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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 ‘Intervening Rights’ Category

En Banc CAFC Reverses Intervening Rights Analysis

Posted On: Mar. 16, 2012   By: Scott A. McKeown
marine polymerCAFC Determines That Claims Must be Textually Amended to Invoke Intervening Rights Statute

During a post grant proceeding, an amendment of an originally issued claim could create an intervening rights defense for potential  infringers. That is to say if the amended or new claim introduced by the post grant proceeding is not substantially identical in scope relative to a previously issued claim, potential infringers of the amended/new claims may be provided with an absolute and/or equitable intervening rights defense (35 U.S.C. § 252).

Back in September, in Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc. v. Hemcon, Inc., the CAFC considered whether or not a claim needed to be explicitly (textually) amended to invoke the statute, or whether or not changes to claim scope based on prosecution history could have the same amendatory effect. The September panel ruled that an “amendment in effect” (i.e., disclaimer of claim scope) is equally effective in creating an intervening rights defense as an explicit amendment.

The panel decision was subsequently vacated in favor of an en banc review. In yesterday’s en banc decision, (here) the Court held (by a split-majority) that 35 U.S.C. §252 could not be invoked absent a textual change to the subject claim, explaining:

Read the rest of this entry »

CAFC Denies Assertion of Claims Added in Reexamination

Posted On: Mar. 15, 2012   By: Scott A. McKeown
de-niedAmended/New Claims Barred by Res Judicata

Previously, the substantially identical standard enunciated by 35 U.S.C. § 252 was analyzed in Aspex Eyewear, Inc., et al., v Marchon Eyewear Inc., et. al., (SDFLA). In the lower court ruling, the court found that claims changed/added in patent reexamination were in fact substantially identical to the previously issued claims. This was because, the claim changes made during patent reexamination added claim features the district court previously ruled to be embraced by the originally issued claim scope.

The lower court explained (decision here) that Aspex was barred from re-litigating these new claims against the previous defendants, reasoning:

The [previous action] was fully adjudicated on the merits. The dismissal release . . . made clear that the settlement dismissed with prejudice as to any causes of action “any claim which could have been had by and between the Parties arising from or connected with [the earlier dispute]. Plaintiffs argue that it alleged legally separate causes of action in their complaint because claim 23 and claim 35 [reexamination changes] did not exist at the time the [previous actions] were being litigated. The reexamination of the ‘545 Patent does not entitle Plaintiffs to circumvent claim preclusion because the amended claims relate back to the original ‘545 Patent reissue date. (emphasis added)

In affirming the lower court, the CAFC reasoned (decision here): Read the rest of this entry »

Practicalities of Patent Reexamination Key to Proper Intervening Rights Determination

marine polymerCAFC Re-considers Disclaimer Based Intervening Rights Defense

During a post grant proceeding, an amendment of an originally issued claim could create an intervening rights defense for potential  infringers. That is to say if the amended or new claim introduced by the post grant proceeding is not substantially identical in scope relative to a previously issued claim, potential infringers of the amended/new claims may be provided with an absolute and/or equitable intervening rights defense (35 USC § 252). Whether or not a claim change in post grant patent proceeding results in the an intervening rights defense is far from a straightforward determination as evidenced by the recent decision Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc. v. Hemcon, Inc..

The earlier panel ruled that disclaimer of claim scope is equally effective in creating an intervening rights defense as an explicit amendment. As such, the decision may be distorted to suggest that even if the patent owner is merely urging a claim interpretation that is consistent with the manner in which the term would have been understood at the time the underlying patent application was filed, intervening rights are created  For example, in cases where the post grant record simply clarifies the way in which a skilled artisan would have understood a claim term at the time of filing, or reiterates the positions of the previous intrinsic record, the scope of the claims cannot properly be said to have been altered during the subsequent proceeding.

