Patent Trial & Appeal Board
By Scott A. McKeown
| April 17, 2017
Denied Petition Grounds May Be Relevant to PTAB Trial

CAFC Emphasizes that Art of Denied Petition Grounds Can Come Back to Haunt Patentees


It is not uncommon for an AIA Trial Proceeding, such as Inter Partes Review (IPR), to be instituted on a subset of unpatentability grounds presented in the petition. For example, IPR is currently granted on a claim-by-claim basis.  That is, petition grounds can be accepted or denied based upon the Patent Trial & Appeal Board's (PTAB) conclusions as to whether a reasonable likelihood of prevailing is shown for a given patent claim.

In the case of partial PTAB trial institutions, Patentees will often employ a strategy to formally object to the aspects of the preliminary record that include reference to prior art of the denied grounds.  The thinking here is that the objection will preserve the right to exclude this seemingly irrelevant art from the record at the close of trial. 37 C.F.R. § 42.64. Yet, art of a denied petition ground can be (and usually is) highly relevant at trial.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| April 11, 2017
ITC Shows Interest in PTAB Record

Technical Findings of PTAB Increasingly Leveraged in Parallel Court Proceedings


Patent challenge proceedings of the USPTO's Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) are designed to provide a low cost, expedited option to district court litigation. Of course, if a patent challenger is unsuccessful at the PTAB, the district court or International Trade Commission (ITC) is left to make the ultimate resolution on validity. Yet, as I discussed last year, closed AIA trial records are being leveraged by the courts to aid in resolving a number of disputed issues — from claim construction to summary judgement invalidity determinations.

More recently, the International Trade Commission (ITC) has followed suit.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| April 7, 2017
USPTO Soliciting Ideas on PTAB Procedural Reform

PTAB Procedural Reform Initiative


Today the USPTO announced its PTAB Procedural Reform Inititative. The initiative seeks feedback on the nearly five years of historical data and user experiences to further shape and improve Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) trial proceedings, particularly inter partes review (IPR) proceedings. The purpose of the initiative is to ensure that the proceedings are as effective and fair as possible within the USPTO’s congressional mandate to provide administrative review of the patentability of patent claims after they issue.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| April 6, 2017
En Banc Denial in Unwired Planet Previews WiFi One Debate

Excess of Jurisdiction vs. Agency Discretion


Earlier this week, the CAFC denied en banc rehearing in Google v. Unwired Planet.  While the denial was largely expected, Judge Hughes' concurrence foreshadows the debate to come in WiFi One.  

That debate, at least for Judge Hughes, is separating matters of agency discretion from questions of constitutionality and/or ultimate statutory authority.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| March 23, 2017
PTAB Preliminary Response Evidence Remains Unpopular

Preliminary Responses Accompanied by Declaration Evidence: Updated Results 


Back on May 1st, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) began to accept new testimonial evidence with patentee preliminary responses.  The PTAB implemented this change to address complaints that patentees were disadvantaged by previous rules precluding such evidence from accompanying a preliminary response to the petition. It was argued that the previous rules were especially imbalanced as almost all petitions were accompanied by petitioner declaration evidence.  I had my doubts.

Now that we are approaching a year removed from the rule modification, some updated results.  

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By Scott A. McKeown
| March 20, 2017
Rehearing Pendency in AIA Trial Proceedings

How Long is the Rehearing Wait?


A Petition for Rehearing may be filed in an AIA Trial Proceeding to challenge an Institution Decisions (ID) or a Final Written Decision (FWD) of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB). Of course, a successful Petition for Rehearing is a rare occurrence. Fewer than 5% of cases to date have seen a successful Petition for Rehearing.  

A Petition for Rehearing pursued after an ID is often deemed to have the longest odds of success given the 314(d) bar to appealing such decisions (now pending review in WiFi One). On the other hand, given the ultimate appeal of FWDs to the Federal Circuit, it may be that such filings inherently enjoy closer scrutiny, and hence, slightly better odds of success.

In any event, both patentees and petitioners alike sometimes find it necessary to pursue rehearing for any number of strategic goals. But, given the lack of a mandated deadline for such decisions, the question becomes: "How Long is the Wait?"

