Ex Parte Reexamination

PTAB Precedent (Not Surprisingly) Embraces CAFC Precedent

As I pointed out last week, it is a heavy lift for the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) to designate a precedential decision.  For this reason, nothing but the most straightforward of issues can be decided and designated “precedential.”

The PTAB issued a prime example of a seemingly straightforward precedential decision a few days ago in Ex parte McAward, Appeal 2015-006416 (PTAB Aug. 25, 2017), Section I.B. (here). This PTAB precedent makes clear that the USPTO assesses indefiniteness pursuant to the Federal Circuit’s guidance in In re Packard, 751 F.3d 1307, 1310 (Fed. Cir. 2014).

While some have expressed shock at the PTAB pronouncing a different standard than that expressed in Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2120 (2014), this is just a restatement of the Board’s status quo since the Packard decision. (It is not exactly shocking that the Board is following the guidance of its reviewing court).

The more interesting issue is whether the Court’s reasoning in Packard is equally applicable to AIA trial proceedings?
Continue Reading New PTAB Precedent Endorses In re Packard….But For How Long?

USPTO Revisits 2011 Rule Proposal (Rules 56(a) &555(a))

In the wake of the Federal Circuit’s 2011 decision in Therasense Inc. v. Becton Dickinson and Co., the USPTO quickly moved to revise the Duty of Disclosure to align with the Court’s new, but-for materiality standard—perhaps too quickly.  The 2011 proposal sought to update the relevant rules (1.56 and 1.555) by explicitly adding a short hand, reference to the Therasense case itself. The earlier proposal also intertwined the the “egregious conduct” exception of the Therasense holding (Duty of Candor & Good Faith) with the Duty of Disclosure.

At the time, I questioned whether it was unnecessarily confusing to mix together concepts of conduct and disclosure given the agency’s historical segregation of such. Others found it odd that the rule would reference the name of the case as opposed to spelling out the “but-for” materiality standard of its holding.
Today, the USPTO has revisited this earlier proposal, and issued a new proposal.  

Continue Reading USPTO to Adjust Duty of Disclosure to Align With Therasense

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.
Continue Reading Pendency Statistics on Petitions Filed During Patent Reexamination

Improved Speed For Overlooked Post-Grant Patent Options

Once upon a time, patent reexamination was the only mechanism to challenge a U.S. patent at the USPTO.  First introduced as an ex parte proceeding in the 1980s, patent reexamination was expanded to include an inter partes option in 1999.  Thereafter, patent reexamination became a popular adjunct to patent litigation. Yet, increased popularity of patent reexamination led to significant delays and increased pendency. The expanding timelines, among other shortcomings, prevented inter partes patent reexamination from serving as a true alternative to patent litigation. Not until the patentability trial mechanisms of the America Invents Act (AIA) did Congress finally succeed in providing a true alternative to patent litigation at the USPTO

Once the AIA patentability trials were introduced, inter partes patent reexamination was discontinued.  Still ex parte patent reexamination remains an option.  Not surprisingly, reexamination decreased in popularity post-AIA.  The reasons for the decrease in popularity is straightforward.  First, an inter partes AIA challenge option will almost always be preferred over an ex parte option for high-value disputes (where available).  Second, a large number of ex parte reexaminations were pursued, pre-AIA, out of necessity.  That is, older patents were not date-eligible for inter partes reexamination.  Of course, all issued patents are date-eligible for AIA review.  For at least these reasons, the current filing rate of  ex parte reexamination is roughly 50% of the 2008 filing numbers.

The falling numbers for ex parte reexaminations, coupled with the elimination of inter partes patent reexamination has, in limited respects, made ex parte reexamination a more attractive option as compared to 2008.

Continue Reading Patent Reexamination Speed Presents New Opportunity

PTAB Claim Analysis Can Serve as Persuasive Authority

Inter Partes Review (IPR), Post-Grant Review (PGR) and Covered Business Method (CBM) proceedings of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) begin with a Trial Order that includes substantial guidance on matters of claim construction. Typically, key terms at issue in the proceeding are expressly construed by the panel of administrative patent judges (APJs). While such constructions are not binding on a parallel litigation proceeding due to the use of a different claim construction rubric by the USPTO, in some circumstances such findings can be devastating to a litigation campaign — well in advance of the typical Markman Order.
Continue Reading Leveraging PTAB Claim Analysis in the District Court

Court Finds Clear & Convincing Invalidity Despite Previous USPTO Review

The USPTO applies the preponderance of the evidence standard in post-grant patent proceedings to assess patentability relative to applied prior art. For at least this reason, it is far easier to demonstrate unpatentability of a patent claim at the USPTO as compared to invalidity in the district court, which applies the clear and convincing evidentiary standard. As pointed out last week, art failing the lower threshold of the USPTO may even result in summary judgment of no invalidity in the district court

Applying the above logic then, it would seem imprudent to argue invalidity in the district court based upon art explicitly considered, and rejected by the USPTO in a post-grant proceeding. That is, unless you can convince the court that the earlier USPTO proceeding was incompetent.

