Archive for the ‘America Invents Act’ Category

Are Patent-Friendly PTAB Decisions On the Rise?

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Patent litigation changed with passage of the America Invents Act. Overnight the PTAB became a new venue for challenging patent claims using IPRs, CBMs and PGRs. The initial reaction by the patent bar to the PTAB’s “take charge” approach to instituting review and canceling patent claims was met with approval by businesses under attack by patent trolls and with disdain by patent owners whose patents would have likely sailed through the assertion before the AIA. Some commentators blasted the PTAB for a high percentage of patent claims invalidated in PTAB proceedings.

Those who tried to paint the actions of the PTAB with a broad brush in the first years of IPRs were bound to be both right and wrong. Yes, institution rates were at an all-time high, but factors such as these made the first years of PTAB practice particularly hard to characterize:

  • the patent bar and the PTAB were learning how to litigate these new patent trials for the first time;
  • litigation teams did not have the luxury of seeing how the PTAB viewed patents under review, and to tailor their litigations accordingly; and
  • a number of patents already in litigation were selected based on a pre-AIA (pre-IPR) enforcement economic model:
    • discovery and litigation costs established a minimal nuisance settlement value (now it is the cost of IPR);
    • thinly capitalized patent owners who previously had to outlay only minimal investment in the litigation suddenly had to secure counsel to defend patent rights in these patent reviews for the first time; and
    • the patents under review were drafted to survive district court scrutiny and enjoy the presumption of validity and a clear and convincing standard of review (and many still are).

Public sentiment was a moving target, but so was practice before the PTAB. After witnessing the PTAB’s heightened scrutiny of patentability, rather than file new suits many patent owners decided to wait and watch from the sidelines or take their assertions outside the U.S. Regardless, patent owners quickly learned the benefit of analyzing and selecting patents more likely to survive an IPR, CBM or PGR lodged by a defendant-petitioner before engaging in a patent litigation.

Now, with PTAB institution rates moderating, it remains to be seen whether the Board is easing its scrutiny on patentability or whether higher caliber patent assertions are being lodged in view of that heightened scrutiny.

For example, the PTAB recently rendered some decisions that might give patent owners reason to reconsider:

CASE STUDY 1: IPR2016-01453 – U.S. Patent 7,358,679 – Wangs Alliance Corp. d/b/a WAC Lighting Co. v. Philips Lighting North America Corp., Paper 8, (Feb. 2, 2017)

On February 2, 2017, the Board denied the ’679 IPR Petition filed by Petitioner Wangs Alliance Corp. (“WAC”) challenging Patent Owner Philips’ Lighting patent. The backstory of the dispute between Philips and WAC is quite interesting:

Philips has been embroiled in patent litigation with WAC since May, 2015. Koninklijke Philips N.V. et al. v. Wangs Alliance Corporation, Case No. 14-cv-12298-DJC (D. Mass.). Philips sued WAC for patent infringement of eight patents (not including the ‘679 patent) relating to lighting products and systems relating to LED lighting devices. WAC filed IPR petitions on seven of the eight patents, but obtained institution of only six of the seven IPR petitions. In January 2016, the district court litigation was stayed pending the outcome of the IPRs.

WAC later filed two IPR petitions against the ‘679 patent.  The ’679 patent does not appear in the litigation documents, but WAC identified it as claiming priority to U.S. 7,352,138 (which is in the litigation) and as related to U.S. 7,039,399 (also in the litigation).

The ‘679 patent relates to an LED-based lighting unit that resembles a conventional MR16 bulb having a bi-pin base connector configured to engage mechanically and electrically with a conventional MR16 socket. Claim 1 is representative:

 1. An apparatus, comprising:

at least one LED;

a housing in which the at least one LED is disposed, the housing including at least one connection to engage mechanically and electrically with a conventional MR16 socket; and

at least one controller coupled to the housing and the at least one LED and configured to receive first power from an alternating current (A.C.) dimmer circuit, the A.C. dimmer circuit being controlled by a user interface to vary the first power, at least one controller further configured to provide second power to the at least one LED based on the first power.

