Archive for the ‘Ex Parte Prosecution’ Category

Federal Circuit Employs Phillips Claim Construction to Measure Claims Amended in Reexamination for Possible Intervening Rights

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

When patent owners sue an accused infringer for patent infringement, one way for the accused infringer to avoid liability is to show noninfringement of the patent claims.  But if the claims are extremely broad, the accused infringer may find it difficult to prove noninfringement and instead may have to rely on a showing of invalidity to avoid liability.  However, a showing of invalidity requires clear and convincing evidence, which is a high standard.  Enter post-grant proceedings, which provide the petitioner (or “requester,” when employing reexamination) a lower evidence standard for patent challenges.

Should the patent be subject to review under post-grant proceedings, the patent owner will likely want to avoid amendment if possible, because amendment that results in substantive changes to the claimed invention can trigger intervening rights, which may provide some reduction of infringement liability for the accused infringer should the claim be substantively narrowed in the post-grant proceeding.  Stakeholders want to know how to determine substantive amendment, triggering intervening rights.  For example, is substantive amendment to be measured by the claim construction standard typically used in the post-grant proceeding (currently “broadest reasonable interpretation,” but pending review by the Supreme Court in Cuozzo), or the claim construction standard used in district court (Phillips)?  The Federal Circuit recently addressed this question when considering amendments made in reexamination for using the Phillips standard in Convolve, Inc. v. Compaq Computer Corp. (Fed. Cir., 2014-1732, Feb. 10, 2016).

Convolve sued Compaq and others in 2000 for infringement of its U.S. Patent No. 6,314,473 relating to minimization of vibrations of a disk drive for quieter operation.  Convolve’s patent ultimately was reexamined and in 2008 certain words were added to the claims during the reexamination.  The court considered whether the amended claims were substantively identical to decide if intervening rights would apply:

“A patentee of a patent that survives reexamination is only entitled to infringement damages for the time period between the date of issuance of the original claims and the date of the reexamined claims if the original and the reexamined claims are ‘substantially identical.’” R & L Carriers, Inc. v. Qualcomm, Inc., [ ]. “[I]t is the scope of the claim that must be identical, not that identical words must be used.” Slimfold Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Kinkead Indus., Inc., [ ]. As a result, amendments made during reexamination do not necessarily compel a conclusion that the scope of the claims has been substantively changed. [ ] This is true even where the claims at issue were amended during reexamination after a rejection based on prior art. Laitram Corp. v. NEC Corp., [ ] Rather, “[t]o determine whether a claim change is substantive it is necessary to analyze the claims of the original and the reexamined patents in light of the particular facts, including the prior art, the prosecution history, other claims, and any other pertinent information.” Laitram[ ].

Accordingly, the Federal Circuit employed a Phillips standard when reviewing the claim amendments:

In determining the scope of the claims, we apply the traditional claim construction principles of Phillips v. AWH Corp.,[ ] (en banc), paying particular attention to the “examiner’s focus in allowing the claims” after amendment. R & L Carriers [ ]; see also Laitram Corp. v. NEC Corp., [ ] (When an amendment is made during the reexamination proceedings to overcome a prior art rejection, that is a “highly influential piece of prosecution history.”).

In one example, the original claims recited “acoustic noise,” but were amended in reexamination to “seek acoustic noise.”  The issue that the Federal Circuit considered is whether this narrowing was a substantive amendment for purposes of its intervening rights analysis.  It could have been deemed the amendment to have been a substantive change, because other types of motor noises could have been ruled out by the amendment, but instead the court considered:

  • the specification, which focused on the seek process and the noise it generates;
  • the claims, which relate “acoustic noise” to the seek time and seek process; and
  • the original prosecution history of the patent, where the patent owner argued that the reason for the amendment.

It concluded:

On their face, the original claims recite only “acoustic noise,” which could encompass any manner of acoustic noise, including that generated from the spindle. But when read in conjunction with the remaining claim limitations and in light of the specification and prosecution history, a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the claims to be limited to seek acoustic noise.

