CAFC Standard of Review Driven by Appeal Posture
The appeal of a rejection from the Board of Patent Appeals & Interferences (BPAI) to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) is a relatively uncommon event in the prosecution of patent applications. This is because the cost of such an appeal is rarely advisable in light of the ability to simply request continued prosecution before the Examiner.
On the other hand, post grant proceeding appeals from the BPAI (and soon to be Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB)) to the CAFC are far more commonplace. Unlike application prosecution, where virtually unlimited prosecution is possible via requests for continued examination (RCEs), neither patent reexamination nor the new post grant proceedings of the America Invents Act (AIA) permit such alternatives to appeal. Moreover, amendment of claims during these proceedings is generally disfavored as creating an intervening rights defense, and patents subject to post grant proceedings are almost always high-value assets. Accordingly, as the popularity of post grant proceedings continues to increase, so too do the number of appeals from the USPTO to the CAFC.
When considering decisions of the USPTO, the CAFC employs either a de novo standard of review or substantial evidence standard of review, as appropriate. Not surprisingly, appeals that employ the de novo standard provide a more significant opportunity for reversal than those that do not. For this reason, it is important to understand the Court’s practice in applying one standard over the other. Read the rest of this entry »
Proper Petition Practice Especially Critical in Patent Reexamination
In most cases, the distinction between appealable vs. petitionable issues at the USPTO is quite clear. For example, if you believe that a patent examiner has prematurely entered a final rejection, the appropriate avenue for relief is by way of petition. Indeed, the MPEP states such explicitly. MPEP 706.07(c). Yet, not all examination/reexamination disputes are so clear cut. (See earlier discussion on ex parte SNQ review process here)
The distinction between appealable vs. petitionable disputes is especially critical in post grant proceedings such as patent reexamination. This is because failure to appreciate the distinction between the two could potentially forfeit substantive patent rights. Read the rest of this entry »
First CAFC Review of Inter Partes Patent Reexamination
In inter partes reexamination 95/000,034,Vanguard Identification Systems Inc., v Bank of America Corporation, the BPAI reversed the examiners obviousness rejection, emphasizing the difference between a proper obviousness determination for design and utility patents. (previous discussion here)
The BPAI determined that the prior art reference of record did not show a data card containing any type of aperture, but secondary references did. Nevertheless, the BPAI determiend that it would not be obvious to modify the primary references to include one of the circular apertures of the secondary references. Read the rest of this entry »
Golf Ball Brawl Heard at BPAI
Yesterday, the Board of Patent Appeals & Interferences (BPAI) heard oral arguments in the longstanding dispute between Callaway Golf and Acushnet. Acushnet is the parent company of Titleist, maker of the ProV1 family of golf balls. Callaway asserts that the ProV1 balls infringe several of their patents (6,210,293, 6,503,156, 6,506,130, 6,595,873)
In 2006, Acushnet sought inter partes patent reexamination of the Callaway patents. To date, all claims of the Callaway patents were rejected by the USPTO. These rejections were considered by the Board yesterday.
In the co-pending litigation the patents were also found invalid. (March 2010 D.Del). Interestingly, despite a 1996 contractual agreement between the companies that mandated all proceedings be conducted in the Delaware court, Acushnet sought patent reexamination at the USPTO anyway. Late last week, the court reinstated a decision determining that the pursuit of patent reexamination by Acushnet was a breach of the contract. As a result of that decision (here) Callaway feverishly petitioned to delay the Board hearing, arguing that the Board should not help Acushnet break their contractual obligations; not surprisingly, the Board declined that invitation.
So, yesterday, the Board learned all about Acushnet, a company known for their balls. Read the rest of this entry »
GEOSPAN Corporation filed a lawsuit in March 2008 in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, alleging that Pictometry infringed GEOSPAN’s U.S. Patent No. 5,633,946.
In a separate action on November 11, 2008, GEOSPAN requested the U.S Patent Office to reexamine Pictometry’s U.S. Patent Number 7,424,133, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Capturing, Geolocating and Measuring Oblique Images.” This action is a procedure used by the U.S. Patent Office to allow the claims in existing patents to be contested (Ref. No. 95/001,110)
In its request, GEOSPAN set forth substantial new questions of patentability based upon a September 5, 2002 printed publication by David Rattigan, a reported for a Boston newspaper. The USPTO ordered inter partes reexamination of the ‘133 Patent, and subsequently issued a Non-Final Office Action on February 2, 2009 rejecting claims 17-24 on anticipation and obviousness grounds. Currently, the rejections are on appeal to the BPAI.
