Unnecessarily Ambitious

Late last week the USPTO issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that floated numerous rule proposals and requests for feedback — too numerous. Proposals addressing current 314(a) and 325(d) practices were not only expected, but long overdue. While these expected proposals were included in the sprawling Notice, the rule-making process will undoubtedly be bogged down by the remaining collection of controversial ideas and administrative over-reach.

Keep in mind that 314(a) Fintiv practices could soon be struck down as improper circumvention of APA rule-making. Stalling the issuance of those rules for at least another 12-18 months – if not longer – seems like a bad idea. My guess is political pressure from outside the agency led to the laundry list of additional proposals. Especially as they relate to for-profit entities in the wake of the Open Sky debacle.

Regardless, of how or why the expansive ANPRM came to be, I’ll walk through each proposal/idea in detail below (ANPRM here)Continue Reading PTAB Rule Ideas – The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Rule Effort Worthwhile?

Back in November of 2021, the Northern District of California dismissed an APA lawsuit filed by a number of large companies seeking to challenge the PTAB’s NHK-Fintiv practices. At that time, I opined that the Court had overlooked some of the key APA arguments, and that the Federal Circuit would likely offer a more nuanced view. Yesterday, the Court, reversed-in-part and remanded for further consideration of the APA challenge.

Of particular interest, the Federal Circuit found that the APA challenge to the NHK-Fintiv practices (i.e., that such practices were unlawful absent notice and comment rulemaking) should not have been dismissed for lack of standing. While this may have been a very exciting development a year or so back, it is a bit anticlimactic in 2023.Continue Reading PTAB Fintiv Practices On the Way Out?

Scope of Estoppel Considered for Review

IPR estoppel is defined by 35 U.S.C. 315(e). The statute recites in relevant part that any claim subject to a failed IPR may not be argued by that petitioner in an infringement action as “invalid on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review.” 315(e)(2)

While there has been much debate in the lower courts as to the scope of “reasonably could have raised,” and even “ground,” the debate currently before the SCOTUS in Apple et al., v. California Institute of Technology turns on the meaning of “during.” That is, whether “reasonably could have raised” is assessed at the time the petition is drafted, or, during the actual proceeding. If estoppel is determined at the outset of petition drafting that scope is far broader than what could be added to an ongoing IPR proceeding (i.e., next to nothing).

Should this question ultimately taken up, the outcome could have significant consequences.Continue Reading SCOTUS Seeks Gov’t Input on IPR Estoppel

Would a “Mini-Markman” Have Helped Patent Owners?

A long time ago, in a galaxy, far, far away….the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) considered implementing a Markman style claim construction procedure it labeled a “Mini-Markman.” The idea, along with others was the result of a 2015-16 listening tour conducted by the agency under former USPTO Director Michelle Lee. The listening tour stopped at several locations across the U.S. to collect public feedback on AIA trial proceedings. The tour culminated in a draft rule package that contained a number of interesting ideas. Needless to say, that rule package was abandoned and never saw the light of day (for reasons unknown)

As we move into the new year and look forward to coming PTAB rule packages on discretionary denials and rehearing practices, I revisit this old idea in view of the never ending dialog on reforming the PTAB.Continue Reading The Long Lost PTAB Markman Plan

Examination Quality vs Speed

The USPTO has had an accelerated examination program known as “Track-1” since 2011. The program allows patent applicants to advance a patent application out-of-turn such that a determination can be made within 12 moths of filing. That is, like a Lightning Lane of sorts (for you Disney fans) to skip the typical wait times for patent examination. In this way the program is said to be designed to foster “faster innovation.”

In theory, it is a great idea. If you are a start-up, for example, and need to get your claims allowed quickly for business reasons. Paying a fee for the expedited attention, agreeing not to extend filing dates of responses, and limiting the number of claims, is a fair compromise.

But, if patent examiners are rushed to judgement to meet internal deadlines, and do so without the most relevant information, the USPTO is doing the public a disservice. Recent trends also suggest that examiners may be moving these cases to allowance to get time-sensitive work off of their dockets.Continue Reading The PTO Has a Track-One Filing Problem

Long Battle Ahead for Patentable Subject Matter Clarity

Remember the good ole days when every bar meeting had that Alice panel that said the same thing over and over? (i.e., “your guess is as good as mine”) And by good ole days, I mean the days when you skipped that panel and caught up on your emails back in your room. 🙂

Well, here we go again.

With American Axle failing to tempt the SCOTUS, the message has become clear….”Congress, this is your mess to fix.” So, we now embark on yet another adventure on sorting out the patent world’s biggest hairball – and that’s saying something!Continue Reading Tillis Bill’s Shot Across the Bow on 101

Judicial Conference & Congressional Attention Stir Change

This time last year, the Western District of Texas (WDTX) was getting a lot of attention from Washington DC policymakers. That is, a plaintiff’s ability to guarantee that its case would be heard by Judge Albright simply by filing in his Waco court was seen as “unseemly” and, coupled with the fact that his court had close to 30% of the nation’s patent docket, improper. Likewise, to many, the twenty or so successful mandamus filings reversing the Judge on issues of venue only amplified the urgency for legislative and/or judicial intervention.

Whether you agree with the above sentiment or not, it was clear as far back as last summer that these practices were plainly living on borrowed time. Back then, it was clear within DC policy circles that if the Judicial Conference did not step in and put an end to Judge Albright’s perceived monopoly on patent cases, that the legislators were prepared to take action.

Yesterday, the Chief Judge of the WDTX took action.Continue Reading WDTX Scatters Patent Docket – Now What?