Consequently, the Federal Circuit decided the claim amendments resulted in substantively identical claims before and after amendment, and therefore intervening rights do not apply:

In sum, we conclude that the addition of the term “seek” before “acoustic noise” did not alter the scope of the claim.  [] Here, the language of the claims, read in light of the specification and prosecution history, especially the applicant’s 2001 remarks and amendment, compel a conclusion that the claims as originally drafted were limited to seek acoustic noise despite the lack of an express recitation in the claims.

The Federal Circuit reversed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment of noninfringement based on the lower court’s determination that liability was precluded by intervening rights.

The Federal Circuit concluded that the claim scope prior to the amendment would have been interpreted to be the same as the scope after amendment using a Phillips construction based on the specification, claims, and prosecution history.  Had the court instead relied upon the broadest reasonable interpretation from reexamination as its gauge, the claims would presumably have been deemed substantively different and the district court summary judgment would have been affirmed.  Convolve allows patent owners an opportunity to avoid intervening rights when amended claims would obtain the same Phillips claim construction as the claims prior to amendment.

 

USPTO to Host AIA Second Anniversary Forum on Sept. 16

Monday, September 9th, 2013

The USPTO will host an AIA Second Anniversary Forum on September 16, 2013, at the USPTO’s Alexandria campus in the Madison Auditorium from 1 to 5 pm, and also via webcast.  Here is the USPTO announcement:

At the Forum, USPTO subject matter experts from the Patents Business Unit and administrative patent judges from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) will discuss many AIA provisions, including current filing statistics and “do’s and don’ts” as follows:

–Patent Panel: prioritized examination (aka Track One), preissuance submissions, inventor’s oath/declaration, supplemental examination, and micro-entity discount

–First-inventor-to-file Workshop: demonstration of examiner hands-on training using a mock application for examination

–PTAB Panel Discussion: inter partes review and covered business method review

Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions during each segment.

Webcast Access Info:

Event number: 991 788 621

Event password: 123456

Event address for attendees: uspto-events.webex.com/uspto-events/onstage/g.php?d=991788621&t=a

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Teleconference information

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Call-in toll number (US/Canada): 1-650-479-3208

Access code: 991 788 621

AIA Post-Grant Practice Rapidly Integrates Federal Circuit and Board Decisions

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

AIA post-grant practice has many advantages over other proceedings, but one of the great benefits of AIA post-grant practice that we have not discussed is the speed in which AIA post-grant proceedings adopt recent patent decisions from different sources.  This is really an exciting and challenging feature of AIA post-grant practice that has become even more apparent in recent filings.  One of the reasons that AIA proceedings are so quick to adopt changes in patent law is that the PTAB offers a panel of patent judges who are already versed in patent law, so the Board does not have a large learning curve to process new decisions from the Federal Circuit and laws from Congress.  Another reason is that AIA patent trials are relatively fast-paced proceedings, which by their very nature will apply legal decisions quicker than routine district court practice.  Yet another reason is that many of the changes in practical post-grant practice are being driven by the Board itself, so the Board can quickly and consistently synthesize inputs from other sources and deploy its own procedural and legal changes.  The result is a petitions practice that can adapt quickly to a rapidly changing patent legal landscape.

One example of rapid integration of recent decisions is shown by a recent CBM petition filed on behalf of LinkedIn (CBM2013- 00025) that challenges claims 1-17 of U.S. Patent No. 7,856,430 (the ‘430 Patent) owned by AvMarkets, Inc.  This CBM petition is a convergence of findings from the recent Federal Circuit decision in CLS Bank lnt’l v. Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd., 2013 WL 1920941, at *9 (Fed. Cir. May 10, 2013) and the recent CBM petition and trial (SAP v. Versata, CBM2012-00001).  LinkedIn’s petition is notable for both what it includes and what it omits.  For example, the petition includes a single challenge of patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 akin to the ultimate patentability challenge in SAP v. Versata and incorporating the recent CLS Bank decision.  For example, pages 4-5 of the LinkedIn petition borrows from the SAP v. Versata CBM:

The Board has concluded that the AlA’s definition of CBM patents should “be broadly interpreted and encompass patents claiming activities that are financial in nature, incidental to a financial activity or complementary to a financial activity.” SAP America, Inc. v. Versata Development Group, Inc., No. CBM2012- 00001, at 21-22 (P.T.A.B. January 9, 2013) (Decision regarding the Institution of Covered Business Method Review), citing 77 Fed. Reg. 157 (August 14, 2012) at 48736. In particular, the Board has held that it does “not interpret the statute as requiring the literal recitation of the terms financial products or services [and that the] term financial is an adjective that simply means relating to monetary matters.” id. at 23. “At its most basic, a financial product is an agreement between two parties stipulating movements of money or other consideration now or in the future,” and encompasses “patents [that] apply to administration of business transactions.” ld., quoting 157 Cong. Rec. S5432 (daily ed. Sept. 8 2011) (statement of Sen. Schumer).

And pages 22-23 of the LinkedIn petition also incorporates findings from CLS Bank:

Moreover, the ‘430 Patent ultimately claims nothing more and nothing less than the abstract idea of generating sales leads by putting product data in a searchable index, adding only the instruction to “apply it” in the broadest field of use imaginable-the Internet. Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1294. That does not suffice to make these claims patentable. The idea of cataloguing customer and product data in the field of use of”the Internet” necessarily implies putting them in the formats known to be searchable on the Internet. The claims add nothing that is not already implicit in the abstract idea. Because the steps are “as a practical matter … necessary to every practical use” of the abstract idea of making commercial data searchable on the Web, they are “not truly limiting.” CLS Bank, 2013 WL 1920941 at * 11 , citing Mayo, 132 S. Ct. at 1298 (Lourie, J. concurring); see id. at *28-*29 (Rader, J., concurring) (key inquiry is “whether the claim covers every practical application of [the] abstract idea” but even if not, ” it still will not be limited meaningfully if it . .. only … identiflies] a relevant audience, a category of use, field of use, or technological environment”). The Internet is in fact so broad an area of application, it can barely be said to limit the claim even to a field of use.  CyberSource Corp. v. Retail Decisions, Inc., 620 F. Supp. 2d 1068, 1077 (N.D. Cal. 2009) (“The internet continues to exist despite the addition or subtraction of any particular piece of hardware … [T]he internet is an abstraction …. One can touch a computer or a network cable, but one cannot touch ‘the internet.”‘), aff’d, 654 F.3d 1366.

Also notable is that LinkedIn’s filing omits several things found in other CBM petitions, like a challenge based on prior art, an expert declaration offering evidence, and use of every available page (LinkedIn’s petition is only 27 pages of a possible 80 pages afforded CBM petitions).  With this approach, LinkedIn keeps the cost of challenge to a minimum and reduces estoppel to the single ground asserted should the Board issue a final decision upholding the patent.  Of course, the petition was recently filed on May 29, 2013, so it is too early to tell if it will be successful, but the concept of challenging a patent based on a petition with relatively few pages and no initial expert testimony is the latest adaptation of post-grant practice courtesy of the America Invents Act.

Patent Office Guidance for Examiners in wake of CLS Bank Decision: No Change for Now

Friday, May 17th, 2013


On May 13, 2013, the Patent Office issued a memo to USPTO examiners after the CLS Bank et al. v. Alice Corp. Federal Circuit en banc decision of last week.  The memo instructs examiners to maintain existing examination procedure for evaluating subject matter patentability.  Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, Andrew Hirshfeld, advised examiners:  ” . . . at present, there is no change in examination procedure for evaluating subject matter eligibility. Current procedure detailed in MPEP 2106 should continue to be followed.”

