Tag Archives: Written Description

35 U.S.C. 112 SPECIFICATION. (a) IN GENERAL.—The specification shall contain a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same, and shall set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor or joint inventor of carrying out the invention.

Uncertainty: Helsinn Foreshadows Trouble with AIA Patents

By Dennis Crouch

The AIA was passed back in 2011 and the changes have gradually been implemented through the patent system.  We are finally at the point where most newly issued U.S. patents are post-AIA patents whose patentability is individually based upon the first-to-file provisions of re-drafted 35 U.S.C. § 102.  We’re talking here about hundreds-of-thousands of patents interpreted under the new rules with millions on their way.  As this huge stone is slowly building momentum, the PTO has faced a startup problem: The Agency must apply the new law even though it has almost no guidance from the courts as to how the new portions of the statute will be interpreted.  Because the PTO interpretation is given no deference and because of the many drafting holes in the AIA, I expect that the PTO interpretation will be repeatedly found incorrect.

The only substantive area that has been thus-far decided by the Federal Circuit involves the recent Helsinn decision.  In that case, the Federal Circuit rejected the PTO approach to on-sale prior art and ruled that a pre-filing sale whose existence was disclosed to the public counts as 102(a)(1) prior art even if the elements of the invention were not publicly disclosed (just the fact of the sale).  In its incorrect interpretation of the statute, the PTO had judged the statute as only counting sales as public if the elements of the invention were also disclosed publicly.[1]

There are many other potential examples of questionable language from the AIA first-to-invent provisions that will eventually come to a head:

  • Effective Filing Date: In a patent claiming priority to a prior application, does the claim’s ‘effective filing date’ depend upon whether the relied-upon filing discloses and enables the claimed invention? Section 100(i) suggests that we look only to whether there is a claimed right for priority or benefit. This could impact many written description cases.
  • On Sale: Does a purely private sale or offer to sell count as prior art? Helsinn reserves this question for a later date.
  • Public Use: Does non-disclosing public use count as prior art? Helsinn suggests yes.
  • Commercialization: Does non-disclosing commercialization of the invention by the patentee count as prior art?
  • Otherwise available to the public: Under what conditions apart from the listed publications and uses will we consider an invention to be “otherwise available to the public?” How much further does this go beyond publication and public use? Is public knowledge of the existence of the invention sufficient, or must the public be made aware of the inventions elements and how to make and use the invention? Does the invention need to be discoverable in some way?
  • Grace Period: What level of proof is required for the patentee to show its prior disclosure?
  • Disclosure: For an inventor’s disclosure to trigger the grace period, must it enable the entire invention?
  • Public Disclosure: What counts as a pre-filing ‘public disclosure’ under 102(b)(1)(B) sufficient to knock-out prior art? Is the publicness the same as 102(a)(1)?
  • Changed Disclosure: For intervening third-party disclosures or patent applications that differ from an inventor’s disclosure, what scope (if any) is knocked-out from the scope of prior art? This may be different depending upon whether focusing on 102(b)(1)(a); 102(b)(1)(b); 102(b)(1)(c); or 102(b)(1)(d).
  • Date of 102(a)(2) prior art: 102(d) modifies the 102(a)(2) prior art date for published applications and patents by looking to whether the application claims priority / benefit to a prior filing. Congress certainly intended that the priority date only counts if the priority filing disclosed the subject matter being relied upon in the rejection.  However, the statute is not so clear and suggests instead that all we need is a proper claim of priority or benefit. .

These are a handful of examples, and more certainly exist.

I have some thoughts on how provisions of the statute should be interpreted – both as a matter of statutory interpretation and a matter of patent policy.  My larger concern, however, is that we are still years away from seeing court decisions interpreting these elements in ways that settle the law.  Up to now, for instance, there are not even any public PTAB decisions interpreting the new elements of 102(b).  With the disposing of more than 500,000 patent applications per year, the office is likely to churn through millions before these issues go before the Federal Circuit.  If the first case on point (Helsinn) is any indication, the Federal Circuit is likely to disagree with at least several of the PTO’s statutory interpretations – potentially creating swaths of improperly issued patents or improperly rejected applications depending upon whether the PTO interpretation is too broad or too narrow.  Although temporary, we have the potential here of creating a real bubble that will give us another 20+ year headache in similar fashion to the PTO’s low-quality examination of software and business methods in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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[1] MPEP 2152.02(d) (“The phrase ‘on sale’ in AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(a)(1)  is treated as having the same meaning as ‘on sale’ in pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 102(b), except that the sale must make the invention available to the public.”).

Written Description, Disclosed Embodiments, and BRI

By Dennis Crouch

The vast majority of written description problems arise when the patentee amends or adds claims with limitations not found in the original claim set and using language that does not directly map to specification disclosure.  In Cisco Systems v. Cirrex (Fed. Cir. 2017), the Federal Circuit provides an example of this in practice.

[The Decision: Cisco]

After the PTO initiated an inter partes reexamination, the patentee (Cirrex) dropped the original claims (1-34) and added new claims (35-124) of its ‘082 patent.[1]  In its final decision, the PTAB affirmed the examiner’s decision that most of the added claims were invalid as lacking written description support.  The Board did, however, find five of the claims patentable.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit partially reversed – finding all of the claims invalid as lacking written description support.

35 U.S.C. § 112(a) serves as the statutory source for three patentability doctrines: Written Description, Enablement, and Best Mode.

(a) IN GENERAL.—The specification shall contain a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same, and shall set forth the best mode contemplated by the inventor or joint inventor of carrying out the invention.

In Ariad, the Federal Circuit wrote that the original written description filed by the patentee must “clearly allow persons of ordinary skill in the art to recognize that [he] invented what is claimed.”[2]  Channeling the old fox-law case of Pierson v. Post, courts have held that the requirement is intended to show “possession” of the claimed invention at the time of filing.  Whether the written description is sufficient is a question of fact – with the level of detail depending upon “the nature and scope of the claims and on the complexity and predictability of the relevant technology.”  Thus less description is necessary to show possession in simple technologies in predictable areas.  More description is likely required to show possession of novel structures and arrangements as compared to elements found in the prior art.

Here, the added claims at issue here are related to either equalization or discrete attenuation of fiber optic signals inside a lightguide (PLC).

The problem for Cirrex, according to the court, is that the original specification “lacks any disclosure or suggestion of how placing attenuation material inside the PLC … would result in equalizing the intensities of different wavelengths traveling in the PLC, or discretely attenuating a particular wavelength in the PLC.”  Rather, the disclosed embodiments teach equalizing to light energy outside the PLC and only collective (rather than discrete) attenuation within the PLC.   As such, the Federal Circuit held the claims lacked sufficient written description.

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Alt: Essential Element Test: An interesting issue that the court avoided stems from an odd line of written description cases that center on what the Federal Circuit repeatedly denies is an “essential element” test.  In Gentry Gallery, Inc. v. Berkline Corp.[3], the patentee amended claims to remove a previously recited limitation (placement of recliner controls between two recliners).  In that case, the court held that the broader claim lacked written description since the specification indicated possession of only a much narrower invention.  The basic conclusion is was that since the specification consistently described the invention as including “A, B, and C all connected together,” the patentee cannot broaden its claims to claim just A and B connected together (even if there would be no enablement problem).  Whenever the court cites Gentry, it almost always restates the seemingly contrary statement that this test should not be seen as an ‘essential element’ test but rather merely an inquiry as to whether the inventor possessed the invention now claimed.

Here, the challenger argued, in the alternative, that if the claims should also be invalid if interpreted to be broad enough to include equalizing activity whether inside or outside the PLC.  The problem is that all disclosed equalizing includes operating on signals outside the PLC, and the challenger argued that the disclosure does not then extend to the full scope of the claims.  This argument roughly follows the LizardTech decision where the court held that a broadened claim lacked written description because there was no showing of possession of the “full breadth of the claim.”[4]

This alternative argument was avoided in the appellate decision because the court more narrowly interpreted the claims as discussed above.

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Broadest Reasonable Interpretation vs. Interpretation Most Likely to Invalidate: The court here did not discuss how BRI applies to its claim construction approach.  The theory behind BRI is that a broader claim interpretation typically makes it more likely to invalidate claims, and that approach helps ensure that patents released by the PTO are more likely to be upheld as valid.  The interpretation issue is typically the opposite for written description issues.  Let me explain – since the standard written description problem involves adding new particular limitations into the claims that are absent from the specification, a more narrow interpretation of the claims is actually more likely to invalidate.  (Here, I set aside the aforementioned LizardTech improper broadening issue.)  The query here is whether the PTO should be applying the reasonable interpretation most likely to invalidate rather than broadest reasonable interpretation.

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[1] U.S. Patent No. U.S. Patent No. 6,415,082.

[2] Ariad Pharm., Inc. v. Eli Lilly & Co., 598 F.3d 1336, 1351 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (en banc) (quoting Vas-Cath Inc. v. Mahurkar, 935 F.2d 1555, 1563 (Fed. Cir. 1991)).

[3] Gentry Gallery, Inc. v. Berkline Corp., 134 F.3d 1473, 1479 (Fed. Cir. 1998).

[4] LizardTech  v.  Earth Resource  Mapping,  Inc., 424  F.3d  1336 (Fed.  Cir.  2005).

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.

