Statutory Petition Requirement Correctable

Back in April I discussed the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s (PTAB) evolving position that an updated RPI designation did not require a resetting of the petition filing date. That is, despite telling Congress that the RPI was a statutory requirement for a petition to be considered in 2015, and that correction of RPI required a new filing date, the Board migrated to a new view that such mistakes could be excused if made without deceptive intent (more recently relying on a footnote in Wifi-One explaining the Board’s practice of accepting corrections to defective filings.)

Last week, the Federal Circuit issued a precedential opinion finding that the PTAB’s interpretation of its remedial regulations in this regard were not plainly erroneous or inconsistent.
Continue Reading CAFC Endorses PTAB Practice of Accepting Late RPI Designations

Close Trial Date to Doom Parallel IPR Petitions?

Last September, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) found the advanced stage of a parallel district court proceeding weighed in favor of denying a follow-on, IPR petition. NHK Spring Co. Ltd. v. Intri-Plex Technologies Inc. That is, when weighing the equities of a follow-on petition under General Plastic, the competing litigation’s scheduled conclusion before the end of any potentially instituted IPR favored a discretionary denial of the petition under 35 U.S.C. § 314(a).

Since that time, the existence of late stage litigation proceedings has been raised in the context of first-filed petitions, and is beginning to gain traction there as well.
Continue Reading PTAB Equitable Analysis Extends Beyond Follow-on Petitions

PTAB 2018: A Year of Agency Recalibration

The Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) stole much of the 2018 patent law spotlight. From landmark Supreme Court decisions such as Oil States and SAS Institute, to significant en banc Federal Circuit decisions in WiFi-One, PTAB practice evolved more in 2018 than in any prior year. That said, the most impactful 2018 changes for practitioners were driven by the agency.

Under the pro-patent leadership of Director Iancu, the agency is expected to drive still further change in 2019.
Continue Reading Top 5 PTAB Practice Developments of 2018

ITC Staff Attorney Not Bound by Estoppel

Plaintiffs are painfully aware of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) and its potential to derail a patent litigation. Indeed, post-SAS patent owners facing motions to stay pending PTAB review are left with even less to argue. Even where a stay is avoided, the speed of the PTAB can undermine traditional litigation pressure points that traditionally drove parties to settlement (e.g., Markman). As such, plaintiffs are increasingly viewing the International Trade Commission (ITC) as the strongest foil to a PTAB attack.

The ITC, having its own mandate for speed does not stay pending PTAB review.  Likewise, an ITC Exclusion Order can be issued within the same time frame as a PTAB Final Written Decision, or faster. These advantages are not insignificant in today’s patent monetization landscape. But, the ITC is not without its PTAB trade-offs for Patent Owners.

Continue Reading PTAB Estoppel May Not Stick at ITC

Invalidity Contentions Serve as Estoppel Benchmark

A Patent Owner may only avail itself of an IPR estoppel defense in court upon demonstrating that a competent prior art search would have uncovered the art that is asserted post-IPR (i.e., raised or reasonably could have raised during the IPR. 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2))  This demonstration of proof can be complicated by a number of factual questions such as the degree of skill of the searcher, the complexity of the art, and what was known by the petitioner and when.

A recent decision in the Southern District of Texas looks to simplify such disputes by utilizing invalidity contentions as estoppel markers. 
Continue Reading Invalidity Contentions as IPR Estoppel Markers

Phillips Claim Construction Rule Imminent

Back in May, the USPTO issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to switch from the Broadest Reasonable Interpretation (BRI) standard to a Phillips claim construction for AIA Trial Proceedings (here).  Thereafter the agency collected comments from the public, most of which favored the change, and submitted the issue to the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) for final regulatory approval. On Wednesday October 3rd the regulatory approval was given by OMB’s Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).  Thus, the USPTO may now publish a Final Rule Package to make the proposed switch to Phillips.

The Final Rule Package, which I expect will publish in the Federal Register next week does not take effect immediately. Rather, there will be an effective date 30-60 days after the date of publishing. Assuming publication next week, that would provide an effective date as early as the first full week of November, or as late as December. (There have been discussions that this change would be retroactive, but that is not my expectation. Too much re-work for existing proceedings, and on the heels of SAS, I just don’t see it.)  I expect that any petition filed on or after the effective date will be subject to the Phillips standard.

As I have pointed out previously, while I don’t expect this change will impact trials in a significant regard, it will impact filing strategies. That is, there will be an avalanche of petitions coming into the PTAB before the effective date.
Continue Reading PTAB Rule Package Dropping BRI Clears Final Hurdle

“Without Prejudice” Dismissal of Earlier Complaint Does not Restart 315(b) Clock

As I predicted it would back in May, the Federal Circuit has now reversed the long-standing practice of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) to accept certain IPR petitions outside of the 1-year window of 35 U.S.C. § 315(b).  While 315(b) precludes petitions filed more than one year after service of a complaint of infringement for a subject patent, the Board had consistently held that where a first-filed complaint (outside the window) was dismissed without prejudice, that the one-year window would essentially reset.  In other words the PTAB adopted the legal principal that a voluntary dismissal of a complaint renders the earlier proceeding a nullity and leave the parties as if the action had never been brought.

In its en banc ruling today in Click-to-Call v. Ingenio (here), the Court reversed the Board’s longstanding practice.
Continue Reading CAFC Reverses Long Standing PTAB Precedent on 1-Year Window

Previously Exercised Discretion Eliminated by SAS

While most remember the Cuozzo appeal as challenging the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s (PTAB) claim construction practices, it also challenged the Board’s discretion to institute claims on grounds not presented in the IPR petition. But, the High Court deemed this issue unreachable given the appeal bar of 35 U.S.C. § 315(b). Still, the Federal Circuit has expressly endorsed the Board’s ability to modify the grounds presented in trial petitions.

Today, the Federal Circuit has made clear in Sirona Dental SystemsGMBH v. Institut Straumann AG (precedential) that the Supreme Court’s decision in SAS Institute eliminates any ability of the Board to modify a petitioner’s trial grounds.
Continue Reading CAFC: PTAB Must Not Reformulate Petition Grounds

Can Dismissal Of A Complaint Without Prejudice Unring the 315(b) Bell?

Because there hasn’t been enough change to the PTAB over the last week with SAS Institute, get ready for more…but this one will aid Patent Owners.

Yesterday the Federal Circuit heard argument (again) in relation to the 2013 IPR filing in Oracle Corp. v. Click-to-Call Techs. LP.  As a reminder the PTAB’s decision in this dispute was designated precedential. (Section (III.A)). The precedential portion explains that the dismissal of a lawsuit “without prejudice” nullifies the service of the complaint relative to 35 U.S.C. § 315(b). This was a critical determination to this petition as it appeared that one of the identified petition filers had been served with a complaint outside of the one-year IPR window. The Federal Circuit was able to reach this timing issue for the first time on appeal after WiFi One.

During yesterday’s oral argument, it appeared that this PTAB precedent will fall.
Continue Reading IPR Time Bar Exception to End?