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  • The opinions, commentary and characterizations provided to this online forum by the authors and moderators are provided for encouraging discussion, thought and debate on important post grant issues. These postings are in no way representative of the opinions of Oblon Spivak et al., or its clients.

Archive for the ‘Duty of Disclosure’ Category

Arbitration Materials Witheld From USPTO Reexamination

Posted On: Jun. 14, 2012   By: Scott A. McKeown
Duty of DisclosureEgregious Misconduct Claim Shot Down by District Court

As most patent reexaminations are conducted in parallel to a related litigation, it is important that the USPTO be informed of the progress of a parallel litigation. For this reason, MPEP 2282; 2686 permit the filing of litigation notices by any party to the proceeding, or even a member of the public. The simple failure to inform the USPTO of a parallel court proceeding had, prior to Therasense, been held to be per se material under the former “reasonable examiner” standard. Nilssen v. Osram Sylvania, Inc., 504 F.3d 1223, 1234 (Fed. Cir. 2007)

But what about an arbitration proceeding, does the same duty apply? …and, does the heightened Therasense standard disturb the earlier Nilssen ruling? Read the rest of this entry »

Therasense Drives Summary Judgment Victory for Reissue Patentee

Posted On: Aug. 15, 2011   By: Scott A. McKeown
therasenseUSPTO Post Grant Consideration Precludes “But For” Materiality

The en banc CAFC decision in Therasense has recalibrated inequitable conduct jurisprudence. The decision effectively tightened the standard that is applied in judging materiality of information underlying an inequitable conduct defense. More specifically, the Court replaced the previous “reasonable examiner” standard with a new ”but for” materiality analysis. The “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.

As I discussed prior to the issuance of the Therasense decision, a “but for” materiality standard applies in Walker Process antitrust claims. Earlier this year, in U.S. Rubber Recycling, Inc. v. ECORE International Inc., et al.(CDCA), the California District Court considered whether or not prior art materials could satisfy a “but for” materiality standard where the USPTO had considered the very same information in a patent reissue proceeding, and had still reissued the patent. In deciding that this information could not be material as a matter of law, the Court explained that while a USPTO proceeding cannot cure fraudulent conduct, it can be dispositive of a “but for” materiality standard and that ”[b]ecause the PTO reexamines re-issuance applications as if being presented for the first time, the fact that the PTO did re-issue Defendant’s patent even with the prior art precludes Plaintiff from plausibly pleading [Walker Process].[1]

Since the court’s initial ruling on the Walker process claim, the Therasense decision issued.  Last week, the Court considered the applicability of the same art under an inequitable conduct theory. Read the rest of this entry »

SNQ Plus – A New Game for Patent Reexamination

Posted On: Jul. 26, 2011   By: Scott A. McKeown
SnqNew Therasense Guidelines to Invite Extrinsic Evidence Abuse?

As discussed yesterday, the USPTO has proposed to modify asepcts of Rule 1.56(b) and Rule 1.555(b) to comport to the materiality standard of the recent Therasense decision of the CAFC. In doing so, the Office has proposed a definition of ”but for-plus” materiality standard defined by acts of omission (duty of disclosure) together with affirmative acts relating to willful false statements and misrepresentations (duty of candor and good faith).

Rule 56 is an ethical guidepost that pertains only to Patent Applicants. As such, aside from a rare protest under Rule 1.291 or 1.99, third parties do not submit prior art materials to the USPTO under this Rule (of course patent reform will provide more opportunities for pre-grant submissions). Instead, Rule 56 compliance is litigated as an element of an inequitable conduct defense to patent infringement. Charges of inequitable conduct are not substantively considered in patent reexamination as the Office is a less than ideal arbiter of questions of “intent.” 

Currently, the USPTO is proposing to define, by Rule, a materiality standard in terms of “bad acts.” Consequently, has the USPTO now undermined established practice (MPEP) by encouraging new 1.555(b)(2) submissions for consideration of such information in patent reexamination? Read the rest of this entry »

Mixing the Duty of Candor with the Duty of Disclosure

Rule 56

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 »

USPTO Proposes Change to Rule 56 Materiality Standard

Posted On: Jul. 21, 2011   By: Scott A. McKeown
Therasense_duty of disclosureTherasense “But For” Standard Codified by USPTO

As mentioned yesterday, the USPTO has now issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Change in the Federal Register on Rule 56 and Rule 555. The proposal is for the Office to adopt the materiality decision of the recent Therasense decision of the CAFC. (Proposal here)

I will have more commentary on this proposal in the coming days.