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By Scott A. McKeown
| March 6, 2017
PTAB Joinder: Being Your Brother

Practical Impact of Joinder Practice, Stricter Estoppel


IPR estoppel is established under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2), which provides that “the petitioner in an inter partes review of a claim in a patent . . . that results in a final written decision . . . may not assert . . . in a civil action . . . that the claim is invalid on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review.” (emphasis added).  Once upon a time, the reasonably could have raised component was thought to refer to art that could have been raised in the initial petition — at least, that was what Congress seemed to intend. Since that time, the Federal Circuit has made clear that this statutory estoppel is linked to the grounds presented at trial, and not those included in the petition and rejected by the Board as redundant. 

In Shaw Industries Group, Inc. v. Automated Creel Systems, Inc., 817 F.3d 1293 (Fed. Cir. 2016), the Court held that statutory estoppel does not apply to grounds denied by the Board as redundant.  The Court reasoned that estoppel cannot flow from grounds that are not part of the trial or any resulting decision from which estoppel can attach.

Rightly or wrongly, district courts have construed Shaw to extend to any potential trial ground not presented in the petition, not just those denied on redundancy grounds. This development has been a boon for original petitioners. But, a recent decision has made clear that petitioners seeking joinder may forfeit the Shaw estoppel benefits.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| February 22, 2017
Is In re Packard the Correct Standard for AIA Trials?

In re Packard Inextricably Linked to Patent Examination Practices?


Back in 2014, the Federal Circuit determined the standard for a USPTO indefiniteness analysis in In re Packard (here). This standard was more deferential to the agency as compared to the district court's "reasonable certainty" standard later enunciated in Nautilus v, Biosig Instruments Inc.  When Packard issued, I questioned whether that standard could be argued to apply to post-grant proceedings. This was because the Court's determination in Packard was deeply rooted in patent examination practices.

More recently, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) has adopted Packard in some of its decisions analyzing claims under 35 U.S.C. § 112 (e.g., PGR20015-00018, Telebrands Corp. v. Tinnus Enterprises LLC). But, decisions of the Federal Circuit since Packard, have made clear that grounds of unpatentability in AIA trial proceedings are not akin to rejections in patent examination.  As explained by the court in In re Magnum Oil Tools Int’l, Ltd. the prima facie procedural mechanisms of patent examination do not comport with proper AIA trial practices.

Will the CAFC pull the rug out from under the PTAB's application of Packard in AIA trails?

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By Scott A. McKeown
| February 10, 2017
Article III Standing Found for PTAB Appeal Where Threat of Suit

Article III Standing for PTAB Appeals Once Again Revisited by Federal Circuit


Last month, the Federal Circuit made clear that Article III standing is necessary for petitioners to appeal from adverse decisions in AIA trial proceedings in Phigenix, Inc. v. ImmunoGen, Inc. (here)  The Phigenix decision follows an earlier decisionConsumer Watchdog v. Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (Warf) finding the same Article III standing requirement for the now defunct inter partes patent reexamination. 

Yesterday, in PPG Industries, Inc., v. Valspar Sourcing, Inc., the Federal Circuit again addressed the issue of standing in appeals from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). At issue in these consolidated appeals was whether PPG Industries, Inc. (“PPG”) had standing to appeal the PTAB’s decisions in two inter partes reexaminations where the patent owner Valspar Sourcing, Inc. (“Valspar”) was the prevailing party. Showcased in this appeal is evidence deemed to satisfy Article III standing for an appeal from the PTAB.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| January 25, 2017
Phigenix/WiFi a Double Bind for Future PTAB Privity Disputes?

Burden of Production on Article III Standing to Bolster 315(b) Disputes at CAFC?


Two weeks back, the Federal Circuit made clear that Article III standing is necessary for petitioners to appeal from adverse decisions in AIA trial proceedings. Phigenix, Inc. v. ImmunoGen, Inc. (here)  The Phigenix decision follows an earlier decision, Consumer Watchdog v. Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (Warf) finding the same Article III standing requirement for the now defunct inter partes patent reexamination. Thus, Phigenix was expected given that differences in AIA trial proceedings and patent reexamination are inconsequential with respect to the standing debate (and in virtually all other respects).

While Phigenix is well on the radar of public interest groups and like organizations that seek to institute an AIA trial proceeding on patents of interest, the impact of this decision could complicate appeals for certain operating companies should the en banc decision in Wifi One play out as expected.
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