Tag Archives: USPTO Director

Remarks By Director Michelle K. Lee at the George Washington University School of Law

The following is an excerpt from PTO Director Michelle Lee’s keynote address today, at George Washington University Law School. Read the full remarks here.- DC

How do we continue to incentivize … incredible innovations? First, we must ensure that the USPTO issues the highest quality patents as quickly and efficiently as possible. This means, at a minimum, continuing to bring down our backlog and pendency so that good ideas can be patented quickly. Which is why I am proud to report that we’ve reduced our backlog of unexamined patent applications by almost 30 percent from its peak in January 2009, despite a 32 percent increase in applications over this time period. Our so-called first action pendencies – that measure the time from filing an application to the time of obtaining an initial decision from the examiner— are down by 43 percent—from 28 months in 2011 to 16 months today. Our total pendencies – the time from filing an application to the time of obtaining a final office action, such as an allowance—are down by 26 percent—from 35 months in 2010 to 26 months today. Our backlog of Ex Parte Appeals – that’s not AIA proceedings, but our internal appeal process to the Board after the examiner issues her decision – has also gone down. We have reduced our inventory of ex parte appeals by 45 percent from a high of about 26,000 in 2012 to about 15,000 today. And, we have reduced the average pendency for appeals by 30 percent from 28 months in 2016 to 19 months today. In short, our backlog and pendencies are now lower than they’ve been in more than a decade, and they will continue to go down. Simply stated, this means more inventors are obtaining more patents more quickly. . . .

We constantly welcome—in fact, we solicit—feedback and input. And we have shown that we are willing to refine and improve as many times as needed. For example, we’ve provided applicants with more access to examiner interviews more than doubling the number of interview hours in just eight years. We’ve had more RFC’s, Proposed Rules, and public roundtables than ever before – including on such topics as our Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, our 101 guidance, and our Patent Trial and Appeal Board proceedings. We’ve also brought a broader range of services to support American innovators where and when needed, including through four regional offices across the country, and through over a dozen IP attaches across the globe. For those of you who may not know, our attaches in China, the EU, India, Brazil, and other locations help U.S. innovators obtain and enforce IP rights outside the US, and also help advocate for improved IP laws outside the U.S. . . .

Examining patents quickly and efficiently is only part of the job. The public relies on us to issue quality patents. Today, we have about a dozen programs underway that we believe will meaningfully improve patent quality. These include programs for making sure we’re getting the most relevant prior art before our examiners as early as possible by making prior art cited in our PTAB proceedings available to examiners handling related applications, and transitioning all our examiners from the decades old, antiquated U.S. Patent Classification System to the updated, increasingly global Cooperative Patent Classification System. Developing best practices such as for enhancing the clarity of the record. And developing new and better ways to measure our progress. For example, with our Master Review Form, we are now processing twice as many reviews, and capturing data not only about the correctness of our actions, but also about the clarity of our actions. This helps us identify trends, and helps us pinpoint very specific areas for training. Finally, and, importantly, for the first time in 40 years, we are doing a comprehensive review of the amount of time our examiners need to do their work in light of the many recent changes within the patent system. We are already seeing measurable and statistically significant results in our patent quality efforts even in the short amount of time since we began the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative. And you can look forward to more improvements in the future. In sum, the USPTO is operating well, and is issuing more, higher quality patents than ever. …

What work lies ahead? Our top priority today is to make sure the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s AIA proceedings are as effective and as fair as possible–within our Congressional mandate. Now is the right time to examine and make any needed reforms to these proceedings, because we have five years of data and experience to guide us. …

Let’s take a look at where we are with the AIA trials today. We have shared regular updates on the number of cases and the results of those cases, but we want to break down the numbers even further so that everyone has the facts, as there have been many numbers cited – some of which are accurate, some of which are not.

Slide 1 Revised

This waterfall slide is our attempt to present even more data in a more accessible and transparent format. According to waterfall slide data, which shows the status of every petition filed since beginning of AIA, of those petitions that have reached some sort of final disposition (i.e., are not pending), about one third of all petitions are denied institution and do not go to trial; about one third of all petitions settle either before or after the decision to institute; and only about one third of all petitions ever reach final written decision. It is only at that point of reaching final written decision is it relevant to talk about the patentability or unpatentability of the claims of a patent. And, at that point, it is true that 66 percent of petitions will find all instituted claims of the patent unpatentable, 17 percent of petitions will find all instituted claims of the patent patentable, and an additional 17 percent will have mixed results (some instituted claims will be found to be patentable and some will be found to be unpatentable). So statements that “all” or 95 percent or even 80 percent of patents are found unpatentable are not supported by the data and do not account for prior disposition by settlement or by denial of institution.

Slide 2 Revised

Drilling down further on the institution rate, here is some helpful data from the years the AIA trials have been in effect. As you can see, the institution rate in our proceedings has been steadily declining from a high of 87 percent in the beginning, to about two thirds today. These are the numbers, and these are the facts. Now, our stakeholders have understandably asked how the rates of unpatentability in AIA proceedings, reflect on the quality of all of the other patents we’ve issued. . . . [T]here are almost 2.8 million patents in force. Incredible. Of those 2.8 million about 4,000 patents have been challenged in AIA trials. This represents less than 0.2 percent of the patents currently in force. …

As I have said many times in the past, the USPTO is constantly looking for ways to make the AIA trials as effective and as fair as possible within our Congressional mandate.  And we welcome your suggestions and ideas, the more specific, the better. To this end, we’ve set up a mailbox where you can submit your ideas at PTABProceduralReformInitiative@uspto.gov. This is an early opportunity to provide input. Your feedback here will help form the basis for our recommendations to the administration on next steps.

In fact, we have already heard from a number of you regarding a number of issues. As discussed:

  1. Multiple petitions, and how best to curb abusive practices.
  2. Whether to provide other opportunities to amend claims later in the proceedings when patent owners may have a better sense of where their claims stand,
  3. Whether to reevaluate our claim construction standards in view of new data and experiences, and
  4. How to best incorporate the findings and legal conclusions of prior proceedings at the USPTO, including examination and other post-grant proceedings, as well as, importantly, proceedings conducted in the federal courts.
  5. What considerations should go into a decision to institute, for example, how can we better take into account considerations such as the interests of justice, economic factors, and hardship.
  6. As to decisions to institute, whether there should be additional review of institution and termination decisions—and by whom.
  7.  When and how to permit parties to join proceedings.
  8. When and under what circumstances might it be appropriate to extend the length of the proceedings beyond 12 months and what impact would extensions have on litigations before, not only the Board, but district courts. . . .