Issuance of Continuation Patents During Litigation Undermine Defense to Willful Infringement

Posted On: Dec. 7, 2010   By: Scott A. McKeown
laundryTexas Court Likens Issuance of Continuation Patents During Litigation to Patent Reexamination

As discussed yesterday, willful infringement exists where an accused infringer acted “despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement of a valid patent.” In re Seagate Technology, LLC, 497 F.3d 1360, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2007). In assessing the propriety of a post-filing willfulness allegation (i.e., after the  complaint is filed with the court) Seagate is oft cited for the proposition that a plaintiff must seek injunctive relief (i.e., preliminary injunction). However, court’s have refused to impose such a wooden rule. Instead, court’s look to the totality of the circumstances, including factors such as the existence of concluded patent reexaminations.

In other words, where a patent survives patent reexamination, conduct of a defendant after issuance of the reexamination certificate may be deemed reckless. Ultratech Int’l, Inc. v. Aqua-Leisure Indus., Inc. v. Swimways Corp., No. 3:05-cv-134-J-25MCR, 2009 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 3, 2009); See also St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants, Inc. v. Palm, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49922, at *5-6 (D. Del. Jun. 10, 2009).

Last week, in denying a defendant summary judgment motion of no willful infringement, Judge Ward of the Eastern District of Texas extended the patent reexamination rationale noted above to newly issued continuation patents. In essence, Judge Ward explained that the prior art applied in the litigation for invalidity purposes had already been laundered by the USPTO during prosecution of the continuation patent applications.  Read the rest of this entry »

Protective Orders: Patent Reexamination & Concurrent Litigation in Delaware

Posted On: Mar. 17, 2010   By: Scott A. McKeown

keyAs noted by USPTO reexamination statistics, the majority of recent patent reexaminations are also involved in concurrent litigation.  A recurring issue for litigants involved in such disputes is the fashioning of an appropriate protective order to adequately protect confidential materials. Such issues become particularly contentious in litigation between direct competitors.

Understandably, defendants typically seek protective orders providing  maximum protection of confidential materials, forbidding litigation counsel from using these materials in the prosecution of plaintiff’s patent applications. This prohibition known as a “patent prosecution bar,” is largely standard practice.  However, it is well established that patent reexamination does not involve “patent applications.” Thus, a thornier issue is presented when attempting to extend this bar to include barring participation by individuals with access to confidential information in ongoing reexamination proceedings.

Courts have taken divergent paths on the issue.  Some courts Read the rest of this entry »

Satisfying the Duty of Disclosure in Reexamination Concurrent with Litigation Without Violating a Protective Order

Posted On: Jan. 1, 2010   By: Stephen G. Kunin

Patent owners face a dilemma when they are involved in reexamination proceedings with concurrent patent litigation. They may become aware of potentially material information during litigation that is covered by a protective order. Yet they have a duty to the USPTO to disclose information known to be material regardless of the source of such information.

To avoid violation of the protective order, the USPTO provides a mechanism for submission of protective order materials under seal pursuant to MPEP §§ 724.02 and 724.04(c) with a petition to expunge the submitted information. In accordance with MPEP guidelines, information subject to a protective order, must be filed in a sealed, clearly labeled, envelope or container. Each document or item must be clearly labeled as a document “Subject To Protective Order.” If the item or document is “Subject to Protective Order” the proceeding, including the tribunal, must be set forth on each document or item. The envelope or container, as well as each of the documents or items, must be labeled with complete identifying information for the file to which it is directed, including the Office or area to which the envelope or container is directed.

Any materials, i.e., information, properly submitted under MPEP § 724.02 in a reexamination proceeding will be sealed from public view. The submitted information will be maintained separate from the reexamination file and will not be publicly available until a determination has been made as to whether or not the information is material to patentability. A petition to expunge (37 CFR 1.59) should accompany the submission of proprietary materials, and in any event, must be filed prior to, or shortly after (i.e., in time to be addressed before the reexamination proceeding enters the reexamination certificate printing process), the mailing of a Notice of Intent to Issue Reexamination Certificate (NIRC). If the petition to expunge is not filed in time to be addressed before the reexamination proceeding enters the reexamination certificate printing process, or the petition is filed, and denied/dismissed, then the materials submitted under MPEP § 724.02 will be released to the public with any other papers in the reexamination file.

