By Dennis Crouch
Gilbert Hyatt v. USPTO (D. Nevada 2014) (Download Hyatt v USPTO Complaint)
Inventor Gilbert Hyatt recently filed a lawsuit against the USPTO in his home state of Nevada asking that the USPTO be ordered to go ahead and examine his applications already. The complaint focuses primarily on two applications that have been pending "since the early 1970s – over 40 years." Hyatt's patents cover early microchip technology and have proven extremely valuable because of the ongoing explosion in that marketplace. Because these applications were filed prior June of 1995, they will have a patent term of 17 years from the issue date (assuming they eventually issue and their term not disclaimed). Hyatt keeps his pending applications secret and so we do not know which applications are at stake here, or the actual content of the file histories.
In the lawsuit, Hyatt alleges that these two applications have been pending before the USPTO Board of Appeals for a very long time (one more than twenty years):
In these two appealed patent applications – referred to herein as patent application Docket Nos. 104 and 112 – the PTO's patent examiners issued rejections of Mr. Hyatt's patent applications, which Mr. Hyatt timely appealed to the PTO's Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, now known as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board ("Appeal Board"). In both cases, the PTO failed to file any response. Rather than decide the appeals, the PTO has left them undecided for more than 20 years (in the case of patent application Docket No. 104) and for more than five years (in the case of patent application Docket No. 112). Each of these two patent applications has been pending before the PTO for more than forty years. . . .
Mr. Hyatt filed his patent applications and has prosecuted them in good faith and in accordance with PTO rules. Whether out of animus toward Mr. Hyatt or for other reasons, the PTO has demonstrated its determination not to allow Mr. Hyatt to obtain patents for his inventions. This Court's intervention is required to ensure that the PTO complies with the law.
Hyatt then asks the court to place strict deadlines on the PTO to decide his cases.
Hyatt makes the almost believable allegation that: "Several years ago, the PTO apparently determined that it would refuse to grant Mr. Hyatt any further patents, irrespective of the merits of his patent applications."
The complaint also highlights several other Hyatt applications where the PTO has "suspended examination" for very long periods of time:
At some point, rather than subject its decisions to review, the PTO apparently embraced a strategy of denying Mr. Hyatt any reviewable adjudication of his patent applications. Mr. Hyatt consequently has a large number of patent applications that have languished for years in various states of procedural limbo without an action on the merits or a decision on appeal.
In many cases, the PTO has simply ceased examination of Mr. Hyatt's patent applications on the merits. In many other cases, the PTO has refused to allow Mr. Hyatt's patent appeals to go to the Appeal Board for decisions.
For example, in seven cases that Mr. Hyatt filed in 1995, the patent examiners issued first office actions in 1995 or 1996, and Mr. Hyatt responded, yet the PTO has not issued an action on the merits in more than 17 years. Instead, the PTO repeatedly suspended action on these patent applications. Mr. Hyatt filed numerous "Petition[s] For An Action On The Merits" in these patent applications, but the PTO summarily dismissed those petitions.
For another set of applications, Hyatt walks through the PTO churning that involves repeated withdrawal of final rejections following appeal-brief filings by Hyatt.
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For the past 40+ years, the PTO has seen Hyatt as something of a pesky thorn in its side. The "problem" is that Hyatt takes full advantage of the law, hires excellent lawyers, and does not give-up. It turns out that it is the PTO's job to deal with Hyatt and to issue him the patents that he deserves.