WAC’s ’679 IPR petition was denied when the Board adopted a claim construction of “alternating current (A.C.) dimmer circuit” that was narrower than the one proffered by Petitioner WAC.

WAC argued that “A.C. dimmer circuit” means “a circuit that provides an alternating current (A.C.) dimming signal.” WAC further asserted that it requires only receipt of an A.C. signal and the provision of power (A.C. or D.C.) to a light source. Patent Owner Philips countered that “A.C. dimmer circuit” requires an AC output from the AC dimmer circuit. The Board agreed with Philips, based on arguments and claim constructions from a related IPR (IPR2015-01294 which relates to U.S. 7,038,399), and because Patent Owner argued that “every instance of “A.C. dimmer circuit” in the ’679 patent’s specification describes an A.C. output from the A.C. dimmer circuit. (See Prelim. Resp. 4–5.)

A summary of the Philips patents and their IPR outcomes thus far (note: several decisions are still on appeal) shows that Patent Owner Philips is defending its patents well in these proceedings:

* The ’679 Patent is not appearing in litigation documents, but a claim of priority from U.S. 7,352,138 and a relationship to U.S. 7,039,399 is noted in WAC’s petitions. The ’679 IPR outcome is not yet determined because even though the -01453 IPR petition was unsuccessful the -01455 IPR institution decision remains to be decided and is not expected until later this month. Note: several of these decisions are on appeal, so these are not final results.

Philips’ IPR results are comparable to historical statistics when it comes to the number of IPRs instituted, but its results are substantially better than the statistical outcomes associated with IPR final written decisions from 2016 data. For example, early Board practice saw a very high percentage of IPR institutions (starting at ~90% in 2013 and dropping to ~70% in 2016). Upon institution, a patent owner’s chances of losing all claims if the IPR were to reach a final written decision would be roughly 70%.

In this Philips case study, the percentage of IPRs instituted remains relatively consistent with IPR institution outcomes (ignoring the ‘679 IPRs because they are not yet final, we get 5 out of 7 IPRs were instituted or ~70% ); however only one of the institutions resulted in a cancellation of all claims, which is much closer to 17% than the 2016 expected 67% cancellation rate for IPRs instituted which end in a final written decision (again, the results of the Federal Circuit appeals will not be known for some time). However, the data also shows a mixed claim decision outcome in 2 out of 6 IPRs (~33%), which equates to roughly double the typical percentage of mixed claim decisions (typically ~15%). Of course, mixed claim decisions are very hard to evaluate, because one has to know which claims are more likely to be infringed with substantial damages to know if the mixed result was a winner or a loser for a patent owner.

The Philips patent IPR outcomes are not yet final, but as of today Philips is substantially ahead of the 2016 percentages.

Let’s consider another case study:

 

CASE STUDY 2: IPR2015-01769, — U.S. Patent 7,793,433 — Zero Gravity Inside, Inc. v. Footbalance System OY, , Paper 49, (Feb. 3, 2017)

Footbalance System OY sued Zero Gravity Inside, Inc. et al. alleging patent infringement in May, 2015 and filed amended complaints, including a third one filed on October 21, 2016. Footbalance alleged patent infringement of its US Patents 7,793,433 and 8,171,589. The patents related to apparatus and method for producing an individually formed insole.

In response, Zero Gravity filed two IPR petitions challenging claims of each patent on August 19, 2015. Both IPR challenges failed.

The ’589 IPR petition alleged obviousness of claims 1-3, but was not instituted in a Decision Denying Inter Partes Review dated January 13, 2016 (IPR2015-01770, Paper No. 17, January 13, 2016).

The ’433 IPR petition was instituted based on alleged obviousness of claims 1-7, but on February 3, 2017, the Board found that Petitioner Zero Gravity failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that claims 1-7 of the ’433 patent were unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 103. Footbalance managed to maintain its claims despite institution of the IPR.

