Inter Partes Reexamination

Reexamination Filing Surge Dismissed as Speculative

Back in September, I explained that the USPTO received an unprecedented number of reexamination filings in the closing days before the September 16th. This surge was a result of several factors: First, the fee for ex parte patent examination was jumping from $2520 to $17,500 as of the 16th;  and, as a result of the one year anniversary of enactment of the America Invents Act (AIA) on the 16th, September 15th was the last day to file a request for inter partes patent reexamination.

Currently, the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) is working through the bolus of filings, still trying to get them all docketed and reviewed within the 90 day statutory period. Seizing upon this influx of work, a Patentee recently argued against staying their district court proceeding pending inter partes patent reexamination — arguing that the USPTO process would now be much slower.

Continue Reading CRU Workload Extending Patent Reexamination Pendency?

CAFC Finds SNQ Denial Not Subject to Appeal in Inter Partes Patent Reexamination

Back in March of 2011, an expanded panel of the Board of Patent Appeals & Interferences (BPAI) decided Belkin International et al., v. Optimumpath LLC. Belkin’s appeal stemmed from a denial of a proposed SNQ of an inter partes patent reexamination request of  U.S. Patent 7,035,281 (95/001,089). The initial request for inter partes patent reexamination was granted as to claims 1-3 and 8-10, but denied as to claims 4-7 and 11-31.

The denial of the SNQ targeting claims 4-7 and 11-31 was petitioned to the Director of the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU). Upon reconsideration, the Director refused to reverse the examiner. On the other hand, Belkin did not petition the denial of SNQs pertaining to the claims being actively reexamined (claims 1-3 and 8-10). During prosecution of the reexamination, the rejection of claims 1-3 and 8-10 was withdrawn by the examiner. Thereafter, Belkin appealed the withdrawn rejection of claims 1-3 and 8-10 together with the denial of the SNQs pertaining to those reexamined claims.

The procedural issue before the Board was whether or not denied SNQs, which pertain to claims being actively reexamined (i.e., claims 1-3 and 8-10) must be petitioned rather than appealed to the BPAI. The Board found that:

[I]f the Director makes the non-appealable determination that no substantial new question of patentability has been raised, then reexamination is not performed for those claims in question with respect to the corresponding prior art references. There cannot have been a final decision (either favorable or unfavorable) on the patentability of the claims in question under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b), the claims not having been reexamined in the first place for lack of a substantial new question of patentability. (emphasis added)

Yesterday the CAFC weighed in on the debate.
Continue Reading CAFC Sides with USPTO on SNQ Debate

September 15 Deadline Fast Approaching

Yesterday, the USPTO issued a notice entitled September 15, 2012 Deadline to File Requests for Inter Partes Reexamination Proceedings and Modification of Notice of Failure to Comply Form (here) The notice is essentially a warning to practitioners that although September 15th is the official filing deadline for inter partes patent reexamination filings, the practical filing deadline is likely the week of September 4th.
Continue Reading USPTO Warns on Late Inter Partes Patent Reexamination Filings

CAFC Avoids Determining Propriety of Third Party Declaration Practice in Inter Partes Patent Reexamination

Yesterday, in Lingamfelter v. Kappos, (here) the CAFC decided that the Patentee had waived the right to contest the propriety of the third party declarations filed in their inter partes patent reexamination. (earlier post here)

The crux

Claim-by-Claim Application of RLP Standard a Problem for Patent Challengers in Late Stage, Parallel Litigation 

As the era of Inter Partes Patent Reexamination (IPX) draws to a close, recent third party requesters are finding the the new standard for initiating IPX to be quite problematic. The higher standard, has led to a greater percentage of partial and full IPX denials.

A random review of 80 requests filed under the new Reasonable Likelihood of Prevailing (RLP) standard reveals over 25 requests that were either partially (or even fully denied by examiners). Compared to the prior grant rate of close to 95%, it would seem the new “higher standard” is having Congress’ desired effect.
Continue Reading Higher Patent Reexamination Threshold Suffers from SNQ Hangover

Can Declaration Evidence be Considered “Written Comments”

Since the advent of inter partes patent reexamination (IPX), both Requesters and Patentees alike have relied upon declaration evidence to bolster their respective positions. Practically speaking, the lack of RCE practice in patent reexamination creates a limited prosecution window relative to the prosecution of patent applications. For this reason, submission of declaration evidence by Patentees under 37 CFR § 1.131 and/or 37 CFR § 1.132 is fairly routine in patent reexamination proceedings.

