Concurrent Post Grant Proceedings with the Same Real Party in Interest
One of the more intriguing aspects of the new patentability trials of the America Invents Act (AIA) is their potential interplay with legacy post grant proceedings such as patent reissue, ex parte and inter partes patent reexamination. In formulating the rules to implement the new AIA proceedings, namely, Inter Partes Review (IPR), Post Grant Review (PGR) and the Covered Business Method (CBM) review, the USPTO did not specifically define how conflicting proceedings would be processed. For example, the first half of 35 U.S.C. § 325(d) explains that the Board may provide for the ”stay, transfer, consolidation, or termination” of either of the conflicting proceedings. Exactly how those determinations would be made was explained as a “case-by-case basis.”
The first PTAB proceeding to examine such issues is IPR 2013-00033. In this proceeding, CBS Interactive petitioned for IPR of patent 7,155,241, assigned to Helferich Patent Licensing. The petition challenged several of the patent’s dependent claims. Concurrently, an inter partes patent reexamination (95/001,864) is also pending, challenging all the of independent claims in the patent. The IPR and reexamination did not challenge any of the same claims, but the same real party in interest asserted some of the same grounds of unpatentability with respect to the same prior art. In examining the potential conflict between the proceedings, the PTAB opted to stay the reexamination proceeding pending termination/completion of the Review, explaining: Read the rest of this entry »
CAFC Denies En Banc Review of In Re Baxter Decision
Earlier this year, the CAFC decided In re Baxter International Inc. (here). As a reminder, in Baxter, the CAFC considered an appeal from the Board of Patent Appeals & Interferences (BPAI) that found certain claims of U.S. Patent 5,247,434 unpatentable in an ex parte patent reexamination.
The request for patent reexamination was filed by Fresenius USA Inc. in 2007 during a patent infringement litigation with Baxter. Interestingly, the Court first considered the validity of the ‘434 patent on appeal from that litigation. In that first appeal, based on some of the very same art applied in the reexamination, the Court found the patent not invalid in 2009. In the second appeal, decided in May of 2012, the same art was presented to the Court. Viewing the same art in 2012, on appeal from the BPAI, the Court affirmed the determination of the BPAI that the claims were obvious over the applied prior art.
Judge Newman issued a strong dissent to the second outcome, explaining that “[t]he validity of the Baxter patent was resolved upon litigation in the district court and on appeal to the Federal Circuit. This judgment cannot be “revised, overturned or refused full faith and credit by another Department of Government. . . .. Nonetheless, the court again departs from this principle, trivializes our prior final judgment, and simply defers to the conflicting agency ruling. This is improper.”
Not surprisingly, Baxter petitioned for rehearing and en banc review of the earlier decision. Read the rest of this entry »
CAFC Forced to Disturb Earlier Ruling Based on More Liberal Patent Reexamination Standards
Patent reexamination is often initiated in parallel with an ongoing infringement litigation. In some cases, an infringer that fails to prove invalidity in the courts can effectively “undo” the effect of the earlier court judgement via an ex parte patent reexamination (EXP) filing.
Back in December, the CAFC considered this “do over” tactic in the case of In re Construction Equipment. Last week, the very same procedural fact pattern presented itself to the CAFC. Once again, Judge Newman decried the potential undermining of previously settled court rulings via ex parte patent reexamination. Read the rest of this entry »
Willfullness Determination Opens Door to Prejudice
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.
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.
In recent years, courts have been reluctant to admit evidence of an ongoing patent reexamiantion at trial. This is because the presumption of validity may be undermined by communicating to the factfinder(s) that the USPTO has changed their mind. This trend is especially prominent in plantiff forums such as Texas. Read the rest of this entry »
Parallel Litigation Settles, Now What?
With the vast majority of patent reexaminations now being conducted concurrent to a district court or ITC proceeding, a common question of Patentees is “what becomes of the patent reexamination once the litigation settles?”
In the case of ex parte patent reexamination, the answer is simple: the reexamination continues unaffected. Indeed, as demonstrated a few weeks back (In Re Construction Equipment, CAFC (2011)), the ultimate outcome of the ex parte reexamination can even effectively reverse an earlier decision of the CAFC.
On the other hand, if the pending reexamination is an inter partes patent reexamination (IPX), the answer will depend on the nature of the terms of the settlement agreement. In a best case scenario for Patentee, the IPX proceeding may be vacated altogether by operation of estoppel. Of course, to trigger IPX estoppel, the settling defendant/requester must agree to a consent consent judgement in the district court (not effective in the ITC as estoppel does not apply) that they failed to prove invalidity. In most cases, defendants are loathe to publicly admit defeat. Still, unwary Patentes may be walking away from significant opportunity if just swinging for the fences. Read the rest of this entry »
Determination of Non-Obviousness by USPTO Disregarded by Court
Last week’s CAFC decision in In re Construction Equipment decided the validity of U.S. Patent 5,234,564…..again. In the first appeal, decided in 2001, the CAFC upheld the validity determination of the District Court. In the second appeal, decided last week, the CAFC considered an appeal from the USPTO rejecting the claims of the ‘564 patent in ex parte patent reexamination. In their second decision, the CAFC found the ‘564 Patent invalid in light of some of the very same prior art references at issue in the first appeal.
