A few weeks back House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), released a “discussion draft” of further patent reform ideas. The Draft is a collection of adjustments to the U.S. patent system designed to encourage a dialogue on these important reform issues. In particular the abusive litigation tactics of so called “patent trolls” are the driving force behind the legislative effort. For this reason, the bulk of the proposals of the Goodlatte Draft are squarely aimed at preventing the abusive behaviors and practices of patent trolls. Yet, there is one proposal of the Draft that stands out as a glaring exception. This troll-friendly provision, if enacted into law, would virtually ensure the continued success of the patent troll business model. Read the rest of this entry »
As discussed previously, the very first petition for a Covered Business Method Patent Challenge (CBM) was filed on September 16th by SAP (CBM2012-00001). The petition (here) challenged U.S. Patent 6,553,350 of Versata Development Group. In May of 2011, Versata secured a $391 million dollar verdict in the Eastern District of Texas against SAP. The verdict was upheld by the CAFC some weeks ago.
The PTAB expedited the parallel CBM proceeding to oral argument as the issues were narrowed to 101 grounds only. Yesterday, the PTAB cancelled the challenged claims. (here)
The PTAB’s 9 month turnaround in this matter is an impressive feat that should not be lost on Congress as they deliberate further patent reforms. The patentability challenges of the America Invents Act (AIA) are significantly impacting the patent litigation landscape, and it is expected that the second round of proposed reforms will increasingly focus on enhancing these valued litigation alternatives.
The rules of the new patentability trials of the America Invents Act (AIA) are designed to ensure timely resolution within the statutorily mandated 12 month time frame. In particular, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) fashioned their new rules to prevent the notorious delays and complications of the previous inter partes patent reexamination system. One way in which the new AIA post grant proceedings are vastly different from the previous inter partes patent reexamination model is the manner in which claim amendments may be proposed.
In the previous inter partes reexamination system, any number of amended claims could be added or submitted prior to the close of prosecution before the examiner. There was no numerical limit on the number of claims that could be submitted. In fact, it was not uncommon practice for patentees to submit hundreds of new claims. By doing so, patentees made it more difficult for the third party to respond to all issues within their 30 day period, and within page limits. Likewise, the addition of such extensive amendments made examiner/APJ processing all the more tedious and time consuming.
In the new AIA proceedings, Inter Partes Review (IPR) and Post Grant Review, the PTAB provides for a reasonable number of substitute claims. 37 C.F.R. § 42.121/221. The “reasonable” aspect has been explained as a one-to-one correspondence in the typical case. In addition, claim amendments must be presented by motion, in a particular manner. Not surprisingly, patentees are demonstrating that old habits die hard. Read the rest of this entry »
For those looking for some CLE that focuses on practice before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB), consider tomorrow’s seminar entitled: Post-Grant Patent Proceedings before the PTAB. The Strafford Legal Webinar is a 90-minute live presentation of best practices in Inter Partes Review (IPR) and Covered Business Method (CBM) challenges. The topics include strategies and practice tips for both patentees and third parties. I am pleased to be presenting along with my partner Greg Gardella.
A standard component of any patent litigation is a protective order. Such orders will invariably include a “prosecution bar. ” The prosecution bar operates to ensure that individuals accessing confidential data of an opponent are precluded from prosecuting patent applications in the area of the litigated technology (usually for a fixed duration of time). Absent this bar, patent applications/claims could be fashioned by competitive decision makers involved in the litigation based on the confidential information of their rival.
With concurrent PTAB proceedings now commonplace with most patent litigation, the question becomes:
Should a prosecution bar extend to PTAB post grant patent proceedings?
The answer to the above question varies across district courts, and, of course, is highly dependent upon the agreed upon language of the Order. The problem becomes, in many cases, when outdated boilerplate that does not directly reference new proceedings of the PTAB appears in the Order. In some districts the bar is found to extend to PTAB proceedings to the extent amendments are contemplated. Other courts take the stricter view that manipulation of the intrinsic record of a patent is an unfair advantage. These courts appreciate the value in allowing patentees to use confidential information of an accused infringer as a navigation aid to be used throughout a USPTO post grant patent proceeding. (especially where IPR, PGR and CBM are explicitly contemplated by the Order)
Courts have recently emphasized the new “ajudicative” nature of the post grant challenges of the America Invents Act to distinguish them from previous patent reexamination proceedings; especially where old boilerplate language is at issue in the Order. While it is true that the new PTAB proceedings do not have an examination phase, the intrinsic record is still susceptible to the very same alterations as made during any application/patent prosecution. That is to say, amendments and prosecution history estoppel are added to the intrinsic record just as they were before. The only difference is that patent examiners are no longer involved— a largely irrelevant detail.
Indeed, history has demonstrated that the stricter view of the courts is the most prudent. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, a White House press release (here) provided 7 “legislative priorities” and 5 executive actions to Congress, the USPTO and other government agencies for the purpose of improving patent quality (i.e., to primarily stomp out patent trolls). While heralded in many tech news outlets as a major development, it seems the press release (associated report here) is primarily recommending Congress and the USPTO to follow through on initiatives they have already been working on.
