- Deferred Examination I: For the current state of PTO backlog, I am a strong believer in providing a mechanism to either (i) allowing the inventor pay to move to the front of the examination line if the patent needs to be obtained quickly or (ii) allowing the inventor to delay prosecution if it is unclear whether the invented technology will have any market value. There are some potential negative issues of allowing deferred prosecution — particularly the potential for submarining and shifting claim scope to encompass market changes. These problems would largely be limited through early publication of deferred applications as well as continued enforcement of the written description and enablement requirements. In addition, the patent term should continue to run during deferment.
Deferred Examination II: In its response to congressional queries, PTO Director Jon Dudas has come-out in favor of a system that allows for deferred examination. The PTO’s tentatively proposed implementation scheme would move along a three-step process:
- Allow a 14–month extendible period for responding to a notice to file missing parts.
- Use a tiered payment structure that allows for delayed payment of the examination fee.
- Empower Provisional Applications: Allow applicant to claim priority to a provisional application for up to five years.
- Deferred Examination III: For many, including the PTO, the hope with deferred examination is that “many inventions … would be recognized as obsolete [or otherwise worthless] before expiration of the five year period and therefore would not require examination resources.”
- Rocket Docket Examination: In the past, the AIPLA and others have argued against having a rocket-docket examination based simply on the payment of a fee. Their argument is that it is somehow inequitable and un-American to line-jump based on the availability of funds. That argument is largely hog-wash. Many of the richest companies in the US maintain tight controls over patent prosecution costs. I suspect those companies would only rarely pay an additional $5,000 in PTO fees for rapid examination. (If a rocket docket for patent prosecution is created, the fee should be high enough to ensure that it does not simply create an additional bottleneck.)
- Clear Channel Communications now owes $90 million to Grantley Patent Holdings. The Eastern District of Texas jury found the patent willfully infringed with damages of $66 million. Last week, the Judge awarded an additional $16 million in enhanced damages in addition to prejudgment interest and interim royalties due.
Two Hong Kong companies have been fighting over a coffee maker design patent. Simatelex (who manufacturers for Sunbeam) has signed a consent decree admitting contributory infringement. The patentee’s case against Sunbeam is still pending in the Southern District of New York. Wing Shing v. Simatelex.