The Board decided Petitioner failed to show that the prior art taught “wherein the at least one layer of thermoplastic material is configured to reach out from under a heel of a foot only to the metatarsophalangeal joint of the foot”, as recited in Claim 1 (“the MTP limitation”).

According to the Final Written Decision, Petitioner first asserted that the MTP joint extended approximately ¾ of the way down the foot, but Patent Owner countered that a person of skill in the art would understand the MTP limitation requires a precise anatomic location of the MTP joint and not an approximation or average, such as ¾ the length of the foot. The Board found that Petitioner then shifted its argument to assert that the prior art, which taught a pad before the ball of the foot was “so close to the requirements of the MTP limitation that the MTP limitation would still have been obvious to a POSA in light of either of these teachings.” Paper 48, 8-9 (italics in original). The Board was not persuaded:

Petitioner’s contentions in the Petition are not persuasive because they are not based upon the broadest reasonable construction of the MTP limitation. As discussed above, we construe the MTP limitation to require a layer formed to extend to, but no further than, the location of the MTP joint of a specific foot. [ ]. Petitioner, however, does not sufficiently show that an insole having a ¾-length moldable support layer teaches a layer formed to extend to, but no further than, the location of the MTP joint of a specific foot. [ ]

Petitioner’s contentions in its Reply also are not persuasive. Dieckhaus discloses that thermoplastic layer 6 “extends from the back or heel portion of the insole, to approximately just short of the ball section of the foot” [ ].  Approximately just short of the ball section of the foot is not the location of the MTP joints (i.e., the location of the heads of the metatarsal bones and the corresponding proximal phalanx). [ ] Further, Petitioner does not sufficiently show that it would have been obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art to modify Dieckhaus’s thermoplastic layer 6 to extend to, but no further than, the location of the MTP joint of a specific foot. Petitioner’s assertion that such a modification would have been obvious because Dieckhaus’s disclosure is “so close” is a mere conclusory statement. “To satisfy it burden of proving obviousness, a petitioner cannot employ mere conclusory statements. The petitioner must instead articulate specific reasoning, based on evidence of record, to support the legal conclusion of obviousness.” In re Magnum Oil Tools Int’l, Ltd., [cites omitted].

The Footbalance litigation is still in its very early stages, so it is too early to tell how the litigation may turn out, but the Board did not cancel claims from either patent.

These recent outcomes do not establish a trend, but they do show that some patent owners are succeeding despite the heightened scrutiny of PTAB proceedings.  They also show that the PTAB will provide relief to patent owners at both institution and final written decision stages of the PTAB trial.  They also give lessons on better patent drafting, which will be the subject of future posts.

 

Patent Due Diligence and Evaluation After the AIA

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Many factors must be considered for due diligence and valuation of a patent portfolio. The patent owner’s desire to have broad claims that capture a large number of infringements must be tempered against its need for claims that will not be deemed invalid in view of prior art.

Before the America Invents Act (AIA), patents were crafted to survive federal court scrutiny.  An assertion of broad claims was more likely than sweating the details about validity because it was harder to prove a patent was invalid than it was to prove it was infringed.

With the enactment of the AIA, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board) is empowered to review patent validity in administrative trials (AIA Trials). Patents are more readily invalidated in these AIA Trials using a lower burden of proof than required in federal district court. Furthermore, the Board’s administrative patent law judges have both scientific and patent law training, which enables them to scrutinize patents more carefully than a typical district court judge or jury.

The “new normal” is that a patent’s validity is likely tested in the PTAB (in IPR, CBM, or PGR) before it is enforced in federal district court. Savvy companies are taking extra measures to review their patents carefully before acquiring and asserting them to reduce or avoid the cost and delay that comes with PTAB proceedings.

WHAT ARE THE DOWNSIDES FOR PATENTS THAT ARE NOT AIA-READY?