[W]e are [also] streamlining the way the Board identifies and designates opinions as precedential, with the goal of designating more opinions precedential. Why? Because doing so 1). Improves the consistency across panels of the Board, and 2). Provides greater notice to the public to help you make better informed decisions on how to manage your Board proceedings. . . .

Fees: Finally, we are also proposing increases to our AIA trial fees. . . . We believe, as many of you do, that these proceedings should be self-funded. I commend our team for making thoughtful initial cost projections and for recommending revisions to ensure that these proceedings are fully self-funded. There is much to do on AIA proceedings, patent quality, and in many other areas, and I promise you that we are working diligently, with a sense of purpose, every day.

In closing, we all want what’s best for this country’s inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs. Because it is through their efforts that our country remains at the forefront – economically and globally. Simply stated—and I think President Trump and Secretary Ross would agree—we want the United States to out-innovate and out-perform our global competitors, producing new jobs and new technologies and new industries that benefit all Americans, including individual inventors and those in our small businesses and startups. Let’s not forget that the modest businesses and unknown inventors of today may become the largest and most well-known drivers of our economy tomorrow. To make that happen, Congress, the courts, the administration (especially the USPTO), and even all of you here today, must all work together to make sure the system envisioned by our Founding Fathers lives up to its purpose to promote innovation. You have the commitment of the entire USPTO team that we will play our part to ensure that we continue to incentivize the kind of innovations that make our lives better and safer And that put men and women—like Mr. Iver Anderson with his lead-free solder—in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Our future depends upon it. Thank you.

IPR Petition Response => Claim Construction Disclaimer

Aylus Networks v. Apple (Fed. Cir. 2017)

The court here holds that claim construction “prosecution disclaimer” applies to statements made by the patentee in a preliminary response to an IPR proceeding.  This holding makes sense and was entirely expected — however it also sets yet another trap for patentees seeking to enforce their patent rights.

The appeal here involves Aylus infringement lawsuit against Apple that alleges AirPlay infringes U.S. Patent No. RE 44,412.  After Aylus sued Apple for infringement, Apple responded with two inter partes review (IPR) petitions challenging all of the patented claims.  However, the Director (via the PTAB) refused to grant the petition as to several claims, including 2, 4, 21, and 23.

Back in the litigation, Aylus amended its complaint to only allege infringement of those non-instituted claims.  In its subsequent motion for summary judgment of non-infringement, Apple argued for a narrow interpretation of the claimed use of “CPP logic . . . negotiate media content delivery between the MS and the MR.”  As evidence for the narrow interpretation, Apple and the district court focused on statements by the patentee (Aylus) in its preliminary response to Apple’s IPR petition.  On appeal here, the Federal Circuit has affirmed:

[S]tatements made by a patent owner during an IPR proceeding, whether before or after an institution decision, can be relied on to support a finding of prosecution disclaimer.

Those of us closely following IPR doctrine will raise some hairs at this statement since the Federal Circuit has previously held that “IPR does not begin until it is instituted.” Shaw Indus. Grp., Inc. v. Automated Creel Sys., Inc., 817 F.3d 1293, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2016).   Here, the court recognized that general holding, but found that it dies not apply “for the purposes of prosecution disclaimer.” Rather, for this situation, the court found that the proceedings begin with the IPR petition.

If I were writing the opinion, I would have come to the same result – that statements by the applicant to the PTO can form prosecution disclaimer.  However, I would have reached the conclusion without upsetting and further complicating the definition of an IPR proceeding.

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An oddity of all of this is that the Federal Circuit appears quite concerned in this case about the linkages between claim construction during inter partes review and subsequent litigation, but previously ignored that issue during the prior cuozzo debate.   My take has long been that we should be applying the actual claim construction in both situations.

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This case focused on prosecution disclaimer and the finding of a clear and unmistakable disclaimer of claim scope.  However, the same approach should also apply in applying IPR statements as primary intrinsic evidence used in the claim construction analysis even when short of disclaimer.

Oil States: Trump Admin Supports AIA Trial Proceedings

Oil States v. Greene’s Energy (Supreme Court 2017).

After receiving party briefs in this case, the Supreme Court requested a responsive brief from the Michelle Lee in her role as PTO Director on the constitutionality of the AIA trial system.  That brief has now been filed by the new acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall who handled a number of patent cases in private practice.  Despite the regime change, the SG’s office continues to strongly support the AIA Trial system and the brief argues strongly that patents are public rights that may be subject to administrativ review:

Patents are quintessential public rights. Pursuant to its constitutional authority to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” by establishing a patent system, U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, Cl. 8, Congress created the USPTO, an agency with “special expertise in evaluating patent applications.” Kappos v. Hyatt, 566 U.S. 431, 445 (2012). Congress directed that agency to issue a patent if “it appears that the applicant is entitled to a patent” under standards set by federal law, 35 U.S.C. 131. Patents accordingly confer rights that “exist only by virtue of statute.” Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, 229 n.5 (1964). . . . Petitioner’s constitutional arguments do not warrant this Court’s review.

[Read the Brief: 16-712_oil_states_energy_servs._llc_opp]  The Supreme Court has already denied certiorari in three prior constitutional challenges to the AIA trial mechanisms. MCM Portfolio v. Hewlett-Packard; Cooper v. Lee; and Cooper v. Square.  If Oil States is denied here, there are also several more cases waiting in the wings to raise the challenge again.

Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group

Conference on Innovation, Research and Competition

I’m headed to Europe later this summer, but I’m considering rearranging my plans to participate in the Université de Liège’s Conference on Innovation, Research and Competition (LCII-TILEC) hosted by Professor Nicolas Petit who is the Director of the Liege Competition and Innovation Institute.  May 29-30.

[Program LCII-TILEC Conference SSO]

The focus this year is the role of patents in Standard Setting Organizations and Agreements.  The upcoming European Unified Patent Court (UPC) is heaving in the background.  This week’s French election signals to me that UPC will move forward and likely begin operation in 2018.

Among other topics, I’m interested in Prof. Ruddi Bekkers’ evidence of discrimination against foreigners in the patent systems and Prof Stephen Haber’s  fallacy of the patent holdup theory.

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For those more interested in the actual practice of law – consider the USPTO / AIPLA (Patent Law Committee) customer partnership event on Monday, June 5th, 2017 at PTO-Alexandria – focus on TC 3600 and TC 3700. (Register Here).






