief Judge James Smith. USPTO Chief of Staff Peter Pappas will moderate.

To join, direct your browser to: https://uspto-events.webex.com/uspto-events/onstage/g.php?d=998930187&t=a. Use the secret password: 123456. Phone in at 408.600.3600 (Access code: 998 930 187).

Supreme Court: No Move Yet on Denying Human Gene Patents

The Supreme Court is in the midst of deciding whether to grant the Ass’n of Molecular Pathology’s petition for a writ of certiorari in the Myriad gene patent case. The petition, led by public interest patent attorney Dan Ravicher, poses a simple question to the court: “Are human genes patentable?” Petitioners also ask the Supreme Court to provide more latitude for public interest groups to challenge patents even in the absence of any personal or direct threat of an infringement action – arguing that the Federal Circuit is not following the Supreme Court’s guidance set forth in MedImmune.

In addition to the party briefs, ten amici briefs were filed with the court from a variety of medical associations, hospitals, and professors – all in support of the petitioners. None of the major patent law associations filed briefs in the case.

The briefs were complete and distributed to the Justices on January 25 in preparation of a February 17 conference. In patent cases, the typical result of the conference is that the court either (1) grants certiorari; (2) denies certiorari; (3) invites comments from the Solicitor General; or (4) does nothing until the next conference. We learned today that the Supreme Court is following path number 4 – no action until next time. At some point before the close of term, the Supreme Court will revisit the case and announce that it is following one of the other paths. In an e-mail, Hal Wegner noted that the Supreme Court is scheduled to release new orders three times during next five weeks.

The delay may well be related to the fact that the Court is in the midst of drafting a merits decision in another § 101 patent-eligibility case of Mayo v. Prometheus. Although the Mayo case focuses on medical methods rather than genes per se, there is still a good chance that outcomes will be linked.

Other Denials: The court today did deny certiorari in several patent cases, including Janssen Biotech, Inc. v. Abbott Laboratories; Hynix Semiconductor v. Rambus; and Eastman Chemical Co. v. Wellman, Inc.

In Janssen Biotech, the patentee unsuccessfully challenged the de facto heightened written description standard that the court has placed on biotechnology focused patents. In Hynix, the accused infringer unsuccessfully asked the Supreme Court to follow principles of equity in preventing infringement claims over industry-standard products by a patentee who had concealed its pending patent applications from the standard setting organization and had amended its claims during prosecution to cover the agreed-upon standard. In Eastman Chemical, the Supreme Court refused to consider whether the Federal Circuit should add some teeth to the indefiniteness doctrine codified in 35 U.S.C. §112(2).

APPLE V MOTOROLA in the EPO and Germany – patentability of user interface features

Guest Post by Paul Cole of the UK firm of Lucas & Co.

According to BBC News last Friday, Apple has succeeded in the German courts in enforcing a patent for a user interface feature for its mobile devices. The ruling demonstrates the value of European patents for "software" inventions where a "technical" effect can be demonstrated. The claims in the granted patents and the problems that they solve provide insight about what features of a user interface might be regarded as "technical" by the EPO. The advantages to a software developer of being able to patent innovative interface features that are important to the "look and feel" of the device and the software running on it are self-evident.

The affirmed patent is EP-B-1964022 which relates to the "slide to unlock" feature found in iPhones. The claim as granted is set out below:

A computer-implemented method of controlling a portable electronic device comprising a touch-sensitive display, comprising:
-detecting contact with the touch-sensitive display while the device is in a user-interface lock state;
-transitioning the device to a user-interface unlock state if the detected contact corresponds to a predefined gesture; and
-maintaining the device in the user-interface lock state if the detected contact does not correspond to the predefined gesture; characterized by
moving an unlock image along a predefined displayed path on the touch-sensitive display in accordance with the contact, wherein the unlock image is a graphical, interactive user-interface object with which a user interacts in order to unlock the device.

