USPTO’s Rule 56 “But For-Plus” Proposal
Last week, the USPTO published proposed changes to the materiality standard of 37 CFR §§ 1.56 and 1.555 in response to the Federal Circuit en banc decision in Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co.
Impressively, the USPTO has managed to publish the proposed changes in just under two months (since the issuance of the Therasense decision). The initiative to craft such meaningful proposals in such a short time period, as well as the intention to help alleviate the significant duty of disclosure obligations is certainly greatly appreciated by all stakeholders.
In distilling the essence of Therasense down to succinct language for rule making purposes, the USPTO has promulgated a “but for-plus” test.
Is this test appropriate as currently presented, or does it require a bit more seasoning? Read the rest of this entry »
Therasense Decision to Influence the Choice Between Ex Parte vs. Inter Partes Patent Reexamination?
On May 25, 2011, the Federal Circuit issued its the long awaited en banc decision in Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co. 2008-1511. The majority opinion authored by Chief Judge Randall Rader established a single new standard for determining materiality in inequitable conduct cases. This new “but for” standard defines material information as any non-cumulative information which, had it been disclosed prior to patent issuance, would have prevented the patent from issuing.
Unlike the prior standard used in determining materiality of undisclosed information, the new standard assesses materiality on a preponderance of evidence burden of proof standard giving the patent claims their broadest reasonable construction in light of and consistent with the supporting patent specification. Presumably, because the majority opinion rejected the applicability of the USPTO’s materiality standard under 37 CFR § 1.56(b)(1), the new “but for” standard will take into account any rebuttable evidence that is proffered by the patent owner such as antedating non-statutory bar prior art and objective indicia of non-obviousness, irrespective of the fact that none of such rebuttal evidence was ever submitted to the USPTO for consideration prior to patent issuance.
A consequence of the new “but for” test for materiality is that, at least for those filings that include art forming the basis of an inequitable conduct defense to infringement, inter partes patent reexamination is now the more attractive option. Read the rest of this entry »
Demonstrating Objectively Reasonable Conduct
The admissibility of evidence relating to an ongoing patent reexamination in a parallel patent litigation is often times a question of both purpose and timing. Last January, we presented a four part series on this topic. These earlier posts compared the attempted litigation purpose (i.e., willfulness, inequitable conduct, claim construction, etc) of patent reexamination evidence relative to the stage of the patent reexamination (i.e., grant, first action, final action, etc).
In addition to these two factors, consideration must also be given to the litigation forum.
As mentioned above, one purpose for introducing evidence of an ongoing patent reexamination in a parallel litigation is to avoid a post filing (i.e., complaint) willfulness determination. The existence of an ongoing patent reexamination may be admitted to demonstrate that the accused infringer was not objectively reckless in its actions irrespective of its prior knowledge of the asserted patent. Although some courts have found that reexamination evidence defeats a finding of willfulness, these courts typically examine the status of the claims in the reexamination proceeding at the time of the willfulness determination, finding that the weight of the reexamination evidence depends on whether the reexamination proceedings are complete and whether the patent claims have undergone substantive changes in reexamination. When seeking introduction of such evidence, depending upon the court, the stage of the parallel litigation (Summary Judgment, JMOL, Pre-Trial Motions) may determine whether or not it is admissible. Read the rest of this entry »
Getting Your Case Stayed By Stipulated Acceleration
Many inter partes patent reexaminations are conducted concurrent to district court litigation (USPTO statistics indicating 70% ). At one point or another, the defendant(s) will seek a stay of the parallel litigation arguing that the inter partes patent reexamination will reduce issues for trial based upon familiar factors. Of course, in arguing against the stay, the Patentee will cite to the statistics indicating that inter partes patent reexamination take years to conclude through appeal.
So, since everyone knows the game, why don’t defendants show some creativity and take matters into their own hands? In other words, there is a rule already in existence by which participants of an inter partes patent reexamination can accelerate the proceeding THEMSELVES. So, why isn’t anyone using it? Read the rest of this entry »
GEOSPAN Corporation filed a lawsuit in March 2008 in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, alleging that Pictometry infringed GEOSPAN’s U.S. Patent No. 5,633,946.
In a separate action on November 11, 2008, GEOSPAN requested the U.S Patent Office to reexamine Pictometry’s U.S. Patent Number 7,424,133, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Capturing, Geolocating and Measuring Oblique Images.” This action is a procedure used by the U.S. Patent Office to allow the claims in existing patents to be contested (Ref. No. 95/001,110)
In its request, GEOSPAN set forth substantial new questions of patentability based upon a September 5, 2002 printed publication by David Rattigan, a reported for a Boston newspaper. The USPTO ordered inter partes reexamination of the ‘133 Patent, and subsequently issued a Non-Final Office Action on February 2, 2009 rejecting claims 17-24 on anticipation and obviousness grounds. Currently, the rejections are on appeal to the BPAI.
