Concurrent Proceedings

New PTAB Roadblocks & Strategies

Earlier this week I laid out my Top 5 PTAB cases of 2020 for PTAB Practitioners, focusing on those cases that changed day-to-day practices before the agency. Like the practitioner list, my Top 5 PTAB developments of 2020 for District Court Litigators will focus on those practical PTAB developments that will impact parallel litigation practices outside of the agency.

In 2020, there were a number developments of interest to litigators, from litigation forums where a PTAB challenge is foreclosed or highly unlikely, to stipulations for avoiding PTAB discretionary denials, and new risks of collateral estoppel across a litigated portfolio.
Continue Reading Top 5 PTAB Developments of 2020 for District Court Litigators

Delaware Cases Slipping 4-6 Months

The practice of denying AIA trial petitions in view of competing district court trial dates has brought some negative attention to the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) over the past few months. At the same time, patent litigation has increased over the first two quarters of the year by 20%.  This surge has been greatly aided by the exploding popularity of the Western District of Texas (WDTX) with non-practicing entities — a district that the PTAB is increasingly deferring to in its discretionary denials based upon competing trial dates.

While Patent Owners are quick to point to a looming district court trial date as being set in stone, in reality, these dates are often reset once the PTAB hurdle is cleared.
Continue Reading District Court Trial Dates Tend to Slip After PTAB Discretionary Denials

House and Senate Judiciary Committees Alerted to “Significant and Rapidly Growing Problem”

Earlier this month, a coalition of stakeholder organizations sent letters to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees seeking an investigation into the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s (PTAB) application of discretion under 35 U.S.C. § 314(a).  More particularly, the organizations argue that the Board’s application of NHK Spring is “choking off access” to the PTAB and leading to a resurgence in patent litigation of questionable merit. The organizations ask that the USPTO report to Congress on these practices, and engage in formal rulemaking to guide agency practices.

Whether the requested action is provided or not, the continued application of 314(a) in the NHK context seems destined to end.
Continue Reading Congress Urged to Investigate PTAB Discretionary Denials

NHK Swallows General Plastic

The America Invents Act (AIA) was passed into law in 2011 to provide a more cost-effective, faster alternative to district court patent litigation.  At the time, bill sponsors explained that some of America’s largest innovators were paying more to their patent lawyers in a given year — to defend against “patent troll” suits— than they were on new research and development.  The role of the Eastern District of Texas (EDTX) in this perceived problem was not lost on legislators.  Provisions were added to the AIA to address perceived joinder abuses in the EDTX.  And, in many respects, EDTX plaintiff behaviors abruptly transformed the AIA from an esoteric, multi-year legislative debate, into law.

Of course, EDTX remains one of the most popular patent venues in the U.S. despite the AIA, and additional efforts to rein in this venue option in TC Heartland.  More recently, EDTX has inspired a copycat venue in the Western District of Texas (WDTX), which has seen a 700% increase in patent cases since 2016. The expansion in popularity of Texas district courts, especially for non-practicing entities (NPEs), makes the PTAB’s recent deference to such litigation under its NHK precedent all the more troubling given its AIA mandate.
Continue Reading Texas Plaintiffs More Likely to Side-Step PTAB?

Invalidity Counterclaims-In-Reply Will Not Trigger 35 U.S.C. § 315(a)

Congress created IPR to provide a “quick and cost effective alternative[ ] to litigation.”  To fulfill that role, Congress limited a party’s ability to seek an IPR after commencement of civil litigation in two ways: (1) under § 315(a), no IPR may be instituted if the challenger filed a civil action challenging the validity of a patent claim before filing the IPR petition, and (2) under § 315(b), an IPR may not be instituted on any petition filed more than one year after the petitioner (or a real party in interest or privy) was served with a patent infringement complaint.  These provisions are designed to control PTAB filings concurrent with civil complaints.

In a recent decision, the Northern District of California lamented that the statutory provisions permit a counterclaim of invalidity in a Reply. 315(a)(3). The Court interpreted such a counterclaim to be a “loophole.”
Continue Reading Declaratory Judgement Loophole at PTAB?

PTAB Estoppel & Inequitable Conduct

Inequitable conduct before the USPTO is an equitable defense to patent infringement that, if proved, bars enforcement of a patent. Thereasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 649 F.3d 1276, 1285 (Fed. Cir. 2011).  Given the increasing inventory of Final Written Decisions (FWD) in larger patent portfolios, practitioners are only now beginning to confront issues of inequitable conduct relating to agency based estoppel.  That is, if a patent owner advances a position inconsistent with a previous PTAB FWD on a patent/related patent under 37 C.F.R. § 42.73(d)(3), whether such a practice constitutes inequitable conduct. It just might.

But, for the time being, the courts’ lack of experience with the PTAB’s rule-based estoppel is benefiting patent owners.
Continue Reading Patent Prosecution After an Adverse PTAB FWD – Beware

Expert Agency Shown Deference in Matters of Claim Scope

While IPR petitioners may only challenge patent claims based upon patents and printed publications (§§ 102 and 103), the PTAB trial record can be leveraged in parallel district court proceedings on related issues.  For example, PTAB fact findings on claim construction have been adopted by district courts on motions for summary judgment. And recently, a plaintiff in the District of Utah leveraged a PTAB finding to obtain a favorable outcome regarding indefiniteness on summary judgment.
Continue Reading Leveraging PTAB Records in District Court

PTAB 2019: A Year of New Precedent

There were a number of high profile developments at the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) in 2019. New procedures for amending claims, Practice Guide updates to thwart parallel petition filings, a successful constitutional challenge based on the Appointments Clause, and another SCOTUS review of the PTAB appeal bar.  But, not all of these developments impact the day-to-day life of PTAB practitioners.  Of greater interest to PTAB practitioners are the developments that change the game for the average AIA trial, with this in mind, below are my Top 5 PTAB Practitioner Developments of 2019.
Continue Reading Top 5 PTAB Decisions of 2019 for PTAB Practitioners

Rehearing Cites Lack of Countervailing Public Policy Against PTAB Review

Last month the Federal Circuit decided Dodocase VR, Inc. v. Merchsource, LLC (here). In Dodocase the Federal Circuit held that a standard forum selection clause can divest the PTAB of AIA trial jurisdiction.

If maintained, the ability to avoid the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) by private agreement would prove a game changer in periodic licensing agreements between competitors, including SEP licensors.

But, earlier this week, en banc rehearing was sought.
Continue Reading CAFC Urged to Rehear PTAB Forum Selection Dispute

General Plastic Factors & Follow-on Petitions

Last September, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) held that the advanced state of a district court proceeding militated in favor of denying a petition for IPR in accordance with the General Plastic factors (NHK Spring Co. Ltd. v. Intri-Plex Technologies Inc). Given this holding, Patent Owners may now consider speedier forums, such as the International Trade Commission (ITC) as providing incremental protection from a PTAB challenge.

Last week, the Board clarified that consideration of late stage parallel proceedings is done only in the context of assessing discretionary institution of “follow-on” petitions under 35 U.S.C. § 314(a).  In doing so, the Board also highlighted that an advancing ITC action (even in a follow-on petition scenario) may be of a lesser concern than a district court proceeding given its unique nature.
Continue Reading Co-Pending ITC Action Less of an Equitable Concern for PTAB?