  • RISK: AIA Trials statistically favor the Petitioner/Defendant. Don’t invest in a portfolio or a litigation that won’t deliver value.
  • DELAY: Patent Office Trials are one more reason for a stay of parallel federal district court proceedings. Justice delayed is justice denied.
  • COST: Patent owners dragged into an IPR, PGR or CBM can expect six figure defense costs with the best-case outcome being that the claims are upheld—which is essentially the patent’s original status.
  • CLAIM CORRECTION UNLIKELY: Amendments are
    rarely allowed in IPRs, CBMs, and PGRs. Don’t expect to fix defective patents without a lengthy proceeding that is conducted after the AIA Trial.
  • HARM TO FUTURE ACTIONS: If claims survive the AIA Trial validity challenge, admissions may be made that could reduce the effectiveness of any district court infringement action.

Poorly crafted patent claims are typically cancelled in an AIA Patent Trial. High quality patents are more likely to bypass review, and those patent owners avoid the cost, delay, and risk of defending weak claims in AIA Trials.

To get a good read of a patent’s ability to survive AIA review, seek the opinion of patent counsel that is experienced in patent prosecution, patent litigation, and post-grant proceedings.

In case you missed it, I put together a simple 2 minute video with 4 tips to make your patent portfolio AIA-ready.

4 Tips to Make Your Patent Portfolio AIA-Ready

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

The America Invents Act (AIA) has changed the way that patents are enforced. In traditional patent litigation, a patent was drafted to perform in district court. After the AIA, when patents are asserted, they are first challenged in administrative proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). These proceedings, called IPRs (inter partes reviews), PGRs (post-grant reviews), and CBMs (covered business method reviews), are conducted by skilled administrative law judges who have both scientific and legal experience. Patents that fail in these more-stringent reviews will never get a day in court, so patent applicants should be adapting their patent strategies to make their patents AIA-ready.

Check out our video for tips on how to make stronger patents that will withstand AIA reviews.

IPRs And Settlement of Patent Infringement Cases

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

The passage of the AIA is still relatively recent, yet statistics are starting to emerge that demonstrate the effective use of IPRs to settle patent infringement cases.  IAM magazine recently published an interesting report by Unified Patents showing that IPRs have the effect of increasing the median time to settle litigations (from 211 to 420 days), but when viewed from the time that the first IPR filing is made, the median time of the “adjusted duration” (163 days) is shorter than the median time for litigations without IPRs (211 days):

For the 15,000 cases filed between 2012 and 2014 that settled before the end of 2015, the median duration was around 211 days. By contrast, for the much smaller subset of 1,100 cases which were identified as related matters to at least one inter partes review proceeding, the median overall duration was 420 days.

At first glance, this result seems counter-intuitive and contrary to the America Invents Act’s efficiency and cost-saving goals. However, a closer look at this subset of 1,100 related matters reveals that most settled within 180 days of the earliest inter partes review filing date. Specifically, the median adjusted duration for these cases was 163 days as of the end of 2015.

This timing data demonstrates that settlement is statistically likely before an institution decision is made (which can take place as late as 6 months after the filing date of the petition).  The report offers a few explanations for the observed data:

One explanation for the increase in pre-institution settlements may be that settling the dispute earlier allows patent owners to eliminate the risk that an adverse decision could be used as grounds for institution in a later case. [ ]

A second explanation may be that defendant petitioners have an increased incentive to settle claims before institution due to the low rate of institution – although this seems less likely.

Other potential reasons why IPRs encourage settlement include:

  • Weak patent assertions are more likely to attract IPR petitions by defendants.
    • Well-educated defendant petitioners are incentivized to file IPR petitions to combat weak patents.
    • As long as there is an inexpensive validity challenge option, weak patent assertions are inherently easier to settle than cases involving strong patents.
  • IPR filings quickly inform the parties about the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s case.
    • Strong IPR petitions educate the patent owner about any potential weaknesses of the challenged patent.
    • Weak IPR petitions inform the patent owner about the weakness of the publication prior art.
    • Expectations of each party will converge more quickly if they learn more about their case early in the patent contest.
  • IPRs require the parties to communicate relatively early in a patent assertion.  These communications provide more opportunities for the parties to understand their case and to discuss and settle the dispute.