In her dissent Judge Newman questioned the constitutionality of the USPTO looking over the shoulder of the CAFC.
In a case of “turnabout is fair play,” last Friday, a United States District Judge for the District of Connecticut considered, and disregarded, the USPTO’s reexamination analysis of the same prior art in Jacobs Vehicle Equipment Co. v. Pacific Diesel Brake Co. et al. (D.Conn). Read the rest of this entry »
CAFC Appeal Result Undone 11 Years Later
Patent reexamination is often initiated in parallel with an ongoing infringement litigation. In the case of a parallel inter partes proceeding (IPX), the first of the proceedings to conclude (litigation or IPX) controls the outcome of the other by operation of statutory estoppel. As such, a final holding in the parallel court proceeding will end an ongoing IPX. Moreover, the losing party would be precluded from seeking IPX at a later date.
On the other hand, ex parte patent reexamination (EXP) has no such statutory “shut off valve.” Thus, even a party that was bound by IPX estoppel could file a request for ex parte patent reexamination. In this way, the infringer could attempt to “undo” the effect of the earlier, final, court judgement by invalidating the patent via the EXP filing.
As I explained this past August, the CAFC questioned this “do-over” practice during the oral argument of In re Construction Equipment. Last week the CAFC issued a decision in this case. In the process, the CAFC disturbed the holding of their first decision, issued some 10 years earlier. Read the rest of this entry »
Parallel Patent Reexamination Qualifies as Newly Discovered Evidence Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)
It is well established that the USPTO utilizes different standards of evidence and claim interpretation in patent reexamination. Likewise, there is no presumption of validity in patent reexamination. For this reason, district court/ITC claim construction findings (i.e., Markman Orders) are not binding on the USPTO. In re Trans Texas Holdings Corp., 498 F.3d 1290 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Yet, the findings of the USPTO with regard to claim construction can have significant impact on the court rulings.
For example, this past January, in St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants, Inc. v. Canon Inc., (Fed. Cir. 2011, non-precedential), the CAFC reversed a lower court claim construction ruling, based in part, on the findings of USPTO examiners in patent reexamination, Read the rest of this entry »
CAFC Revisits “Loser Estoppel” in Patent Reexamination
While reexamination is often initiated parallel to litigation, some have relied upon reexamination in post-trial settings to get out from under injunctions and/or jury verdicts.
One of the more well known cases in this regard is In re Trans Texas Holdings Corp., 498 F.3d 1290 (Fed. Cir. 2007). In Trans Texas, the patent being reexamined was subject to an infringement suit, in which the district court had issued its claim construction ruling (in a district court opinion) as to the definition of a term. The parties ultimately reached a settlement before trial, and the district court issued an “Order of Dismissal with Prejudice.” The patent owner relied on that district court claim construction ruling in a reexamination proceeding, and argued that the Office was bound by that district court claim construction ruling, under the doctrine of issue preclusion. The Federal Circuit stated that issue preclusion could not be applied against the Office based on a district court holding in an infringement proceeding, since the Office was not a party to that earlier infringement proceeding. See Also In re Translogic Tech. Inc. (CAFC 2007)
Yesterday, the CAFC heard oral argument in the case of In re Construction Equipment. Construction appealed from a decision of the BPAI in ex parte patent reexamination that found the claims of the patent anticipated and/or obvious. Previously, the CAFC found the Construction patent not invalid on appeal from the District Court. Thereafter, the appellant pursued ex parte reexamination on some of the very same art previously considered.
During oral argument the court, sua sponte, questioned the propriety of the USPTO’s seeming dismissal of the Court’s previous validity ruling. Read the rest of this entry »
Callaway Pro V1 Golf Dispute Taken to Virginia District Court
This past January, I recounted the longstanding dispute between Callaway Golf and Acushnet. Acushnet is the parent company of Titleist, maker of the ProV1 family of golf balls. Callaway has asserted that the ProV1 balls infringe several of their patents (6,210,293, 6,503,156, 6,506,130, 6,595,873) in the Delaware District Court.
In 2006, Acushnet sought inter partes patent reexamination of the Callaway patents. In March of this year the BPAI decided the appeals of these reexaminations, finding the asserted claims of the Callaway patents invalid. Likewise, the same claims were found invalid in March of 2010 by the Court (neither dispute has made it to the CAFC).
Interestingly, patent reexamination was sought by Acushnet despite a 1996 contractual agreement between the companies that mandated all proceedings be conducted in the Delaware court. In fact, the Court has found Acushnet to have breached the terms of the settlement agreement by virtue of the patent reexamination filings (decision here).
At the outset of the reexamination proceedings Callaway attempted to have the reexamination proceedings vacated Read the rest of this entry »