Archive for the ‘Patent Reform’ Category

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.

New PTAB Trial Practice Rules Effective May 2, 2016

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

On April 1, 2016 the PTO published its final rule on Amendments to the Rules of Practice for Trials Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.  A small correction to these Amendments was published on April 27.  I presented a summary of these rule changes at the AIPLA Spring Meeting in Minneapolis, MN on May 18, 2016.  The slides from my presentation are attached.

The comments in the final rule make it clear that the PTAB will be publishing an updated Office Patent Trial Practice Guide to address these new rules and changes in practice since publication of the first Office Patent Trial Practice Guide.

New PTAB Rule Changes Published Yesterday

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

A small number of rule changes were published yesterday which affect all involved in post-grant trials at the USPTO.  The fixes make the rules more specific and make for more uniform proceedings.  They are effective May 19, 2015.  A copy of the Federal Register notice can be found here.

Target Corp. Requests Rehearing of Denied IPRs by Expanded PTAB Panel

Friday, October 17th, 2014

October 17, 2014

Last month, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board) interpreted the IPR joinder provision, 35 U.S.C. § 315(c), to preclude joinder requests by an existing party to an ongoing proceeding.  (Target Corp. v. Destination Maternity Corp., IPR2014-00508 and IPR2014-00509.)  In these recent decisions, the Board decided that § 315(c) requires “party joinder” and not only “issue joinder.”  Interestingly, before this interpretation was announced the Board had allowed “issue joinder” without requiring joinder of a new party to the proceeding (Microsoft v. Proxyconn, IPR2013- 00109), and after this interpretation was announced at least one panel of the Board applied an analysis that did not appear to adopt this new interpretation (Microsoft Corp. v. Enfish LLC, IPRs 2014-00574, -00575, -00576, and -00577).

Last week, Target Corp. filed rehearing requests in both affected IPR proceedings in an effort to have the Board reconsider its interpretation of  35 U.S.C. § 315(c) with an expanded panel.  Target’s arguments are quite clearly stated in its Motion for Rehearing, some of which include:

  • The AIA was implemented for broad remedial purposes to improve patent quality and to provide a more efficient system for challenging patents that should not have issued.
  • These broad remedial purposes of the AIA empower the PTO to administer IPR proceedings in a way to reduce duplication of efforts and costs.
  • Laws pertaining to patent quality which are “remedial in nature, based on fundamental principles of equity and fairness” can be construed liberally.
  • The PTAB should interpret the joinder provision liberally to allow for consistency of prior decisions, and reduce gamesmanship in parallel district court litigation.

On that last point Target’s motion states:

Target’s Joinder Motion sets forth the unique facts of this case, which reveal that a significant prior art reference long known to the patent owner was withheld from Target in the parties’ parallel district court litigation until several weeks after Target’s one-year deadline under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b). (Paper 3, at 1-6.) Under the Board’s decision here, a patent owner in parallel litigation with a petitioner can readily subvert the purposes of the AIA, see supra Part II.A, and the IPR process by withholding any significant prior art it may be uniquely aware of, or additional asserted claims, until after the petitioner’s one-year deadline under § 315(b).

Of course, joinder motions cannot be filed any time after institution of the prior proceeding — they must be filed within a month after the date of institution of the IPR for which joinder is requested:

§ 42.122 Multiple proceedings and Joinder.

(b) Request for Joinder. Joinder may be requested by a patent owner or petitioner. Any request for joinder must be filed, as a motion under § 42.22, no later than one month after the institution date of any inter partes review for which joinder is requested. The time period set forth in § 42.101(b) shall not apply when the petition is accompanied by a request for joinder.

However, in many cases the possibility of joinder of issues to a petitioner about a year after service of the lawsuit is still quite valuable to the petitioner and has been used to assert improved grounds and to attack newly asserted claims. (Microsoft v. Proxyconn, IPR2013- 00109.)

It will be interesting to see what the PTAB decides to do in Target’s IPR proceedings.  More importantly, it would be a great thing if this rehearing would result in  consistent joinder practice across panels in the future.

Lex Machina’s 2013 Patent Litigation Report Shows Disparity Between Litigated Patents and those under PTAB Review

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Litigation and post-grant proceedings often go hand-in-hand. A new litigation report published by Lex Machina summarizes patent litigation data for 2013 and prior years.  It is an interesting report and very easy to digest.  Two findings caught my eye.  The first one relates to the overall number of patent litigation cases filed in 2013:

Plaintiffs filed 6,092 new patent cases in U.S. District Courts in 2013 . . .