Those active in post-grant proceedings know that IPRs also provide a limited mechanism for settlement before the IPR petition is filed.  Of course, it is difficult to account for settlements that occur before an IPR petition is filed, but pre-filing settlements were discussed in an earlier post, and will be part of a half hour presentation I will be making for Patexia’s webinar series on March 24, 2016: “Posturing IPRs for Early Settlement.”  More information about that seminar can be found by clicking on this link.

Federal Circuit Reinforces PTAB’s Authority to Institute Trial on Selected Claims in Synopsis v. Mentor Graphics Appeal

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Newcomers to post-grant proceedings are often surprised by the PTAB’s claim-by-claim approach to patent challenges under the America Invents Act.  When reporting statistics about IPRs, commentators tend to ignore these considerations:

  • First, an IPR petition can be drafted to challenge all or some of the claims of a patent.  So the set of challenged claims can be less than the set of issued patent claims.
  • Second, if the PTAB decides to institute trial, it will exercise its authority to identify exactly which claims it will institute for trial.
  • Third, of the claims instituted for trial, should the case result in a final written decision, all or some of those claims may be found unpatentable and any remaining claims may pass through the process unscathed.

A recent Federal Circuit majority opinion reinforced the PTAB’s interpretation that the AIA gave it authority to institute trial on less than all of the challenged claims.  In Synopsis, Inc. v. Mentor Graphics the majority found that the PTAB could exercise its authority to institute trial on a subset of the challenged claims and to enter its final written decision on the instituted claims.  (Synopsis, Inc. v. Mentor Graphics v. Lee,  Fed. Cir., 2014-1516, 2/10/16).  Synopsis argued that the AIA required the PTAB to provide a patentability determination of every challenged claim.  But the Federal Circuit disagreed, finding instead that the PTAB need only issue its final written decision on the claims instituted for challenge.

Judge Pauline Newman dissented, arguing that the PTAB’s interpretation it is contrary to the AIA and to the AIA’s purpose to provide an alternative and efficient forum for resolving patent validity issues, and that it leads to duplicative proceedings in the PTAB and the district courts.  Her interpretation of the AIA urges a final written decision for each of the claims challenged.  However, absent a petition for cert, the PTAB’s institution and final written practices will not be reversed any time soon based on Synopsis.

 

Patent Trends to Watch in 2016

Friday, January 29th, 2016

2016 is starting off with a bang!  A number of interesting new developments have occurred as we enter into this new year:

AIA 2015 Stats

 

So we will monitor practices by the courts, the PTAB, stakeholders, and patent practitioners to observe the effects and interplay of these decisions and actions over the course of the year.  In particular, it will be interesting to see how the Board and the courts handle claim construction issues knowing that BRI may be revised by the Supreme Court.  Also of great interest is how parallel patent infringement trials will be impacted by the PTAB proceedings on the underlying patents.

 

Board Guidance on its View of Petitioner Estoppel: Westlake Services v. Credit Acceptance Corp:

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
July 21, 2015

Last week, the Board provided an opinion to offer guidance on its view of the scope of petitioner estoppel.  The Westlake Services v. Credit Acceptance Corp. decision relates to the scope of estoppel to a Petitioner following a final written decision from a first petition.  Westlake Services v. Credit Acceptance Corp., CBM2014-00176, Paper 28 (PTAB May 14, 2015). 

This case addresses the question of the scope of Petitioner estoppel when only part of the claims in a CBM proceeding are instituted for trial.  In short, the first petition set forth grounds to challenge the patentability of all claims of U.S. Pat. 6,950,807.  Only some claims were instituted for trial.  Later, the Petitioner filed another petition to challenge claims that were not instituted for trial in the first proceeding.  A final written decision was issued by the Board in the first proceeding finding the instituted claims unpatentable under § 101, and the Patent Owner sought to block the second petition based on petitioner estoppel under 35 U.S.C. § 325(e)(1):

The petitioner in a post-grant review of a claim in a patent under this chapter that results in a final written decision under section 328(a), or the real party in interest or privy of the petitioner, may not request or maintain a proceeding before the Office with respect to that claim on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that post-grant review.