“Exemplary Embodiments” as Boiler Plate

US08342852-20130101-D00009Skedco v. Strategic Operations (StOps) (Fed. Cir. 2017)

The district court sided with the accused-infringer StOps – finding (on summary judgment) no-infringement of Skedco’s exclusively licensed U.S. Patent No. 8,342,852 covering a “trauma training system.”

The system is designed to replicate trauma, and includes a pump in fluid connection with a valve that is in connection with a wound site “to simulate a hemorrhage.”

18. A trauma training system … comprising: a collapsible reservoir …, a pump in fluid communication with … said reservoir, at least one valve in fluid communication with said pump, a controller connected to said pump and said at least one valve, and at least one wound site detachably in fluid communication with said valve, wherein fluid is provided to said wound site to simulate a hemorrhage.

The problem for the patentee is that, while the claim appears to separately claim the pump and the valve, the accused device physically links them together – “these valves reside within the pump housing.”  In addition, although the claim requires a controller connected to both the pump and the valve, the accused device’s controller is only connected to the pump.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit has vacated the judgment – finding that the district court erred in its claim construction.

First, although the patent requires a pump in fluid connection with a valve, the federal circuit found that “nothing in the claims requires the pump and valve to be physically separated.”

We see no reason why a device that moves fluid cannot contain another device that regulates flow within it. A pump does not cease moving fluid—i.e., being a “pump”—just because an internal valve adjusts fluid flow. … In short, we agree with the district court that a “pump” is not a “valve,” id. at 1108, but nothing in the claims or specification prohibits a valve from residing within a pump.

Of course, none of the embodiments teach a pump with internal valve.  Responding to that argument, the court appeared to look back primarily to pre-Phillips cases:

“[I]t is the claims, not the written description, which define the scope of the patent right.” Laitram Corp v. NEC Corp., 163 F.3d 1342 (Fed. Cir. 1998). Patents do not need to include drawings of particular embodiments in order to claim them. See CCS Fitness, Inc. v. Brunswick Corp., 288 F.3d 1359 (Fed. Cir. 2002). For this reason, a claim is not limited to inventions looking like those in the drawings. MBO Labs., Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 474 F.3d 1323, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2007). This guidance is especially apt here because the patent refers to the drawings to which StOps points as “exemplary embodiment[s].”

Looking at the second non-infringement justification, the district court had construed the claim to require a controller be actually connected to both a pump and a valve – based upon the requirement of “a controller connected to said pump and said at least one valve.” ON appeal, the Federal Circuit found it was improper to require an actual physical connection between the controller and the the valve:

[W]e think that the correct construction of “a controller connected to said pump and said at least one valve” is “an activation mechanism configured to control a pump and a valve to which it is directly or indirectly joined, united, or linked.”  . . . It [] incorporates the specification’s envisaged indirect connections. . . .

As far as the district court’s “physical” limitation is concerned, we see no reason to import such a requirement into claim 18. The claimed “controller” is merely “an activation mechanism,” and nothing limits this activation to physical channels. Indeed, the ’852 patent includes several embodiments where a remote controller 160 activates a valve. This activation must occur at least in part through a nonphysical connection. See id., figs.3, 9A, 9C. We therefore hold that it was error to limit the claimed connection to physical connections.

Thus, reasoned the district court, the BPS does not have “direct,” “independent,” and “physical” connections between the controller and the valve such that the valve is “controlled by the controller.” Id. at 1105–06, 1108. The court also ruled as a matter of law that claims 18, 19, and 20 were not infringed under the doctrine of equivalents. Having granted summary judgment of noninfringement, the court dismissed Skedco’s complaint. This appeal followed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1). controller.” Id. at 1105–06, 1108. We hold that it was error for the district court to have included some of these additional limitations into claim 18.

On remand, the district court will be asked to consider infringement under this now broader construction.

 

Construing claims to avoid invalidity (and also infringement)

by Dennis Crouch

MedCo v. Mylan (Fed. Cir. 2017)

In this Hatch-Waxman dispute, the Federal Circuit has sided with the accused infringer Mylan and reversed a lower court’s judgment that Mylan’s proposed Bivalirudin formulation would infringe The Medicines Company (MedCo) U.S. Patent No. 7,582,727 (covering ANGIOMAX).  This decision appears to clear the way for Mylan’s generic launch. (An authorized generic is already being marketed by Sandoz).

Claim construction: Rather than focusing solely on individual dosages, the MedCo patents include a limitation for consistant “batches” of the active ingredient based upon various impurity level targets and a target pH that is “adjusted by a base.”  Although not expressly claimed, the patent describes an “efficient mixing” process used to ensure the consistency.  Mylan’s proposal would use a different process to ensure batch consistency and pH level – Thus, the issue is whether the claims – as properly interpreted – require efficient mixing.

We hold that [the] patents include a “batches” limitation that requires batch consistency, which, according to the patents in suit, is achieved through efficient mixing. . . . We further construe efficient mixing as defined by Example 5 of the patents’ specification.

To reach this conclusion, the court applied a canon of construing-for-validity: Here, the claim language require a particular impurity level but the court found that they could not simply apply to individual-batches since that is already taught by the prior art. “Such a construction would render the claims of the ’727 patent invalid in light of Medicines’ numerous pre-critical-date sales of ANGIOMAX® batches having Asp9 levels below 0.6 percent.”  Rather, the requirement that “the batches have a maximum impurity level” limitation must be construed to require cross-batch consistency — which requires that all of the batches be produced with the “same compounding process.”  Looking to the specification, the court found that the patentee had stated its “development of a compounding process for formulating bivalirudin that consistently generates formulations having low levels of impurities is desirable” and later discussed “the compounding process . . . of the invention” . . . “and as prepared by the new process of the present invention.”  When then further delving into the specification, it became clear that the compounding process discussed is the efficient mixing process.  The specification spells out that process in “example 5” and contrasts it with the non-efficient process of “example 4.” (Example 5 was the only embodiment of efficient mixing described). The court writes:

Although the specification provides that Example 5 is “non-limiting,” no other part of the patents’ written description sufficiently teaches the affirmative steps that constitute efficient mixing. In this circumstance, we think it entirely appropriate to limit the term “efficiently mixing” to the sole portion of the specification that adequately discloses “efficient mixing” to the public.

Once the efficient mixing limitation was read into the claims, it was accepted by the parties that the Mylan proposal would not infringe.

To spell out the results here. The appellate court reversed the district court’s decision based upon its revised claim construction.  The claims require “batches” of the active ingredient that “have a maximum impurity level.”  The court construed that term to require a consistent process for making all the batches, and then looked to the specification to note that the patentee intended to use an “efficient mixing” process as that consistent process since that was the type of process described in the specification; And then finally zeroed-in on the the “efficient mixing” process and required that it follow the particulars of “example 5” of the patent since that was the only detailed example given of efficient mixing.  With that narrowed claim construction, non infringement was easy.

Although the court does not state as much here, this appears to me a case that de novo review was critical in the appellate court’s analysis.

 

Mentor Graphics v. Synopsys: Covering All the Bases

Mentor Graphics v. Eve-USA (Synopsys) (Fed. Cir. 2017) [synopsysmentor]

The appeal here is somewhat complicated – as reflected by the Federal Circuit’s 42-page opinion.  The complications begin with the founding of EVE, and emulation software company founded by folks who invented emulation software at Mentor. Synopsys then acquired EVE.   EVE had previously licensed some of Mentor’s patents, but Mentor claims the license was terminated by the Synopsys acquisition.

Ending Assignor Estoppel: The jury found that Synopsys infringed Mentor’s U.S. Patent No. 6,240,376 and awarded $36 million in lost profits damages.  The district court had refused to allow Synopsys to challenge the patent’s validity based upon the doctrine of assignor estoppel.  The judge-made doctrine prohibits a patent’s seller/assignor (such as an inventor who assigned rights to his employer) from later challenging the validity of a patent in patent infringement litigation.   Here, Synopsys agreed that the doctrine applied since the inventors of the ‘376 patent had founded and continued to operate EVE that was the source of the infringement.   However, the adjudged infringer boldly asked the Federal Circuit to eliminate the doctrine (as the PTAB has done) since Supreme Court “demolished the doctrinal underpinnings of assignor estoppel in the decision that abolished the comparable licensee estoppel in Lear, Inc. v. Adkins, 395 U.S. 653 (1969).” On appeal, the Federal Circuit panel disagreed – as it must – following its own precedent such as Diamond Sci. Co. v. Ambico, Inc., 848 F.2d 1220, 1222–26 (Fed. Cir. 1988) and MAG Aerospace Indus., Inc. v. B/E Aerospace, Inc., 816 F.3d 1374, 1380–81 (Fed. Cir. 2016).  The setup here is proper for en banc or Supreme Court petition.  On Point is Mark A. Lemley, Rethinking Assignor Estoppel, 54 Hous. L. Rev. 513 (2016) (arguing that the doctrine “interferes with both the invalidation of bad patents and the goal of employee mobility”).

Indefinite: The district court held on summary judgment that Synopsis’ cross-asserted U.S. Patent No. 6,132,109 is indefinite. On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed.  The asserted claims require a “circuit analysis visually near the
HDL source specification that generated the circuit.”  And, the district court found that the undefined term-of-degree “near” rendered the claim indefinite.

Patent law requires that the claims “inform, with reasonable certainty, those
skilled in the art about the scope of the invention.” Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2120 (2014).  Terms of degree are certainly permissible, but the patent document must include “some standard” used to measure the term of degree.