A copy of the decision is not yet available online, but study of the online file of the European patent application (which was not opposed after grant) is instructive. The Examining Division accepted that the provision of a device control method with visual feedback was a technical problem but objected that the claimed subject matter was obvious because dragging and dropping were known. In their reply, Apple argued that the objective technical problem was to provide a more efficient user-friendly procedure for unlocking a portable device and to provide a sensory feedback to the user regarding progress towards satisfaction of a user input condition that was required for unlocking to occur. As set out in the claim, the unlock image signalled to the user that the device was locked and simultaneously indicated a contact point that a user had to touch in order to unlock the device. The displayed path indicated to the user where and how the unlock image had to be moved and the current position of the image indicated progress already made towards the unlocked condition. The method was easier than in the prior art where a sequence of operations had to be memorised.

The second patent, EP-B-2059868 which relates to the handling of digital images, has not yet been ruled on by the German courts However, the granted claim and the reasons for grant are also of interest since any iPhone user will be familiar with the "Camera-Roll" feature in question.The main claim is set out below.

A computer-implemented method, comprising: at a device with a touch screen display:
-detecting a first movement of a physical object on or near the touch screen display;
-while detecting the first movement, translating a first digital object displayed on the touch screen display in a first direction, wherein the first digital object is associated with a set of digital objects; characterized in that:
-in response to display of a previously hidden edge of the first digital object and continued detection of the first movement, displaying an area beyond the edge of the first digital object;
-after the first movement is no longer detected, translating the first digital object in a second direction until the area beyond the edge of the first digital object is no longer displayed;
-detecting a second movement of the physical object on or near the touch screen display; and
-in response to detecting the second movement while the previously hidden edge of the first digital object is displayed, translating the first digital object in the first direction and displaying a second digital object in the set of digital objects.

It appears from the file of the granted patent (which again was not opposed) that the technical effect of allowing a user to navigate within an image and to switch between images with a minimum of user input types was sufficient to support patentability.

The EPO acted as International Searching Authority, International Preliminary Examination was not necessary since the written opinion accompanying the search was favourable to patentability, and no objections were raised on entry into the European regional phase. The advantages to US applicants of using the EPO as ISA and possibly subsequently IPEA if allowable subject matter is likely to be identified are also self-evident.

It is instructive to compare these two granted European patents with another "look and feel" application which was refused by the EPO (EP1249014, Appeal Board decision T 0050/07; US 6396520). Interestingly this is the only Apple patent or application which appears to have been the subject of proceedings before an EPO Appeal Board. The invention concerned transition of a window between a maximised state and an icon state on the taskbar.

The main claim before the EPO Appeal Board read:

A method of transitioning a window on a computer screen between an open state and a minimized state, comprising the steps of:
-obtaining location information associated with a first window position in the open state;
-obtaining location information associated with a second window position in the minimized state;
-defining a set of curves, wherein said curves connect two selected points that relate to a dimension of said window in its first position to corresponding points of said window in its second position; and
-displaying said window at successive positions within said curves from said first position to said second position while scaling said dimension of the window to fit within said curves in a manner so as to give the appearance of sliding.

The issues before the Appeal Board provide an object lesson in how the state of the art at the application date, the exclusions as to patentable subject matter under a.52 EPC and the limitations of the disclosure of the application itself can exert a collective "squeeze" such that the result is refusal.

The closest prior art was US 6002402 (Schacher, Symantec) which showed a window transitioning between a maximised and an icon state, and novelty was to be found in the set of curves through which the transition took place producing a "funnel-like" effect and the display of the window at successive positions while it was being scaled down.

Arguments based on improved functionality received short shrift, the Appeal Board observing:

"Moreover, the alleged ergonomic improvement achieved by directing the user's attention to the final destination of the minimized window, so that the user will remember its location and, thus, find it again more rapidly, is not convincing either. As far as the precise location of the minimized window on the task bar is remembered at all by the user, this will only be ergonomically valuable to the user for a short amount of time, after which it will normally be forgotten. Furthermore, as minimized windows are at any rate typically arranged according to some predefined scheme (typically added at the end of the task bar or returned to the corresponding application button on the task bar) the user would already know where to find the minimized window. Therefore, the board is not convinced that there would be any added ergonomic value in drawing the user's attention to the final destination of the minimized window in the claimed manner."