Continue Reading Court Unimpressed by PTO Review of Prior Art

Decrease in Patent Reexamination Docket Leads to Faster Orders

Back on September 16, 2012, the America Invents Act (AIA) replaced the old inter partes patent reexamination system with a new proceeding, known as Inter Partes Review (IPR). Since petitions for IPR are not handled by patent examiners, but instead, the judges of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB), the USPTO’s Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) has experienced a significant cut to their incoming workflow. This change in workflow, coupled with the fact that requests for ex parte reexamination are also off by roughly 50% of pre-AIA filing rates, has resulted in an apparent benefit for patent challengers.

Ex parte patent reexamination requests are being processed faster.

Continue Reading Patent Reexamination is Getting Faster

Ex Parte Patent Reexamination Filings Fall by 50% After AIA

Prior to September 16, 2012, ex parte patent reexamination was the only USPTO option for challenging the validity of patents that issued from patent applications filed before November 29, 1999. This is because the inter partes patent reexamination statutes excluded those patents that issued from applications of the pre-1999 vintage. So, for those patent challengers hoping to take advantage of the lower cost USPTO proceeding as an alternative to patent litigation, ex parte patent reexamination was the only show in town— albeit, statistically speaking, a less than ideal option for patent challengers.

Further, ex parte patent reexamination provided the only manner by which a patent challenger could remain anonymous. This feature was especially important for those challengers hoping to test the mettle of an issued patent without inviting a retaliatory law suit from the Patentee.

Of course, the post grant patent world changed forever on September 16th 2012. On this date inter partes patent reexamination was discontinued in favor of the more robust Inter Partes Review (IPR) proceeding. Unlike its predecessor proceeding, IPR proceedings may be used to challenge any patent, regardless of vintage. In addition to this important expansion in inter partes applicability, the USPTO fee to request an ex parte patent reexamination soared from $2520 to $17,750.

So, with the availability of the more robust IPR option, and the attendant price increase to ex parte reexamination, is there still value in pursuing an ex parte patent reexamination proceeding?

Continue Reading Is There Value To Ex Parte Patent Reexamination After the AIA?

CAFC Denies En Banc Review of In Re Baxter Decision

Earlier this year, the CAFC decided In re Baxter International Inc. (here). As a reminder, in Baxter, the CAFC considered an appeal from the Board of Patent Appeals & Interferences (BPAI) that found certain claims of U.S. Patent 5,247,434 unpatentable in an ex parte patent reexamination.

The request for patent reexamination was filed by Fresenius USA Inc. in 2007 during a patent infringement litigation with Baxter. Interestingly, the Court first considered the validity of the ‘434 patent on appeal from that litigation. In that first appeal, based on some of the very same art applied in the reexamination, the Court found the patent not invalid in 2009. In the second appeal, decided in May of 2012, the same art was presented to the Court. Viewing the same art in 2012, on appeal from the BPAI, the Court affirmed the determination of the BPAI that the claims were obvious over the applied prior art.

Judge Newman issued a strong dissent to the second outcome, explaining that “[t]he validity of the Baxter patent was resolved upon litigation in the district court and on appeal to the Federal Circuit. This judgment cannot be “revised, overturned or refused full faith and credit by another Department of Government. . . .. Nonetheless, the court again departs from this principle, trivializes our prior final judgment, and simply defers to the conflicting agency ruling. This is improper.”

Not surprisingly, Baxter petitioned for rehearing and en banc review of the earlier decision.
Continue Reading CAFC Refuses En Banc Review of “Do-Over” Patent Reexamination

Revised Rule on Anonymous Requests Subject to Practitioner Interpretation

The estoppel provisions of Inter Partes Review (IPR), Post Grant Review (PGR), and the Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents (TPCBMP) will impact related court proceedings involving the same patent, and USPTO validity proceedings relating to the same patent.

The aspect of the IPR/PGR estoppel that applies to USPTO proceedings is codified below:

315 (e)(1) Estoppel (applies to IPR; 325(e)(1) codifies the same for PGR & TPCBMP)

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE OFFICE- The petitioner in an inter partes review of a claim in a patent under this chapter that results in a final written decision under section 318(a), or the real party in interest or privy of the petitioner, may not request or maintain a proceeding before the Office with respect to that claim on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review.

(emphasis added)

Taking the example of 315(e)(1) estoppel, this estoppel applies not only to a subsequent request for IPR from the same requester (or privies), but to any “office proceeding.” The primary USPTO proceeding that will be impacted by 315(e)(1) will be ex parte patent reexamination (EXP). This is because, by definition, a Post Grant Review (PGR) can only be conducted prior to an IPR. Likewise, inter partes reexamination (IPX) will no longer be an option in a few weeks, ending on September 16th. While theoretically there may still be some IPX proceedings that are being “maintained” by the time the first IPR is concluded, it is more likely that the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) would consolidate or stay such parallel Office proceedings. (325(e)(1) will not impact office proceedings for PGR for some years, but will apply in the short term to TPCBMP)

As pointed out previously, in many cases EXP is requested anonymously. (MPEP 2213). To account for this practicality the USPTO issued proposed rules requiring that anonymous filers disclose their identity to the Office so the applicability of estoppel could be assessed relative to EXP filers. In the final rules issued this past Monday the USPTO dropped the identity requirement in favor of a simple practitioner certification; but is the final rule enough to protect Patentees from harassment?

Continue Reading Anonymity of Patent Reexamination Requests