Last week, an important question relating to broadening patent reissue practice was argued before the CAFC. (In re Staats).
At issue in Staats is a third reissue patent application of Apple Computer Patent 5,940,600. The third reissue patent application was a continuation that claimed priority back to the original reissue application. (the original reissue application being properly filed within two years of issuance of the ‘600 Patent). During prosecution of the third continuation the examiner rejected the claims under 35 U.S.C. 251 as presenting broadening claims outside of the two year window for broadening reissue. The examiner reasoned that the error in the original reissue filing was allegedly unrelated to the error presented for correction in the third filing.
An expanded panel of the BPAI affirmed the rejection (Ex Parte Staats) characterizing the issue in dispute as:
This is a case of first impression. Resolution of the case hinges on one fundamental question: Can a continuing reissue application broaden patented claims beyond the statutory two-year period in a manner unrelated to the broadening aspect that was identified within the two-year period? Put another way, is it enough under the law to merely present an intent to broaden that is limited to a particular aspect (e.g., a particular embodiment of the invention) within the two-year period, yet broaden in unforeseeable ways (e.g., pertaining to other embodiments) outside the two-year period?
In last year’s BPAI decision, the Board analyzed the statute based upon their understanding of the equitable principles underlying the two-year limitation provided by the statute. In doing so, the BPAI relied heavily on Read the rest of this entry »