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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 ‘Procedures’ Category

Patent Reissue Cannot Cure Mistaken Terminal Disclaimer

Posted On: Dec. 10, 2012   By: Scott A. McKeown
patent reissueTerminal Disclaimer Permanent Once Patent Issues

Back in January of 2011 I discussed the appeal decision in Ex parte Shunpei Yamazaki relative to patent reissue practice. In Yamazaki, a reissue patent application was filed shortly after issuance of U.S. Patent 6,180,991 for the purpose of withdrawing an earlier filed terminal disclaimer.

By way of background, the ‘991 patent issued on January 30, 2001 (based upon an application filed April 21, 1995). During the original prosecution, a terminal disclaimer was filed (November of 1996) to overcome a double patenting rejection. Thereafter, the claims subject to the earlier double patenting rejections were amended. Since the amended claims were believed to be distinct from those of the earlier patent, the Applicant petitioned to withdraw the earlier filed terminal disclaimer (April 1999). The petition remained pending for some 20+ months at the USPTO, but, the patent issued prior to any USPTO action on the petition filing. The petition was ultimately dismissed as moot once the ‘991 Patent issued.

Adding insult to injury, the USPTO explained in their belated petition decision that a terminal disclaimer could not be removed once a patent issues as patent reissue did not contemplate such mistakes as “error” under the reissue statute. In other words, even though the patent holder had disclaimed some 14 years of patent term by mistake, there was no mechanism to cure that mistake post issuance. Nevertheless, the Patentee filed a patent reissue application in an attempt to withdraw the terminal disclaimer.

In deciding the propriety of a patent reissue proceeding to remove a terminal disclaimer, an expanded panel of the BPAI (now PTAB) held that patent reissue could not reset the term of the original patent (which was set by the disclaimer). Interestingly, the BPAI decision also included concurring opinions that would have held differently had the patent not expired prior to completion of the reissue proceeding (December 2003).

Last week, the CAFC affirmed the USPTO, and made clear that patent reissue cannot withdraw a terminal disclaimer, even if the reissue proceeding were capable of concluding prior to expiration. Read the rest of this entry »

CAFC Reverses USPTO on Important Question of Patent Reissue

Posted On: Apr. 15, 2011   By: Scott A. McKeown
thumbdownIn Re Tanaka Decision on “Bullet Claims” Reversed at CAFC

Today, the CAFC has held that the addition of narrower, dependent claims in patent reissue is an “error” contemplated by the patent reissue statute. In re Tanaka (CAFC 2011) (here)

As a reminder, Ex parte Tanaka was decided in December of 2009 by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI). In their holding, the Board explained that a reissue application was improper where the only defect identified in an issued patent was the failure to present additional dependent claims.  The Board reasoned that the mere addition of new dependent claims did not identify any defect in the issued patent. In their decision, the Board rejected the reasoning of In re Handel, which indicated that a failure to pursue dependent claims was an appropriate error in patent reissue. The Board characterized this reasoning as “dicta.”

The Board’s decision was reversed today by the CAFC. In their reversal, the court explains that contrary to the Board’s position, the In re Handel dicta is consistent with the patent reissue statute, and the court has not departed from this line of reasoning over the years. Read the rest of this entry »

Bad Apple!
BPAI Rejects Apple Patent Reissue on Equitable Principles

Posted On: Jul. 21, 2010   By: Scott A. McKeown
bad-appleCAFC to Decide Prosecution Laches in Patent Reissue

Earlier this year we discussed the Ex Parte Tanaka decision of the Board of Patent Appeals & Interferences (BPAI) with respect to “bullet claims”  in patent reissue, now before the CAFC. On June 24, 2010, a second Board decision relating to patent reissue was appealed to the Federal Circuit (Ex Parte Staats).

Although presented in the context of patent reissue, the point of contention in Staats is actually one of prosecution laches and the application of equitable principles to statutory interpretation. In Staats, the Board upheld a rejection of a broadening reissue application as defective under 35 U.S.C. 251 for failing to include the appropriate broadening oath within two years of the original patent issuance. The Board reasoned that although a parent reissue had filed an appropriate broadening oath and identified at least one error, the continuation reissue was not entitled to rely on that oath, despite the continuity between these reissue applications. Read the rest of this entry »

Fixing Errors: USPTO Offers Reissue Best Practices for Patent Owners

Posted On: Mar. 10, 2010   By: Stephen G. Kunin
Topics: Procedures, Reissue

uspto facesOn March 2, 2010, the USPTO held a Biotechnology/Chemical/Pharmaceutical Customer Partnership meeting at its Madison Auditorium. Among the various topics presented was a set of  USPTO Slides by Jean Vollano, a Quality Assurance Specialist in TC 1600. Her presentation was informative and worth a detailed review. She covered reissue practice relating to (1) amendments to claims, description and drawings, (2) inclusion of certificates of correction in reissue applications, (3) oaths/declarations and (4) amendments to a reissue of a reissued patent.