The Patent Owner obtained permission to brief the Board with its reasons why the Petitioner was estopped from filing the second petition.  The Patent Owner argued that § 328(a), provides “[i]f a post-grant review is instituted and not dismissed under this chapter, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board shall issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner.”  In this case the Patent Owner wanted estoppel to apply to all claims to prevent Petitioner from coming back for a second bite on the claims that were not instituted for trial.  After all, the petition was trying to challenge every claim of the patent and the Board did not institute on several claims.  So the Patent Owner relied on this language to assert that the estoppel arising from the Final Written Decision applied to all claims.

Here is the Patent Owner’s logical syllogism:

A.  The Petition challenged all claims.

B.  § 328(a) provides a Final Written Decision is with respect to “any patent claim challenged by the petitioner.”

C.  Therefore, the Final Written Decision applies to all claims, even though institution was only to a subset of the claims.

D.  § 325(e) provides estoppel to all claims because the Final Written Decision is to all claims in (C) above.

E.  Accordingly, Petitioner is estopped from challenging all claims.

The Board denied the Patent Owner’s logic.  Essentially, it determined that § 328(a) and § 325(e) apply on a claim-by-claim basis, and therefore estoppel applies only to the claims instituted for trial.  The Board wanted to clarify estoppel applies only to a claim in a patent that “results in a final written decision” under § 328(a).  So the Board’s logic is different:

A.  The Petition challenged all claims.

B.  Trial was instituted to only some claims.

C.  The Final Written Decision under § 328(a) is only to the instituted claims.

D.  § 325(e) provides estoppel to “a claim in a patent” that “results in a final written decision” under § 328(a), therefore estoppel is only to the instituted claims.

E.  Accordingly, Petitioner is estopped from challenging the instituted claims.

The Board’s guidance about the scope of estoppel allows all parties to make informed decisions about how to better litigate their cases.

Board Limits Multiple IPR Challenges in Samsung Electronics v. Rembrandt Wireless Technologies

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

June 22, 2015

Rembrandt Wireless Technologies sued Samsung and Research in Motion for infringement of  U.S. Patent 8,457,228 in June 2013.  The ‘228 patent relates to data communications, and in particular to a data communication system in which a plurality of modems use different types of modulation in a network.

In June of 2014, Samsung filed six IPR petitions to challenge various claims of the ’228 patent.  (IPR2014-00889 to -00893 and -00895.)   Only half of Samsung’s six petitions were instituted for trial, but claim 21 was the only claim of the ’228 patent in the district court litigation that was not instituted for trial in the PTAB.  (Rembrandt also asserted U.S. Patent 8,023,580, which was also the subject of six IPR petitions, and had additional claims not instituted for trial.)

In the original IPR challenge of claim 21 (IPR2014-00892), Samsung unsuccessfully asserted a combination of “admitted prior art” (“APA”) with U.S. Patent 5,706,428 (“Boer”).  Samsung filed another IPR petition in January 2015 with a motion for joinder to IPR2014-00892 proposing new grounds for the unpatentability of claim 21.  (IPR2015-00555.)  These new grounds combined a new reference, U.S. Patent 5,537,398 (“Siwiak”), to the originally asserted prior art.  But on June 19, 2015, the Board again denied institution of trial of claim 21 and without considering Siwiak:

We do not reach the merits of Petitioner’s additional reasoning in the instant Petition as to why Petitioner asserts that the subject matter of claim 21 would have been obvious over the combination of APA, Boer, and Siwiak. Instead, for the reasons discussed below, we exercise our discretion under 35 U.S.C. § 325(d) to deny institution of inter partes review in this proceeding.

35 U.S.C. § 325(d) states:

In determining whether to institute or order a proceeding under . . . chapter 31, the Director may take into account whether, and reject the petition or request because, the same or substantially the same prior art or arguments previously were presented to the Office.