The 7 legislative initiatives include:
1. Require patentees and applicants to disclose the “Real Party-in-Interest. (USPTO Notice of November 26 )
2. Permit more discretion in awarding fees to prevailing parties in patent cases (Shield Act, Patent Abuse Reduction Act, Goodlatte Draft)
3. Expand the PTO’s transitional business method patent challenge program (Schumer Bill)
4. Protect off-the-shelf use by consumers and businesses (Goodlatte draft)
5. Change the ITC standard for obtaining an injunction
6. Use demand letter transparency to help curb abusive suits
7. Ensure the ITC has adequate flexibility in hiring ALJs
The 5 Executive Actions are as follows:
1. Making “Real Party-in-Interest” the New Default (PTO to start rule making process, related to (1) above)
2. Tightening Functional Claiming (PTO to start rule making process, concept introduced by USPTO at Partnership for Enhancement of Quality of Software Related Patents, February 2013)
3. Empowering Downstream Users (PTO to educate, Goodlatte Draft)
4. Expanding Dedicated Outreach and Study (Develop more round tables at DOJ, USPTO, FTC)
5. Strengthen Enforcement Process of Exclusion Orders (Enhance Border Protection analysis)
With the exception of the ITC related provisions, which seem to be designed to make exclusion orders more difficult for patent trolls, the vast majority of the “recommendations” and executive actions have been in motion for some time. With significant bipartisan momentum and the White House lining up against patent trolls, it is expected that some of these legislative concepts will be passed into law in a matter of months.
One of the more intriguing mechanisms of the America Invents Act (AIA) is the Transitional Program for Covered Business Method (CBM) Patents. To date, these speciailized post grant patent challenges have been pursued in relatively limited numbers as compared to the more generic Inter Partes Review (IPR) proceedings. The reason for the disparity between CBM and IPR filing rates is quite simple — IPR is available for any technology not just “business method patents.” Yet, the CBM proceding is far superior to IPR in many strategic respects.
Recognizing the potential of CBM filings to have a greater impact on the patent litigation landscape, Congress is actively considering alterations to the existing statutory framework that would encourage greater use of this AIA mechanism. Read the rest of this entry »
Congress has gotten the patent troll memo in a big way. The political stage is being set for a summer of legislative festivities. Like any good summer festival, Congress is separately establishing main and side stage legislative spectacles. The side stage spectacles, the more alternative acts, such as the Shield Act; Patent Abuse Reduction Act of 2013; and the Patent Quality Improvement Act will occupy many until the main stage effort takes shape. Last Friday the main stage act was announced.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), a key participant in the legislative effort behind the America Invents Act (AIA) released a draft bill that seeks to sweep in many of the concepts of the competing bills, while introducing fixes to the AIA. (here). The bill puts a new spin on the competing legislative proposals that address discovery controls, loser pay mechanisms, and the revision to notice pleading (brief overview here). Certainly these “troll” specific proposals will get the bulk of the attention from Congress and the public. As to the proposed “improvements and technical fixes” to the AIA, the draft post grant proposals are a mixed bag. Read the rest of this entry »
Fresh on the heels of the Patent Quality Improvement Act (S.866) comes the Patent Abuse Reduction Act of 2013 (here) introduced yesterday by Senator John Cornyn (R-Tx). The newest Senate bill, like the one from earlier this month, also is designed to target patent trolls. While the earlier bill sought a way to short circuit high cost litigation through a more cost effective USPTO post grant review procedure, the newest bill seeks to create a loser pays system and completely revamps patent litigation pleading and discovery practices.
On the pleading side, the Bill proposes that simplistic Form 18 of the Federal Rules of Civil procedure (FRCP) be abandoned in favor of very detailed allegations that identify specific claims, infringing products/methods by name and model #, detailed claim mappings to each product, and a host of other information. The Bill also proposes a “pay to play” discovery system in which certain types of discovery are financed by the requesting party, and a loser pays outcome in certain situations.
The Bill is essentially a wish list of every company that has ever been sued by a troll, but does it throw out the baby with the bath water? Read the rest of this entry »
Some pre- grant news of note this week. Last Friday the USPTO announced the After Final Consideration Pilot Program 2.0 (Federal Register Notice here). The revised pilot program modifies the initial concept by introducing a patent examiner feedback component.
Recall that the USPTO launched version 1.0 as the “After Final Consideration Pilot” (AFCP) to foster compact prosecution and to slow the growing RCE backlog. The pilot program allotted additional productivity time to patent examiners in exchange for their consideration of after final amendments that might result in allowance of the application. Prior to the pilot program even amendments requiring nominal further consideration were routinely denied under 37 C.F.R. § 1.116.
Under the terms of the first version of the pilot, examiners decided whether the after final amendment could be fully considered, including any additional search required, within the three hour time limit provided for by the program. (i.e., fully considered and allowed). There was no need to file any special request in the previous version of the program.
Recognizing that some examiners were treating such submissions inconsistently, and that unsuccessful amendments proceeded along the normal course without any additional added value (e.g., acknowledgment/feedback from the examiner), the USPTO has provided for examiner further communication in version 2.0. Read the rest of this entry »