The memo summarizes the initial takeaways from CLS Bank as follows:

  • There was agreement that the test for eligibility is not a rigid, bright line test and must be made by evaluating a claim as a whole, on a case-by-case basis, using a flexible approach.
  • Many of the judges explicitly noted that the test for eligibility is a separate and distinct inquiry from other patentability concerns, particularly novelty and obviousness.
  • It was generally agreed that when evaluating the claim as a whole the claim must be analyzed to determine whether the additional limitations add significantly more, or in other words add meaningful limits, to the abstract idea or law of nature.

The memo concludes that further study is needed and that this is an ongoing consideration in light of the decision:

Given the multiple divergent opinions, the USPTO is continuing to study the decision in CLS Bank and will consider whether further detailed guidance is needed on patent subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

 

Patent Challenger Seeks PTAB Jurisdiction over “Involved” Pending Applications

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

The AIA provides new post-issuance proceedings to challenge issued patents.  But can these challenges be used to stop related pending patent prosecution dead in its tracks?  One recent inter partes review petition requests just that and time will tell whether the PTAB takes control of the related applications.

Chi Mei Innolux Corp. (CMI) filed a petition for inter partes review of U.S. Pat. No. 6,404,480 on October 19, 2012.  The ‘480 patent is owned by Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co., Ltd. (SELC).  SELC sued CMI for patent infringement in a suit styled Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co., Ltd. v. Chi Mei Innolux Corp., et al., SACV12-0021-JST (C.D. Cal.), filed on January 5, 2012.

The other patents-in-suit in the litigation are U.S. Patents 7,876,413; 7,697,102; 7,956,978; 8,068,204; and 7,923,311.  CMI has indicated that it will be filing petitions for inter partes review of these other patents-in-suit as well, and CMI hopes to have the resulting PTAB trials consolidated with the PTAB trial instituted for the present ‘480 inter partes review.

The family of patents and applications is shown in the following graphic:

 

Things get very interesting when CMI identifies the 12/257,514 and 12/257,521 applications as “involved applications” and requests a stay of prosecution of these involved applications:

37 C.F.R. 42.3 conveys exclusive jurisdiction to the PTAB over every involved application and patent during the proceeding, as the Board may order. See 35 U.S.C. 6 (b), as amended, 35 U.S.C. 326(c), and Public Law 112–29, section 18. The term “proceeding” is defined by 37 C.F.R. 42.2 as a trial or preliminary proceeding. Rule 42.2 also defines the term “preliminary proceeding” as beginning with the filing of an IPR petition. To this end, the PTAB now has jurisdiction over the following involved applications. [see graphic above]

Divisional applications 12/257,514 and 12/257,521 are actively being prosecuted before Art Unit 2871. As the family of applications claiming priority to the ‘480 patent remain active, these applications may be utilized as a basis to present patentably indistinct claims, and, may, if allowed to continue, proceed to issuance prior to the determination of the PTAB in this IPR. The issuance of such indistinct claims during the pendency of this IPR is at least inconsistent with 37 C.F.R. 42.373(d)(ii), and, would provide an “end-around” the reasonable number of substitute claims that may be presented in this proceeding. As such, further USPTO processing of these proceedings may prejudicial to the Petitioner’s interests and inconsistent with controlling PTAB rules. Petitioner respectfully submits that it is appropriate under the circumstances for the PTAB to suspend, sua sponte, further prosecution of the above noted applications, or at least require any further patent application filings, or claim changes be authorized by the PTAB prior to submission to the USPTO.

CMI is correct that the PTAB may acquire jurisdiction of involved patents and applications.  37 C.F.R. § 42.3 states:

(a) The Board may exercise exclusive jurisdiction within the Office over every involved application and patent during the proceeding, as the Board may order.

(b) A petition to institute a trial must be filed with the Board consistent with any time period required by statute.

Since “involved” means an application, patent, or claim that is the subject of the proceeding, it will be interesting to see whether the PTAB decides to order control of the pending applications as requested by CMI.