Her slides provide examples of how to properly amend claims in reissue applications emphasizing the need to amend original patent claims using brackets and underlining of original patent claim text. She reminded applicants that Read the rest of this entry »

Are the Principles Set Forth in Ex Parte Bayles Good Law? Do these Principles Apply to Continuation Reissues?

Posted On: Dec. 14, 2009   By: Stephen G. Kunin

On March 7, 1912, the Commissioner of Patents decided in Ex parte Bayles, 176 O.G. 749 that “[u]ntil a[n] [reissue] application is ended in all its divisions the vitality of the original patent continues so far as required to support that portion of the [reissue] application which remains undecided.” This would be true even if the parent reissue patent were to issue during the pendency of the divisional application.

On August 31, 1911, the petitioner in Bayles filed a reissue application containing both method and apparatus claims found in the original patent. Subsequently, by amendment, the petitioner canceled the method claims for the purpose of filing a divisional reissue application. The divisional reissue application claiming the method was filed prior to issuance of the parent reissue application claiming the apparatus. The Commissioner relied on the August 31, 1880 decision of the Acting Attorney-General in the case of ex parte Greaves (C.D., 1880, 213; 18 O.G., 623; 16 Op. Atty. Gen., 560) holding that the good sense of the maxim pendente lite nihil innovator applied. The purported surrender of the original patent when the parent reissue patent issued after the filing of the divisional reissue application did not prevent a division of the reissue from issuing.

In MPEP § 1451 (II) states that “[t]he decision of In re Graff, 111 F.3d 874, 42 USPQ2d 1471 (Fed. Cir. 1997) interprets 35 U.S.C. 251 to permit multiple reissue patents to issue even where the multiple reissue patents are not for “distinct and separate parts of the thing patented.” This section further cautions that “[a]s is true for the case of multiple divisional reissue applications, all of the claims of the patent to be reissued must be presented in both the parent reissue application and the continuation reissue application in some form, i.e., as amended, as unamended, or as canceled. The same claim of the patent cannot, however be presented for examination in both the parent reissue application and the continuation reissue application, as a pending claim, in either its original or amended versions. …Where the parent reissue application issues **>before< the examination of the continuation >reissue application<, the claims of the continuation >reissue application< should be carefully reviewed for double patenting over the claims of the parent >reissue application<. Where the parent and the continuation reissue applications are examined together, a provisional double patenting rejection should be made in both cases as to any overlapping claims. See MPEP § 804 – § 804.04 as to double patenting rejections. Any terminal disclaimer filed to obviate an obviousness-type double patenting rejection ensures common ownership of the reissue patents throughout the remainder of the unexpired term of the original patent.”

However, the MPEP is silent as to the effect of the language of 35 U.S.C. § 252 which indicates that “[t]he 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.” Do the principles announced in ex parte Bayles apply? Namely, because a continuation reissue was filed prior to issuance of the parent reissue patent does surrender of the original patent not take place until issuance of the last continuation reissue patent?

Suppose that the original patent claimed an invention AB. Within two years of the grant of the original patent a broadened reissue application was filed claiming the invention as AB, AbrBsp and AspBsp. During examination applicant facing a rejection of claims to AB, and AbrBsp, chooses to file a continuation reissue as to these claims, while thereafter letting the parent reissue application claiming only AspBsp issue. Putting aside the obviousness-type double patenting issue that can be obviated by filing a terminal disclaimer in the continuation reissue application, what effect, if any, does section 252 have on the examination of claims AB in the continuation reissue application. Are claims to AB surrendered by operation of section 252 or do the Bayles principles apply to avoid the surrender of original patent claims to AB?

We are unaware of any Federal Circuit precedent directly on point. We leave it to you to decide.

The USPTO’s Central Reexamination Unit

Posted On: Nov. 11, 2009   By: Stephen G. Kunin

In the summer of 2005, responding to industry criticism on the efficacy of patent reexamination, the USPTO created the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU).  The CRU is formed of highly skilled primary patent examiners that have been specially selected from the Patent Examining Corps.  These examiners average more than 15 years of experience and have technical backgrounds that reflect the broad spectrum of technologies encountered in patent reexamination.  Many of the primary examiners chosen to work in the CRU have advanced technical and law degrees.

The mission of the CRU is to ensure high quality, objective and timely processing of reexamined patents.  The CRU endeavors to comply with the “special dispatch” requirements of the reexamination statutes.  Reexamined patents are assigned to examiners in the CRU who were not previously involved in the examination of the original patents or in prior reexamination proceedings of the patents.  The examiners work in teams of three including a Special Program Examiner (SPE).  Patentability review conferences are conducted at each point in the reexamination decision making process in order to reach Read the rest of this entry »