Court-Agency Allocations of Power and the Limits of Cuozzo

Guest post by Saurabh Vishnubhakat, Associate Professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law and the Texas A&M College of Engineering.  Although Prof. Vishnubhakat was an advisor at the USPTO until June, 2015, his arguments here should not be imputed to the USPTO or to any other organization.

Prof. Vishnubhakat was counsel of record for the amicus brief by patent and administrative law professors in this case.

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Yesterday’s argument in Wi-Fi One, LLC v. Broadcom Corp. suggested that the en banc Federal Circuit are grappling with at least three important issues as they consider the reviewability of PTO decisions to institute inter partes review that arguably violate the one-year bar of 35 U.S.C. § 315(b):

  • How does the IPR statute allocate power between the PTAB and the district courts to reevaluate patent validity?
  • How does the Supreme Court’s opinion last Term in Cuozzo Speed Techs., LLC v. Lee allocate power between the USPTO Director and the Federal Circuit to oversee the PTAB?
  • How might this case resolve (or aggravate) rule-of-law concerns that the Federal Circuit has recently expressed, especially as to separation of powers under the Chenery doctrine?

The Federal Circuit’s panel decision in Achates Reference Publ’g, Inc. v. Apple Inc. held that PTAB decisions to institute IPR are unreviewable even where the § 315(b) time bar may have been violated.  The en banc question here is whether to overrule Achates.

The USPTO’s interest in the case was clear from the large group of agency employees in attendance, including members of the PTAB and the Solicitor’s Office as well as Director Michelle Lee herself.  The USPTO also formally intervened in the case and designated Mark Freeman from the DOJ Civil Division’s Appellate Staff to argue.

The PTAB-District Court Balance of Power

Historically, of course, the power to invalidate patents in the first instance resided in the district courts.  An opening exchange with Chief Judge Prost laid the groundwork that although the AIA sought efficient patent validity review outside the courts, it also constrained the administrative alternatives in a variety of ways.  The USPTO would later elaborate this point as well, that challenges that would have gone to court would now go to the agency, but this reallocation of power would not be total.  District-court defendants and their privies would have to act within a year, or never at all.  Judicial review can police this balance of power—but not without disruption of its own, and so the dispute over appealability.

The Main Cuozzo Exception: Relatedness to Institution

From early in Wi-Fi’s argument, several members of the court starting with Judge Dyk explored whether the § 315(b) time bar is distinguishable from the § 312(a)(3) particularity requirement that was found nonappealable in Cuozzo.  A well-known passage in Cuozzo orients the holding toward institutions that are made “under this section [§ 314]” or that are “closely tied” to institution-related statutes.  Meanwhile, several types of “shenanigans” may still merit review, such as constitutional defects, interpretations of less closely related provisions, or decisions whose scope and impact reach well beyond institution.  As a result, arguments to limit Cuozzo and afford review have often focused on these exceptions, especially on framing the statute as “less closely related” to institution “under this section [§ 314].”  Judges Chen and Stoll also followed up at several points with Broadcom and the USPTO about the “under this section” limitation.

Reconciling Cuozzo’s Majority and Dissent

Judge Chen also took an interesting further approach to how closely related a statute must be for Cuozzo to apply.  He noted that the dissent in Cuozzo complained specifically that the majority’s approach swept broadly and harmfully.  The Cuozzo dissent argued that the majority’s position would foreclose review even of issues such as the § 315(b) time bar because timeliness is “no less . . . closely tied” to institution.  The majority disclaimed various other horribles but was silent about the alleged relatedness of the one-year bar to institution.  Was this colloquy from Cuozzo a signal of consensus that the time bar is, indeed, the type of PTAB decision that is immune from review?

One sensible answer is that the Cuozzo dissent’s argument about the one-year bar should be seen as hortatory, intended first to build a majority and later, when the case was lost, to cabin the impact of the majority’s reasoning.  In other words, the dissent did not merely read the majority’s logic broadly but read it broadly as a reason to reject that logic.  To accept part of the Cuozzo dissent’s premise now while continuing to reject the dissent’s urged conclusion may itself be problematic cherry-picking, especially if any supposed agreement by the Cuozzo majority were to be inferred from its silence on the matter.  Indeed, Wi-Fi answered Judge Chen along just these lines by discussing what the Cuozzo dissent was trying to accomplish—limiting nonappealability to a prohibition of interlocutory review—not merely what the dissent said.

The Other Cuozzo Exception: Scope and Impact

Apart from “less closely related” statutes, the argument also started at times to explore Cuozzo’s “scope and impact” exception, particularly where the PTAB might act outside its statutory authority and thereby lose immunity from review.  It was the USPTO to whom Judge Chen suggested that the one-year bar of § 315(b) may well have been a Congressional allocation of power between the agency and the district courts to resolve patent validity disputes.  This view of the time bar would make it a statutory limit on the agency’s authority, a violation of which would render the PTAB susceptible to appellate review despite Cuozzo.

The scope and impact of § 315(b) are also stark when seen through the lens of court-agency substitution.  Arti Rai, Jay Kesan, and I have reported in recent research that a substantial share of petitioners (about 30%) seek PTAB review before being sued in district court on the patent in question.  This and related findings indicate that, in addition to ordinary court-agency competition over who resolves the validity of a patent in an ongoing infringement lawsuit, the PTAB also competes with the courts over who should resolve preemptive strikes against patents.  As the law professors’ amicus brief argued in this case, the one-year bar of § 315(b) sets an important boundary line in this competition and—as Judge Chen suggests—preserves an inter-branch allocation of power.  Thus, its scope and impact reach well outside the walls of the agency and into the federal courts, empirically as well as analytically.

The USPTO Director-Federal Circuit Balance of Power

One of the most significant aspects of this case, and why it was an apt choice for en banc review, is that the Federal Circuit is shaping its own ability to shape future cases.  Much like the balance of power between the PTAB and the district courts to evaluate patent validity in the first instance, also at stake is the power to correct errors and bring uniformity to the decision-making of the PTAB.  This latter power, too, was reallocated away from the Federal Circuit by the AIA’s nonappealability provisions.

The Source(s) of Uniformity

One might suppose, as Wi-Fi began to argue, that the absence of judicial oversight would leave individual PTAB panels to generate consensus in a common law fashion, and that consensus is unlikely to emerge because of the PTAB’s sometime disregard for its own prior analogous precedents and for prior court judgments regarding the validity of the same patent.  (Even a Federal Circuit panel endorsed the latter as recently as a month ago in Novartis AG v. Noven Pharms. Inc.)