Here, the court walked through terms of degree that have been accepted post Nautilus: “spaced relationship”,  “visually negligible”, and “look and feel” based upon the intrinsic evidence or established meaning in the art.

Here, the specification indicates that the nearness of the circuit analysis display is to allow “a designer to make more effective use of logic synthesis and reduce the complexity of the circuit debugging process.”  In addition, the specification provides several diagrams showing the analysis next to the appropriate line of code (below). These descriptions provided enough of a standard for the court to find a reasonable certainty as to the scope of the term and the claim as a whole. “[W]e hold a skilled artisan would understand “near” requires the HDL code and its corresponding circuit analysis to be displayed in a manner that physically associates the two.”  On remand, Synopsys will get a shot at proving infringement of this patent.

synopsyschart

Eligibility: A separate Synopsys patent was found ineligible. U.S. Patent No. 7,069,526 (asserted claims 19, 24, 28, 30, and 33). The claims are directed to “A machine-readable medium containing instructions …”  The problem is that the patent expressly defines “machine-readable medium” to include “carrier waves” and therefore is invalid under In re Nuijten, 500 F.3d 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2007).  In Nuijten, the court held that transitory signals are not eligible for patenting because they do not fit any of the statutory classes of “process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.” The here court writes: “Because the challenged ’526 claims are expressly defined by the specification to cover carrier waves, they are similar to the ineligible Nuijten claims.”

Claim Preclusion: Finally, the Mentor has successfully appealed the district court claim preclusion holding as to Mentor’s U.S. Patent Nos. 6,009,531 and 5,649,176.  Back in 2006, Mentor had sued EVE for infringing the patents.  That litigation settled with Eve’s license and a dismissal with prejudice.

Here, the Federal Circuit held that claim preclusion cannot apply because the current litigation is based upon acts that occurred subsequent to the prior settlement.

Mentor’s infringement allegations are based on alleged acts of infringement that occurred after the Mentor/EVE license terminated and were not part of the previous lawsuit. Claim preclusion does not bar these allegations because Mentor could not have previously brought them.

What is a bit unclear here is how the license plays in.  The court noted that the current infringement claims are “based on post-license [termination] conduct, so the alleged infringement did not exist during the previous action.”  It is unclear how the court would deal with pre-termination conduct.

Note: The case also includes an important holdings on lost profits damages, willfulness, and written description that we’ll save for a later post.

The Imminent Outpouring from the Eastern District of Texas

The following guest post by Professor Paul Janicke ties-in with his new article published at: Paul M. Janicke, The Imminent Outpouring from the Eastern District of Texas, 2017 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1. – DC

by Paul M. Janicke

When the Supreme Court reverses the Federal Circuit’s venue ruling in the TC Heartland case, a reversal widely expected, it will return patent venue to the time prior to 1988, when the residence of a corporation for patent venue purpose was limited to (i) a district within the state of incorporation, or (ii) a district where the corporation has a regular and established place of business and has allegedly committed an act of infringement. Presently pending in the Eastern District of Texas are 1,000+ patent cases. The number may go up or down a little before the Court’s ruling, but it’s not likely to change much in that short time.[1] My inquiry is: What will happen to those cases?  My analysis on this subject can be found at Paul M. Janicke, The Imminent Outpouring from the Eastern District of Texas, 2017 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1..

The new venue statute upon which the Court will base its ruling became effective in January 2012. That means it applies to nearly all the cases now on the Eastern District’s docket, and the venue for hundreds of those cases was likely improper. Those defendants who are not Texas corporations and who lacked any regular and established place of business in Eastern Texas when suit was filed will be entitled to dismissal or transfer to a district that would have been proper under the new law, unless they have waived the improper venue defense. Let’s take a look at the groups of possibly affected defendants.

Local Merchants

Some defendants are local merchants in the Eastern District, accused of infringement only because they sell products made by others. Venue as to these merchants will be proper under either the old or new venue rules, so they are entitled to neither dismissal nor transfer. If the case against a merchant’s vendor is transferred, the merchant’s best bet is to seek a stay of the case against it. While stays are not particularly favored in the Eastern District, a situation like the present one has not likely been encountered before. It may work.

Active Players As Defendants

These are typically manufacturers of high-tech products or vendors of software. Computer-related technology is said to be the subject of over 90% of patent case filings in the district. Most of them lack any regular place of business in Eastern Texas, although we have found some 70 companies who employ 100 or more persons in the district and are defendants in pending patent cases there. Most of these businesses are in Plano, with a few in Beaumont. They too will have to stay put. It isn’t required that the place of business be related to the accused infringing activity.

The Many Other Defendants, And the Problem of Waiver

Those companies lacking a regular business location in the Eastern District will, for the most part, want to exit that district. Some may choose to stay there in order to effect a quick settlement or to show support for their beleaguered customers who have been sued in the district, but I estimate at least 800 will consider seeking a transfer. These break down into two roughly equal groups, those who have waived improper venue and those who have not. Waiver of this defense most typically occurs by failure to plead it in the answer or in an early motion under Rule 12. A sampling of pleadings in pending Eastern District patent cases reveals that in roughly 400 cases the main defendant did not plead improper venue or make a Rule 12 motion. (Note that this is a different subject from inconvenient venue, which is handled under a different statutory section and was sometimes pleaded in the answers.) It is understandable why the improper venue pleading was missing in so many cases: No one knew or even suspected until very recently that the venue rules had been changed by Congress in 2011, effective for all cases filed after January 2012. Good ethical lawyers know they shouldn’t plead a matter for which they have no legal or factual basis, and so they didn’t, and therein lies the waiver. Unfortunately, they cannot undo it by arguing “change in the law.” The change occurred in 2012.

The other group of defendants may have been insightful, but more likely were just following a form-book shotgun answer, and so they did plead improper venue in their answers. Answering this way is usually enough to preserve this defense, but not always. It has been held that taking discovery does not trigger a waiver, nor does proceeding to trial. It is thought that the corporate defendant who has pleaded the defense unsuccessfully has been forced to remain in the improper forum, so these litigation activities are not held against it. However, some courts have held that moving for summary judgment (unsuccessfully of course) is a different matter and does cause a waiver. You are not obliged to seek summary judgment, and you are invoking the court’s power. So some in the second group may find they too have waived.

For Those Exiting, Where Will They Be Sent?

This leaves about 400 non-waived cases. The case law on improper venue cases shows a distinct judicial preference for transfers rather than dismissals. To what districts will these non-waived defendants be transferred? Whatever districts are chosen, we should bear in mind that some of the NPE plaintiffs may not wish to follow, due to the expense involved, so those cases may effectively end. For more serious plaintiffs, we do not know where the cases will go. It depends on subjective factors applicable to each case, but here are some possible options: (1) Choose a district that one or both parties ask for. (2) Select a proper district that has a number of patent pilot judges, the three largest being Northern Illinois, Southern New York, and Central California. (3)  Use history as a guide: In 1997, one year before the large influx to Eastern Texas began, the busiest patent districts were Northern California (172 filings), Central California (162 filings), and Northern Illinois (116 filings). In that year the number of patent cases filed in the Eastern District of Texas was: 10. We shall soon see.

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Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center

[1] The case is set for argument March 27, with a decision very likely before the end of the Court’s term in June.

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Read the ArticleJanicke.2017.Venue

Prior Patently-O Patent L.J. Articles:

  • Mark A. Lemley, Erik Oliver, Kent Richardson, James Yoon, & Michael Costa, Patent Purchases and Litigation Outcomes, 2016 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 15 (Lemley.2016.PatentMarket)
  • Bernard Chao and Amy Mapes, An Early Look at Mayo’s Impact on Personalized Medicine, 2016 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 10 (Chao.2016.PersonalizedMedicine)
  • James E. Daily, An Empirical Analysis of Some Proponents and Opponents of Patent Reform, 2016 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1. (Daily.2016.Professors)
  • Tristan Gray–Le Coz and Charles Duan, Apply It to the USPTO: Review of the Implementation of Alice v. CLS Bank in Patent Examination, 2014 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1. (GrayLeCozDuan)
  • Robert L. Stoll, Maintaining Post-Grant Review Estoppel in the America Invents Act: A Call for Legislative Restraint, 2012 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1 (Stoll.2012.estoppel.pdf)
  • Paul Morgan, The Ambiguity in Section 102(a)(1) of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, 2011 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 29.  (Morgan.2011.AIAAmbiguities)
  • Joshua D. Sarnoff, Derivation and Prior Art Problems with the New Patent Act, 2011 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 12 (sarnoff.2011.derivation.pdf)
  • Bernard Chao, Not So Confidential: A Call for Restraint in Sealing Court Records, 2011 Patently-O Patent Patent Law Journal 6 (chao.sealedrecords.pdf)
  • Benjamin Levi and Rodney R. Sweetland, The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Recommendations to the International Trade Commission (ITC):  Unsound, Unmeasured, and Unauthoritative, 2011 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1 (levi.ftcunsound.pdf)
  • Kevin Emerson Collins, An Initial Comment on King Pharmaceuticals: The Printed Matter Doctrine as a Structural Doctrine and Its Implications for Prometheus Laboratories, 2010 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 111 (Collins.KingPharma.pdf)
  • Robert A. Matthews, Jr., When Multiple Plaintiffs/Relators Sue for the Same Act of Patent False Marking, 2010 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 95 (matthews.falsemarking.pdf)
  • Kristen Osenga, The Patent Office’s Fast Track Will Not Take Us in the Right Direction, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 89 (Osenga.pdf)
  • Peter S. Menell,  The International Trade Commission’s Section 337 Authority, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 79
  • Donald S. Chisum, Written Description of the Invention: Ariad (2010) and the Overlooked Invention Priority Principle, 2010 Patently‐O Patent L.J. 72
  • Kevin Collins, An Initial Comment on Ariad: Written Description and the Baseline of Patent Protection for After-Arising Technology, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 24
  • Etan Chatlynne, Investigating Patent Law’s Presumption of Validity—An Empirical Analysis, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 37
  • Michael Kasdan and Joseph Casino, Federal Courts Closely Scrutinizing and Slashing Patent Damage Awards, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 24 (Kasdan.Casino.Damages)
  • Dennis Crouch, Broadening Federal Circuit Jurisprudence: Moving Beyond Federal Circuit Patent Cases, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 19 (2010)
  • Edward Reines and Nathan Greenblatt, Interlocutory Appeals of Claim Construction in the Patent Reform Act of 2009, Part II, 2010 Patently‐O Patent L.J. 7  (2010) (Reines.2010)
  • Gregory P. Landis & Loria B. Yeadon, Selecting the Next Nominee for the Federal Circuit: Patently Obvious to Consider Diversity, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 1 (2010) (Nominee Diversity)
  • Paul Cole, Patentability of Computer Software As Such, 2008 Patently-O Patent L.J. 1. (Cole.pdf)
  • John F. Duffy, The Death of Google’s Patents, 2008 Patently O-Pat. L.J. ___ (googlepatents101.pdf)
  • Mark R. Patterson, Reestablishing the Doctrine of Patent Exhaustion, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 38
  • Arti K. Rai, The GSK Case: An Administrative Perspective, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 36
  • Joshua D. Sarnoff, BIO v. DC and the New Need to Eliminate Federal Patent Law Preemption of State and Local Price and Product Regulation, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 30 (Download Sarnoff.BIO.pdf)
  • John F. Duffy, Are Administrative Patent Judges Unconstitutional?, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 21. (Duffy.BPAI.pdf)
  • Joseph Casino and Michael Kasdan, In re Seagate Technology: Willfulness and Waiver, a Summary and a Proposal, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 1 (Casino-Seagate)

Ignoring Nautilus: Sonix Tech. v. Publications Int’l

Sonix Tech. v. Publications Int’l (Fed. Cir. 2017)

The district court awarded summary judgment to the defendant — finding the asserted claims invalid as indefinite under 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 2.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit has reversed finding that the claim was still reasonably certain even with the claim term “visually negligible.”

Section 112 ¶ 2 (now 112(b)) requires claims that “particularly point[] out and distinctly claim[] the subject matter which the inventor or a joint inventor regards as the invention.”  This statement has been is the source of the “definiteness requirement.”  In Nautilus (2014) the Supreme Court interpreted the requirement as demanding that “a patent’s claims, viewed in light of the specification and prosecution history, inform those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention with reasonable certainty.”  Indefinite claims of an issued patent are invalid and thus unenforceable.  However, the Federal Circuit has repeatedly stated that (and reiterates here) that “Indefiniteness must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.”

Sonix’s U.S. Patent 7,328,845 covers a “visually negligible” graphical indicator and its use to encode information on the surface of an object.  The specification notes that this visually-negligible requirement is the primary benefit of its system over prior art encoding methods such as a barcode.  Figure 12 below shows the difference in the prior art 12(a) and the invention 12(b).

Although ‘visually negligible’ is not quite expressly defined by the specification, a potential definition is found in the invention summary:

The graphical indicators co-exist with main information, such as a text or picture, on the surface of object, and do not interfere with the perception of human eyes to the main information. A user retrieves the graphical indicators through an electronic system that does not couple with the object and acquires additional information from the graphical indicators.

Later, the specification also provides details on how to create a visually negligible indicator by using an array of “graphical micro-units” that “can be reduced further such that the combination … of the graphical micro-units is visually negligible or is viewed as a background material by human eyes.”  The specification goes on to explain that best results come from micro-units “so tiny that only a microscope apparatus can detect it”; so small that “human eyes cannot differentiate one graphical indicator from others”; and that when “arranged loosely … the user easily neglects the combination … of graphical micro-units and pays attention to main information.”   The patent also calls-out three factors used to create negligibility: differentiability, brightness, and homogeneity.

With this background in mind, the Federal Circuit found that it could construe “visually negligible” as asking whether “something interferes with a user’s perception” and “involves what can be seen by the normal human eye.”  As such, the court found that the claim term does provide an “objective baseline through which to interpret the claims.”  Unfortunately for those of us looking for clarity in opinion-writing, Judge Lourie failed to indicate where he found the “normal human eye” baseline – since it is found nowhere in the patent documents or even elsewhere in the 19-page opinion.  In any event, the “normal human eye” baseline means that the term is not “purely subjective.”

The court continued – finding that – “an accused infringer could compare the examples and criteria from the written description … to determine whether [any given] indicator is visually negligible.”  In the process, the court distinguishes cases such as Datamize and Interval Licensing.

The presumption of validity also helped the patentee — with the court finding that “Appellees have not provided evidence that human perception varies so significantly that reliance on it as a standard renders the claims indefinite.”

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Right result here – however, the court again does a poor job by reiterating its blanket statement that indefiniteness must be proven with clear and convincing evidence.  But, indefiniteness is a question of law and the clear-and-convincing standard is historically directed to factual conclusions made by a court rather than questions of law.

A second problem with this decision as well as the rest of the court’s post-Nautilus jurisprudence is that the opinion fails to describe or define what it means by ‘reasonable certainty.’

Finally, as suggested above, the “normal” human eye baseline created by Judge Lourie was apparently pulled from nowhere.  The proposal was found nowhere in the patent document or the briefing.  However, the court must have felt this term necessary to overcome its prior precedent requiring objective boundaries.

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One thing that likely saved the patentee here is that the patentee was not seeking to unduly broaden the scope of this claim term — i.e., the accused infringers products clearly used visually negligible indicator standards.

Guest Post: TC Heartland and Statutory Interpretation

By: Michael Risch, Professor of Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

After the certiorari grant in TC Heartland, Dennis solicited a blog post from anyone who thought the case was not a slam dunk. Always the contrarian, I took him up on the offer. In a prior blog post at my own blog, Written Description, I detail some of the history of the statute and highlight why I think that Fourco does not necessarily answer the question. Colleen Chien and I flesh out the history and interpretation a bit more in our article, which we’ve blogged about here in the past.

I should note that the outset that I favor TC Heartland’s position from a policy point of view. I’ve long said in a variety of venues (including comment threads on this very blog) that there are significant problems with any system in which so much rides on where the case is filed. And I think that’s true whether you think they are doing a great or terrible job in the Eastern District of Texas.

Now, on to the interpretive issues. In general, I favor the application of longstanding original norms of statutory interpretation unless there’s good reason to depart from them (see, e.g., my new paper on reasonable royalties). I think this is doubly true where no one ever challenged the original interpretation (see, e.g. the ridiculous claims that common law copyright grants a performance right to sound recordings, despite the fact that no one ever thought so in the history of common law copyright). But in this case, I don’t think one can simply rely on the fact that no one challenged VE Holdings for 25 years. After all, the Supreme Court just overturned our understanding of design patent damages despite a tacit understanding that was more than 100 years old. As I noted here, this bothered me a bit given my general views, but I also think it was the correct statutory interpretation.

But, as I noted in my prior blog post, I don’t think one can just say “Fourco controls.” As I noted there: “Stonite and Fourco were statutory interpretation problems…. [T]his is a statutory interpretation problem. But the statute in Fourco is different from the statute today and has been amended twice since. We cannot rely on a supposed ‘rule’ about a statute that no longer exists.”

Instead, we have to return to first principles. In Stonite, the court clearly held that the patent venue statute was a special statute, to be specially applied differently than the general venue statute.  After Stonite, the general venue statute was amended. But let’s look at the statutes of the time. Right out of Fourco:

Section 1400 is titled “Patents and copyrights,” and subsection (b) reads:

“(b) Any civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.”

Section 1391 is titled “Venue generally,” and subsection (c) reads:

“(c) A corporation may be sued in any judicial district in which it is incorporated or licensed to do business or is doing business, and such judicial district shall be regarded as the residence of such corporation for venue purposes.”

The court ruled that not enough changed since Stonite: we still had two separate venue tracks, and the patent statute was separate. The question now: is there a way for Congress to have changed this? could it have done so unintentionally? Let’s look at the 1988 change to 1391(c):

“For purposes of venue under this chapter, a defendant that is a corporation shall be deemed to reside in any judicial district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced.”

There is a key change here: 1391(c) no longer talks about a “separate” track where corporations can be sued “for venue purposes.” Instead, it says that “for purposes of venue under this chapter…” the definition of resides has now been set (emphasis added). The question is whether the Fourco precedent means that Congress had to do more than this to change the meaning of 1400(b) (which is in the same chapter). In VE Holdings, the Federal Circuit said no, it didn’t – that the plain language modified 1400, and, essentially, that Congress had said there were no more tracks here.

