Proposal to Thwart Rerun Patent Assertions

An inventor may obtain claims in a second U.S. patent that vary in only minor (patentably indistinct) ways from claims the same inventor obtained in a first patent. But the USPTO will typically reject the claims in the second application under the doctrine of “obviousness-type double patenting.” Inventors can overcome such rejections during prosecution to obtain the second patent (and many more thereafter if desired) by filing a terminal disclaimer. The language of the terminal disclaimer prevents the timewise extension of patent term through multiple filings and prevents the indistinct claims from being separately assigned. In this way, terminal disclaimers are designed to strike a balance between incentivizing innovation while providing more certainty and protection to the public.

Over the years, the terminal disclaimer has worked exactly as designed. However, the usual bad actors have driven the USPTO to propose its first change in decades.Continue Reading Terminal Disclaimer Proposal Driven By Rerun Lawsuits

Next Director Likely to Swing the Pendulum Back

PTAB 314(a) discretionary practices have followed the so-called “Fintiv factors” for years now. Under former Director Iancu (Republican appointee) Fintiv denials were so commonplace that overall institution rates dropped almost 10%. Current Director Vidal (Democrat appointee) recalibrated PTAB Fintiv practice via memo, and, as a result, Fintiv denials are relatively uncommon today. As Director Vidal’s memo is not committed to regulation, the next Director is free to swing the pendulum back.

It may seem that the likelihood of any such change is dependent on the outcome of the election given the tug-of-war of Trump/Biden appointees. But, it seems increasingly likely that that such a swing is inevitable regardless of election outcome.Continue Reading Will PTAB Fintiv Practices Be Reinvigorated Under the Next Director?

Common AIA Issues Discussed

This coming Thursday January 18th (noon to 1 p.m. (EST)) the PTAB will host its first Boardside Chat of the year. The program will discuss issues that typically arise during an America Invents Act (AIA) proceeding before the Board (PTAB). Topics will include:
• Preparing a patent owner preliminary response

Latent OTDP Issues & Litigation

The Federal Circuit’s decision in In re Cellect clarified that patenting obvious variants of the same invention across multiple patents—Obvious-Type Double Patenting (OTDP)—can result in the elimination/reduction of Patent Term Adjustment (PTA). OTDP was fatal to the challenged Cellect patents given the expiration of the reference patent. This was because a terminal disclaimer to remedy OTDP is not possible after expiration. Earlier this year I explained ways to proactively insulate a patent portfolio from potential Cellect vulnerabilities.

For patent owners facing newly invigorated OTDP attacks in litigation, and where a terminal disclaimer can still be filed, the potential loss of significant PTA creates a strategic quandary.

A terminal disclaimer cannot be withdrawn once filed. So, if a patent owner simply files a terminal disclaimer to moot the OTDP challenge, years of additional patent term (PTA) may be unnecessarily surrendered where the patent owner might have won. But, if the patent owner loses on OTDP without a terminal disclaimer on file, the patent is invalidated.

Recently a patent owner attempted to resolve this quandary with a contingent terminal disclaimer.Continue Reading Contingent Terminal Disclaimers?

Claim-Based Analysis Required for Pre-AIA Patents Only

One of the more confusing developments in patent law was pronounced in Dynamic Drinkware v. Nat’l Graphics, Inc., 800 F.3d 1375, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2015). In Dynamic the Court held that a provisional application’s effectiveness as prior art under 102(e) depends on its written description support for the claims of the issued patent. In other words, if the patent claims ABC, and C is not supported in the provisional, the provisional loses 102(e) prior art status for all of its disclosure. So, if looking to use the provisional date for AB alone, which is supported, the claim-based analysis would still prevent such reliance.

The applicability of the strange claim-driven analysis of Dynamic was recently considered relative to AIA patents. Today’s precedential PTAB decision makes clear that the AIA statutory framework dispensed with this faulty claim-centric scheme.Continue Reading Dynamic Drinkware Analysis Unnecessary for AIA Patents

In-Person Hearings Should Not Require the Consent of an Adversary

Last week, the PTAB published an updated Oral Hearing Guide (here) to reflect current agency practices. The changes include rather mundane clarifications on such topics as public access and demonstrative submission for ex parte hearings.

More interestingly, however, the agency highlights an all-virtual hearing “option” for America Invents Act (AIA) trials. But, in practice this option is more appropriately considered the new default.Continue Reading PTAB Default Should Be In-Person Trial Hearings

Amended Rule Moves Focus to Admissibility

Back in April the Supreme Court approved changes to FRE 702 (Expert Witness Testimony) that will take effect on December 1st. These changes clarify that the preponderance of evidence standard controls the evaluation of expert testimony while also providing structural changes designed to refocus the trial court on admissibility.

Enhancing the gatekeeping function of the courts moves current practice away from erring on the side of admissibility. This also avoids fact finders needing to assign an appropriate weight where reliability is in question; such practices are especially confusing for juries.

But, what does the change to FRE 702 mean for declarant testimony at the PTAB? Continue Reading FRE 702 Amendment & The PTAB