Judge Wallach, however, strongly rejected Wi-Fi’s view that nonreviewability might leave uniformity and oversight to individual panels of the PTAB.  Instead, he noted, the Director of the USPTO can impose uniformity by assigning additional judges to particular panels to resolve contentious issues in a certain way.  To this, one might add that the Director can also generate uniformity directly through the ordinary chain of administrative command as an ex officio member of the PTAB and through the process for designating PTAB opinions as precedential, representative, or informative.  Judge Wallach raised the issue with Broadcom as well, asking whether “stacking the panel” to reach certain outcomes would qualify as judicially reviewable shenanigans.

This alternate view of uniformity is significant for its implicit but direct potential not only for displacing the Federal Circuit but also for making patent validity decisions more responsive to political constituencies.

The APA Presumption of Reviewability

The counterargument to this potential injection of politics into patent adjudication came in the closing minutes of the hearing.  For all the discussion about Cuozzo and its enumerated exceptions, Wi-Fi argued that the Cuozzo holding did not make nonreviewability the new baseline in administrative reviews of patent validity.  Rather, Cuozzo was one instance where the Administrative Procedure Act’s ever-present presumption favoring judicial review was rebutted clearly and convincingly enough as to institution decisions.  To construe the nonappealability statute as to timeliness under § 315(b) or any other issue would require a fresh analysis of statutory text, purpose, legislative history, etc.

Judge Moore engaged this argument, suggesting that Cuozzo need not be limited entirely to its facts with nonappealability decided from scratch each time.  She suggested, for example, that Cuozzo could be seen as precluding a range of appeals from institution and institution-related decisions, but that the opinion’s limitations apply here and thus dispel the indications that were clear and convincing in the Cuozzo case itself.

Notably, Judge Moore was also one of several, including Judges Newman and Reyna, to ask whether PTAB actions that are plainly invalid or ultra vires would enjoy immunity from review.  This concern, too, is of a piece with the balance of power between the Federal Circuit as judicial overseer and the Director of the USPTO as political overseer because it highlights a necessary choice between correcting agency errors and tolerating them in the name of Congressionally intended agency autonomy.

Making the PTAB Better Explain Itself

Finally, the en banc court referred at various points to the need for greater transparency in the PTAB’s own decision-making.  This is a concern that Federal Circuit panel decisions increasingly voice in PTAB appeals.  An early colloquy with Chief Judge Prost explored whether the PTAB might be shielded from review of certain issues in final written decisions simply by omitting discussion of those issues from its final written decisions, in light of the APA’s general requirement that an agency articulate its “findings and conclusions, and the reasons or basis therefor.”  Similarly, in the discussion over political panel-selection by the USPTO Director, Judge Wallach suggested that rule-of-law values such as predictability, uniformity, and transparency of judgments and the neutrality of decision-making may be threatened.

These concerns are also consistent with recent decisions finding fault with the PTAB’s failure to explain its reasoning with enough detail even to enable meaningful review.  For example, citing the Chenery doctrine, the In re NuVasive, Inc. panel decision last December reversed a finding of obviousness not because it was necessarily wrong, but because the reasoning that the PTAB had articulated could not support the decision, while the separation of powers forbade the Federal Circuit to supply its own rationale.  Similarly, in the Shaw Indus. Group., Inc. v. Automated Creel Sys., Inc. panel decision early last year, Judge Reyna wrote separately to chastise the USPTO for its opaque practice of making partial institutions while denying certain grounds or prior art as “redundant.”


The opportunity to clarify these allocations and reallocations of power is likely to be a welcome aspect of en banc consideration.  The power in question may be to adjudicate (as between the PTAB and the district courts), to oversee (as between the USPTO Director and the Federal Circuit), or simply to force a clearer account of the PTAB’s own reasoning.  All of these powers have seen significant revision under the AIA, reflecting the more general ascendancy of administrative adjudication in patent law.  In seeking the right balance for each of these powers, the Federal Circuit appears to be taking seriously the warning that “no legislation pursues its purposes at all costs” and that if the goals of the AIA are important, so also are the particular means that Congress enacted to achieve those goals.

Case Information

  • Oral Argument Recording
  • En Banc Panel: Prost, Newman, Lourie, Bryson, Dyk, Moore, O’Malley, Reyna, Wallach, Taranto, Chen, Hughes, Stoll
  • Arguing for Appellant Wi-Fi One, LLC: Douglas A. Cawley (McKool Smith)
  • Arguing for Appellee Broadcom Corporation: Dominic E. Massa (WilmerHale)
  • Arguing for Intervenor Michelle K. Lee, Director of the USPTO: Mark R. Freeman (DOJ Civil Division, Appellate Staff)

Without Offering Any Reasons, Federal Circuit Denies Rehearing on Issue of Judgments Without Opinion

by Dennis Crouch

The Federal Circuit has denied Leak Survey’s petition for rehearing en banc on the issue R.36.  Perhaps ironically, the court has continued to remain silent on its justification for issuing judgments without opinion.  Although the Supreme Court has generally empowered appellate courts to issue summary affirmances without explaining reasoning for their judgment, the statutes provide special rules for cases arising from patent and trademark cases.  On the patent side, 35 U.S.C. § 144 requires the Federal Circuit to hear appeals from the PTO, “review the decision,” and, once a decision is reached “the court shall issue to the Director its mandate and opinion.”

First Rehearing Request Challenging No-Opinion Judgments

I argue (as did Leak Survey) that Section 144 requires the court to write opinions in these cases — as was the longstanding standard practice of both the Federal Circuit and its predecessor court the CCPA before the 1989 internal rule changes by the Federal Circuit.

In my article on the topic, I recognize the argument’s weakest point: since the statute requires issuance of “its opinion”, the requirement might only only kick-in if the court actually has an opinion.  In his thoughtful challenge to my approach, Matthew J. Dowd argues that the statute only requires issuance of an opinion once such an opinion exists — but absent an opinion, the statute only requires issuance of the mandate. Matthew J. Dowd, An Examination of the Federal Circuit’s Use of Rule 36 Summary Affirmances (Feb. 19, 2017). Thus, Dowd would clarify that the statutory requirement that, after reviewing the case, “the court shall issue … its … opinion” only kicks-in if the court decides to write an opinion.  I think Dowd is wrong.

In my article, I write:

For a patentee, providing the written description is part of the quid pro quo exchange for receiving patent rights. In the same way, forming a reasoned decision is the role of every appellate court, and the statute simply requires that those reasons be written and released.