Creative attempts to use the AIA to challenge patents, such as this one, have only begun.  Many more will come.  The complexities of these challenges raise the stakes for patent owners.  They must now reconsider how they choose their patent counsel to make sure they understand not only how to make patent rights that will survive prosecution and litigation, but also rights that will survive reexamination and post-grant review proceedings.

More IPR Filings on Day 2

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

If you are monitoring adoption of post-issuance filings you may have noticed that five more IPR filings were filed on the second day of operation of the PTAB trials portal pursuant to the new IPR and CBM patent review options from the America Invents Act.  The list of today’s filings is reproduced below:

4 IPRs were filed by Intellectual Ventures Management, LLC and one by Ariosa Diagnostics.  This brings the total count to 13 pending petition matters (10 IPRs and 3 CBMs) on the petitions docket.

It is interesting to note different styles presented by the petitioners in the various petitions.   Some rely more on declaration evidence than others.  Some include substantial legal background for positions taken and some are more direct and pointed in arguing their positions.

It is also interesting to see the way that claim construction is being postured in these early petition filings.  For example, for matters that are in more advanced stages of litigation petitioners have resorted to admissions by the patent owner and Markman decisions for proposed claim constructions.  In a presentation to our local bar I predicted that PGR, IPR, and CBM would provide a kind of intermediate state of claim interpretation somewhere between BRI and a Phillips-type construction.  I believe that is starting to take shape as evidence from both prosecution and district court is relied upon for claim construction proposals.

It is encouraging to see highly technical arguments being pursued in these early filings.  For example, CBM (and PGR in general) may provide an attractive vehicle to challenge statutory subject matter and indefiniteness before the PTAB, as opposed to making these challenges in district court litigation.   The patent community may well embrace these post-grant proceedings if it sees consistently high quality decisions by the PTAB.

Preissuance Submission Final Rules Published July 17, 2012

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The Patent Office has published its final rules for preissuance submissions under the AIA. A copy of the final rules can be found here (2012-16710). I briefly summarized the rule requirements in a presentation that can be found here (Preissuance Submissions Final Rule July 17 2012).

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Claim Interpretation for Post-Grant Review and Inter Partes Review under the AIA – Part I

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Today, USPTO Director David Kappos posted a comment advocating the use of  the broadest reasonable interpretation standard (BRI) for claim interpretation in post grant review and inter partes review under the America Invents Act.  This is a topic of great interest among those conducting post-grant review of patents because of numerous conflicts occuring in practice due to different intepretive standards used in reexamination (now also post-grant review and inter partes review) and litigation.

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Do You Want That Post-Grant Review Super-Sized? – Part III

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

This is the third post in a series of articles on PGR strategies.  In Part I, I made the point that while patents come in all shapes and sizes, post-grant reviews (PGRs) basically come in two sizes.  By statute, the PGR must complete in 1 to 1 ½ years.  Part II addressed some of the issues that the Petitioner faces during a PGR and when the Petitioner may benefit from a 6 month extension.  This post will provide some insight to the Patent Owner’s analysis of what to do if its patent is tested in a PGR.

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Do You Want That Post-Grant Review Super-Sized? – Part II

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

This is the second post in a series of articles on PGR strategies.  In my last post I made the point that while patents come in all shapes and sizes, post-grant reviews (PGRs) don’t.  PGRs are very different from ex parte prosecution.  In ex parte prosecution, if a patent application includes 200 claims that are somehow not divided by restriction practice, there is a way to prosecute all of them using extensions of time, requests for continuing examination (RCEs), and an almost unlimited capacity to amend the claims if necessary.  In post-grant review, however, the Patent Owner has limited time to argue its position and limited opportunities to amend the issued patent.  Furthermore, the Petitioner may appear to have an initial advantage when a petition for a PGR is granted because the Patent Office will employ a heightened standard when deciding whether to grant a PGR.  The heightened standard provides that granted PGR petitions include grounds that are likely to result in a successful challenge at least one claim of the patent.  But at this stage, despite this initial “win” for Petitioner, the PGR is still young and there is much to consider.

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