The differences between the invention and the prior art were therefore held to reside in the production of an aesthetic effect. Since that effect had no technical character, it could not in itself contribute to inventive step. However, it could be taken into account in formulating the objective technical problem over Schacher which was how to achieve the specified "funnel-like" effect. The information in the specification in this regard was limited, as indicated by the flowchart below:

The description did not show that there was any difficulty in the shifting and scaling operations, and on the contrary the description explained that a variety of techniques for doing this would be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the Appeal Board held that the achievement of the indicated technical effect was held to be straightforward for a designer of graphical user interfaces.

If Apple had drilled further down into the transition method than they did, was there anything else that could have saved the application? The look and feel of a window as it transitions to and from the taskbar is a striking effect which it is submitted impresses most users each time they see it happen. The specification explains that the display is updated line-by-line during the transition and the image is recalculated for each line, but that was evidently not enough for allowance and in any event would be easy to avoid. However, in addition to software the invention is in the field of moving images where visibility and human persistence of vision are important. Was there an optimum time, or a range of optimum times within which the transition could take place without interfering with the operation of the computer and which would display the most clearly visible and most aesthetically satisfying sequence of images to the user? It is possible that the range of times for which the "micro-movie" that users see at each window transition lasts would not have been held to be obvious and instead would have been held to require thought both from the operating system point of view and from the standpoint of user trials. A limitation along these lines could have been something that the Appeal Board might have found less easy to treat dismissively.

One take-away message for US applicants is the need to draft applications bearing in mind the exclusions under the EPC: stating as one of the main objects of the inventions "to provide more aesthetically pleasing operations" plays straight into the hands of an Examining Division or Appeal Board within the EPO and even if such objects can and should be stated, functional objects are best set out first. Another message is not to overlook the role of the human user in the invention: in the refused application the needs of the computer and the attractiveness of the micro-movie as a matter of shape were explained but what was necessary for the user to see the "micro-movie" and how long it should last were left unstated.

Whither Obviousness: Narrow Range Anticipated by Broader Range in Disclosure

By Dennis Crouch

ClearValue v. Pearl River Polymers (Fed. Cir. 2012) (Opinion by Judge Moore, joined by Judges PROST and SCHALL)

This case presents a classic law school hypothetical of an invention that is anticipated but likely not obvious. According to the appellate panel, the prior art fully discloses and enables the invention but also teaches that the proposed invention is impractical and does not work well. As discussed below, however, the anticipation holding itself is somewhat controversial because it is based upon the conclusion that a broad range disclosure found in the prior art ("less than 150 ppm") anticipates the narrower range found in the claims ("less than 50 ppm").

A jury found ClearValue’s patent valid and infringed and the district court denied the defendants motions to set the patent verdict aside. On appeal the Federal Circuit reversed based upon the appellate court's own factual finding that a single prior art reference teaches and enables each element of the asserted patent claim.

Background: The patent at issue is directed to a process for clarifying water using a flocculated suspension of aluminum along with high molecular weight quarternized polymers. The listed inventor, Richard Haase continues to be an owner of the patent and also CEO of ClearValue. Haase has filed more than 50 water purification and energy related patents and is also a graduate of the University of Missouri (ChemE + Mathematics + Economics). The defendant, Pearl River was once ClearValue’s customer but later began making its own version of the patented process.  ClearValue and Haase sued for patent infringement and for trade secret violation (for using the process without authority even before he filed for patent protection).

Anticipation versus Obviousness: The appeal focused on anticipation. Pearl River argued that all of the elements of CV's asserted claim were previously disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 4,800,039 (Hassick). The jury found otherwise. As a matter of procedure, a jury's verdict must be supported by "substantial evidence." If not, it must be set aside either by the district court or on appeal. At trial, the defendants had presented their case that Hassick taught each element of the claimed invention while the plaintiffs pointed only to "teaching away" found in patent. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, "teaching away" is legally irrelevant to the question of anticipation. See Celeritas Techs., Ltd. v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., 150 F.3d 1354, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 1998). Rather, under 35 U.S.C. § 102 a claim will be anticipated and therefore invalid if a single prior art reference describes "each and every claim limitation and enable[s] one of skill in the art to practice an embodiment of the claimed invention without undue experimentation." Quoting Am. Calcar, Inc. v. Am. Honda Motor Corp., 651 F.3d 1318, 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2011).