And that, I think, is the core question here. This is not a Supreme Court policy. This is the Court interpreting the statute. What did Congress do? In Stonite and Fourco, the Court said that Congress intended two separate tracks. The Federal Circuit says that in 1988, Congress merged those tracks by changing the definition of “venue” “under this chapter.”

The only other information we have is that in 2011, more than 20 years after VE Holdings, Congress expanded 1391 again. Section 1391(a) says the section applies to all civil actions “except as otherwise provided by law” (and as we detail in our article, the legislative history is clear that this referred to a list of statutes compiled by the ALI, and 1400 is not among them.) Further, 1391(c) expanded from “under this chapter” to “all venue purposes.” In other words, knowing that the Federal Circuit had interpreted 1391(c) and 1400 to be in a single track, Congress further expanded 1391 even more broadly and did nothing to clarify that no, really, “resides” in 1400(b) was really intended to continue to have the narrow definition. We know from many other contexts, in patent law and otherwise, that Congress is fully capable of correcting erroneous court interpretations, and the agglomeration of cases in Texas was known in 2011. Indeed, the AIA was passed in close proximity, and it included special provisions to deal with filings in Texas, but never once attempted to clarify that VE Holdings interpretation was wrong. For Congress to have expanded the venue statute and pass the AIA without addressing this point is particularly salient.

I, frankly, have no idea how this statutory interpretation issue will or even should come out. I don’t think this is a statutory slam dunk either way. TC Heartland is represented by outstanding lawyers who make outstanding arguments to the contrary. And the Court even granting cert. says something. You could dismiss all I’ve written with a wave of the hand: Fourco stands for the proposition that 1400(b) is separate and the current 1391(c) is no different in structure than the 1391(c) that faced the court then. I am troubled by this argument, but I can see how others might reasonably embrace it.

Lemley-Oliver-Richardson: Patent Purchases and Litigation Outcomes

The sales market for patent rights continues to vex analysts – especially in terms of valuation. In their Patently-O Patent Law Journal article, Professor Mark Lemley teams up with the Richardson Oliver Group to provide some amount of further guidance.  The article particularly considers how patent litigation outcomes vary according to the identity of the patentee (ownership) and the manner in which the patent was obtained (source).

We analyzed the data based on ownership and source to test our intuitions about how successfully purchased patents can be litigated. The results, especially, when analyzed based on the entity type produced both confirmatory and surprising results. For example, the intuition that companies generally do better with their own patents was confirmed. In contrast, surprisingly, inventor-started companies fared better with purchased patents. Purchasers can use the results of this analysis to inform future modeling and purchase decisions.

Mark A. Lemley, Erik Oliver, Kent Richardson, James Yoon, & Michael Costa, Patent Purchases and Litigation Outcomes, 2016 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 15.

Read the ArticleLemley.2016.PatentMarket

Prior Patently-O Patent L.J. Articles:

  • Bernard Chao and Amy Mapes, An Early Look at Mayo’s Impact on Personalized Medicine, 2016 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 10 (Chao.2016.PersonalizedMedicine)
  • James E. Daily, An Empirical Analysis of Some Proponents and Opponents of Patent Reform, 2016 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1. (Daily.2016.Professors)
  • Tristan Gray–Le Coz and Charles Duan, Apply It to the USPTO: Review of the Implementation of Alice v. CLS Bank in Patent Examination, 2014 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1. (GrayLeCozDuan)
  • Robert L. Stoll, Maintaining Post-Grant Review Estoppel in the America Invents Act: A Call for Legislative Restraint, 2012 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1 (Stoll.2012.estoppel.pdf)
  • Paul Morgan, The Ambiguity in Section 102(a)(1) of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, 2011 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 29.  (Morgan.2011.AIAAmbiguities)
  • Joshua D. Sarnoff, Derivation and Prior Art Problems with the New Patent Act, 2011 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 12 (sarnoff.2011.derivation.pdf)
  • Bernard Chao, Not So Confidential: A Call for Restraint in Sealing Court Records, 2011 Patently-O Patent Patent Law Journal 6 (chao.sealedrecords.pdf)
  • Benjamin Levi and Rodney R. Sweetland, The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Recommendations to the International Trade Commission (ITC):  Unsound, Unmeasured, and Unauthoritative, 2011 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 1 (levi.ftcunsound.pdf)
  • Kevin Emerson Collins, An Initial Comment on King Pharmaceuticals: The Printed Matter Doctrine as a Structural Doctrine and Its Implications for Prometheus Laboratories, 2010 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 111 (Collins.KingPharma.pdf)
  • Robert A. Matthews, Jr., When Multiple Plaintiffs/Relators Sue for the Same Act of Patent False Marking, 2010 Patently-O Patent Law Journal 95 (matthews.falsemarking.pdf)
  • Kristen Osenga, The Patent Office’s Fast Track Will Not Take Us in the Right Direction, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 89 (Osenga.pdf)
  • Peter S. Menell,  The International Trade Commission’s Section 337 Authority, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 79
  • Donald S. Chisum, Written Description of the Invention: Ariad (2010) and the Overlooked Invention Priority Principle, 2010 Patently‐O Patent L.J. 72
  • Kevin Collins, An Initial Comment on Ariad: Written Description and the Baseline of Patent Protection for After-Arising Technology, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 24
  • Etan Chatlynne, Investigating Patent Law’s Presumption of Validity—An Empirical Analysis, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 37
  • Michael Kasdan and Joseph Casino, Federal Courts Closely Scrutinizing and Slashing Patent Damage Awards, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 24 (Kasdan.Casino.Damages)
  • Dennis Crouch, Broadening Federal Circuit Jurisprudence: Moving Beyond Federal Circuit Patent Cases, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 19 (2010)
  • Edward Reines and Nathan Greenblatt, Interlocutory Appeals of Claim Construction in the Patent Reform Act of 2009, Part II, 2010 Patently‐O Patent L.J. 7  (2010) (Reines.2010)
  • Gregory P. Landis & Loria B. Yeadon, Selecting the Next Nominee for the Federal Circuit: Patently Obvious to Consider Diversity, 2010 Patently-O Patent L.J. 1 (2010) (Nominee Diversity)
  • Paul Cole, Patentability of Computer Software As Such, 2008 Patently-O Patent L.J. 1. (Cole.pdf)
  • John F. Duffy, The Death of Google’s Patents, 2008 Patently O-Pat. L.J. ___ (googlepatents101.pdf)
  • Mark R. Patterson, Reestablishing the Doctrine of Patent Exhaustion, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 38
  • Arti K. Rai, The GSK Case: An Administrative Perspective, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 36
  • Joshua D. Sarnoff, BIO v. DC and the New Need to Eliminate Federal Patent Law Preemption of State and Local Price and Product Regulation, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 30 (Download Sarnoff.BIO.pdf)
  • John F. Duffy, Are Administrative Patent Judges Unconstitutional?, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 21. (Duffy.BPAI.pdf)
  • Joseph Casino and Michael Kasdan, In re Seagate Technology: Willfulness and Waiver, a Summary and a Proposal, 2007 Patently-O Patent L.J. 1 (Casino-Seagate)

Microsoft v. Enfish: Turns Out the Claims Are Obvious

This is a discussion of the new Federal Circuit Decision Microsoft v. Enfish appealing a PTAB final decision.

In the prior parallel decision – Enfish v. Microsoft, 822 F.3d 1327 (Fed. Cir. 2016), the Federal Circuit reversed a district court ruling that Enfish’s asserted software claims were ineligible under § 101 and also vacated the lower court’s holding that some of the claims were invalid as anticipated. U.S. Patent Nos. 6,151,604 and 6,163,775 (inventions relating to a “self-referential” database).

Enfish sued Microsoft for infringement in 2012. In addition to its litigation defenses, Microsoft marshaled a collateral attack on the patents with five petitions with the US Patent Office for inter partes review of the ’604 and ’775 patents.

After instituting review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found some of the patent claims invalid as anticipated/obvious.  On appeal, PTAB factual findings are generally given deference but legal conclusions are reviewed without deference.  After reviewing the claim construction and rejections, the Federal Circuit affirmed in a non-precedential decision.

Collateral Attacks: These collateral attacks work well to cancel patent claims with obviousness arguments that would have been unlikely to be accepted by a trial court or jury.  This is a pointed example here since the previously rejected district court’s judgment was based upon a more simplistic Section 101 analysis that is easier for the Federal Circuit to overturn.

Not Amenable to Construction:  The most interesting aspect of the decision is hidden in a single sentence statement:  “As to claims 1–26 and 30 of both patents—which are not at issue before us—the Board terminated proceedings after concluding that those claims were not amenable to construction.”

In its final judgment, the Board explained that those claims include a means-plus-function element (“means for configuring said memory according to a logical table“) but that no embodiments of the element were provided in the specification.  And, although a person of skill in the art may know how to construct the element, our 112(f) jurisprudence requires embodiments in the specification and does not allow a patentee to “rely on the knowledge of one skilled in the art to address the deficiencies” See Function Media, LLC v. Google Inc., 708 F.3d 1310 (Fed. Cir. 2013).  The statute states permits means-plus-function claims but also provides a guide for narrowly construing those claims.

35 U.S.C. 112(f) ELEMENT IN CLAIM FOR A COMBINATION.—An element in a claim for a combination may be expressed as a means or step for performing a specified function without the recital of structure, material, or acts in support thereof, and such claim shall be construed to cover the corresponding structure, material, or acts described in the specification and equivalents thereof.