To reject the second IPR petition, the Board integrated § 325(d) with 37 C.F.R.  § 42.1(b):  “[37 C.F.R. § 42] shall be construed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of every proceeding.”  The Board explained its denial of the petition:

Petitioner [ ] presents no argument or evidence that Siwiak was not known or available to it at the time of filing IPR ’892. In fact, Petitioner applied Siwiak in proposed grounds of rejection against claim 21 of the ’228 patent in another petition filed the same day as that in the IPR ’892 proceeding. See IPR2014-00889, Paper 2 at 58–60.  On this record, we exercise our discretion and “reject the petition” because “the same or substantially the same prior art” previously was “presented to the Office” in the IPR ’892 proceeding. [cites omitted]

Petitioner is requesting, essentially, a second chance to challenge the claims. We, however, are not persuaded that a second chance would help “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of every proceeding.” 37 C.F.R. § 42.1(b). Permitting second chances in cases like this one ties up the Board’s limited resources; we must be mindful not only of this proceeding, but of “every proceeding.”  [cites omitted]

In this proceeding, however, we are not apprised of a reason that merits a second chance. Petitioner simply presents arguments now that it could have made in IPR ’892, had it merely chosen to do so.  In view of the foregoing, and especially in light of the fact that, barring joinder, this petition is time-barred under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b), we exercise our discretion [to deny the petition].

To conserve its limited resources, the Board must be more selective in petitions it will consider.  Petitioners must provide reasons why the Board should consider new grounds proffered in a subsequent petition, including why the new grounds could not have been presented in an earlier-filed petition.

Federal Circuit Interprets Board’s Broadest Reasonable Interpretation Standard – Part II

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

In Microsoft Corp. v. ProxyConn, Inc. v. Michelle K. Lee, Intervenor (Fed. Cir. cases 2014-1542 and -1543), the Federal Circuit reversed claim constructions made by the Board in the underlying IPRs.  One of the claim constructions that was reversed related to the interpretation of components of a packet-switched network.  In particular, the claims recite a gateway that is “connected to the packet-switched network in such a way that network packets sent between at least two other computers pass through [the gateway],” as stated in claim 6 of U.S. Patent No. 6,757,717:

6. A system for data access in a packet-switched network, comprising:

a gateway including an operating unit, a memory and a processor connected to said packet-switched network in such a way that network packets sent between at least two other computers pass through it;

a caching computer connected to said gateway through a fast local network, wherein said caching computer includes an operating unit, a first memory, a permanent storage memory and a processor;

said caching computer further including a network cache memory in its permanent storage memory, means for a digital digest and means for comparison between a digital digest on data in its network cache memory and a digital digest received from said packet-switched network through said gateway.

The Federal Circuit referenced Figure 11 of the patent to show one embodiment where the caching computer is connected to the gateway, and the gateway is connected to receiver and sender computers:

FIG 11

The interpretive issue is whether the “two other computers,” could be any two computers, including the caching computer recited in claim 6 immediately after the gateway.  This interpretation is important because the asserted prior art arguably included a gateway connected to at least one other computer and the caching computer, but not a gateway connected to receiver and sender computers and a caching computer.  Microsoft argued for the broader interpretation, which included the caching computer as potentially one of the two connected computers.  But ProxyConn argued for the narrower interpretation that the “two other computers” referred only to the sender and receiver computers.  The Board adopted the  broader interpretation, and decided the prior art rendered such claims unpatentable.

The Federal Circuit reversed the Board’s construction, first by analyzing the claim language:

The Board erred in concluding that the “two other computers” could include the caching computer.  Beginning with the language of the claims, claim 6 recites a system comprising a gateway, a caching computer, and “two other computers.”  ’717 patent col. 10 l. 54–col. 11 l. 12. Not only are the “two other computers” recited independently from, and in addition to, the gateway and caching computers, the word “other” denotes a further level of distinction between those two computers and the specific gateway and caching computers recited separately in the claim.

