Yesterday, the CAFC explored the proper standard for a USPTO indefiniteness analysis in In re Packard (here). Given that the Supreme Court has taken up the other side of this debate in Nautilus v, Biosig Instruments Inc., namely, the proper standard for a district court indefiniteness analysis, the Court’s holding was very delicately crafted. In affirming the USPTO’s rejection under 35 U.S.C. § 112(b) the Court found the examiner showing under 112 (which is based on a requirement of clarity in claim drafting) demanded a persuasive rebuttal from the patentee. In the eyes of the Court, the patentee failed to meet the rebuttal burden, so the indefiniteness rejection was affirmed.
The concurring opinion went a step further and found that the USPTO standard of “clarity” was an even lower threshold than that debated in Nautilus. (i.e., “insolubly ambiguous” test vs. adopting an interpretation that comports with the understanding of one of skill in the art). This lowermost standard was endorsed by the concurring opinion in deference to the expert agency and their role in protecting the public notice function of patents.
Packard presents a clear distinction between the “pre-issuance” role of the USPTO relative to the “post-issuance” role of the courts. However, the vast majority of appeals headed to the CAFC in the years ahead will be post-issuance patent challenges lodged with the USPTO. What does In re Packard mean for post-grant patent practice at the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB)?