On May 25, 2010, the patent owner filed its brief. On the appeal, the Patent Owner is contesting the USPTO’s conclusion that the submitted declaration evidence filed under 37 C.F.R. § 1.131 (swear behind) is insufficient as well as the conclusion that declaration evidence filed under 37 C.F.R. § 1.132 is insufficient to disqualify the Rattigan publication based upon attribution. (MPEP 716.10). Of particular interest is the dispute between the USPTO and the Patent Holder as to whether declaration evidence can be used to disqualify a prior art reference as “attributed” to the inventors’ work where none of the inventors is an author of the printed publication used to reject the claims. Read the rest of this entry »
On August 20, 2010, a motion to stay the litigation between 3M Innovative Properties Co., et al. and Envisionware, Inc. (0-09-cv-01594) (NDM) pending the outcome of a parallel patent reexamination was denied. At issue in the litigation are three of 3M’s patents relating to RFID technology, namely 6,232,870, 6,486,780 and 6,857,568. Envisionware requested inter partes reexamination of the ‘780 and ‘568 Patents. Curiously, since the third patent, the ‘870 Patent does not qualify for inter partes reexamination, reexamination of this patent was not sought at all. A non-final office action rejecting the ’568 Patent claims was issued by the USPTO, the ‘780 Reexamination has yet to begin. On August 2, 2010, Envisionware filed the motion to stay the litigation.
The court denied the motion to stay the litigation citing familiar factors, noting that (1) the stay would prejudice the plaintiff, (2) the stay would not likely simplify the issues in litigation and facilitate trial, and (3) discovery will soon be complete. Yet, clearly, of more interest to the court was why Envisionware chose to ignore the ‘870 Patent altogether. Read the rest of this entry »
USPTO statistics demonstrate that Patent Owner’s fair much better in ex parte patent reexamination as opposed to inter partes patent reexamination. Current statistics indicate that all claims are canceled in patents subject to ex parte reexamination in 12% of cases, while the same statistic stands at 49% for patents subject to inter partes reexamination.
Of course, the number of concluded inter partes reexamination as compared to ex parte reexamination is still relatively small, likely skewing the statistics. Yet, it is quite clear that eliminating the active voice of the third party requester, as well as avoiding third party appeal of confirmed/allowed claims is highly desirable from a Patent Owner perspective.
Knowing that ex parte patent reexamination presents the most favorable odds to a Patent Owner, is there a preemptive strategy a patent owner can employ to diffuse the risk of inter partes patent reexamination? Read the rest of this entry »
Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical requested ex parte reexamination of only claims 1, 3 and 6 of its own U.S. Patent No. 7,034,083 (the “’083 Patent”) based upon certain prior art. However, the USPTO ordered reexamination on all claims (i.e., claims 1-6) of the ‘083 Patent.
Generally, if a requester chooses not to request reexamination for a claim, that claim will typically not be reexamined. Yet, the decision to reexamine any claim for which reexamination has not been requested lies within the sole discretion of the Office. See MPEP 2240; Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. v. Dudas, 85 USPQ2d 1594 (E.D. Va 2006).
During reexamination of the ‘083 Patent the Patentee placed the features of claim 2 into claim 1. In response to the amendment, the examiner again rejected claims 1 and 3-6 over a reference cited in the original prosecution. On appeal, the BPAI in Ex parte Yasukochi et al. affirmed the examiner’s rejection of claims 1, and 3-6.
In its decision, the BPAI refused to consider the appellant’s argument that the rejection of the claims over old art was improper, because it did not raise a substantial new question of patentability (SNQ), holding that the question of whether an SNQ exists is a petitionable issue and not an appealable issue.
In order to properly contest the new rejection, the patent owner should have Read the rest of this entry »
As noted in our post yesterday, prior to their Memorial Day break, the Federal Circuit issued two decisions touching upon patent reexamination practice, the second decision is discussed below.
In Dow Jones & Co., Inc. v. Ablaise Ltd., (Fed. Cir. 2010), the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment that the asserted claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,961,737 (the ‘737 Patent, claiming a method for generating computer web pages) are invalid as obvious. The court also addressed a related patent, 6,295,530 (the ‘530 Patent).
The court noted that the ‘737 Patent is the subject of an ex parte reexamination proceeding. In the concurrent patent reexamination, claims 1-6 of the ‘737 Patent stand finally rejected as anticipated. In footnote number three of the CAFC decision, the court lamented the fact the reexamination was not yet completed through appeal to the BPAI, stating:
An ultimately final rejection of the claims by the PTO, would fatally undermine Read the rest of this entry »
As a review for new readers, some IPR basics.
Reexamination allows the USPTO to reconsider the patentability of at least one claim of an existing patent. Congress intended reexaminations to provide an important quality check on patents that would allow the government to remove defective and erroneously granted patents. Upon making a reexamination determination, the USPTO may confirm or cancel original patent claims or allow claims as amended or newly added. There are two types of reexamination proceedings: ex parte and inter partes. An inter partes reexamination, in contrast to the ex parte reexamination, provides the third party requester to participate throughout the proceedings, including appeals. The results of inter partes reexamination are binding on the third party requester in any subsequent or concurrent civil action. The goal of reexamination is to permit efficient resolution of questions about the patentability of issued patent claims without recourse Read the rest of this entry »