On May 25, 2010, the patent owner filed its brief. On the appeal, the Patent Owner is contesting the USPTO’s conclusion that the submitted declaration evidence filed under 37 C.F.R. § 1.131 (swear behind) is insufficient as well as the conclusion that declaration evidence filed under 37 C.F.R. § 1.132 is insufficient to disqualify the Rattigan publication based upon attribution. (MPEP 716.10). Of particular interest is the dispute between the USPTO and the Patent Holder as to whether declaration evidence can be used to disqualify a prior art reference as “attributed” to the inventors’ work where none of the inventors is an author of the printed publication used to reject the claims. Read the rest of this entry »
In a March Federal Register Notice, the USPTO outlined a new procedure for eliminating redundant appeal processing in patent applications. The redundancy was the result of both the examiner and BPAI performing the same review as to whether or not an Appeal Brief was compliant with the rules. Often times this led to the examiner accepting a non-compliant brief only to have the Board kick it back to applicant months or even years later for a previously overlooked informality. Likewise, some complained of examiners abusing the non-compliance notice as a way to avoid answering appeal briefs. The notice of March outlined a new mechanism by which the Chief Judge would be solely responsible for determining brief compliance prior to Examiner review. At the end of this notice, the USPTO pointed out that ex parte and inter partes patent reexamination appeals were not subject to the new mechanism, but the Office was considering such treatment in the future.
Back on May 26, 2010, the same mechanism was noticed in the Federal Register for ex parte patent reexamination appeals. Yesterday a notice was provided in the Federal Register adding inter partes reexamination to the BPAI review mechanism. These improvements should help avoid some of the more aggravating delays experienced in reexamination appeals to the BPAI. Of course, with a significant, and growing appeal backlog, any impact of this change may be offset by sheer numbers.
On April 28, 2010, The USPTO’s Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) rejected claims 1-3 of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s (WARF) “Primate Embryonic Stem Cells” Patent (U.S. Patent No. 7,029,913, the ’913 patent). The WARF patent is licensed to Geron Corporation and is subject to Inter partes Reexamination as Control No. 95/000,154. The BPAI reversed the Examiner’s decision to allow the claims.
The claims cover pluripotent human embryonic stem cells (ES) cultured in vitro. The request for inter partes reexamination of the ’913 patent was filed on July 17, 2006 by the Public Patent Foundation (PubPat) on behalf of The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights (FTCR), now known as Consumer Watchdog. The BPAI decision does not affect two other WARF embryonic stem cell patents (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,843,780 and 6,200,806) that were challenged by FTCR in reexamination proceedings resulting in confirmation of the patentability of their claims in reexamination certificates. However, the rejection of the ’913 patent claims may have a reverberating effect on the stem cell industry.
Following an order granting inter partes reexamination of the ’913 patent on September 29, 2006, the Examiner rejected claims 1-3 based on anticipation and obviousness rejections. However, in the Action Closing Prosecution Read the rest of this entry »
Ex parte reexamination appeals:
For FY 09 ending September 30, 2009 the BPAI docketed 119 ex parte reexamination appeals; disposed of 96 and ended the fiscal year with 78 ex parte reexamination appeals in inventory.
BPAI pendency was 5.9 months down 1.1 months in FY 08. The pendency from Notice of Appeal to decision was 27.7 months down .3 months from FY 08. The pendency of BPAI decided appeals from ex parte reexamination filing date was 58.2 months down 2.2 months from FY 08.
Inter partes reexamination appeals:
For FY 09 ending September 30, 2009 the BPAI docketed 15 inter partes reexamination appeals; disposed of 11 and ended the fiscal year with 10 inter partes reexamination appeals in inventory.
BPAI pendency was 7 months down 1.1 months in FY 08. The pendency from Notice of Appeal to decision was 32.1 months up 4.5 months from FY 08. The pendency of BPAI decided appeals from inter partes reexamination filing date was 67.3 months up 16.4 months from FY 08.