Patent Trial & Appeal Board
By Scott A. McKeown
| August 10, 2017
Upcoming PTAB & Patent Policy CLE (Fall

Post-Grant Patent Trials 2017 & More


For those seeking PTAB related CLE/education the fall, there are a number of great programs on the immediate horizon.

This September, the most widely attended PTAB CLE program returns, the Practicing Law Institute's USPTO Post-Grant Patent Trials 2017. (register here)

Sept. 25, 2017, New York, NY (webcast available)
Oct. 25th 2017, San Francisco, CA (webcast available)
I am pleased to return as chair of this program along with Rob Greene Sterne of Stern Kessler Goldstein & Fox. This day-long CLE event will be offered in both New York and San Francisco (also webcast). New for this year, the New York program will include a segment entitled Northeast Corridor: Bio/Pharma at the PTAB. Also new this year, San Francisco will include a special 2-hour segment entitled: Patent Monetization in Silicon Valley: Licensing Blues & Navigating PTAB Roadblocks. These programs are always the highlight of the CLE year.  


Some additional events this fall with offer more academic/policy based insight to the PTAB and beyond.


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By Scott A. McKeown
| August 8, 2017
Separate Article III Standing Not Necessary for PTAB Appellees

Article III Standing Only Necessary for Party Invoking Authority of Federal Courts


Last week, I analyzed the government's arguments supporting Article III standing for intervenors in Knowles Electronics v. Matal. In that case, the panel questioned whether the government had Article III standing to intervene in a case where the original appellee dropped out. As to the arguments presented by the government, I explained that I found the most compelling argument to be that the agency can piggyback off of the Article III standing of the appellant as the standing inquiry is properly directed at those who invoke the court's jurisdiction. 

Yesterday, two of the three judges (Newman, Clevenger) on the Knowles panel agreed with the above "piggyback" argument in Personal Audio, LLC v. Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| August 3, 2017
Patent Prosecutor Alert: When is a Rejection a New Rejection?

What Exactly is the "Thrust of the Rejection?"


Every so often a decision comes out of the USPTO's Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) or the Federal Circuit that has immediate value for patent prosecutors. For example, back in June, the Federal Circuit analyzed the degree of corroboration necessary for an In re Katz declaration.  Earlier this week, the Court reviewed an appeal from an inter partes reexamination in Honeywell Intl. Inc. v. Mexichem Amanco Holding S.A. de C.V. et al. to determine whether or not the Board's reliance on a reference different from those of the patent examiners underlying rejections constituted a "new rejection."  The Court's discussion, especially that found in the dissent, may help shed light on this somewhat amorphous standard. 

While a new rejection analysis may appear to be limited in relevance to patent prosecution and appeals before the PTAB, this same analysis can be helpful in navigating Administrative Procedure Act (APA) compliance in AIA trial proceedings.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| August 2, 2017
PTAB Designates New Precedent for AIA Trials

Assignor Estoppel Not an Exception to 311(a)


The Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) has designated the following decision as precedential: Athena Automation Ltd v. Husky Injection Molding System Ltd., IPR2013-00290, Paper 18 (PTAB Oct. 25, 2013), Section II.A. (here)

Athena holds that the doctrine of assignor estoppel is not an exception to 35 U.S.C. § 311(a), which allows “a person who is not the owner of a patent” to file a petition for inter partes review. This decision was later left undisturbed by a split-panel of the Federal Circuit.  The majority found review of assignor estoppel precluded by operation of the appeal bar (35 U.S.C. § 314(d), relying upon the Court's earlier decision in Achates Reference Publishing.  Of course, the continued viability of Achates is being reconsidered, en banc, in in Wi-Fi One LLC v. Broadcom (here).  As such, this agency precedent might be revisited by the CAFC down the line.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| August 1, 2017
USPTO Intervenor Standing in PTAB Appeals

USPTO Explains Intervenor Standing


Some weeks back in Knowles Electronics v. Matal, the Federal Circuit, sua sponte, asked the following of the parties (order here):
When the prevailing party in an inter partes reexamination proceeding before the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) declines to appear before this court to defend the decision below, is the USPTO’s Director required to possess Article III standing in order to intervene?

If yes, does the Director possess such standing in this appeal?

Additionally, if the Director does in fact possess standing; must the Director defend the Board’s decision? Alternatively, what are the ramifications if the Director declines to defend the Board’s decision?
The debate has obvious ramifications for appeals from PTAB trial proceedings. Whether intervening when a petitioner drops out/settles its dispute with a patentee, or intervening on appeals deemed to touch upon a significant practice issues, USPTO intervention is quite commonplace. Indeed, the only AIA trial dispute decided by the Supreme Court was a case in which the USPTO intervened at the appellate level, In re Cuozzo Speed Technologies.