For Requesters, it is critical to respond to the declaration evidence of the Patentee in kind, especially as the Requester will be estopped from advancing failed arguments of the IPX in a district court or subsequent USPTO proceeding.

Despite this well established, declaration practice in IPX, a recent reexamination dispute before the CAFC questions the statutory propriety of Requester declaration submissions.
Continue Reading CAFC Probes Statutory Basis For Third Party Declaration Filings in Patent Reexamination

Court Cites ACP as Supportive of Summary Judgment of Invalidity

Generally, when reexamination evidence is used to support contentions of patent claim invalidity, the accused infringers do not simply attempt to equate the grant of a request for reexamination with patent claim invalidity. Instead, the accused infringers often attempt to use the grant of reexamination to substantiate their invalidity contentions. The argument is that an alleged infringer’s invalidity contentions are entitled to more weight where the Patent Office has found at least some substantial new question of patentability based on those same arguments, or can demonstrate repeated rejections of the claims by the USPTO.

This tactic, while often deemed too prejudicial for consideration by a jury is often times an acceptable practice for summary judgment purposes. The advantages of this practice were demonstrated last week in General Electric v. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (NDTX).
Continue Reading Ongoing Patent Reexamination Aids Summary Judgment on Invalidity

settlement agreement

Parallel Litigation Settles, Now What?

With the vast majority of patent reexaminations now being conducted concurrent to a district court or ITC proceeding, a common question of Patentees is “what becomes of the patent reexamination once the litigation settles?”

In the case of ex parte patent reexamination, the answer is simple: the reexamination continues unaffected. Indeed, as demonstrated a few weeks back (In Re Construction Equipment, CAFC (2011)), the ultimate outcome of the ex parte reexamination can even effectively reverse an earlier decision of the CAFC.

On the other hand, if the pending reexamination is an inter partes patent reexamination (IPX), the answer will depend on the nature of the terms of the settlement agreement. In a best case scenario for Patentee, the IPX proceeding may be vacated altogether by operation of estoppel. Of course, to trigger IPX estoppel, the settling defendant/requester must agree to a consent consent judgement in the district court (not effective in the ITC as estoppel does not apply) that they failed to prove invalidity. In most cases, defendants are loathe to publicly admit defeat. Still, unwary Patentes may be walking away from significant opportunity if just swinging for the fences.
Continue Reading Settlement Agreements & Patent Reexamination

Estoppel Effect of USPTO Decision Attaches Only After All Appeals Exhausted

Estoppel, as it relates to inter partes patent reexamination (IPX) proceedings and the new inter partes review (IPR) of the AIA, has been a topic of discussion here over the past few weeks. As if on cue, the CAFC has chimed in with a bit of clarification on the topic of (IPX) estoppel as it relates to 35 USC § 315.

The USPTO has maintained the position that IPX estoppel (35 USC § 317) only attaches after all appeals are exhausted. That is to say, the USPTO will not honor an intermediate court result to for the purposes of vacating an ongoing IPX, or denying a new request, by operation of estoppel. Instead, the USPTO awaits a final appeal decision (or time for filing of such to pass). The Office has not had much opportunity to comment on the complimentary statute § 315 (c), which provides the estoppel effect of a USPTO decision on the district courts.  This analysis was performed this past week by the CAFC.

Continue Reading CAFC Sides with USPTO Interpretation on Reexamination Estoppel Timing

Inter Partes Patent Reexamination is Not Always the Best Choice

In the case of Inventio AG v. Otis Elevator Co. (SDNY), the Court found that entry of a permanent injunction was against public interest where a pending ex parte patent reexamination of the USPTO seemingly demonstrated the potential invalidity of the subject patent. Interestingly, this type of strategic, post-trial benefit of a concurrent patent reexamination is not available if the parallel patent reexamination were an inter partes patent reexamination.

That is to say, in considering the choice between ex parte and/or inter partes patent reexamination, post trial, or late stage litigation strategies must take into account the unique estoppel provisions of inter partes patent reexamination.
Continue Reading Limited Patent Reexamination Choices for Late Stage Litigants