Genus Species Anticipation: The only gap in the prior art disclosure was that Hassick generally disclosed "low-alkalinity systems (i.e., 150 ppm or less)" and "alkalinity of between 60-70 ppm" while the asserted patent claimed "alkalinity less than or equal to 50 ppm." In its 2006 Atofina decision, the Federal Circuit addressed a similar genus-species situation involving a narrow claimed temperature range and a broader temperature range found in the prior art. Atofina v. Great Lakes Chem. Corp., 441 F.3d 991 (Fed. Cir. 2006). In Atofina, the court held that a broad genus range disclosure in the prior art did not anticipate the narrow species range claimed. There, both the hypothetical “person having skill in the art”  (PHOSITA) and the patentee agreed that there was something special or “critical” about the claimed temperature range. The court distinguished this case from Atofina based upon its factual conclusion that “there is no allegation of criticality or any evidence demonstrating any difference across the range.”  Based upon the logical analysis that the narrow range is not critically different from the broad range, the Federal Circuit held that the claimed narrow range was fully disclosed by the broad range and therefore is unpatentable.

Comment – Whither Obviousness: Interesting notion: The mechanism that the court used to distinguish this case from Atofina are very much akin to obviousness principles — looking essentially for synergy or unexpected results that make the narrow range qualitatively different from the broad range.  It seems to me, however, that if these obviousness principles can be used to extend the anticipatory scope of prior art, then other obviousness principles (such as teaching away) should also be relevant.

Trade Secret Negated by Prior Art?: The Texas jury found Pearl River liable for trade secret misappropriations. However, the district court rejected that conclusion based upon an implicit admission by ClearValue that all of the elements of the alleged trade secret were publicly known at the time and found in the Hassick reference.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed without further analyzing the extent that public availability of knowledge in the form of a third-party prior art document is sufficient to disqualify the knowledge as a trade secret. I am not an expert on Texas trade secret law, but the at least the Restatement of Torts is clear that a trade secret “may be a device or process which is clearly anticipated in the prior art.”

 

 

USPTO Maintenance Fees

by Dennis Crouch

[This is an update of my 2009 post on the topic]

Over half of the USPTO operational budget is derived from maintenance (or renewal) fees paid by patentees. Fees are due at 3½, 7½, and 11½ years after issuance and each subsequent fee is substantially higher. Thus, under the current schedule, the first fee is $1,130, the second fee is $2,850, and the third fee is $4,730.  For the USPTO, this comes without any costs — all the work of examining is already complete.  The funds are used to subsidize ongoing examination. The USPTO has proposed to increase the maintenance fees substantially in near future as a mechanism of raising further funds for patent operations. 

The chart below shows the percentage of patents where maintenance fee payments are made for patents grouped by year of patent issuance.  The vast majority of patentees pay the first fee, but only about 50% pay all three. The 12–year delay in paying fees makes the chart appear to be missing data on the right side.

USPTO revenue from maintenance fees has been growing over time — lead primarily by an increase in the number of patents issued; an increase in the percentage of fees paid; an increase in the fees charged; and a decrease in the percentage of small entities who pay only ½ fare.

PatentlyO129

All USPTO fees are subject to market whims and macro-economic effects.  Maintenance fees are a particular problem because a decrease in maintenance fee payments does not lead to any decrease in workload for the Office. In 2009, the USPTO was suffering under a budget shortfall and I noted that the greatest cause of that shortfall was the dropping rate of renewal.

As an aside – it is interesting to note that, even though small entities receive a 50% discount on maintenance fee payments, they are much more likely to abandon their patents and not pay the mantenance fees. [Link]

Patently-O Bits & Bytes by Lawrence Higgins

USPTO Patent Externship

  • The USPTO will be accepting application for their patent externship until February 29. Last year there were about 200 students who participated in the program. The program will last anywhere from 8-10 weeks and is at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. This is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to work in the patent field. [Link]

