Stay or Dismissal of Litigation

Liberal Stay Policy Thwarts Patent Suits in New Jersey

Non-practicing entities or “patent trolls” are generally those plaintiffs that seek to enforce patent rights against an industry in which they themselves do not compete. Stated another way, an NPE’s only business is patent litigation.

Often times the patents an NPE is enforcing were purchased from a traditional technology company for the sole purpose of exacting royalties from the relevant industry. In the hands of an NPE, which has no technological industry subject to a patent counter suit by their industry targets, the NPE patents become especially powerful weapons of economic coercion.

Over the last decade, law firms have recognized the efficacy of NPE litigation campaigns and have signed on in great numbers to get a piece of the action. Typically, an NPE will team up with a law firm that will conduct the campaign on their behalf in exchange for a contingent fee arrangement. (i.e., percentage of the collected settlements). This profiteerring business model has lead to a significant proliferation of patent infringement suits.

Just not in New Jersey.
Continue Reading New Jersey Solves Patent Troll Problem

Increased Speed and Heightened Threshold Showing for New PTAB Proceedings Drive Stays

The primary business distinctions between the USPTO Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings and traditional court based patent invalidity proceedings are the vast improvements in cost, predictability, effectiveness, and speed of PTAB proceedings— but it is the speed and effectiveness that is changing the perspective of the judiciary on staying litigation pending USPTO proceedings.

As most are aware, the old patent reexamination system, at least on the inter partes side, has been replaced by IPR. IPR must be concluded by statute within 12-18 months, a marked improvement over the (roughly speaking) previous 6 year path through the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU), Board of Patent Appeals & Interferences (BPAI) and Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). These changes are being quickly recognized by courts, several of which have agreed to halt litigation proceedings upon the mere filing of an IPR (months in advance of an Order to grant the IPR petitions).

Previously, when a patent reexamination was the basis for the motion to stay the court proceeding, the strongest plaintiff arguments in opposition were: (1) the significant USPTO delay would prove prejudicial to the plaintiff; and (2) the SNQ standard of patent reexamination led to a 97% grant rate—both of these arguments are now falling very flat.
Continue Reading Stay of Litigation Pending USPTO Review Now a Much Easier Call for Judiciary

Rippling Effect of PTAB Proceedings to Upset Patent Litigation Business Model?

Opponents of the U.S. patent system are quick to deride the America Invents Act (AIA) as a failure when it comes to the so called “patent troll” or “non-practicing entity” (NPE) problem. Indeed, a steady stream of news articles from otherwise reliable sources such as the Wall Street Journal only serve to sensationalize and reinforce this misperception. Most such articles will focus on what has happened prior to September 16, 2012 (i.e., failure of the joinder rules) as opposed to what is now happening as a result of the AIA.

On September 16th, 2012 the new post grant patent proceedings of the America Invents Act (AIA) became available to patent challengers for the first time. These proceedings have only been available for a few months, but allow challenges to suspect patents of any vintage in a far more speedier, cost effective, and challenger friendly manner relative to that of the federal district courts. The idea behind these proceedings is that for the very first time, there will be a true, accelerated alternative to patent litigation. Not surprisingly, there has been a robust demand for these proceedings with over 100 petitions filed in the first few months—many of which target NPE portfolios. The new post grant proceedings of the USPTO’s Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) will conclude in a fast enough time (12-18 months) to transform the existing litigation landscape in a manner that will significantly undermine the NPE patent litigation business model.

The impact of these new, AIA post grant proceedings are only now beginning to be felt in the district courts.
Continue Reading AIA Post Grant Proceedings Begin to Impact NPE Assertions

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?

New CBM Challenges to Derail Business Method Patent Assertions?

Last September 16th marked the one year anniversary of the enactment of the America Invents Act (AIA). This “patent reform” legislation introduced several new post grant avenues to challenge an issued patent at the USPTO. One of these new options is the very specialized, Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents, or “CBM” proceeding.

The CBM option is noteworthy in several respects: first, it is a post grant review challenge that is limited to a special class of patents (i.e., “covered business method” patents); second, only those challengers that have been sued or charged with infringement of a covered patent may petition the USPTO to initiate a CBM proceeding; third, the estoppel is limited to those grounds actually raised in the proceeding (that is, there is no “reasonably could have raised” estoppel); and finally, the CBM statutes include unique controls that virtually ensure that any ongoing litigation at the time of a CBM filing will be stayed pending USPTO review.

As explained above, the CBM proceeding presents an insignificant of estoppel risk. This “free shot” combined with the near certain stay of costly court proceedings presents a “pay to stay” opportunity that qualifying defendants may find hard to resist.