Will the en banc ruling provide for such needed flexibility? Read the rest of this entry »

CAFC Finds Intervening Rights Created by Post Grant Disclaimer

Posted On: Sep. 27, 2011   By: Scott A. McKeown
Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.
Reexamination Disclaimer Effectively Amends Claims Surrendering $29 Million Damage Award

During a post grant proceeding, an amendment of an originally issued claim could create an intervening rights defense for infringers. That is to say if the amended or new claim introduced by the post grant proceeding is not substantially identical in scope relative to a previously issued claim, potential infringers of the amended/new claims may be provided with an absolute and/or equitable intervening rights defense (35 USC § 252). Of course, the conclusion as to whether or not a claim change in patent reexamination/reissue will result in the an intervening rights defense is far from a straightforward determination.

Yesterday, the CAFC considered whether or not intervening rights are created for a claim that is not literally amended in a post grant proceeding by a change in verbiage, but instead, changed in scope by operation of Patentee disclaimer. This “amended in effect” theory has shown up in at least one other case as of late and is likely to gain considerable traction going forward thanks to yesterday’s CAFC decision. Read the rest of this entry »

Intervening Rights as an Equitable Defense

Posted On: Jan. 19, 2011   By: Scott A. McKeown
UnfairDelay in Patent Reissue Undermines Equitable Defense

35 U.S.C. 252 presents two flavors of intervening rights in the reexamination/reissue context: absolute intervening rights, and equitable intervening rights. The more common of the two, absolute intervening rights, precludes infringement liability prior to issuance of new/amended claims if such claims are not substantially identical in scope to the claims of the original patent.

Equitable intervening rights are available as a means to balance the public interest in the patent system and the remedial purpose of the reissue statute with the private interest of an infringer who innocently and in good faith has undertaken substantial activities that become infringing with the issuance of a reissue patent. For example, if prior to the issuance of a new/amended claim, a defendant invests in a new manufacturing line to develop products that infringe the new/amended claims, negotiates contracts to deliver infringing goods, and otherwise proceeds in conducting such business in good faith, the court may permit such infringement to continue under terms the court deems as equitable to both parties.

In Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC, et al v. Haldex Brake Products Corp., (NDOH) having lost all previous battles (inequitable conduct in patent reissue here) (recapture in patent reissue here), defendant Haldex argued that they should be allowed to infringe based upon the doctrine of equitable intervening rights. Read the rest of this entry »

Intervening Rights Created by Claim Cancellation in Patent Reexamination

Posted On: Nov. 19, 2010   By: Scott A. McKeown
roundaboutCancellation of Dependent Claim Deemed “Amendment in Effect”

If claims, as amended in a post grant proceeding, are not substantially identical in scope relative to the previously issued claims, potential infringers of the amended claims may be provided with an intervening rights defense (35 USC § 252) Of course, the conclusion as to whether or not a claim change in patent reexamination/reissue will result in the an intervening rights defense is far from a straightforward determination.

As demonstrated recently, even where an amendment is made to overcome a prior art rejection, such a changed claim can still be considered substantially identical to the previously issued claim. Courts have consistently held that it is not the verbiage of a claim that must be substantially identical. Instead, courts look to the difference between originally issued claim scope relative to the scope of claims exiting patent reissue and/or patent reexamination. Adding another layer of complexity to this calculus is the recent case of University of Virginia Patent Foundation v. General Electric Company.  In University of Virginia (here) an independent claim was considered to be “amended in effect” based upon the cancellation of a dependent claim. Read the rest of this entry »

Court Labels Claims Transformed in Patent Reexamination Mere Disguise

Posted On: Nov. 8, 2010   By: Scott A. McKeown
disguiseSubstantially Identical…More than Meets the Eye!

An interesting issue raised by any post grant claim amendment (e.g., patent reissue and/or patent reexamination) is: For a given claim, what is the degree of amendment (i.e., change in scope) that will exceed the ”substantially identical” standard of 35 U.S.C. § 252?

This threshold determination will determine the availability of past infringement damages for the amended/new claims, or whether a potential infringer may  avoid liability for past damages based on the doctrine of intervening rights. If claims, as amended in a post grant proceeding, are not substantially identical in scope relative to the previously issued claims, potential infringers of the amended claims may be provided with an intervening rights defense. Clearly, Patentees tend to argue that amended/new claims are substantially identical, while infringers argue that the claims are not substantially identical.