Reaching a judgment in each merits case is both an inherent duty of the appellate court and a statutory requirement, and that judgment requires the court to at least form a reasoned opinion that justifies the outcome. In other words, the court must make its judgment based upon the law at hand applied to the facts presented. Even when issuing a judgment without releasing an opinion, the court must have formed reasons for its judgment that are at least self-satisfyingly sufficient. Anything less would be a reversible arbitrary judgment and likely a violation of the due process rights of the parties.

The statutory requirement of issuing “its … opinion” is not an illusory request that can be avoided by simply not writing an opinion. Rather, the statute requires a transformation of the court’s internal decision justifications into a document that becomes part of the record of the case as it returns to the PTO.

By now, the court has had many opportunities to justify its approach.  It is now becoming more than simply ironic that the Federal Circuit continues to avoid explaining its justifications for a lack of transparency.

Answering the Call — Pro Se Assistance at the USPTO

Guest post by Kathy Matecki, Director of USPTO’s Technical Center 3600

Independent inventors and small business owners have a long tradition of creating innovative products and opening up new sectors of the American marketplace. Some of today’s most well-known companies and innovators started small in someone’s garage or basement. Many patent applicants enlist the help of a registered patent attorney or agent. Some inventors, however, choose to file an application for a patent on their own, a process known as “pro se” filing.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Pro Se Assistance Program provides dedicated educational and practical resources to pro se applicants, including walk-in assistance at USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, pro se-specific educational resources on patents and electronic filing, dedicated customer service and assistance, and increased examiner-applicant interaction.

Established in October 2014, the USPTO’s Pro Se Art Unit is a group of experienced patent examiners from all engineering disciplines. The examiners in the art unit communicate frequently with their inventors, get to know them, and are dedicated to simplifying the patenting process and providing the best possible experience for each one, even when the inventor is unsuccessful in obtaining a patent. The program has helped identify the most common problems encountered by these applicants, so that the USPTO can simplify the process if possible, or establish best practices to assist pro se applicants.

The Pro Se Assistance Program has received positive reviews since its inception. One pro se applicant stated, “Had my examiner not been so understanding and helpful in every regard, I would have given up.  She was patient, and I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with her…  I would not be able to afford the legal fees associated with a patent, so that would have been the end for me.”  The examiners have also felt the impact of the program; one stating:  “We provide an important service (with a smile) to a not previously addressed cross section of applicants at the office, while still producing a quality examination. The impact of this service may or may not be captured by data crunching, but it is without a doubt felt by the community of pro se applicants that we have encountered in our year and a half of operation.”

The USPTO’s Pro Se Assistance Program is just one of many programs the USPTO offers that benefit independent and under resourced inventors. Another popular program is the Patent Pro Bono program, which provides legal assistance to under-resourced inventors. For more information on the Pro Se Assistance Program, visit the website, call 1-866-767-3848, or email independentinventor@uspto.gov.

Broad Estoppel After Failed IPR: What Prior Art “could have been found by a skilled searcher’s diligent search?”

by Dennis Crouch

Douglas Dynamics v. Meyer Prods (W.D. Wisc 2017) [2017-04-18 (68) Order re post IPR invalidity defenses].US06928757-20050816-D00003After Douglas sued Meyer for infringing its U.S. Patent No. 6,928,757 (Snowplow mounting assembly), Meyer petition for inter partes review — alleging that several of the claims were invalid.  Although the “director” iniated the review, the PTAB eventually sided with the patentee – reaffirming the validity of the claims.

Back at the district court, Douglass asked the court to apply the estoppel provisions that of Section 315(e)(e):

The petitioner in an inter partes review … that results in a final written decision under section 318(a) . . . may not assert . . . in a civil action arising [under the patent laws] . . . that the claim is invalid on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review.

35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2).  The question for the district court here, was the scope of estoppel – what constitutes grounds that were “raised or reasonably could have [been] raised” during the IPR.  Here, the court took a position for fairly strong estoppel:

If the defendant pursues the IPR option, it cannot expect to hold a second-string invalidity case in reserve in case the IPR does not go defendant’s way. In many patent cases, particularly those involving well-developed arts, there is an abundance of prior art with which to make out an arguable invalidity case, so it would be easy to have a secondary set of invalidity contentions ready to go. The court will interpret the estoppel provision in § 315(e)(2) to preclude this defense strategy. Accordingly, the court will construe the statutory language “any ground that the petitioner . . . reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review” to include non-petitioned grounds that the defendant chose not to present in its petition to PTAB.

In Shaw Industries Group, Inc. v. Automated Creel Systems, Inc., 817 F.3d 1293 (Fed. Cir.), the Federal Circuit wrote in dicta that no estoppel should apply to grounds that were petitioned, but not instituted.  The Wisconsin court here suggested some potential problems with that outcome, but decided to follow the CAFC’s lead, writing:

So until Shaw is limited or reconsidered, this court will not apply § 315(e)(2) estoppel to [petitioned but] non-instituted grounds, but it will apply § 315(e)(2) estoppel to grounds not asserted in the IPR petition, so long as they are based on prior art that could have been found by a skilled searcher’s diligent search.


What this means for the defendant here is that the only 102/103 arguments that it gets to raise are ones already deemed total failures by the PTAB – and thus are unlikely winners before a district court.

= = = = =

Of some importance, the PTAB’s final written decision was released in November 2016.  For estoppel purposes, that final decision is all that is required for estoppel to kick-in. However, the case currently on appeal to the Federal Circuit — already giving the defendant its second bite at the apple.

= = = =  (more…)

PTO Director Lee

Politico reports today that PTO Director Michelle Lee is “in the running to head up the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy” known as OSTP. [LINK]  Lee’s Obama-Holdover status suggests to me that OSTP’s policy-making role will be substantially downgraded under President Trump as compared to that of the Obama Administration when the office was headed by John Holdren. However, the move would also confirm a comparative business forward position.  The OSTP Director also now holds an official seat of the new Office of American Innovation headed by Jared Kushner.

According to reports, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has interviewed several replacement candidates for PTO Director.


PTAB Procedural Reform Initiative


[T]he USPTO is launching an initiative to use nearly five years of historical data and user experiences to further shape and improve Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) trial proceedings, particularly inter partes review proceedings. The purpose of the initiative is to ensure that the proceedings are as effective and fair as possible within the USPTO’s congressional mandate to provide administrative review of the patentability of patent claims after they issue.