Prior to the mailing of a NIRC, the examiner will review the reexamination file and determine if a petition to expunge is in the reexamination file but not acted upon. The examiner, or other appropriate Office official who is responsible for considering the information, will make a determination as to whether or not any portion or all of the information submitted is material to patentability.

If any portion or all of the submitted information is found to be material to patentability, the petition to expunge will be denied and the information will thereafter become a permanent part of the reexamination file and open to the public. Where a submission containing protected material is found to be material to patentability, it still may be possible to redact the submission to eliminate the protected material while retaining the important material (e.g., where a confidential identifying number, such as a serial number or social security number, is included, which is not needed for the context of the submission). If so, the redacted version may be submitted to the Office along with a petition under 37 CFR 1.182 requesting that the unredacted version be sealed and be replaced with the redacted version.

If all of the submitted information is found not to be material to patentability, the petition to expunge will be granted and the information expunged. If a portion of the submitted information is found not to be material to patentability, and a portion is found to be material to patentability, the petition to expunge will be dismissed, and patent owner (or the requester, in limited instances where appropriate) provided with an opportunity to separate the material and non-material information, such that the non-material information can be expunged.

It is preferable that the petition to expunge be submitted upon filing of the protective order information under seal. If a petition to expunge is not filed prior to, or shortly after (i.e., in time to be addressed before the reexamination proceeding enters the reexamination certificate printing process), the mailing of the NIRC, the materials submitted under MPEP § 724.02 will become a permanent part of the reexamination file and open to the public under 37 CFR 1.11(d). In the event materials have already been made of record by a party, and it is subsequently determined that the materials are protected, the proper petition to submit would be a petition to seal the protected material under 37 CFR 1.182, with the requisite fee.

Finally, practitioners should keep in mind that when such protective order materials are voluminous, as is usually the case, the petitioned review of materiality at the time of NIRC can be time consuming for the Office. Therefore, to avoid delay in printing of the reexamination certificate practitioners should consider seeking a de-designation of such materials via court order, where feasible.

The Evolution of MPEP 2282/2686

Posted On: Dec. 9, 2009   By: Scott A. McKeown

–Third Party Tactics in Reexamination –

Part II of our discussion on 2282/2686 

Previously, we analyzed Patent Owner compliance with MPEP 2282/2686 in patent reexamination in the wake of Larson Manufacturing Co. of South Dakota, Inc. v. Aluminart Products (Fed. Cir. 2009).  Specifically, the previous post explored the Patent Owner’s duty to notify the Office of concurrent proceedings (2282 for ex parte, 2686 for inter partes).  

In this installment, we explore MPEP 2282/2686 relative to the duty to notify the Office of external proceedings, such as a district court litigation involving the patent at issue.  

For example, 2282 provides: 

Ordinarily, no submissions of any kind by third parties filed after the date of the order are entered into the reexamination or patent file while the reexamination proceeding is pending. However, in order to ensure a complete file, with updated status information regarding prior or concurrent proceedings regarding the patent under reexamination, the Office will, at any time, accept from any parties, for entry into the reexamination file, copies of notices of suits and other proceedings involving the patent and copies of decisions or papers filed in the court from litigations or other proceedings involving the patent. (emphasis added)

The lack of ability to participate in an ongoing ex parte reexamination is deemed a significant drawback Read the rest of this entry »

Concurrent Proceedings & Patent Owner Compliance with MPEP § 2282/2686

Posted On: Nov. 23, 2009   By: Scott A. McKeown


Is it Possible to Comply with Larson Manufacturing?

Two weeks ago, we discussed the merger of concurrent post grant proceedings relating to the same patent at the USPTO.  In addition to concurrent proceedings of a same patent, it is also quite common for entire portfolios of a Patent Owner to be subject to reexamination.  In such cases, the reexamination of different patents (including direct continuations of one another) are not merged.  Likewise, there may also be ongoing continuation patent application examination (i.e., patent applications claiming subject matter directed to the same invention in applicant’s earlier filed patent and meeting the conditions of section 120 of the patent statutes) being examined concurrently with the parent patent in reexamination.  However, reexamination proceedings are not merged with non-reissue application examination.

In such concurrent proceeding situations, what are the obligations of the Patent Owner in satisfying the duties of disclosure, candor and good faith? Read the rest of this entry »