Last week, the substantially identical standard of 35 U.S.C. § 252 was analyzed in Aspex Eyewear, Inc., et al., v Marchon Eyewear Inc., et. al., (SDFLA). Interestingly, the court found that claims changed/added in patent reexamination were in fact substantially identical to the previously issued claims.  Ordinarily this would be fantastic news for a Patentee, but for Aspex, it was the end of the road. Read the rest of this entry »

Change in Transitional Phrase Can Trigger Intervening Rights

Posted On: May. 26, 2010   By: Robert C. Mattson

Safety-Signs-1065A-lg1-300x300Previously, we explored what types of amendments to claims under post-grant review can trigger intervening rights.

As you may recall, claim amendments in current post grant proceedings at the USPTO (i.e., reexamination/reissue) create intervening rights. 35 U.S.C. 307 (ex parte) and 35 U.S.C. 316 (inter partes) describe the impact of amending claims in patent reexamination, incorporating 35 USC 252 (relating to intervening rights in reissue applications). In essence, the doctrine of intervening rights forecloses the recovery of past damages for patent infringement if a claim is amended after issuance of the patent.

The case of Kim v. The Earthgrains Co., k/n/a Sara Lee Bakery Group Inc., 01-cv-3895 (N.D. Ill.), presented the issue of whether a change in the transitional phrase (i.e., legally operative terms) of a patent claim could trigger intervening rights. Read the rest of this entry »

Intervening Rights & The Substantially Identical Standard

Posted On: Mar. 24, 2010   By: Scott A. McKeown

250px-Twins2

–A Glitch in the Matrix?–

As noted in Part I of our series on intervening rights, claim amendments in reexamination and/or reissue at the USPTO may create absolute and/or equitable intervening rights. Although the doctrine of intervening rights is codified as a component of reissue statute 35 U.S.C. § 252, reexamination statutes 35 U.S.C. § 307 (ex parte) and 35 U.S.C. § 316 (inter partes) incorporate the reissue statute in this regard.

35 U.S.C. § 252 Effect of Reissue.

The surrender of the original patent shall take effect upon the issue of the reissued patent, and every reissued patent shall have the same effect and operation in law, on the trial of actions for causes thereafter arising, as if the same had been originally granted in such amended form, but in so far as the claims of the original and reissued patents are substantially identical, such surrender shall not affect any action then pending nor abate any cause of action then existing, and the reissued patent, to the extent that its claims are substantially identical with the original patent, shall constitute a continuation thereof and have effect continuously from the date of the original patent. (emphasis added)

As can be appreciated, 35 U.S.C. § 252 states that substantially identical claims are treated no differently with respect to liability (damages) than original claims.[1]

Of course, this provision begs the question:

What types of claim changes can be made Read the rest of this entry »

Flicking the Patent Reset Switch

Posted On: Mar. 15, 2010   By: Scott A. McKeown

reset

– Reducing  Infringement Liability Via
         Intervening Rights (PART I)–

As reported last week, USPTO reexamination of Amazon’s “1-click patent” concluded with the amendment of the broadest claims. In response, many Internet news sources, and IP blogs decried the reexamination process and the USPTO as a failed system. Yet, lost in the hysteria and naiveté is a very fundamental concept of post-grant proceedings at the USPTO, namely, the doctrine of intervening rights.

USPTO statistics very clearly bear out that complete cancellation of ALL patent claims via ex parte reexamination, such as was conducted of Amazon’s 1-click patent, is the exceptional case, not the rule.  Indeed, as of December 2009, only 11% of ex parte reexaminations conclude with all claims cancelled. Yet, roughly 600 requests for ex parte reexamination have been filed every year since the inception of the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU). With only 11% of patents having all claims cancelled over a 20+ year period, clearly the strategy behind ex parte reexamination requests is something other than outright cancellation.[1]

Certainly, a third party requestor would be pleased with the cancellation of all claims of a patent in reexamination, however Read the rest of this entry »