Chisum Patent Academy

  • The Chisum Patent Academy will hold its next Intensive Patent Law Training Seminar in New York City on Feb. 22-24, 2012. Topics to be addressed include the America Invents Act of 2011, recent nonobviousness decisions, inequitable conduct post-Therasense, and the continuing schism in the Federal Circuit over patent claim construction. The Chisum Patent Academy offers what CLE providers and patent bar review courses simply can’t: premium-quality patent law education in a unique seminar-style setting. Co-taught by leading patent law scholars Donald Chisum and Janice Mueller, the intensive three-day seminars are limited to ten (10) participants and conducted in roundtable, interactive style. [Link]

Patent Jobs:

  • Stoel Rives is searching for an associate attorney with 3-5 years of experience in patent prosecution and an EE background to work at their Salt Lake City office. [Link]
  • Weaver Austin Villeneuve & Sampson is seeking a patent attorney with 3-5 years of experience and a background in EE to work at their Oakland office. [Link]
  • Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner is looking for patent attorneys with 2+ years of experience or 5+ years of experience if telecommuting. [Link]
  • Holland & Knight is searching for 2 IP litigation associates with 4-6 years of experience to work at their Boston or Chicago offices. [Link]
  • Howard & Howard is seeking IP associates with 4-8 years of experience of patent prep experience to work at their Royal Oak, Michigan office. [Link]
  • Armstrong Teasdale is looking for patent attorneys with 2-6 years of experience to work in one of their offices. [Link]
  • Pramudji Law Group is searching for a patent agent/attorney/engineer with at least 2 years of patent experience to work at their Houston office. [Link]
  • Shook, Hardy & Bacon is seeking a litigation associate with 3-4 years of litigation experience work in their Kansas City office. [Link]
  • Paul Hastings is searching for a patent litigation associate with a computer science degree and experience with patent litigation to work in their Atlanta office. [Link]
  • Krieg DeVault is looking for an IP associate with 3-7 years of experience to work in their Indianapolis office. [Link]
  • UTC Power is searching for an IP paralegal with 2-4 years of IP experience to work at their South Windsor, Connecticut location. [Link]
  • Fennemore Craig is seeking an experienced patent attorney to work in their Phoenix or Denver office. [Link]
  • Gore Medical Products is searching for an IP technical specialist to work at their Flagstaff location. [Link]
  • Wells St. John PS is looking for a patent attorney with 4+ years of experience in all aspects of IP practice to work at their Spokane office. [Link]
  • Sutherland is seeking a patent associate/agent with 2-5 years of experience and a degree in chemical engineering to work at their Atlanta office. [Link]

Upcoming Events:

  • IBC Legal’s 20th Annual Biotech & Pharmaceutical Patenting Conference 2012 will be held on February 21-22 in Munich, Germany. Get advice and analysis from a diverse team of international life science and IP experts on recent case law and developments, patent filing, patent life cycles, SPCs, patent infringement, EC Bolar implementation and more! Patently-O readers get a 10% discount when registering with this link. [Link]
  • Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery LLP will present a free one-hour CLE webinar, “Patent Reexaminations in Parallel with Litigation,” on February 22, 2012 at 12 noon EST. Joseph E. Shipley will discuss the factors that should be considered in deciding whether to seek reexamination as an alternative or adjunct to litigating patent validity in the federal courts. Topics will include what can and cannot be achieved in reexamination, current statistics on outcome, associated risks and costs, time frames, and reexamination options and alternatives. The upcoming new USPTO procedures–Post-Grant Review and Inter Partes Review–will also be covered. [Link]
  • The 7th Annual Conference on EU Pharma Law & Regulation will be held on February 22-23 in London. The conference will bring together eminent in-house counsel from the world’s largest pharma and biotech companies, top legal practitioners and regulatory experts in an outstanding speaker panel. (Patently-O readers register with PO 10 for a discount). [Link]
  • Maurer School of Law Center for IP Research will hold a CLE Fundamentals of Federal Circuit Advocacy event on February 23. Greg Castanias will lead a discussion of patent appeals before the Federal Circuit. Also appearing: Center for Intellectual Property Research senior advisor Donald Knebel, Prof. Mark D. Janis, and former Federal Circuit clerk Allison Kerndt. [Link]
  • The Florida Bar 3rd Annual IP Law Symposium will be held on March 1-2 on Orlando. The IP Symposium will address recent developments and important issues in IP law, including: Perspectives on the America Invents Act, Copyright Law and the First Sale Doctrine, Third Party Liability in IP, Enforcing IP on the Internet, Latest Developments in Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Law, and Recent Developments at the TTAB. Guest speakers include; Anne Gilson LaLonde, Scott Bain, John Welch, and many others. [Link]
  • Section 101 Gatekeepers: Finding the Patentable Subject Matter Line in a Judicial Sandstorm, webinar will be hosted by AIPLA on March 7. The webinar will be presented by Professor Christopher Holman and attorney Robert H. Fischer. [Link]
  • LES (USA & Canada) 2012 Winter Meeting will be held March 12-14 in Anaheim, CA. The meeting will focus on cutting-edge issues in the high tech space with overlapping content in related industries, including clean tech, nanotech, and medical devices. Featured speakers include Honorable Randall Rader, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Catherine Casserly, CEO, Creative Commons; and Patrick Ennis, Head of Global Technology, Intellectual Ventures. Patently-O readers save $100 with code PO1. [Link]
  • C5′s 22 Forum on Biotech Patenting conference will take place March 14-15 in Munich, Germany. The conference brings together experienced in-house counsel from both innovator and generic pharma and biotech companies and their expert legal advisors from various jurisdictions across the globe. Session will cover the patentability of gene sequence patents in Europe and the US, current developments on biotech products and patent considerations for bio-deposits, and many other sessions. (Patently-O readers register with PO 10 for a discount). [Link]
  • American Conference Institute’s FDA Boot Camp conference is scheduled for March 20-21 in New York, NY. ACI’s FDA Boot Camp has been designed to give products or patent litigators, as well as patent prosecutors, industry in-house counsel, and life sciences investment and securities experts, a strong working knowledge of core FDA competencies. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]
  • American Conference Institute’s PTO Procedures Under the America Invents Act conference is scheduled for March 26-27 in New York, NY. This conference will serve as a practical and tactical guide for PTO practice post-Patent Reform. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]
  • The European Generic Medicines Association is hosting the 10th EGA International Symposium regarding Biosimilar Medicines on April 19-20 in London. Greenblum & Bernstein is providing a pre-symposium workshop on April 19, 2012 titled: Biosimilars In America: IP Strategy and Due Diligence. The workshop will explore the mechanics of the Biologics Act with an emphasis on how the Act relates to the involved intellectual property and how the intellectual property may impact the biosimilar applicant’s strategy for entering the market. [Link]

Contact Lawrence.Higgins@patentlyo.com with leads for future Bits and Bytes.

Patently-O Bits & Bytes by Lawrence Higgins

USPTO Patent Externship

  • The USPTO will be accepting application for their patent externship until February 29. Last year there were about 200 students who participated in the program. The program will last anywhere from 8-10 weeks and is at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. This is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to work in the patent field. [Link]

Chisum Patent Academy

  • The Chisum Patent Academy will hold its next Intensive Patent Law Training Seminar in New York City on Feb. 22-24, 2012. Topics to be addressed include the America Invents Act of 2011, recent nonobviousness decisions, inequitable conduct post-Therasense, and the continuing schism in the Federal Circuit over patent claim construction. The Chisum Patent Academy offers what CLE providers and patent bar review courses simply can’t: premium-quality patent law education in a unique seminar-style setting. Co-taught by leading patent law scholars Donald Chisum and Janice Mueller, the intensive three-day seminars are limited to ten (10) participants and conducted in roundtable, interactive style. [Link]

Patent Jobs:

