Reissue
By Scott A. McKeown
| May 13, 2015
Patent Reissue Breadth Anchored to Previous Markman Construction

CAFC Decides Patent Reissue was Improperly Broadened Based on Previous Markman Definition

Yesterday, in ArcelorMittal France v. AK Steel Corp. (CAFC 2015), the CAFC considered the impact of a reissue of U.S. Patent 6,296,805 on a previous appeal decision.  The '805 patent, directed to rolled steel, recited the claim limitation "very high mechanical resistance."  In an earlier infringement suit between the parties, the district court found this terminology to define "a tensile strength greater than 1500 MPa." This construction was upheld by the CAFC on appeal, and the case as remanded as to other issues.

During the appeal of the claim construction, Patentee reissued the '805 patent as reissue patent RE44,153.  The reissue patent included a new claim, claim 23, that recited "mechanical resistance in excess of 1000MPa."  The originally construed claims remained in the reissue patent. Once back in the district court, Patentee amended its complaint to include claim 23 of the new reissue patent.  Thereafter, on summary judgement, the district court ruled the reissue patent invalid for improper broadening. In the second appeal, decided yesterday, the CAFC agreed that claim 23 of the '153 reissue was improperly broadened.  

Ostensibly, the USPTO did not consider 1000MPa limitation as broadening relative to the specification of the '805 patent.  On the other hand, the CAFC found  "greater than 1000MPa" to be broadening based upon the district court's previous construction that the scope of "very high mechanical resistance" was greater than 1500MPa. This difference in construction highlights the potential incongruity between USPTO and district court claim construction practices.

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By Scott A. McKeown
| November 26, 2014
CAFC Emphasizes Limitation on Patent Reissue Claim Scope

Limitations of Patent Reissue

As provided by 35 U.S.C. § 251, Patent Reissue is a mechanism by which a patent owner may correct an error in an issued patent. A proper reissue application is directed to an error that renders an issued patent wholly, or partly, inoperative. Such an error could be the mere absence of narrower dependent claims. In re Tanaka (CAFC 2011)

Although patent reissue allows for the correction of mistakes in claim scope, the proceeding is not a "do-over" of the original prosecution. For example, claim scope previously surrendered may not be "recaptured" via a broadening patent reissue. This same "public reliance" policy reasoning is utilized in other obscure aspects of patent reissue practice. For example, the Orita doctrine, prevents applicants from obtaining by reissue, claims that because of a requirement for restriction in which they had acquiesced, they could not claim in their patent. Last week, the CAFC explained yet another limitation on patent reissue practice, the "original patent" limitation of patent reissue. 

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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
| July 9, 2014
Patent Reissue Applications Moved Away From Examining Corps to CRU

Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) Takes on Patent Reissue Workload


Yesterday, the USPTO issued an internal memo to the Examining Corps informing them that the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) would be taking responsibility for patent reissue applications going forward. (Memo here) This move was first considered some years back under Director Kappos to remedy the excessive pendencies of patent reissue proceedings. However, that effort was shelved as a result of political headwinds (primarily examiner union complications).

Since that time, the workload of the CRU has lessened thanks to the elimination of inter partes patent reexamination, and to a lesser extent, the lack of interest in supplemental examination. Yet, patent reissue has remained a pendency quagmire due to examiners unfamiliarity and lack of consistent exposure to some of the quirky issues common in reissues (recapture, oaths, correctable defects, etc).

Moving these unique, but important post grant proceedings to a dedicated unit of examination specialists is LONG overdue — and welcome news for patentees.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| April 8, 2014
Patent Reissue as an Alternative to PTAB Amendment Practice

Stringent PTAB Amendment Process to Drive Patent Reissue Filings


As discussed previously, patent owners continue to struggle with the motion-based amendment requirements of the USPTO’s Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB). In recent months, patentees subject to Inter Partes Review (IPR) and Covered Business Method (CBM) challenges have begun exploring alternative USPTO avenues for presenting amendments. In particular, patentees are following the advice of the PTAB and initiating patent reissue and reexamination proceedings.

Patentees generally find patent reexamination more attractive than patent reissue. This is due to the special dispatch accorded a patent reexamination, the relatively narrow scope of prior art review, and insulation from 112 and 101 issues. However, as made clear recently, patent reissue may be the only escape for patentees struggling at the PTAB.


