Reexamination
By Scott A. McKeown
| January 6, 2017
What to Do With 112 Issues in IPR?

Moving Forward on Indefinite Claims Could Haunt Petitioners


Often times when preparing an Inter Partes Review (IPR) petition, a claim is encountered that may be of an indeterminate scope under 35 U.S.C. 112. As indefiniteness issues are not considered in IPR, the question then becomes: Should the broadest of the possible competing construction for the claim term be proposed in order to get an IPR instituted on the claim? Or, should the petitioner avoid proposing a construction for an indefinite term to reserve rights for a later, district court challenge?  Of course, holding back claims for a later district court proceeding is typically disfavored given the entire point of IPR, in most cases, is to avoid the expense of district court litigation.  For that reason, most petitioners forge ahead to attack the indefinite claim.

As explained by the Federal Circuit this week in Sonix Technology Co., Ltd. V. Pubs. Int'l Ltd. et al., (here), Petitioners would be wise to note the 112 issue in their petitions.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| December 6, 2016
PTAB BoardSide Chats for 2017

PTAB Specific Webinars Offered by USPTO


The full slate of 2017 Boardside Chat webinars have been announced for 2017. The BoardSide Chat series is a bi-monthly webinar that is free to the public. As with past webinars, the Board will share updates on topics related to ex parte appeals and AIA trials. There will be time during each webinar for audience questions and feedback.

Please see the schedule below:
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By Scott A. McKeown
| December 15, 2015
CAFC Finds PTAB Has Discretion to Augment Trial Grounds

PTAB Trial Not Necessarily Constrained to Petition Grounds

Patentees often amplify relatively insignificant technical differences between a patent claim and the prior art in district court to great success. Such strategies often fall flat in front of the USPTO where the technical expertise of the agency can expose such distinctions as inconsequential (inherent), or obvious — usually.

For example, in patent reexamination, examiners adopt and/or modify challenges to suit their technical understanding. Later, on appeal, judges of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) may issue new rejections where a trivial patent claim difference is known, or suggested by the art as obvious. More recently, however, the same PTAB judges reviewing AIA trial petitions often times take a hyper-technical view of proposed grounds of unpatentability. That is, judges of the trial section often feel constrained to the grounds presented in a petition even though an argued "distinction" over the proposed grounds is a well-known, trivial feature in the art.

Today, the Federal Circuit reiterated that the PTAB is not so constrained in dealing with AIA trial petitions.  

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By Scott A. McKeown
| November 17, 2015
CAFC Weighs in on Negative Claim Limitation Support

Heightened Written Description Requirement for Negative Claim Limitations?


Negative patent claim limitations were once disfavored by the USPTO.  This is because defining claim scope by exclusion was considered less precise relative to more traditional, positive claim scope recitations.  Over the years, the USPTO has been guided to accept negative limitations as in some cases it may be the only way to adequately claim a given invention.  Yet, in assessing written description support for such claim features, the USPTO explains that "the mere absence of a positive recitation in a patent specification is not a basis for exclusion consistent with written description requirements." MPEP 2173.05(i) 

In some cases, examiners have been known to require explicit support for a negative claim limitation. The degree of specification support necessary to support a negative claim limitation was analyzed last week by the Federal Circuit.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| August 27, 2015
Pendency Statistics on Petitions Filed During Patent Reexamination

USPTO Releases Petition Timelines


The Office of Petitions has launched a new USPTO Patents Petitions Timeline that provides information on petition types that can be filed throughout each stage of the patent prosecution, and reexamination process. For each petition type, users can easily access information on average pendency over the past 12 months of decided petitions, the deciding office, petition grant rates, and link to specific sections of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) or other parts of the USPTO website that relate to each petition type. (here)

Given the pro forma nature of many prosecution related petitions, of most interest are the more unusual filings, such as petitions to revive abandoned applications.

Of perhaps the greatest interest is the pendency information pertaining to petitions filed during patent reexamination. I have often referred to this practice as the "black arts" as such practice is fraught with uncertainty, and pendency can be quite significant.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| August 13, 2015
CAFC Finds PTAB Claim Analysis Incomplete Relative to Markman

Functional Aspect of Structural Term Overlooked

Yesterday, in Power Integrations, Inc., v. Lee (CAFC 2015) the Court considered the rejection of claims 1, and 17-19 of  U.S Patent 6,249,876. Reexamination of the '876 patent was initiated by the USPTO in 2006 at the request of Fairchild Semiconductor. At issue in the reexamination (and in a parallel infringement action) was the meaning of the claim terminology  "coupled to." The Patentee insisted that this terminology had both a functional and structural meaning. On appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI -- Now the PTAB), affirmed the examiner's rejection of the claims. In doing so, the Board appeared to focus only on the structural aspect of the disputed claim terminology.