In both patent prosecution and district court litigation, failure to properly disclose structural embodiments for a means-plus-function limitation results in the claim being held invalid as indefinite since the limitation’s scope cannot be properly construed.  In the inter partes review situation, however, the Board’s power is limited to cancelling patents on novelty or obviousness grounds.  As such, the Board simply terminated the IPR trial with respect to these non-construable claims. The Board writes:

In the circumstance when the specification of the challenged patent lacks sufficient disclosure of structure under 35 U.S.C. § 112, sixth paragraph, the scope of the claims cannot be determined without speculation and, consequently, the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art cannot be ascertained. For the reasons given, we determine that independent claims 1, 11, and 15 are not amenable to construction and, thus, we terminate this proceeding with respect to claims 1, 11, and 15 under 37 C.F.R. § 42.72.

[PTAB Final Decision].

No Appeal of Termination: Neither party appealed the termination, although the Federal Circuit previously held that its appellate jurisdiction over these cases is limited to appeals of “final written decision[s] with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner …”  A termination decision was seen as essentially an extension of the institution decision that is not itself appealable.

 

Of course, the original Federal Enfish decision mentioned above also addressed this indefiniteness issue and held that the claims were not indefinite because sufficient structure was disclosed — holding that the scant description was adequate because “the sufficiency of the structure is viewed through the lens of a person of skill in the art and without need to ‘disclose structures well known in the art.’  I guess that this means that those claims are OK.

Federal Circuit Orders PTO to limit business method review trials (CBM) to “financial products or services” since that is the law

by Dennis Crouch

In Unwired Planet v. Google, the Federal Circuit has vacated a PTAB covered business method decision – holding that the PTO’s definition of a “covered business method” was unduly broad.

The America Invents Act created a powerful set of post-issuance administrative review procedures known generally as AIA trials, including the covered business method (CBM) review. CBM is designed as a transitional proceeding that will sunset in the year 2020 barring congressional action. The most popular form of AIA trial is inter partes review (IPR) that allows for review of any issued patent but is limited to only novelty and obviousness challenges based upon prior art.  CBM review applies to a much narrower set of patents – only “covered business methods” – but those patents can be challenged on almost any patentability ground, including eligibility.  Here, the Board found the challenged claims unpatentable subject matter under section 101.

The term covered business method is particularly defined to include any patent “that claims a method or corresponding apparatus for performing data processing or other operations used in the practice, administration, or management of a financial product or service, except that the term does not include patents for technological inventions.” AIA § 18(d)(1).  In its implementing rules, the PTO did not further define or explain the CBM definition within its official rules – although the PTO did propose the “incidental” or “complementary” language in its official responses to comments on its proposed rules.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit has rejected the more expansive definition as contrary to the statute.

Here Unwired’s Patent No. 7,203,752 claims a method of using privacy preferences to configure when various applications are permitted to access a wireless device’s location information.  PTAB found CBM claims by noting that businesses may want “to know a wireless device is in its area so relevant advertising may be transmitted.” The PTAB’s finding here was not conjecture but instead came from the patent’s written description.  On appeal, however, the Federal Circuit found the required “financial product or service” link too tenuous.  The court explains:

The Board’s application of the “incidental to” and “complementary to” language from the PTO policy statement instead of the statutory definition renders superfluous the limits Congress placed on the definition of a CBM patent.

The court then provides a few analogies:

The patent for a novel lightbulb that is found to work particularly well in bank vaults does not become a CBM patent because of its incidental or complementary use in banks. Likewise, it cannot be the case that a patent covering a method and corresponding apparatuses becomes a CBM patent because its practice could involve a potential sale of a good or service. All patents, at some level, relate to potential sale of a good or service. Take, for example, a patent for an apparatus for digging ditches. Does the sale of the dirt that results from use of the ditch digger render the patent a CBM patent? No, because the claims of the ditch-digging method or apparatus are not directed to “performing data processing or other operations” or “used in the practice, administration, or management of a financial product or service,” as required by the statute. It is not enough that a sale has occurred or may occur, or even that the specification speculates such a potential sale might occur.

The decision here thus appears to eliminate any chance that the patent will be considered a CBM and thus the Section 101 decision by the PTAB goes away.

No Appeal? Like IPR proceedings, CBM proceedings begin with an initiation decision followed by a trial decision.  And, like IPR proceedings, the decision to initiate a CBM is not appealable.  In Versata, however, the Federal Circuit held that the initiation question of whether a patent is a CBM patent may be reviewed on appeal.  Despite the statutory language and the intervening Supreme Court decision in Cuozzo, the court here held that it still has jurisdiction to review the CBM initiation question on appeal.

Deference: In reviewing the PTAB determination, the court gave no deference to the Board’s interpretation of the law. “We review the Board’s statutory interpretation de novo.”  The Court also gave no deference to the PTO’s “policy statement” made in its notice of final rules.  The court does implicitly suggest – as it did in Versata – that implementation of a more thorough definition in the CFR rules would be given deference. However, the PTO has not taken that approach.

I do not know yet whether Google will push this case to the Supreme Court.  The strongest argument is that Cuozzo implicitly overruled Versata. That is the holding suggested by Alito’s dissenting interpretation of the Cuozzo majority.

 

First Amendment Finally Reaches Patent Law

The big news from Intellectual Ventures v. Symantec (Fed. Cir. 2016) is not that the court found IV’s content identification system patents invalid as claiming ineligible subject matter.  (Although that did happen). Rather, the big event is Judge Mayer’s concurring opinion that makes “make two points: (1) patents constricting the essential channels of online communication run afoul of the First Amendment; and (2) claims directed to software implemented on a generic computer are categorically not eligible for patent.”

Read Judge Mayer’s opinion in full:

MAYER, Circuit Judge, concurring.

I agree that all claims on appeal fall outside of 35 U.S.C. § 101. I write separately, however, to make two points: (1) patents constricting the essential channels of online communication run afoul of the First Amendment; and (2) claims directed to software implemented on a generic computer are categorically not eligible for patent.

(more…)

Affinity II: Who Has the Burden for Alice Step II?

by Dennis Crouch

A few days ago I wrote about the Federal Circuit decision in Affinity Labs. v. DirecTV  affirming that Affinity’s U.S. Patent No. 8,688,085 claims an ineligible abstract idea rather than a patent eligible invention.

The companion case – Affinity Labs v. Amazon was decided by the same panel of Chief Judge Prost and Judges Bryson (author) and Wallach and U.S. Patent No. 7,970,379 and also affirmed that the challenged claims lack eligibility under Section 101.

In DirectTV, the court first “stripped” the representative claim “of excess verbiage.”  Using the same approach but different words, the Amazon court here offered its version of the representative claim “stated more succinctly:”  the claim “is directed to a network-based media system with a customized user interface, in which the system delivers streaming content from a network-based resource upon demand to a handheld wireless electronic device having a graphical user interface.” [Full claim text below]

Abstract Idea: Analyzing the claimed invention, the court found that the claims are directed to a high level of generality “describing a desired function or outcome, without providing any limiting detail that confines the claim to a particular solution to an identified problem. The purely functional nature of the claim confirms that it is directed to an abstract idea, not to a concrete embodiment of that idea.”  In Enfish, the court considered technological inventions and queried whether the invention represents “an improvement in the functioning of a computer,” or merely “adding conventional computer components to well-known business practices.”  Here, of course, the invention uses more than just a “computer component” but the court still found Enfish applicable — finding that the claims “fall into the latter [ineligible] category.”  Further, the “tailoring of content based on information about the user . . . is an abstract idea that is as old as providing different newspaper inserts for different neighborhoods.”  Slip opinion at  10.

Burden Shifting for Step Two?:  Once a patent is deemed to be directed to an abstract idea, the burden appears to shift against the patentee to show that the claim includes “something more” such as an “innovative concept” that goes beyond the ineligible abstract idea.  This burden-shifting would go against the traditional rule that each each element in an invalidity analysis must be proven with clear and convincing evidence — and so it may still be proper to say that the challenger also has the burden under Step Two of Alice/Mayo to show the claim includes “nothing more” of patentable weight.  A complication of this internal dialogue is that eligibility is deemed a question of law whereas the C&C evidentiary requirement applies only to questions of fact.  That distinction became important in this case since the district court dismissed the case on the pleadings prior to the consideration of any factual conflicts.

Nothing More:  Enfish substantially increased the overlap between Steps One and Two of the eligibility analysis.  Typically, if a claim includes an eligible inventive concept then it will not be deemed directed to an abstract idea in the first place.   Here, the court found the converse logic also true:

As noted [in our Enfish analysis], representative claim 14 is written in largely functional terms, claiming “a collection of instructions” that perform the functions of displaying a selection of available content on a graphical user interface and allowing the user to request streaming of that content. . . . [These features] do not convert the abstract idea of delivering media content to a handheld electronic device into a concrete solution to a problem. The features set forth in the claims are described and claimed generically rather than with the specificity necessary to show how those components provide a concrete solution to the problem addressed by the patent.

Thus, the claim fails under Step Two as well – Judgment on the Pleadings of Invalidity Affirmed.