Since being created through the passage of the America Invents Act (AIA), PTAB proceedings have significantly changed the patent landscape by providing a faster, cost-efficient quality check on issued patents. . . .

This initiative will examine procedures including, but not limited to, procedures relating to multiple petitions, motions to amend, claim construction, and decisions to institute. It will evaluate the input already received from small and large businesses, startups and individual inventors, IP law associations, trade associations, and patent practitioners, and will seek to obtain more feedback regarding potential procedural enhancements.

Coke Morgan Stewart, Senior Advisor to the Director [and veteran patent litigator], will be coordinating this effort.

Members of the public may submit their ideas regarding PTAB procedural reform to: PTABProceduralReformInitiative@uspto.gov

En banc denial in Challenge to Versata-Review of CBM Decisions

by Dennis Crouch

Unwired Planet v. Google (Fed. Cir. 2017) (en banc denied)

The Federal Circuit has denied Google’s petition for rehearing en banc.  The patent challenger asked the Federal Circuit to overturn Versata in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Cuozzo.  The issue is well known to attorneys involved in the post-grant review of covered-business-method (CBM) patents.

According to the statute, the CBM process begins with a petition and institution decision by the Director.  Once instituted, the PTAB holds trial and issues a final decision.  The statute indicates that CBM review may be instituted “only for” CBM patents but that the Director’s institution decision “shall be final and nonappealable.”

In Versata, a divided Federal Circuit panel held that the CBM question could be reviewed since – a non-CBM patent is “outside the PTAB’s invalidation authority.”  In its briefing, Google argued that Versata was wrong when it was decided, and was extra-wrong following the Supreme Court’s Cuozzo decision that gave substantial force to the non-appealable provision of the statute.  Of course, Cuozzo offered a number of ‘outs’ – suggesting generally that there will be times when appeals of initiation decisions may still be allowed.

Versata v. SAP: Federal Circuit Claims Broad Review of CBM Decisions

In what appears to be a unanimous denial, the Federal Circuit has rejected Google’s petition. Judge Hughes wrote a short concurring opinion in dissent – arguing (as he did in the original Versata case) that the statute no-appeal provision should be given more weight.

I continue to believe that Versata was incorrectly decided. I further believe that Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee, 136 S. Ct. 2131 (2016) confirms that our review of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s decision should be limited to the ultimate merits of the patent validity determination and should not, with narrow exception, extend to any decisions related to institution. Those exceptions may include the rare circumstances where the agency acts unconstitutionally or in complete disregard of the limits on its statutory authority.

I expect that the Supreme Court would agree with the Federal Circuit on this particular issue based upon how the court sees eligibility as a threshold and almost jurisdictional issue and the close tie between the CBM definition and patent eligibility.  In the eyes of the Supreme Court, these issues are categorically different from the likelihood-of-invalidation question that is the substantive focus of initiation decisions.

Despite my prognostications here, Google is likely to petition for writ of certiorari.  Top Supreme Court Litigator Neal Katyal handled the failed petition here that particularly asked two questions: (1) Whether the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction to review a PTAB determination that a patent is a “covered business method” patent. (2) Whether the Federal Circuit should defer to the Patent and Trademark Office’s reasonable interpretation of the definition of a “covered business method” patent.

I have discussed the first question above. The second question is also an interesting issue of administrative law that may be mooted if Congress enacts the Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2017.

Separation of Powers Restoration Act

USPTO Leadership Updates

In what I expect will be a several-month-stasis several-week-stasis, the USPTO has reshuffled some of its personnel to fill vacant slots and better-fit with the Trump administration. [Updated]

Michelle Lee remains at the top as Director of the USPTO and Undersecretary of Commerce.  As one of the few political-appointee holdovers from the Obama administration, Lee’s position remains somewhat tenuous, but I expect that it will be solid for at least several months weeks.  One noticeable gap is that the Commerce Dep’t website still fails to indicate Dir. Lee’s position. [LINK]

Second-in-command is Anthony Scardino, Acting Deputy Director of the USPTO and Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property.  One problem with this appointment is the statutory requirement that the Deputy Director be a member of the PTAB which requires “competent legal knowledge and scientific ability”, 35 U.S.C. 6, and also have “professional background and experience in patent or trademark law.” 35 U.S.C. 3.  My understanding of the Agency’s position is that these requirements only apply to actual Deputy Directors and not an “Acting Deputy Director.”  Dir. Lee apparently sees Scardino’s position as filling an important administrative roll, but there is no chance that he will be appointed to the position of Deputy Director.  In addition Scardino apparently will not be participating as a member of the PTAB.

[Updated to correct typo] Joe Matal has been quiet for the past few years, but is not now rising again and has been named the acting Chief of Staff of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – “principal policy advisor” to the Director.  For the past several years, Matal has worked as an Associate Solicitor in the USPTO’s Office of Solicitor.  Prior to that, he worked as counsel for Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and was a primary drafter of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act.

Paul Rosenthal is now the Acting Chief Communications Officer – moving from his prior position as Deputy Chief that is now being filled by Paul Fucito.

Finally, Drew Hirshfeld and Mary Boney Denison remain as the respective Commissioners for Patents and Trademarks as do the directors of the regional offices, all of whom had ties to the Obama Administration but are also very well respected IP attorneys.

I’ll take this chance to give a big shout-out to Russ Slifer who joined the PTO in 2014 to join and was named Deputy Director by Michelle Lee the next year.  Russ stepped down in January.  Thank you for your service to the agency and the profession!


Tony Scardino, USPTO Deputy Director (Acting)

Anthony P. ScardinoTony Scardino, Chief Financial Officer of the agency is now also the Acting Deputy Director of the USPTO (as recently revealed by the USPTO FOIA Response).  It is a bit of an oddity as to how Scardino jumped to the head of the line in almost violation of the USPTO rules of succession that provides for CFO to take an acting head leadership role only if there is no Commissioner for Patents, Commissioner of Trademarks, or Administrator for Policy and External Affairs.  However, the rules of succession do not provide in particularity as to who becomes Acting Deputy Director when the Deputy leaves but the Director is still in place.  Thus, I would suggest that Dir. Lee is within her authority to select a qualifying person to fill that role. (It may also be that the PTO has a non-public succession plan.)

