Rule Package Discussion

This Thursday May 16th, from noon to 1 p.m. ET, the USPTO will conduct its latest “Boardside Chat.” This week’s program will provide an overview of two recently published notices of proposed rulemaking impacting the the PTAB.

Register (here)

As always, a question-and-answer session will follow the presentation. Questions may be sent in advance or during the webinar to PTABBoardsideChat@USPTO.gov.

Proposal to Thwart Rerun Patent Assertions

An inventor may obtain claims in a second U.S. patent that vary in only minor (patentably indistinct) ways from claims the same inventor obtained in a first patent. But the USPTO will typically reject the claims in the second application under the doctrine of “obviousness-type double patenting.” Inventors can overcome such rejections during prosecution to obtain the second patent (and many more thereafter if desired) by filing a terminal disclaimer. The language of the terminal disclaimer prevents the timewise extension of patent term through multiple filings and prevents the indistinct claims from being separately assigned. In this way, terminal disclaimers are designed to strike a balance between incentivizing innovation while providing more certainty and protection to the public.

Over the years, the terminal disclaimer has worked exactly as designed. However, the usual bad actors have driven the USPTO to propose its first change in decades.

Continue Reading Terminal Disclaimer Proposal Driven By Rerun Lawsuits
Next Director Likely to Swing the Pendulum Back

PTAB 314(a) discretionary practices have followed the so-called “Fintiv factors” for years now. Under former Director Iancu (Republican appointee) Fintiv denials were so commonplace that overall institution rates dropped almost 10%. Current Director Vidal (Democrat appointee) recalibrated PTAB Fintiv practice via memo, and, as a result, Fintiv denials are relatively uncommon today. As Director Vidal’s memo is not committed to regulation, the next Director is free to swing the pendulum back.

It may seem that the likelihood of any such change is dependent on the outcome of the election given the tug-of-war of Trump/Biden appointees. But, it seems increasingly likely that that such a swing is inevitable regardless of election outcome.

Continue Reading Will PTAB Fintiv Practices Be Reinvigorated Under the Next Director?

Missed Opportunity & Further Patent Owner Headaches

The wait is finally over! (no not Taylor Swift’s new album…think nerdier….like way nerdier)

Last Friday the USPTO finally released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) directed to Patent Trial & Appeal Board Practices (here) a year after its overly-ambitious Advanced NPRM (ANPRM) was released. While readers of this blog already knew what was going to be in the NPRM, the release of the NPRM at least confirms that the agency still intends to move something forward in the waning months of the Vidal administration. Whether the agency will get anything over the finish line in time is far from clear.

The NPRM is most noteworthy for what it does not include — every underdeveloped/legislative idea of the ANPRM. But that was entirely predictable. Perhaps more concerning is the absence of a codification of current Fintiv 314(a) practices. Such discretionary denial practices exploded under the previous Director only to be reined in under Director Vidal via a guidance memo. This ping-pong action will continue across administrations unless and until regulations are issued. The next Director will almost certainly reinvigorate Fintiv practices regardless of election outcome (more on that later this week)

As to the content of the NPRM itself, some marginal value and an oddly misguided option that hurts Patent Owners and risks derailing the entire proposal.

Continue Reading Limited PTAB Rule Proposal Marred by Ill Conceived Briefing Changes
Valve Precedent Reined In by Director Review Order

Last week the Director vacated IPR denials based upon a misapplication of Valve Corp. v. Elec. Scripting Prods., Inc., IPR2019-00062, Paper 11 (Apr. 2, 2019) (precedential). As a reminder, Valve, extended the discretionary denial practices set out in General Plastic of so-called “follow-on” petitions of a same party to that of related parties having a “significant relationship.” However, over the years the unique scenario of Valve started to be argued as applicable to more typical scenarios where different parties happened to be litigating the same patent in different, unrelated suits.

Most recently, the Valve drift ensnared an IPR petitioners Honda, GM and Ford based on earlier filings of a co-defendant (Volkswagen). In last week’s Director Review Order the Director made clear that where there are different accused products in different court proceedings there is not a “significant relationship” between filers outside of “relevant or extenuating facts or circumstances.”

