BPAI Reverses Rejections on CAFC Claim Construction
The seemingly never ending saga of the NTP patent reexaminations took yet another interesting turn yesterday. The BPAI issued revised decisions on remand that reversed the earlier rejections of some of the NTP claims. As a reminder, the reexamination of the NTP patents began during the litigation between NTP v. RIM. The reexaminations continued at the USPTO in parallel with the then ongoing, and now infamous, litigation. However, the co-pending litigation continued on to the settlement, narrowly avoiding a disruption of RIM’s business in the U.S via court imposed injunction.
Now, some 6+ years later, the reexaminations may be close to a conclusion (absent further appeal by NTP).
The revised decisions stem from the CAFC remand on claim construction issues relating to the definitions of “electronic mail” or “electronic mail message.” As a result of the revised construction, NTP has manged to claw back some of their previously rejected claims. The chart below shows the current status of the NTP portfolio as of yesterday, the decisions are linked here: 5,436,960; 5,438,611; 5,479,472; 5,625,670; 5,631,946; 5,819,172; 6,067,451; and 6,317,592 (not yet issued)
-Green claims were newly confirmed/allowed as a result of yesterday’s decisions
-Black claims have been confirmed/allowed since the first decision of the BPAI
-Underlined claims are confirmed/allowed, but were added as new claims during the reexamination.
(CLICK TO ENLARGE)
NTP entered the patent reexamination process with over 2200 claims. The underlined claims were added in patent reexamination, which means they do not exist until printed at the conclusion of the reexamination. For many, if not all of these newly added claims, it is simply too late. This is because some of the underlying patents expired in May of 2011. Once a patent expires, new claims cannot be added….however existing claims can be enforced by proving that the claims were infringed prior to expiration. So, at the end of the day, assuming the surviving, original claims are infringed, NTP may be able to restart their stalled infringement campaign, against Apple, Yahoo, Sprint and others. (Virginia District Court stayed case pending USPTO reexamination)
While further appeals are also possible from the latest decision of the BPAI, it seems that NTP may have reached the point of diminishing returns and will instead allow the patent reexamination proceedings to finally end after 6+ years.
As injunctions in patent disputes have become more difficult to obtain since the earlier dispute with RIM, and the portfolio is expired/expiring, the previous leverage of NTP is significantly diminished.
Going forward, new NTP targets may find relief from a new provision of the America Invents Act (a.k.a recently enacted patent reform legislation, effective next September 16th) that will permit an inter partes style challenge (in this case Inter Partes Review) of these patents for the first time….the saga continues.