Then the Federal Circuit turned to the specification:

The specification confirms that the phrase “two other computers” is limited to the sender/receiver and computer/receiver.  Other than in claim 6 itself, the phrase “two other computers” is used three times in the specification, each time as part of the embodiment containing the gateway and caching computer intermediaries.  [cites omitted]  And in each instance where it is used, the phrase “two other computers” describes components that are separate and distinct from the gateway and the caching computer.  [ ]

For example, the specification states: “Gateway 60 is connected to a wide-area packet-switched network in such a way that network packets sent between at least two other computers 42 and 46 pass through the gateway 60.  The caching computer 62 uses a part of its permanent storage memory for network cache memory 66.”  [cites omitted] (emphases added).  As shown in referenced Figure 11, the “two other computers 42 and 46” in this passage are the sender/computer and receiver/computer, respectively.  Read together with labeled Figure 11, this portion of the specification makes clear that the gateway, the caching computer, and the “two other computers” are each separate and distinct components of the overall system.  The Board’s construction, which expands the “two other computers 42 and 46” to include the separately identified caching computer, is unreasonably broad in light of the language of the claims and specification.

The Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s findings of unpatentability of claims 6, 7, and 9, and remanded “for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Some takeaways from this portion of the appellate decision are:

  • The Federal Circuit supports the PTO’s adoption of the broadest reasonable interpretation (BRI) standard for IPRs, consistent with Cuozzo.
  • It will actively provide guidance on what constitutes a proper BRI for IPRs.
  • A BRI determination may be guided by analysis of the claim language and the patent specification, including the drawings.

We will explore more about the claim constructions and decision on the Patent Owner’s motion to amend in future posts.

Federal Circuit Interprets Board’s Broadest Reasonable Interpretation Standard – Part I

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

We know from the Federal Circuit’s decision in In re Cuozzo Speed Technologies, that the broadest reasonable interpretation (BRI) standard applies in IPRs, but in a recent appeal decision, the Federal Circuit has announced limits to the application of BRI.

Microsoft had filed two separate IPR petitions challenging certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,757,717, which were later joined.  The Board ultimately found all but one of the challenged claims unpatentable as being either anticipated or obvious.  The Board also denied Proxycomm’s motion to amend its claims, concluding it hadn’t established the patentability of its claims.  Microsoft Corp. v. Proxyconn, Inc., IPR2012-00026 and IPR2013-00109.

On June 16, 2015, the Federal Circuit reversed the Board’s constructions, and thereby vacated and remanded its determinations of unpatentability of certain claims, but upheld its decision to deny Proxyconn’s motion to amend.  Microsoft Corp. v. Proxyconn, Inc. v. Michelle K. Lee,  Intervenor (Fed. Cir. cases 2014-1542 and -1453).  

Some of the interesting points of the Federal Circuit’s decision are:

  • The Federal Circuit followed its earlier decision in Teva Pharmaceuticals USA v. Sandoz, Inc., to review the Board’s ultimate claim constructions de novo and its underlying factual determinations involving extrinsic evidence for substantial evidence.  The Court stated that to the extent the Board relied on extrinsic evidence to construe the claims, it “need not consider the Board’s findings on that evidence because the intrinsic record is clear.”  (Id. at p. 6.)
  • The Federal Circuit clarified that even though BRI was properly adopted by PTO regulation in Cuozzo, that does not allow the Board to “construe claims during IPR so broadly that its constructions are unreasonable under general claim construction principles.”
    • It cited In re Skvorecz and In re Suitco Surface, Inc. to clarify that BRI cannot result in an unfettered or legally incorrect interpretation. (Id. at p. 6.)
    • The Court also advised that “[t]he PTO should also consult the patent’s prosecution history in proceedings in which the patent has been brought back to the agency for a second review,” citing Tempo Lighting Inc. v. Tivoli LLC, In re NTP, Inc. and Suitco.  (Id. at p. 7.)

The Federal Circuit then proceeded to analyze the Board’s claim constructions and decision denying Proxyconn’s motion to amend.  These will be covered in future posts.