The CAFC reversed and remanded finding that the Board's focus on the structural aspects of the disputed claim terminology to be "red herring."  

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By Scott A. McKeown
| March 4, 2015
Senate Democrats Propose Bill to Gut AIA Trials

Misguided STRONG Act Would Undo Years of AIA Progress

Well, if you expected the Goodlatte Bill to sail through the House for swift passage through the Senate, forget about it. Hill chatter has indicated that the significant House support of the Bill has diminished since the last vote in 2013 (and rightfully so given the events of the past year). Perhaps of greater threat to the patent reform effort , however, is yesterday's introduction of the "STRONG Act" on the Senate side (here), which makes clear that further patent reform is far from guaranteed for 2015. 

The STRONG Act, or "Support Technology and Research for Our Nation’s Growth Patents Act of 2015" removes the controversial fee shifting provision of the Goodlatte Bill (a key point of contention in past battles). More importantly, the Senate Bill adds a multitude of proposed changes to AIA trial proceedings that will have patent abusers dancing in the streets —the Bill is more aptly titled the "Support Trolls & Reverse Our Nation's Progress under the AIA Act of 2015." 

While this legislative grenade may not have much chance ever seeing the light of day, it is surprising that such misguided proposals would be seriously offered in the first instance.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| September 4, 2014
The PTAB Cannot Adopt a Phillips Claim Analysis for AIA Trial Proceedings

Requests for Comment Touch Upon Claim Construction Standards at the PTAB

Back in June, the USPTO issued a Request For Information (RFI) in the Federal Register. The Notice, entitled, Request for Comments on Trial Proceedings Under the America Invents Act Before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board posed 17 questions for consideration by those stakeholders involved in the patent challenge proceedings of the America Invents Act (AIA). Responses are due to the USPTO on September 16th, and, will be considered by the agency for the purpose of optimizing AIA trial proceedings going forward.

Over the next two weeks, I will explore the issues driving these queries as well as proposals for resolving problem areas. First up, is the question directed to claim construction, that is:

1. Under what circumstances, if any, should the Board decline to construe a claim in an unexpired patent in accordance with its broadest reasonable construction in light of the specification of the patent in which it appears?
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By Scott A. McKeown
| May 19, 2014
Supreme Court Once Again Passes on Fresenius Patent Reexamination Result

Court Declines Review of Finality Issue


The CAFC first considered the validity of Baxter International’s U.S. Patent 5,247,434 (the ‘434 patent) on appeal from a patent infringement litigation with Fresenius. In that first 2009 appeal (now commonly referred to as Fresenius I), the Court upheld the patent over certain prior art. After Fresenius I, the litigation dispute went back to the district court on a damages related remand.

Meanwhile, in May 2012 a patent reexamination proceeding initiated by Fresenius in 2007 made its way to the CAFC. The reexamination was based on much the same prior art as previously considered in Fresenius I. This time, the CAFC affirmed the determination of the PTAB (then BPAI) that the claims were obvious over the applied prior art applying the more liberal standards for USPTO challengesEn banc review was then sought, but declined by the CAFC. A petition of certiorari on the seemingly conflicting results was also pursued, but denied by the Supreme Court.

Thereafter, Fresenius II made it’s way to the CAFC to determine whether the outstanding damage award of the district court was enforceable in light of the CAFC’s decision in In re Baxter (2012). The CAFC held that since the damage award was not yet final, it was essentially voided by the cancellation of the patent in reexamination. Once again, en banc review was sought, and denied by the CAFC, last summer. A second petition for certiorari was then pursued for Fresenius II. This most recent petition was denied today, finally ending the dispute.

Given the high court's lack of interest in Fresenius I, which more squarely presented the issue of seemingly conflicting final results, it is not at all surprising
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By Scott A. McKeown
| April 15, 2014
PTAB Roundtable Webcast Today

Webcast today, 1-4PM EST


As a reminder, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) roundtable series kicks off today in Alexandria.

The Chief Judge will kick off today's program with some performance information, including entirely new statistical categories of data. Thereafter, judges of the PTAB will conduct mock telephone conferences, and I along with three other practitioners will close out the program discussing strategy, practice tips and concurrent proceeding concerns.

Alexandria, VA Webcast - April 15, 2014

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