The second finding is the number of U.S. Patents at issue in those filings:

4,917 patents were at issue in all cases filed during 2013.

That second number is surprising, because if understood correctly, the findings indicate that about 5 out of every 6 lawsuits filed in 2013 relate to different patents.  That ratio seems high — especially in view of the AIA litigation joinder provisions.  However, if we assume these numbers are roughly correct, they show a large difference between the number of patents asserted and the petitions filed in the PTAB.

For example, compare Lex Machina’s reported 4,917 patents at issue in 2013 suits with the 1,312 total IPR and CBM petitions on file in the PTAB from September 16, 2012 to May 8, 2014.  These numbers indicate that  at most about 1 out of 3 patents in litigation are the subject of a PTAB petition.  If true, that means several patents in litigation have not been submitted for review by the PTAB.

Of course, bear in mind that this is just a rough, unscientific approximation because:

  • not every petition in the PTAB relates to a new patent,
  • not every patent being challenged in the PTAB is in litigation, and
  • this crude approach does not attempt to correlate the petitions before the PTAB with a certain year of patent assertion.

Not every patent in suit is eligible for a post-issuance proceeding in the PTAB, so there is no reason to expect that every patent in suit will be the subject of a petition.  But, this data seems to indicate that there is still a large number of litigated patents that could be subject to future post-grant challenges. Readers are invited to contact me with better data than this admittedly rough approximation.  Please send me that information and I will try to post it to give a more accurate representation of patents in litigation versus those challenged in the PTAB.

 

See You at the AIPLA 2014 Spring Meeting!

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

I am presenting at the AIPLA Spring Meeting on May 15, 2014 in Philadelphia and hope to see you there.  My task is to provide strategies for filing inter partes reviews, covered business method reviews and post-grant reviews.  I hope to see you there!

I just got back from the PLI Post-Grant Conference held in San Francisco.  The new world of patent litigation has only just begun and we are seeing many interesting ways that the AIA post-grant provisions are changing the way we view and value patents.  This year already has brought a lot of patent-related decisions from the PTAB, Federal Circuit, and Supreme Court.  There will be a lot to process in the months to come.  Stay tuned.

Federal Circuit Dismisses Appeals by Petitioners Who Were Denied Inter Partes Reviews

Friday, April 25th, 2014

The Federal Circuit issued two orders on April 24, 2014 dismissing appeals by petitioners in proceedings where the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) denied institution of inter partes review (IPR).  Each appeal is summarized as follows:

St. Jude Medical, Cardiology Div. v. Volcano Corp. & Michelle K. Lee (as Deputy Director) – Appeal of Denial of IPR Petition

St. Jude brought suit against Volcano for patent infringement of five patents in 2010.  St. Jude Med., Cardiology Div., Inc. v. Volcano Corp., No. 10-cv- 631 (D. Del. filed July 27, 2010).  Volcano counterclaimed alleging patent infringement of its U.S. Pat. 7,134,994 in September of 2010.  More than two years later, the district court dismissed all claims relating to the ‘994 patent (based on stipulations by the parties).

About a half year after the district court dismissal, St. Jude filed a petition for IPR of the ‘994 patent.  IPR2013-00109.  But that petition was dismissed by the Board (acting as a delegee of the Director) based on the one-year bar for IPR petitions.  35 U.S.C. § 315(b).  In a case of first impression, the Board determined that a counterclaim alleging infringement of a patent asserted over a year before the filing of the IPR petition triggered the 315(b) bar.  St. Jude appealed the Board’s decision not to institute IPR to the Federal Circuit.  Volcano and the PTO Director moved to dismiss St. Jude’s Federal Circuit appeal.

The Federal Circuit dismissed St. Jude’s appeal, holding that it may not hear appeals from the Director’s denial of petition for inter partes review.  In making its decision, the Court applied 35 U.S.C. § 314(d) and explained that an appeal to the Federal Circuit of a decision on IPR lacks jurisdiction unless the Board institutes trial:

Chapter 31 authorizes appeals to this court only from “the final written decision of the [Board] under section 318(a).” Id. § 319. Likewise, section 141(c) in relevant part authorizes appeal only by “a party to an inter partes review . . . who is dissatisfied with the final written decision of the [Board] under section 318(a).” Id. § 141(c). What St. Jude now challenges, however, is the Director’s non-institution decision under section 314(a) & (b). That is not a “final written decision” of the Board under section 318(a), and the statutory provisions addressing inter partes review contain no authorization to appeal a noninstitution decision to this court.  . . .