  • Stoel Rives is searching for an associate attorney with 3-5 years of experience in patent prosecution and an EE background to work at their Salt Lake City office. [Link]
  • Weaver Austin Villeneuve & Sampson is seeking a patent attorney with 3-5 years of experience and a background in EE to work at their Oakland office. [Link]
  • Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner is looking for patent attorneys with 2+ years of experience or 5+ years of experience if telecommuting. [Link]
  • Holland & Knight is searching for 2 IP litigation associates with 4-6 years of experience to work at their Boston or Chicago offices. [Link]
  • Howard & Howard is seeking IP associates with 4-8 years of experience of patent prep experience to work at their Royal Oak, Michigan office. [Link]
  • Armstrong Teasdale is looking for patent attorneys with 2-6 years of experience to work in one of their offices. [Link]
  • Pramudji Law Group is searching for a patent agent/attorney/engineer with at least 2 years of patent experience to work at their Houston office. [Link]
  • Shook, Hardy & Bacon is seeking a litigation associate with 3-4 years of litigation experience work in their Kansas City office. [Link]
  • Paul Hastings is searching for a patent litigation associate with a computer science degree and experience with patent litigation to work in their Atlanta office. [Link]
  • Krieg DeVault is looking for an IP associate with 3-7 years of experience to work in their Indianapolis office. [Link]
  • UTC Power is searching for an IP paralegal with 2-4 years of IP experience to work at their South Windsor, Connecticut location. [Link]
  • Fennemore Craig is seeking an experienced patent attorney to work in their Phoenix or Denver office. [Link]
  • Gore Medical Products is searching for an IP technical specialist to work at their Flagstaff location. [Link]
  • Wells St. John PS is looking for a patent attorney with 4+ years of experience in all aspects of IP practice to work at their Spokane office. [Link]
  • Sutherland is seeking a patent associate/agent with 2-5 years of experience and a degree in chemical engineering to work at their Atlanta office. [Link]

Upcoming Events:

  • IBC Legal’s 20th Annual Biotech & Pharmaceutical Patenting Conference 2012 will be held on February 21-22 in Munich, Germany. Get advice and analysis from a diverse team of international life science and IP experts on recent case law and developments, patent filing, patent life cycles, SPCs, patent infringement, EC Bolar implementation and more! Patently-O readers get a 10% discount when registering with this link. [Link]
  • Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery LLP will present a free one-hour CLE webinar, “Patent Reexaminations in Parallel with Litigation,” on February 22, 2012 at 12 noon EST. Joseph E. Shipley will discuss the factors that should be considered in deciding whether to seek reexamination as an alternative or adjunct to litigating patent validity in the federal courts. Topics will include what can and cannot be achieved in reexamination, current statistics on outcome, associated risks and costs, time frames, and reexamination options and alternatives. The upcoming new USPTO procedures–Post-Grant Review and Inter Partes Review–will also be covered. [Link]
  • The 7th Annual Conference on EU Pharma Law & Regulation will be held on February 22-23 in London. The conference will bring together eminent in-house counsel from the world’s largest pharma and biotech companies, top legal practitioners and regulatory experts in an outstanding speaker panel. (Patently-O readers register with PO 10 for a discount). [Link]
  • Maurer School of Law Center for IP Research will hold a CLE Fundamentals of Federal Circuit Advocacy event on February 23. Greg Castanias will lead a discussion of patent appeals before the Federal Circuit. Also appearing: Center for Intellectual Property Research senior advisor Donald Knebel, Prof. Mark D. Janis, and former Federal Circuit clerk Allison Kerndt. [Link]
  • The Florida Bar 3rd Annual IP Law Symposium will be held on March 1-2 on Orlando. The IP Symposium will address recent developments and important issues in IP law, including: Perspectives on the America Invents Act, Copyright Law and the First Sale Doctrine, Third Party Liability in IP, Enforcing IP on the Internet, Latest Developments in Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Law, and Recent Developments at the TTAB. Guest speakers include; Anne Gilson LaLonde, Scott Bain, John Welch, and many others. [Link]
  • Section 101 Gatekeepers: Finding the Patentable Subject Matter Line in a Judicial Sandstorm, webinar will be hosted by AIPLA on March 7. The webinar will be presented by Professor Christopher Holman and attorney Robert H. Fischer. [Link]
  • LES (USA & Canada) 2012 Winter Meeting will be held March 12-14 in Anaheim, CA. The meeting will focus on cutting-edge issues in the high tech space with overlapping content in related industries, including clean tech, nanotech, and medical devices. Featured speakers include Honorable Randall Rader, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Catherine Casserly, CEO, Creative Commons; and Patrick Ennis, Head of Global Technology, Intellectual Ventures. Patently-O readers save $100 with code PO1. [Link]
  • C5′s 22 Forum on Biotech Patenting conference will take place March 14-15 in Munich, Germany. The conference brings together experienced in-house counsel from both innovator and generic pharma and biotech companies and their expert legal advisors from various jurisdictions across the globe. Session will cover the patentability of gene sequence patents in Europe and the US, current developments on biotech products and patent considerations for bio-deposits, and many other sessions. (Patently-O readers register with PO 10 for a discount). [Link]
  • American Conference Institute’s FDA Boot Camp conference is scheduled for March 20-21 in New York, NY. ACI’s FDA Boot Camp has been designed to give products or patent litigators, as well as patent prosecutors, industry in-house counsel, and life sciences investment and securities experts, a strong working knowledge of core FDA competencies. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]
  • American Conference Institute’s PTO Procedures Under the America Invents Act conference is scheduled for March 26-27 in New York, NY. This conference will serve as a practical and tactical guide for PTO practice post-Patent Reform. (Patently-O readers register with PO 200 for a discount). [Link]
  • The European Generic Medicines Association is hosting the 10th EGA International Symposium regarding Biosimilar Medicines on April 19-20 in London. Greenblum & Bernstein is providing a pre-symposium workshop on April 19, 2012 titled: Biosimilars In America: IP Strategy and Due Diligence. The workshop will explore the mechanics of the Biologics Act with an emphasis on how the Act relates to the involved intellectual property and how the intellectual property may impact the biosimilar applicant’s strategy for entering the market. [Link]

