Business Method Patent Challenge
By Scott A. McKeown
| May 22, 2017
Eliminating Partial PTAB Institutions Will Undermine Trial Practice

"All or Nothing" PTAB Institution Practice Coming Soon?

Today, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in SAS Institute Inc., v. ComplemenSoft LLC.   As previously explained, SAS argues that partial PTAB trial institutions are inconsistent with the controlling statutes of the America Invents Act (AIA).  That is, if the PTAB finds that at least one claim is demonstrated as likely unpatentable, the PTAB should institute trial for all petitioned claims.  

The dispute stems from an IPR filing of SAS in which it challenged all sixteen claims of ComplementSoft’s 7,110,936 patent.  Trial was instituted for claims 1 and 3-10, but claims 2 and 11-16 were denied institution.  On appeal to the Federal Circuit, SAS argued that it was inefficient to institute on only a subset of claims, and that the controlling rule authorizing partial institution (37 C.F.R. § 42.108(a) was in direct conflict with statutes 35 U.S.C. §§ 314(a)/318(a).  The Federal Circuit disagreed.

Basically, SAS is seeking an end-run around the 314(d) appeal bar.  In other words, had the PTAB simply moved forward with trial on all claims, SAS would have been able to appeal any unfavorable decision on claims 2 and 11-16 (presumably would have been found not unpatentable at the close of trial) as part of its appeal from the Final Written Decision (FWD).  As it currently stands, 314(d) prevents the appeal of claims 2 and 11-16 since they were denied institution. 

Setting aside for another day the academic debate on the merits, should the high court accept SAS's argument, Patentees will be significantly prejudiced.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| May 18, 2017
Constitutional Challenges to PTAB Another Dead End

Public vs. Private Rights: Another PTAB Distraction


We all remember the "Great BRI Debate" that was Cuozzo Speed Techs., LLC v. Lee, 136 S. Ct. 2131, 2143–44 (2016). PTAB critics argued that the Board's "broadest" claim construction rubric was unfairly stretching claims to embrace prior art — resulting in inevitable invalidity determinations. And that since the PTAB was now in the business of litigation, they must follow litigation claim construction practices deemed more favorable to patent holders (especially since the PTAB amendment process, the justification for BRI, was argued as illusory).  

In reality, the difference between BRI and the district court Philips practices is the label used to reference each. Both constructions apply the ordinary and customary meaning of a claim term at the time of the invention from the perspective of one of skill in the art. The difference in outcomes is a simple reflection of expert agency's technical insight, not a meaningful difference in claim construction frameworks. For this reason, and many others, Cuozzo failed.

Attempts to derail PTAB trial proceedings still persist some 5 years into its life. These attempts now include recycling failed constitutional arguments against Article I adjudication practices.

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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 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
| 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 3, 2017
PTAB Trials to Increase in Cost for 2017

Fee Setting Authority to be Exercised in 2017 

The USPTO discussed its first ever fee increase under the fee setting authority of the America Invents Act (AIA) in November of 2015.  At the time, an initial proposal was provided to the Public Patent Advisory Committee (PPAC) for review.  While the hope was to have the proposed fee adjustments take effect on October 1, 2016 (start of FY 2017), significant stakeholder feedback and considerations have, understandably, slowed the rule making process.

Prior to the close of 2016, a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) issued requesting comments from the public on proposed fee increases for post-grant patent proceedings, including AIA trials.  With comments collected last month, a Final Rule Notice is imminent.  

Expected Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) fee increases include:

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By Scott A. McKeown
| December 14, 2016
CAFC Explains PTAB Expertise & Its Role In IPR Fact Finding

Expert Agency Need Not Accept Expert Testimony


AIA trial practices of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) are often analogized to that of the district courts. Yet, in practice, there are more differences than similarities between the two. The PTAB, unlike the district courts, is an expert agency. For this reason, its decisions are reviewed on the substantial evidence standard of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). 5 U.S.C. § 706. Further the PTAB applies the preponderance of the evidence evidentiary standard, which stands in stark contrast to the clear and convincing standard of the district court.  Taken together, these two foundational differences are worlds apart from district court trial practices, and, serve as the primary drivers behind the appeal of the PTAB to patent challengers.

Counsel more accustomed to the favorable patentee standards of the district courts, often times find themselves struggling with the seemingly bizarro world of PTAB administrative trials— such as the agency's ability to disregard expert testimony that would be given weight in the district courts.
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