The statute requires the Deputy Director and Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce to be a person “who has a professional background and experience in patent or trademark law.”  35 USC 3(b).  Scardino’s professional background and experience in IP law appears to be wholly based upon his 7-years as Chief Financial Officer of the Agency.  Under the prior Peterlin precedent, Scardino’s experience is almost certainly sufficient.  See, Aharonian v. Gutierrez, 524 F. Supp. 2d 54, 55 (D.D.C. 2007):

[O]ne would expect Congress to speak in precise terms if it intended the courts to monitor the minimal qualifications for agency officers. Here, Congress has given only the broadest of instructions—that the Deputy Director should have “a professional background and experience in patent or trademark law.” 35 U.S.C. § 3(b). The statute is silent as to the content of those terms. Were the decision subjected to APA review, the Court—not Congress—would be the ultimate source of the standards by which the qualifications of Ms. Peterlin would be judged: Is a law degree necessary? Is it sufficient? Are law school courses in intellectual property a requirement? Is certification to practice before the USPTO? Is law firm experience? How many years? If Congress had intended the extraordinary situation in which judicial review would reach to the very qualifications of agency officers for their policymaking positions, its statute would not be drawn “in such broad terms that … there is no law to apply.” See Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 410, 91 S.Ct. 814, 28 L.Ed.2d 136 (1971) (citation omitted).

Thus, although we have a very interesting question as to why Scardino was moved up rather than PTO Commissioner Drew Hirshfeld, the shift would be quite difficult to challenge in court.  Almost certainly, this leapfrogging came about with substantial input from the Trump Administration.  That result leads me to the potentially disturbing potential that the next appointed PTO leaders will also sidestep the requirements of “professional background and experience in patent or trademark law.”

One difference between Scardino and Peterlin is that Peterlin is an attorney while Scardino is not (nor is he a patent agent).  This is relevant because Scardino is also deemed a member of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.  The statute requires, however, that those members “be persons of competent legal knowledge and scientific ability.” 35 U.S.C. 6.  Of course, his CPA background may assist with judging Covered Business Method (CBM) cases.   Note here – I think that the best interpretation of the statute is that while the Director and Deputy Director are both members of the Board, the competency requirement of Section 6 only applies to the appointed judges.


Michelle K. Lee is the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

After a long wait, the PTO has finally responded to my question of “Who is the PTO Director”:

[T]he Agency is responding that Michelle K. Lee is the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and Anthony P. Scardino
is the Acting Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The letter:


I still do not sufficiently understand  DC politics to grasp why the Dir. Lee’s position was not public for the past 50+ days, but I am glad that we may now return to some semblance of normalcy in relations between the USPTO and the public.

Affirming Arbitration Award

Bayer Cropscience v. Dow Agrosciences (Fed. Cir. 2017) (non-precedential).

The case here involves a set of genetically modified crops containing the pat gene, which confers resistance to the herbicide glufosinate.  Some of the crops include additional genetically modified resistance n a “molecular stack” with additional herbicide resistant genes such as aad-12 ( 2,4-D herbicide tolerance) and dmmg.

The parties here have a long history of licenses and cross-licenses. However, after an accusation of IP theft,  in 2012 Bayer sued Dow for infringing its U.S. Patent Nos. 5,561,236, 5,646,024, 5,648,477, 7,112,665, and RE44,962.  In response, Dow filed a set of for inter partes reexam requests (still pending)

That litigation was dismissed because of an arbitration agreement – that resulted in a $455 million arbitration award for Bayer for lost profits and reasonable royalty and also an arbitration judgment that the patents were not invalid.

In a non-precedential opinion, the Federal Circuit has affirmed the district court’s confirmation of the arbitration award with the minor exception of interest calculation.  Here, the arbitrator awards are powerful becaues they can only be overturned based upon quite “demanding standards” involving “manifestly disregard the law.”  A portion of the award included what appears to be post-expiration royalties. However, the Federal Circuit held that the manifest-disregard standard is so high that even those damages cannot be vacated (one of the five patents has not yet expired).

= = = =

This case is actually the first time that I have seen the arbitration award submitted to the USPTO as required by 35 U.S.C. § 294(d).

(a) A contract involving a patent or any right under a patent may contain a provision requiring arbitration of any dispute relating to patent validity or infringement arising under the contract. . . .

(d) When an award is made by an arbitrator, the patentee, his assignee or licensee shall give notice thereof in writing to the Director. . . . The Director shall, upon receipt of either notice, enter the same in the record of the prosecution of such patent. If the required notice is not filed with the Director, any party to the proceeding may provide such notice to the Director.

(e) The award shall be unenforceable until the notice required by subsection (d) is received by the Director.

However, anyone inspecting the award will notice substantial redacted portions (including portions relating directly to the validity and infringement issues).  I would suggest that submission does not fully comply with the requirements of Section 294.

Chan v. Yang: Can the Federal Circuit Continue to Affirm Without Opinion?

by Dennis Crouch

Another new petition for rehearing has been filed with the Federal Circuit asking the court to reconsider its Rule 36 Jurisprudence in light of the statutory requirements  that the court issue an opinion in cases appealed from the Patent & Trademark Office.

In Chan v. Yang, App. No. 16-1214, involves an appeal from an interference case and the merits issue involves the requirement that claims subject to interference must be patentable but for the interference.  After losing before the PTAB, the petitioner appealed and the Federal Circuit issued a R.36 “Affirmance without Opinion.”  Chan’s attorney Robert Bauer writes:

The Rule 36 Judgment of the panel gives the parties and the USPTO no guidance on the key issues that were left unresolved in the PTAB decision. In particular, there is no indication whether the decision is based upon Appellees’ claims having the “white raphide” limitation or not.  There is no indication whether the claims as considered by the panel are concluded to be directed to patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. 101 or not. …

The statute requires that the Federal Circuit “issue to the Director its mandate and opinion, which shall . . . govern further proceedings” in the case. 35 U.S.C. 144.  I previously argued that the Federal Circuit’s practice of Affirmances without Opinion violates this requirement for issuing an opinion.


= = = =

Meanwhile, the Federal Circuit appears to be taking some limited notice of the issue. In two pending petitions for en-banc consideration of the R.36 Issue, the court has requested responsive briefing:

  • Leak Surveys, Inc. v. FLIR Systems, Inc., Appeal No. 16-1299: responsive briefing requested by March 14, 2017
  • Cascades Projection LLC v. Epson America, Inc., Appeal No. 17-1517: responsive briefing requested by March 14, 2017

The request for responsive briefing is important since in most cases the court rejects en banc petitions without even requesting responsive briefing:

At least two pending Supreme Court petitions are also based upon R.36 judgments by the Federal Circuit:

  • Oil States Energy Services, v. Greene’s Energy Group and Michelle K. Lee
  • Enplas v. Seoul Semiconductor

In both cases, the Supreme Court could properly vacate and remand with a one-line statement requiring the court to comply with 35 U.S.C. 144.