Yesterday, the government explained the origin of its standing, as well as its propriety under Article III.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| July 18, 2017
CAFC Finds Forfeit of Half-Win Before PTAB

Failure to Argue Differing Claim Language of Similar Claims Haunts Appellant


PTAB practitioners must always be mindful of the Board's longstanding practice to treat grouped claims as standing or falling together. That is, claims should be argued separately where the claims are phrased similarly, but with some deliberate grammatical or additional term difference to distinguish scope.  In those cases, it is important to discuss the implications of the grammatical differences. Simply reciting a claim limitation, and asserting that the limitation is/is not found in the prior art, is not taken by the Board as a separate argument for patentability.

That said, such layered arguments may fall prey to the tight space constraints in AIA trial proceedings where more pressing arguments are necessary.  

For example, one of the more particularly tricky aspects of AIA trial practice prior to May of 2016— at least for petitioners— was fitting all of petitioners arguments within the fifteen pages allocated for a Petitioner Reply by the PTAB.  As a result of the limited real estate, some petitioner arguments that might have been otherwise made were often cut for space constraints. Fortunately, in May of 2016, the fifteen page limit was increased to twenty-five pages.

Yesterday's decision of the Federal Circuit emphasized the risks of claim grouping; perhaps a reflection of the earlier AIA trial briefing constraints.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| July 12, 2017
Patent Owners Starting to Get the Last Word at the PTAB

Patent Owner Sur-Replies on the Uptick


Back in June of 2016, the Federal Circuit issued its opinion in Genzyme Therapeutic Products LP v. BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.(here).  At the time I explained that Genzyme was a game-changer.  This was because it made clear that the trial portion of an AIA proceeding was an opportunity for both sides to build a record — not a mere analysis of the four corners of the trial petition.  As stated simply by the Court in Genzyme, "[t]he purpose of the trial in an inter partes review proceeding is to give the parties an opportunity to build a record by introducing evidence—not simply to weigh evidence of which the Board is already aware." (emphasis added)  

As a reminder, an instituted AIA trial (absent a motion to amend) includes a single brief from each party, the petitioner filing the last brief as the party bearing the burden of demonstrating unpatentability.  

Since Genzyme, the Board has become far more comfortable with petitioners citing to new exhibits in petitioner replies (assuming such exhibits/arguments are in support of existing positions as opposed to altogether new theories).  At roughly the same time Genzyme issued, and since, the Board has been faulted for violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). For example, for failing to give parties a fair opportunity to respond to issues. (e.g., SAS Institute Inc., v. ComplementSoft LLC)  These developments are helping drive a more liberal perspective at the Board as to additional briefing possibilities for Patent Owners.  

A review of trial practices immediately before Genzyme, as compared to today, illustrates an increased willingness on the part of the PTAB to permit Patent Owner sur-replies at the close of the trial, effectively giving Patent Owners the last word in trial briefing.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| June 23, 2017
Senate Bill Seeks to Thwart AIA Trials

Bill Would Effectively End PTAB


The STRONGER (Support Technology & Research for Our Nation’s Growth and Economic Resilience) Patents Act was unveiled in the U.S. Senate this week.  This is the newest incarnation of a previously stalled bill known as the "STRONG Patent Act of 2015."  The new bill, like its predecessor, proposes significant modifications to the patentability trial mechanisms of America Invents Act (AIA).  These modifications, if adopted, would for all practical purposes end AIA trial proceedings at the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) — the apparent goal of the organizations backing this legislative effort.  

Notably, this same agenda prevented the 2015 bill from gaining any real traction. While the new bill does include some improved proposals for amending claim at the PTAB, oddly, it also doubles-down on its anti-PTAB agenda.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| June 13, 2017
AIA Trials Unconstitutional? Don

High Court to Review Constitutionality of AIA Trials


The Supreme Court has had at least three occasions over the past 7 months to review the constitutionality of AIA trial proceedings — it declined all three invitations. Thus, the writing appeared to be on the wall when the same question was posed recently in Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group.  But, then the Federal Circuit wavered somewhat as to its conviction in its own precedent on point.  When asked to reconsider the debate as to whether a patent is purely a private right or public right (as previously decided in MCM Portfolio LLC v. Hewlett-Packard Co. et al.) the CAFC's en banc denial of that request a few weeks ago (here) was a split decision.  (As a reminder, as a public right, a patent may be adjudicated by an Article I court).

Never one to shy away from a new opportunity to set the CAFC straight, the High Court suddenly became interested in the very same debate it only very recently passed over three times, granting certiorari yesterday. (Order here, briefs here)
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By Scott A. McKeown
| June 12, 2017
Preliminary Response Evidence Should Focus on Technology

Preliminary Responses Accompanied by Declaration Evidence: Updated Results 


Back on May 1st of 2016, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) began to accept new testimonial evidence with patentee preliminary responses.  The PTAB implemented this change to address complaints of patentees who claimed they were disadvantaged by previous rules precluding such new evidence from accompanying a preliminary response. It was argued that the previous rules were especially imbalanced as almost all petitions were accompanied by petitioner declaration evidence, and that absent evidence in kind from patentees, institution was unavoidable.  I had my doubts as to whether this new mechanism would be the boon that patentees had hoped.

Now a year removed, some updated results.
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