= = = = =

The court noted that the title of the patent ““System and Method to Communicate Targeted Information” has essentially no relation to the asserted claims.  That disconnect had no direct impact on patentability.  However, it appears to have lent credence to the notion that the claims lack innovative weight and technical application since the focus of the claims is something different than what was originally thought to be innovative and worth extensive description.

= = = = =

Claim 14: A media system, comprising:

a network based media managing system that maintains a library of content that a given user has a right to access and a customized user interface page for the given user;

a collection of instructions stored in a nontransitory storage medium and configured for execution by a processor of a handheld wireless device, the collection of instructions operable when executed: (1) to initiate presentation of a graphical user interface for the network based media managing system; (2) to facilitate a user selection of content included in the library; and (3) to send a request for a streaming delivery of the content; and

a network based delivery resource maintaining a list of network locations for at least a portion of the content, the network based delivery resource configured to respond to the request by retrieving the portion from an appropriate network location and streaming a representation of the portion to the handheld wireless device.

= = = = =

“Inherent Disclosure” in Priority Document is Sufficient to Satisfy Written Description Requirement

Yeda Research v. Abbott (Fed. Cir. 2016)

Abbott’s patent broadly covers Tumor Necrosis Factor α binding protein (TBP-II). U.S. Patent No. 5,344,915.  The U.S. application was filed in 1990, but claims priority to two German applications filed in 1989. A would-be anticipatory prior art reference (Engelmann) was published after the priority applications but before the U.S. application – and the parties have agreed that dispute turns on whether the claims get to rely upon the early priority date.

In the preceding interference proceeding, the Board sided with Abbott as did the district court – finding that one of the German applications sufficiently disclosed the invention.  (Yeda’s application was filed nine days after Abbott’s.)

A priority filing is only effective if the claimed invention was sufficiently described in the original filing.  This implementation of the written description requirement requires the invention “be disclosed in a way that clearly allows a person of ordinary skill to recognize that the inventor invented what is claimed and possessed the claimed subject matter at the date of filing.” Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Eli Lilly & Co., 598 F.3d 1336, 1351 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (en banc).  In the priority context, failure of written description does not directly invalidate the claims but instead effectively negates the priority claim.  Here, that date is critical because of the intervening prior art.

 

Abbott’s Claim 1 is directed to the binding protein with “a molecular weight of about 42,000 daltons” and that has at “the N-terminus the amino acid sequence Xaa Thr Pro Tyr Ala Pro Glu Pro Gly Set Thr Cys Arg Leu Arg Glu . . . .”  The problem though is that neither of Abbott’s priority filings expressly disclose the claimed N-terminus sequence.

Abbott was able to overcome the lack of express disclosure with an “inherent disclosure”:

Under the doctrine of inherent disclosure, when a specification describes an invention that has certain undisclosed yet inherent properties, that specification serves as adequate written description to support a subsequent patent application that explicitly recites the invention’s inherent properties.

Slip Opinion at 6 (citing Kennecott).

Here, the priority document described how to make TBP-II, but did not identify the actual sequence as claimed.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit ruled that the original disclosure “inherently discloses the remaining amino acids in the N-terminus sequence” and therefore “serves as adequate written description support for the patent claiming TBP-II.”

 

 

 

A Specification’s Focus on Particular Embodiment Not Limiting if Other Embodiments are also Expressly Contemplated

CollatingBottlesScriptPro v. Innovation Associates (Fed. Cir. 2016)

Very Slow Roller Coaster: This Kansas-based infringement lawsuit was filed back in 2006.  The case was stayed pending an inter partes reexamination.  Once re-opened, the district court held that ScriptPro’s asserted claims invalid for lack of written description under 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 1.  In a 2014 appeal of that decision, the Federal Circuit reversed – finding genuine issues of material fact regarding whether a skilled artisan deem the patentee in possession of the invention upon reading the specification. On remand, the district court again held the claims invalid on written description grounds and citing the oft maligned ‘essential element’ cases of Gentry Gallery, Inc. v. Berkline Corp., 134 F.3d 1473 (Fed. Cir. 1988) and ICU Medical, Inc. v. Alaris Medical Systems, Inc., 558 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2009).  On appeal, the Federal Circuit has now reversed again and remanded for trial.

The claim at issue is directed to a conveyor and “automatic” collating system for prescription containers. U.S. Patent No. 6,910,601, Claim 8.  The claim itself does not specify how the collation occurs, but throughout the specification the patentee indicates that the containers will be collated by patient name and storage space availability.  Seeing that distinction, the district court agreed with the challenger that the claims fail because they were not commensurate with the written description of the invention.

The District Court:

[O]ne of [the invention’s] central purposes is to collate and store prescriptions by patient. But the claims do not limit the ways in which the prescription containers are stored. They do not specify any type of collation or storage. . . .

These broad claims are not supported by the much-more-limited specification. They do not require that the control system organize containers based on patient name and space availability. During its appeal, ScriptPro repeatedly emphasized a central purpose of the ′601 patent: to “keep [ ] track of slot use by particular customers and slot availability.” [quoting Federal Circuit decision] This means that the use of any other method for automatic storage is outside this purpose. Based on the broad claim language that is outside a central purpose of the patent, the court determines that no reasonable jury could find the written-description requirement met. . . . ScriptPro argues, keeping track of slot use by particular customers and slot availability is only one of several goals. But ScriptPro does not identify any alternate goals.

The court finds ScriptPro’s argument unpersuasive. While every claim need not encompass every goal, here the claims do not address one of the invention’s central goals—one that ScriptPro repeatedly emphasized on appeal. It is disingenuous for ScriptPro to now downplay the significance of the goal. Without including a limitation to address the storage by patient name, the claims are simply too broad to be valid.

[District Court Decision]

On appeal, the Federal Circuit has reversed – holding that the patentee included a sufficient number of wobbly-words to avoid limiting the specification.

It is true, as Innovation argues, that much of the ’601 patent’s specification focuses on embodiments employing a sorting and storage scheme based on patient-identifying information. See, e.g., ’601 patent, 4:21–25 (“[t]he unit stores prescription containers according to a storage algorithm that is dependent on a patient name for whom a container is intended”), 5:40–47 (“a prescription for a patient is entered into the control system of the ADS along with identifying information for the prescription, such as the patient name . . . [t]he control system next determines in which holding area to store the container”), 6:36–37 (“[t]he collating unit is also operable to associate a stored container with a patient based on the patient’s name”). And it is also true that the specification explains that prior art automated control centers that store containers “based on a prescription number associated with the container, as opposed to storing the container based on a patient name” are “especially inconvenient for several reasons.” ’601 patent, 3:6–11. But a specification’s focus on one particular embodiment or purpose cannot limit the described invention where that specification expressly contemplates other embodiments or purposes.

[Appellate Decision]. (patent drafters consider the plural in of “other embodiments“)

An amazing aspect of this case is that the distinguishing feature for written description is the focus on whether a patient’s name is being used to sort bottles (vs some number).  On remand, the defendant’s next round involve Alice.

 

 

Prof. Radin’s Patent Notice and the Trouble with Plain Meaning

By Jason Rantanen

Professor Margaret Radin, who recently retired from the University of Michigan Law School, is a leading scholar known for her work in property theory, contracts law, intellectual property, and internet commerce.  She’s best known to my students  for her articulation of a modern personhood theory of property in Property and Personhood, 34 Stan. L. Rev. 957 (1982).

In her essay Patent Notice and the Trouble with Plain Meaning forthcoming in the Boston University Law Review, Professor Radin offers her thoughts on a topic at the heart of contemporary debates in patent law: the extent to which the words of claims can operate as boundaries that provide the same degree of notice that we expect in the real property context. The abstract reads:

In their book, Patent Failure, James Bessen and Michael Meurer took the position that notice of the scope of a patentee’s property right is usefully analogous to notice conveyed by real property boundaries. In this essay I argue to the contrary that the idea that patent claim language could be rendered determinate enough to justify an analogy with physical fences or metes and bounds is illusory. Patent claims raise the question, in a way that fences do not, of how words “read on” objects in, or states of, or events in the world. I take a small detour through the language theory of Quine as backdrop to my argument that there is no such thing as plain meaning, at least not in situations involving innovative products and processes where there is money at stake. I draw on three landmark patent cases — Markman, Phillips, and Festo — to illustrate this basic point. In my concluding Postscript I bring the big picture into play. The costs of providing better notice, even if that were possible, might outweigh the gains. Plus, even if the analogy with physical boundaries and the commitment to plain meaning were not illusory, such rigidity in interpreting claims would undermine a significant feature of the patent system: the flexibility to reward breakthrough inventions proportionately to their importance.

Professor Radin’s discussion is worth a read for the eloquent way that she captures and synthesizes the raw strands floating around in current discussions about patent claims.

Viewed through the lens of my current projects, though, her essay raises deeper questions about the meaning of claim construction itself.  Over the last two decades, patent law has experienced the emergence of the perception that claim construction is simply the process of interpreting the meaning of the words in the claims.  From Markman to Cybor to Phillips, claim construction grew into a search for linguistic meaning.  Even Teva reinforces this perception, with its focus on the role of evidence in determining the meaning of key claim terms.

But patent law’s dirty secret is that claim construction isn’t just about divining the linguistic sense of words and phrases in the claims.  That’s a seemingly fine inquiry when analyzing questions such as infringement, or anticipation or even, perhaps, nonobviousness.  Yet when it comes to other issues in patent law–enablement, written description and especially § 101–defining the meaning of words is less central to the analysis.   To be sure, sometimes the formalized procedure of Phillips does matter in enablement.  Liebel-Flarsheim and Automotive Technologies offer two examples.  But for the most part, the formalized claim construction that we’re used to is absent from the Federal Circuit’s enablement, written description and § 101 determinations.