Continue Reading PTAB Recalibrates Related Party Analysis
Boardside Chat Thursday

The PTAB will conduct its next Boardside Chat webinar this Thursday, March 21st, from noon to 1 p.m. ET, to discuss hearings before the Board. The presentation will include a virtual tour of the hearing rooms, along with information on some of the updated technical capabilities available, as well as statistics on in-person versus remote hearings over the past year. A panel of PTAB judges will share practical tips and discuss strategies that may be effective in hearings before the Board. The panel features:

  • Acting Deputy Chief Administrative Patent Judge Michael Kim
  • Lead Administrative Patent Judge Stacey White
  • Administrative Patent Judge Michael Astorino
  • Chief Clerk Erica Swift
  • Deputy Chief Clerk Kulunie Cannon

As always, a question-and-answer session will follow the presentation and questions may be sent in advance to PTABBoardsideChat@USPTO.gov.

Register (here)

USPTO Issues NPRM to Codify Amendment Pilot Permanent

While awaiting the overdue Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the hodgepodge of proposals from last year, the agency has issued a few NPRMs over the past week. First was a proposal to streamline the pro hac vice practice (non-event). Late last week a slightly more interesting NPRM was issued to formalize the provisions of the Motion to Amend (MTA) Pilot Program. (here)

As a reminder, the MTA Pilot Program provides a patent owner who files an MTA with options to request preliminary guidance from the PTAB on the MTA and to file a revised MTA based on the feedback. Of course, it is rarely a good idea to amend claims at the PTAB regardless of the mechanisms used. This is why the agency reports less than 10% of proceedings include an MTA. Still, for those few patent owners interested in amending, the pilot program offers some incremental procedural value.

The NPRM, aside from seeking to codify existing practices, additionally outlines the exercise of discretion in the wake of the Hunting Titan case. That is, what role does the agency play in raising unpatentability grounds of its own for amended claims — particularly given the presumption of validity accorded issued claims?

Prior to Hunting Titan, the agency took the view that it should be a “rare circumstance” when the PTAB might raise a new ground of unpatentability on its own. The CAFC found that standard inconsistent with the agency’s public policy in protecting the public from improvidently granted patent monopolies.

The NPRM proposes that the Board will exercise its discretion in raising new grounds where a petitioner stops participating, or decides not to challenge the amended claims. In exercising that discretion, the Board may request prior art search support from the examining corps; a rare scenario. But at least the academic debate on how unexamined claims might be accorded a presumption of validity has been put to rest.

ANPRM an Unnecessary Slog to a Small Rule Package

It has been almost a year since the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) released its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on AIA trial practices. As a reminder, the ANPRM was a sprawling collection of rule proposals and requests for public feedback. I previously pointed out that the proposal was unnecessarily ambitious and was destined to be bogged down for proposing to exceed the agency’s regulatory jurisdiction.

Well, the wait is almost over.

Continue Reading Where are the New PTAB Rules?

Post-Amgen Claiming Techniques in Focus

Last year’s landmark decision in Amgen V. Sanofi emphasized that “the more a party claims, the broader the monopoly it demands, the more it must enable.” That is, particularly when claiming a broad genus of antibodies, the specification cannot be a research assignment to engage in trial and error as to the recited claim scope.

Since that time and perhaps dealing with inadequate specifications filed prior to Amgen, prosecutors have considered whether fallback claiming techniques such as Jepson format claiming or mean-plus-function formatted claims can at least secure some protection in the case where broader claims fail.

The USPTO is now committed to providing clarity on these topics in In re Xencor.

Continue Reading USPTO Appeals Panel to Clarify Antibody Claiming in MPF & Jepson Format

Common AIA Issues Discussed

This coming Thursday January 18th (noon to 1 p.m. (EST)) the PTAB will host its first Boardside Chat of the year. The program will discuss issues that typically arise during an America Invents Act (AIA) proceeding before the Board (PTAB). Topics will include:
• Preparing a patent owner preliminary response
• Preparing a patent owner response
• Motions to amend
• New arguments
• Motions to strike
As always, a question-and-answer session will follow the presentation. Questions may be sent in advance or during the webinar to PTABBoardsideChat@USPTO.gov.
Register (here)