Continue Reading Pay to Stay….The Game Changing Impact of Business Method Patent Challenges

Congress Mandates Speed, Extends Stautory Estoppel to ITC

The new post grant patent trials of the America Invents Act (AIA) are designed to provide a true alternative to patent litigation. That is to say, current patent reexamination proceedings are typically pending 4-5 years through appeal, if not longer. As a result, patent reexamination is primarily utilized as an additional litigation tool rather than the alternative to patent litigation intended by Congress. Conversely, the new AIA trial proceedings are designed to conclude, by statute, within 12-18 months of initiation.

Whether, choosing Post Grant Review (PGR), Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents (TPCBMP), or Inter Partes Review (IPR), the new proceedings will conclude relatively promptly, and estoppel will attach upon a written determination of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Based on the increased speed, and estoppel result, it is expected that the new proceedings will provide a compelling basis to stay parallel infringement actions.

However, the International Trade Commission (ITC) also has a statutory mandate for expeditiously processing their docket (typically within 15 months). For this reason, the ITC is currently an “anti-stay” forum. Given the likelihood of future parallel tracks of the USPTO and ITC, will the ITC change their “anti-stay” practice to account for the post-AIA world?
Continue Reading New Post Grant Patent Trials To Derail Parallel ITC Actions?

ITC Mandate Provides Safe Haven for Troll Abuse?

With injunctions harder to come by, and some district courts staying proceedings upon the mere filing of a patent reexamination, it is not surprising that non-practicing entities (NPEs) have been heading to the ITC (and, in the process ding-patent-reexamination”>This is a further benefit for NPEs.

Recently, a motion to stay an ITC proceeding pending patent reexamination was again considered by the agency in Certain Blue Ray Disc Players.

Continue Reading ITC Action to Continue Despite Advancing USPTO Reexamination

Speedy, One Sided Estoppel to Force Judicial Deference

The estoppel provisions of Post Grant Review (PGR) and Inter Partes Review (IPR) are markedly different than those in existence today for Inter Partes Reexamination (IPX). Most importantly, PGR/IPR estoppel attaches upon a written determination of the PTAB, and a final, non-appealable decision of a court will not force the USPTO to vacate a parallel IPR/PGR proceeding. These estoppel features are expected to be a significant driver going forward in motions to stay parallel infringement actions.

Currently, IPX requires all appeals to be exhausted before estoppel can attach. In practice, this means that there is (roughly speaking) a 6 year journey through the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU), Board of Patent Appeals & Interferences (BPAI) and Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). Starting September 16 2012, IPX will be replaced with IPR. Estoppel in an IPR proceeding will be effective within 12-18 months from the initiation of the proceeding. This is because IPR/PGR proceedings must be concluded in this time frame by statutory mandate.

The speed of IPR/PGR proceedings relative to court proceedings will certainly undermine plaintiff oppositions to a motion to stay. Often times, the strongest plaintiff argument in opposing a stay is that the significant USPTO delay will be prejudicial to the plaintiff.  However, perhaps more compelling will be the shifting of the prejudice argument to the side of the defendant.
Continue Reading AIA Changes to Greatly Increase Stays of District Court Actions?

Court Cites Change in Inter Partes Reexamination Standard as Justifying Stay

When faced with the assertion of a patent of questionable validity prospective defendants increasingly resort to patent reexamination. Once a suit is filed, the opportunity to obtain a stay of an ongoing district court infringement action pending a parallel patent reexamination is a major benefit of the USPTO proceeding.

For this reason, patent reexamination parallel to a district court is often initiated in an attempt to stay the more cost prohibitive court proceeding. In deciding whether or not to stay the court proceeding the courts look to many factors. (See factor based analysis here). When considering whether to stay the proceeding in view of an ongoing inter partes patent reexamination (IPX), courts often identify the estoppel provisions of IPX as supporting an argument that issues will be simplified for trial by awaiting the USPTO decision.

In an interesting twist on the special consideration given to IPX filings, a California district court considered the impact on the recent America Invents Act (AIA) change to the standard for initiating IPX.

Continue Reading AIA Change to Reexamination Standard Aids Motion to Stay

Advancing Inter Partes Reexaminations Cited to CAFC

When faced with the assertion of a patent of dubious validity, prospective defendants increasingly resort to patent patent reexamination. Once a suit is filed, the opportunity to obtain a stay of an ongoing district court infringement action pending a parallel patent reexamination is a major benefit of the USPTO proceeding. Courts have the inherent power to manage their dockets, including the authority to stay patent infringement litigation pending the conclusion of a USPTO patent reexamination. A stay of the court proceeding enables defendants to halt, or altogether avoid cost prohibitive litigation discovery, which can be rather lengthy and painful.

For this reason, patent reexamination parallel to a district court is often initiated in an attempt to stay the more cost prohibitive court proceeding. In deciding whether or not to stay the court proceeding the courts look to many factors. (See factor based analysis here

If the Court proceeding is not stayed, both proceeding will proceed on parallel tracks. Should the Court proceeding continue on to the CAFC, can you try to persuade the appellate court to stay the proceeding pending the outcome of the reexamination?

Continue Reading CAFC Considers Stay Pending Patent Reexamination