Nevertheless, claim construction of a sort is present.  The court articulates something that it uses in its analysis.  In the enablement and written description contexts, I’ve come to call this something a target that must be enabled or adequately described.  What it really is, though, is claim construction–just not in the sense that we’ve become comfortable with.

The Federal Circuit’s opinion on Monday in Bascom v. AT&T Mobility [Download Opinion] illustrates this point.  That case involved a motion to dismiss granted by the district court on the ground that the claims were invalid on § 101 grounds.  (I’ll summarize the facts and holding in more detail in a subsequent post.)  After assuming that the claims were directed to an abstract idea under Enfish‘s statement about “close calls” at step one of the Alice/Mayo framework, the court turned to step two: the search for an “inventive concept.”  Here, the court concluded that the “inventive concept described and claimed in the []patent is the installation of a filtering tool at a specific location, remote from the end-users, with customizable filtering features specific to each end user,” a concept that the court concluded was not (on the record before it) conventional or generic.  Slip Op. at 15-16.  This determination–of identifying an “inventive concept”–is as much claim construction as the linguistic machinations of Phillips.  Indeed, the court even refered to what it is doing as construing the claims: “Thus, construed in favor of the nonmovant–BASCOM–the claims are “more than a drafting effort designed to monopolize the [abstract idea].”  Slip Op. at 17.

Supreme Court Patent Report: End of 2015 Term

by Dennis Crouch

The Supreme Court has completed its patent law business for the 2015 term and will re-open decision making in September 2016.  Briefing and new filings will, however, continue throughout the summer.

Two Decisions: The Supreme Court has decided its two major patent cases – Halo/Stryker and Cuozzo.  In Halo, the court re-opened the door to more treble-damage awards for willful patent infringement.  The decision rejects the objective-recklessness standard of Seagate (Fed. Cir. 2007)(en banc) and instead places substantial discretion in the hands of district court judges for determining the appropriate sactions “egregious infringement behavior.”  In Cuozzo, the court affirmed the Federal Circuit’s pro-PTO decision.  The decisions confirms the PTO’s authority construe claims according to their broadest-reasonable-construction (BRI) even during post-issuance review proceedings and also confirms the Federal Circuit ruling that the PTO’s initiation of an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding is not appealable (even after final decision).  A major caveat of this appealability issue is that the court limited its holding to run-of-the-mill IPR patent issues.  The court did not determine when other issues arising from institution, such as constitutional due process challenges, might be appealable.

Both decisions are important. Halo adds at least a gentle breeze to the would-be patent infringement armada.  I heard many discussions of pendulum’s swinging in the days following the case, although I would not go quite so far.  Cuozzo was a full affirmance of the PTO position and will operate to continue to raise the statute and importance of the agency.

Three Pending Cases Set the Stage for Next Term: With the certiorari writ grant in Life Tech v. Promega, we now have three patent cases set for review and judgment next term.  The issue in Life Tech is fairly narrow and involves export of of a component of a patented invention for combination in a would-be-infringing manner abroad.  The statute requires export of a “substantial portion of the components” and the question in the case is whether export of one component can legally constitute that “substantial portion.”  In the case, the component (Taq) is a commodity but is also an admitted critical aspect of the invention.  Life Tech may be most interesting for those generally interested in international U.S. law (i.e., extraterritorial application of U.S. law).  The other two pending cases are Samsung v. Apple (special damages in design patent cases) and SCA Hygiene (laches defense in patent cases).

None of these three pending cases are overwhelmingly important in the grand scheme of the patent system, although Samsung is fundamental to the sub-genre of design patents.  This week, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Sequenom v. Ariosa – a case that some thought might serve to rationalize patent eligibility doctrine in a way that favors patentees.  For now, the Mayo, Alice, _____ trilogy remains open-ended. This leaves the Federal Circuit in its nadir.

Following Cuozzo, the only AIA post-issue review cases still ongoing are Cooper and MCM.  These cases raise US Constitutional issues that were expressly not decided in Cuozzo.  Briefing is ongoing in MCM and one scenario is that the court will sit on Cooper and then grant/deny the pair together.  A new petition was filed by Trading Technologies just before Cuozzo was released – the case focuses on a mandamus (rather than appeal) of a CBM institution decision for a patent covering a GUI tool. (Full disclosure – while in practice I represented TT and litigated the patent at issue).  Of minor interest, the court issued a GVR order (Grant-Vacate-Remand) in Click-to-Call Tech. v. Oracle Corp (15-1014) with instructions to the Federal Circuit to reconsider its prior decision in light of the recently decided Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee, 579 U. S. ___ (2016).  It will be interesting to see whether the patentee can develop a new hook for the Federal Circuit.

The end-of-term clean sweep leaves only two-more briefed-cases with potential for certiorari: Impression Prod. v. Lexmark Int’l. (post-sale restrictions); and Sandoz v. Amgen (BPCIA patent dance).  In both cases the court called for the views of the Solicitor General (CVSG). DOJ briefs should be filed around the end of the year – although the election may shift some of the timing.  SG Donald Verrilli has stepped down with former deputy Ian Gershengorn now serving as Acting SG.

The big list:

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USPTO’s Six New Patent Quality Studies

1) Evaluation of the deviation of 35 U.S.C. §101 rejections from official guidance, correctness of rejections and completeness of the analysis. This study will evaluate whether examiners are properly making subject matter eligibility rejections under 35 U.S.C. §101 and clearly communicating their reasoning.

2) Review of consistency of the application of 35 U.S.C. §101 across art units/technology centers. This study will take a look at applications with related technologies located in different art units or technology centers and determine whether similar claims are being treated dissimilarly under 35 U.S.C. §101.

3) The practice of compact prosecution when 35 U.S.C. §101 rejections are made.  This study will determine whether all appropriate rejections are being made in a first Office action when a subject matter eligibility issue is also identified.

4) Correctness and clarity of motivation statements in 35 U.S.C. §103 rejections. This study will evaluate whether reasons for combining references set forth in rejections under 35 U.S.C. §103 are being set forth clearly and with correct motivation to combine statements.

5) Enforcement of 35 U.S.C. §112(a) written description in continuing applications. This study will evaluate claims in continuing applications to determine if they contain subject matter unsupported by an original parent application and whether examiners are appropriately enforcing the requirements of 35 U.S.C. §112(a) written description.

6) Consistent treatment of claims after the May 2014 35 U.S.C. §112(f) training. This study will determine whether claims invoking 35 U.S.C. §112(f) are being properly interpreted and treated.

http://www.uspto.gov/blog/director/entry/topics_announced_for_case_studies

 

Supreme Court Patent Update: 271(e) Safe Harbor

by Dennis Crouch

Look for opinions in Halo/Stryker and Cuozzo by the end June 2016.

Post Grant Admin: While we await Cuozzo, a set of follow-on cases continue to pile-up.  My speculation is that the Supreme Court will delay any decision in those cases until it finalizes the outcome of Cuozzo. With a host of new friend-of-the-court briefs and interesting constitutional questions, MCM v. HP is perhaps best positioned for certiorari.  Additional pending cases include Versata v. SAP (scope of CBM review); Cooper v. Lee (whether IPRs violate Separation of Powers); Click-to-Call Tech, LP v. Oracle Corp., (Same questions as Cuozzo and now-dismissed Achates v. Apple); GEA Process Engineering, Inc. v. Steuben Foods, Inc. (Flip-side of Cuozzo: Appeal when PTAB exceeds its authority by terminating an instituted IPR proceeding?); Interval Licensing LLC v. Lee (Same as Cuozzo); and Stephenson v. Game Show Network, LLC (Same as Cuozzo)

Design Patent Damages: Samsung has filed its opening merits briefs in the design patent damages case against Apple.  Design patent infringement leads to profit disgorgment, but the question is what profits? [More from Patently-O].

Versus Cisco: There are a couple of newly filed petitions. Interestingly, both filed by Michael Heim’s firm with Miranda Jones on both briefs representing plaintiff-petitioners.  In both cases Cisco is respondent.

  • CSIRO v. CISCO (fact-law divide in proving infringement damages under 35 U.S.C. § 284).
  • COMMIL v. CISCO (appellate disregard of factual evidence).

Of course, Commil was the subject to a 2015 Supreme Court decision that rejected the Federal Circuit’s original opinion favoring Cisco.  On remand, the Federal Circuit completely changed its decision but again sided with Cisco and rejected the jury verdict — holding “that substantial evidence does not support the jury’s finding that Cisco’s devices, when used, perform the “running” step of the asserted claims.”

Safe Harbor for Federal Submissions: In the newly filed Amphastar Pharma case, the Supreme Court has already requested a response from Momenta. The question presented focuses on the safe-harbor provision of 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(1) and asks: Whether the safe harbor protects a generic drug manufacturer’s bioequivalence testing that is performed only as a condition of maintaining FDA approval and is documented in records that must be submitted to the FDA upon request.  The federal circuit held that Amphastar’s activity in this case was not protected by the safe harbor because it involved information “routinely reported” to the FDA post-approval. [Amphastar Petition]

The big list:

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