Welcome Wilbur Ross – Secretary of Commerce

Mr. Wilbur Ross is now Secretary of Commerce and I expect that we will likely begin to receive further information from the PTO as to its current and future management structure.

Meanwhile, Michelle Lee appears to still be leading the PTO and again signed this week’s patents.  A somewhat odd and steady steady drumbeat from several sources has been demanding Michelle Lee’s resignation or removal.  Lee has acted in pro-patent-applicant ways in several respects. Notably, she has issued more patents per year than any other USPTO director in history; acted to limit the much of the impact of the Supreme Court’s Alice/Mayo on patents being prosecuted (except in the business method area); and has substantially reduced patent application pendency.  The calls for her removal, however, appear to be coming from the PTO’s new role as arbiter of patent disputes at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.  Still, during her tenure, the PTAB has been somewhat tamed as compared to its initial cancellation pace under Director Kappos.  The problem largely seems to be that Lee has not been an outspoken advocate of patents-as-property.

This political setup is interesting and somewhat troubling — because of their high-value, patent trial participants have begun to exert substantial political influence on the USPTO in ways that may not align with the goals and desires of ex parte patent applicants.   More to explore on that front.



PTAB: A written decision on “every claim challenged”

SAS Institute v. Lee (Supreme Court 2017)

New petition for writ of certiorari from SAS asks the following question:

Does 35 U.S.C. § 318(a), which provides that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in an inter partes review “shall issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner,” require that Board to issue a final written decision as to every claim challenged by the petitioner, or does it allow that Board to issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of only some of the patent claims challenged by the petitioner, as the Federal Circuit held?

The basic issue – under the statute, can the PTO (the PTAB acting as the Director’s delegate) institute inter partes review to a subset of the challenged claims?  Or, does the requirement for a “final written decision as to every claim challenged” require that the Board grant or deny the petitions as a whole.

[sas-petition-for-certiorari][SCOTUS Docket 16-969]

USPTO Still Michelle Lee’s For Now

What an oddity – for the past 26 days, it has been an open secret that Michelle Lee remains USPTO Director but officials at the office have repeatedly refused to confirm or deny that role or to provide any answer to the question “Who is in charge at the USPTO?”

According to a Politico squib report, both Rep. Darryl Issa and USPTO PR Director Paul Fucito have confirmed that Dir. Lee is “in charge” but it is unclear whether she is still USPTO Director.

Paul Fucito tells [Politico Reporter] Nancy that Lee has been signing the certificates since since Inauguration Day. That function by law is handled by the director, but Fucito declined to clarify Lee’s status at the agency.

[Politico Report]  I requested both confirmation and further comment from the USPTO and Department of Commerce and was provided with “no comment.”

Representative Issa is now the Congressman with the most direct influence and oversight of USPTO activities in his role as chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.   Also communicating with Politico, Issa indicated his support for Dir. Lee but suggested that she may be transitioned into another administration role outside of the USPTO – such as trade negotiations or as a member of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Thus, we may still have a new USPTO director this spring.

We will not begin to see action until a Commerce Secretary (likely Mr. Ross) is confirmed and puts in place his pick for PTO Director.  This will likely happen next week.

For anyone pushing patent reform this term – either at the PTO or in the courts, you should recognize that all roads lead through Rep. Issa – nothing will go forward without his direct support.



First Rehearing Request Challenging No-Opinion Judgments

by Dennis Crouch

LSI v. FLIR (Fed. Cir. 2017) (request for rehearing) [16-1299-leak-surveys-v-flir_combined-rehg]

In its newly filed petition for rehearing, Leak Surveys has asked the Federal Circuit to withdraw its Judgment Without Opinion. Leak’s Counsel (Donald Puckett) argues:

It is hard to imagine an appeal more unsuitable for affirmance without opinion under Fed. Cir. R. 36 than this one.

The petition makes two primary arguments:

  1. If the Federal Circuit’s judgment is based upon new or alternative grounds not stated by the PTAB, then it must write an opinion.  Although the reason for a judgment without opinion are not directly discernible, the petitioner here suggests that it was likely based upon theories first espoused by the court and respondent at oral arguments — sufficient to form a prima facie conclusion that the judgment relied upon new or alternate grounds.
  2. LSI urges the en banc Court to grant rehearing to decide whether this Court can ever affirm a PTAB IPR decision without opinion. See 35 U.S.C. § 141 (in USPTO appeal, Federal Circuit “shall issue to the Director its mandate and opinion . . .”) (emphasis added). See also Crouch, Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion, Univ. of Missou. L. Stud. Research Paper No. 2017-02, Forthcoming 52 Wake Forest Law Review ___ (2017) (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2909007).

In offering the first weaker option, LSI gives the court an option in case it “may hesitate to open a floodgate of rehearing requests.”  Of course, there are only about a dozen R.36 decisions that are still within the court’s 30-day deadline for requesting rehearing.  (The Supreme Court has a 90-day deadline).  The stronger approach that I argue for: “LSI presents this argument here to preserve it for further appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court if necessary.”  [Amicus support due within two weeks]

The underlying appeal center on the validity of Leak’s U.S. Patent No. 8,193,496 and 8,426,813 that cover gas-leak detection equipment and methods using a passive-IR camera and bandpass filter.  The primary issues were claim construction (“leak” and “normal operating conditions”) and motivation to combine in the ultimate obviousness conclusion.   The original brief began as follows:

The IPR proceedings below resulted in the creation of a dense factual record involving 24 declarations and 14 depositions. Almost all witnesses were scientists (many with Ph.D. degrees) having personal knowledge of the petroleum industry’s extensive efforts (and failures) to develop a commercially viable imaging system for detecting hydrocarbon gas leaks in the field. Most of these same witnesses also offered first-hand testimony of [the inventor] David Furry’s own efforts to solve the same technical problem. Several witnesses -top scientists from the largest petroleum companies – described the day in 2004 when Furry showed up at the industry’s “Scan Off” to demonstrate his “Hawk” camera against the industry’s then-best optical leak detection systems. These scientists, having dedicated years of work and countless resources to creating a commercially viable optical leak detection system, testified that they were completely surprised and astonished by the Hawk’s unexpected results. It was immediately apparent that Furry had solved an important technical problem that the petroleum industry had been unable to solve.