Contact Lawrence.Higgins@patentlyo.com with leads for future Bits and Bytes.

Predicting Patent Litigation – A Response by Professor Chien

In the preceding post, I highlighted two recent critiques of Professor Colleen Chien's recent article on predicting patent litigation.  Below, Professor Chien responds to these critiques. – Jason

By Colleen V. Chien, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Santa Clara School of Law

In my article Predicting Patent Litigation, I describe the relationship between a number of intrinsic and previously unexplored acquired patent variables and the likelihood of the patent being litigated.  In the article, I state that “from the starting point presented here, there are a number of directions that follow-up research could take to improve the resolution of the ranking approach described here that, while promising, does not provide a ‘commercial grade’ solution to outstanding patent-clearance problems.” Along this vein, Petherbridge and Kesan et al provide thoughtful suggestions and questions about how the analysis could be verified, refined, and extended.  Their input is timely as efforts to do so are just getting underway, as part of adapting this exploratory project to commercial settings. Looking at more, and more recent patents, replicating the analysis, and adding additional variables, where it makes sense, will necessarily be part of this effort.

Since my paper was published I have been approached by a dozen or so parties interested in testing and applying the paper’s insights. The diversity of these interests addresses the two questions raised by the commentators. First, how precise must the model be? Though Petherbridge’s answer is “much more so,” the answer necessarily depends on the context of the application. On one hand, no level of precision in the algorithm can best a patent lawyer’s expert analysis of the claims and in very few cases would it make sense to proceed solely based on a mere calculation. On the other hand, if an insurance company is trying to use this as one of a variety of variables for calculating defense insurance rates, or for related applications where this filter is applied with others, this kind of algorithm can be useful. Likewise, the question, what variables should be considered? cannot be answered in a vacuum. Kesan et al suggest variables such as whether the particular patent is embodied in a product and the historical revenue of the patent owner. But even assuming these are better than other variables, the difficulty of getting them may make them impractical in many cases.

My article flags the difficulties with tracing what happens to a patent after issue as a potential problem but was not intended to definitively recommend that recordation rules be changed. Indeed, as I have explained in my recent comment “The Who Owns What Problem in Patent Law,” there are many reasons, the majority of which are economic and inadvertent rather than strategic, that it’s hard to determine who owns what patents. As part of the Kappos administration’s helpful efforts to improve access to patent data (examples here and here), the PTO has recently solicited input on this very question. While greater applicant disclosure is worth considering, I believe that the PTO could do much more with the information it already has. Currently, you cannot search among only in-force patents, or easily tell who the owner of record of patent is, how many times it has been cited, how much longer it may be in force, whether it has been reexamined, who requested the reexamination, or whether or not the current owner is a large or small entity. Yet making this information, which already exists, more accessible and supportive of business decision-making, could go a long way to enhancing the public’s ability to assess patent risks and opportunities.