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By Scott A. McKeown
| February 7, 2013
PTAB Updates on Post Grant Filings & Decreasing Backlog

USPTO Post Grant & PTAB Updates


In recent weeks the USPTO has issued updates on various aspects of post grant patent practice and PTAB performance. The PTAB reports that their significant backlog has not only stopped growing, but will soon begin shrinking thanks to the increased hiring of administrative patent judges (APJs). With a typical ex parte application appeal pending 2-3 years in many cases, this is welcome news for appellants. (presentation here)

On the post grant side, an update was provided on patent reissue practice. The presentation mostly recapped recent case law developments and changes to oath practice. (presentation here)

An update was also provided from the PTAB Trial Section on the patentability trials of the America Invents Act (AIA).
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By Scott A. McKeown
| December 10, 2012
Patent Reissue Cannot Cure Mistaken Terminal Disclaimer

Terminal 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.
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By Scott A. McKeown
| May 9, 2012
CAFC Again Recalibrates Recapture Doctrine

In re Youman Faults BPAI Recapture Analysis


Back in 2010, the BPAI rejected certain claims in Ex parte Youman as attempting to recapture previously surrendered subject matter via a patent reissue application. This case was noteworthy for several reasons, not the least of which was its 10+ year pendency before reaching a Board decision. A link to the earlier BPAI decision is found (here).


As a reminder, Youman sought to broaden certain means-plus-function elements of his issued patent, and modify language relating to the selection of displayed characters of an electronic program guide via a television remote control.


The originally issued claims recited a “selection means...cycling forward and backward” through displayed characters. This feature was added to distinguish over the art of record during the prosecution of the underlying patent application. In the patent reissue application (broadening), this language was broadened to using a wireless remote control for “changing from a first to a second character.” This change was rejected by the BPAI as an attempt to recapture previously surrendered subject matter.


In rejecting the claim as recapturing previously surrendered subject matter, the BPAI relied upon some of the same MPEP language ("overlooked aspects") later criticized by the CAFC in In re Mostafazadeh. In its most recent consideration of the recapture doctrine, the CAFC focused on the claim language that must be analyzed in the third prong of the recapture test. 

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By Scott A. McKeown
| March 5, 2012
CAFC Reverses USPTO on Patent Reissue Dispute

Continuation Practice in Broadening Patent Reissue Applications Examined


Yesterday, the CAFC decided an important question pertaining to broadening patent patent reissue practice. (In re Staats, decision here). The issue before the Court was whether a broadening patent reissue application of Apple Computer Patent 5,940,600 was filed within the proscribed two year window.

During prosecution of the subject patent reissue application (a third, broadening continuation filing) the examiner rejected the claims under 35 U.S.C. 251 as presenting broadening claims outside of the proscribed two year window. The Office reasoned that the error in the original reissue filing (parent) was allegedly unrelated to the error presented for correction in the third filing...presented for the first time 7 years later. In essence, the Office argued that it is not enough to merely present a "place holder" intent to broaden within the proscribed two years only to file a continuation years later that attempts to broaden in "unforeseeable" ways.

The CAFC heard arguments on the BPAI decision back in September of 2011 and strongly hinted that earlier CCPA precedent would control the case. Not surprisingly, the Court reversed the USPTO based on previous precedent
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By Scott A. McKeown
| February 14, 2012
Is Supplemental Examination a Risk Worth Taking?

In re Tanaka Decision Likely to Drive Two-Part Supplemental Examination Filing Strategy


During yesterday's Strafford Legal webinar on the topic, I explained that Supplemental Examination (SE) is a mechanism of the AIA that is designed to effectively cure inequitable conduct via a new post grant proceeding of the USPTO. This mechanism, effective September 16, 2012 will be available to all issued patents.

In operation, SE allows a Patentee to submit very detailed explanations of potential issues that may serve to render the patent invalid under an inequitable conduct theory in litigation. Upon submission of Substantial New Questions of patentability (SNQs) detailing such potential defects, the Office will reconsider or correct such information; that is to say the Office will perform a "supplemental examination."

If the SNQs of an SE request do not rise to the appropriate level to justify further proceedings, an SE certificate is issued stating such, and the proceeding concludes. Likewise, should SNQs be identified in the request for SE, a certificate is issued identifying such. Thereafter, a modified form of “re-examination” is initiated by the Office to explore the SNQs presented in the request. Should the Office determine that the identified SNQs do not preclude patentability in the reexamination phase, a reexamination certificate is issued to complement the SE certificate. Thus, SE is modeled on the same "but for" materiality standard pronounced in Therasense.

At first blush, the option to cure potential inequitable conduct issues seems an attractive option for Patentees. Yet, practically speaking, there may be very few instances in which an SE filing is advisable.
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