Amicus Briefing May Help Get SCOTUS Attention on Growing 101 Morass

In one of the more closely-watched cases involving patent eligibility, American Axle v. Neapco, Judge Moore recently highlighted how “bitterly divided” the Federal Circuit is on patent eligibility, and predicted with a “reasonable probability” that the Supreme Court will step in and force the Federal Circuit to reverse course on issues of eligibility.

American Axle—involving driveline propeller shafts for automotive engines—highlights the sharp divide in how various Federal Circuit panels apply the Supreme Court’s eligibility guidelines and the resulting uncertainty that inventors, patent owners, and accused infringers face in determining whether inventions are eligible under § 101 as interpreted by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank.  Indeed, in an earlier decision denying rehearing en banc, a sharply divided Court issued two concurrences justifying the panel’s application of § 101 law and three separate dissents urging the full court to take up the issue.  Understanding the differences in opinion here may help patent practitioners navigate tumultuous § 101 issues until the Supreme Court weighs in again.  American Axle petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari on December 20, 2020.  The petition calls for clarity on § 101 and may be taken up in conference shortly.

The Court has shown some interest in the case, soliciting views of the government. Amicus support has also followed, including a brief filed by Senators Tillis and Coons, and former PTO Director David Kappos. Consideration of American Axle is the quickest path to some form of clarity for patent subject matter eligibility disputes.


Continue Reading American Axle Offers A Glimmer of Hope on Potential 101 Reform

CAFC Holds IPR Claim Amendments Subject To Full Patentability Examination

Yesterday, a divided CAFC panel held in Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Hulu, LLC (here) that during an IPR proceeding, the Board may consider any patentability challenge—including subject matter eligibility—if the Patent Owner moves to amend its claims under § 316(d).  The Court continues to emphasize the agency’s duty to the public in assessing patentability of the patent claims it issues.
Continue Reading 101 is Fair Game for Assessing PTAB Amendments

Leveraging PTAB 101 Determinations in Parallel Litigation

Covered Business Method (CBM) challenges have fallen out of favor with petitioners. This is due to a number of factors, not the least of which is the narrowing of CBM jurisdiction after Unwired Planet. Of course, this 101 challenge option will go away shortly as CBM will sunset in 2020. But, as more patents become eligible for Post Grant Review (PGR), the ability to challenge patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 is slowly expanding to all patents.

Given the expanding option to file a PGR to challenge patent eligibility under 101 alongside art-based challenges, is it better to do so (if possible within the 9-month PGR window), or to simply wait out the 9-month window for Inter Partes Review (IPR)?

While 101 challenges can be especially lethal post-Alice, parallel tracking your 101 case at the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) is not without its risks.
Continue Reading 101 PTAB Challenges Might Come Back to Haunt Your Parallel Litigation