The statute thus establishes a two-step procedure for inter partes review: the Director’s decision whether to institute a proceeding, followed (if the proceeding is instituted) by the Board’s conduct of the proceeding and decision with respect to patentability.  . . . The statute provides for an appeal to this court only of the Board’s decision at the second step, not the Director’s decision at the first step.

The Federal Circuit’s position on direct appeals from the Director’s decision whether to institute an inter partes review is summarized in the next paragraph:

In fact, the statute goes beyond merely omitting, and underscoring through its structure the omission of, a right to appeal the non-institution decision. It contains a broadly worded bar on appeal. Under the title, “No Appeal,” Section 314(d) declares that “[t]he determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.” Id. § 314(d). That declaration may well preclude all review by any route, which we need not decide. It certainly bars an appeal of the non-institution decision here.

The Court’s holding in St. Jude Medical was also used to dismiss the next appeal which requested mandamus relief:

In re Dominion Dealer Solutions, LLC. – Petition for Writ of Mandamus to the USPTO

Dominion Dealer Solutions filed several IPR petitions to challenge the patentability of several patents owned by AutoAlert, Inc.  IPR2013-00220, -00222, -00223, -00224 and -00225.  The Board denied institution of trial for five of the IPR petitions.  Dominion filed requests for rehearing, but they were also denied by the Board.  Dominion then filed an action in the Eastern District of Virginia to challenge the Board’s decision under the Administrative Procedures Act (see my earlier post).  Dominion also filed a “Petition for Writ of Mandamus to the Director” with the Federal Circuit.

The Federal Circuit denied the petition for mandamus.  In denying Dominion’s appeal, the Federal Circuit referenced the St. Jude Medical decision made that same day:

In another Order issued today, we dismiss an appeal by a patent challenger seeking review of the Director’s decision not to institute an inter partes review. See Order Dismissing Appeal, St. Jude Med., Cardiology Div., Inc. v. Volcano Corp., No. 2014-1183 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 24, 2014). We explain that such a challenger may not appeal the non-institution decision to this court. We conclude that such an appeal is precluded by the statutory provisions addressing inter partes review, including section 314(d)’s broad declaration that the Director’s decision “whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable,” and by our jurisdictional statute. See St. Jude, slip op. at 5-6.

Those conclusions require denial of Dominion’s petition for mandamus relief. At a minimum, given our conclusions about the statutory scheme, Dominion has no “clear and indisputable” right to challenge a noninstitution decision directly in this court, including by way of mandamus. That is all we need to decide.

The Court noted Dominion’s appeal in the Eastern District of Virginia, and its dismissal on April 18, 2014, but concluded “[w]e need not decide that issue here.”

_______

These decisions remind petitioners that they should take every reasonable measure to obtain institution of trial, because appeals of Board decisions denying institution of trial will not easily survive a motion for dismissal in light of the holding in St. Jude Medical. It will be interesting to see whether Dominion will decide to appeal the district court’s dismissal of its APA challenge now that the Federal Circuit has rejected mandamus relief under the St. Jude Medical holding.

Eastern District of Virginia Decides PTAB Decision to not institute IPR is Not Appealable

Monday, April 21st, 2014

A patent owner insists that your company infringes a patent and makes a claim of patent infringement.  You have settled patent infringement assertions before, but this patent seems invalid over known prior art.  You consult with your patent counsel and a decision is made to file a petition for inter partes review (IPR) under the new post-grant challenges afforded by the America Invents Act.

A lot of hard work goes into preparing the IPR petition.  You include a declaration by an expert and multiple prior art grounds of invalidity.  You file your petition, knowing that in six months you will get a decision on whether the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) will institute trial.  You get notice that a decision has been made and you read it, only to learn that your petition for IPR has been denied in total.  You believe the decision not to institute is a mistake.  What do you do?

To know your options you consult the statute:

§ 314. Institution of inter partes review

. . .

(d) NO APPEAL.—The determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.

Final and nonappealable?  That does not sound good.  After all, you recall hearing something about requests for reconsideration.  So you consult the CFR:

§ 42.71 Decision on petitions or motions.

. . .

(c) Petition decisions. A decision by the Board on whether to institute a trial is final and nonappealable. A party may request rehearing on a decision by the Board on whether to institute a trial pursuant to paragraph (d) of this section. When rehearing a decision on petition, a panel will review the decision for an abuse of discretion.

(d) Rehearing. A party dissatisfied with a decision may file a request for rehearing, without prior authorization from the Board. The burden of showing a decision should be modified lies with the party challenging the decision. The request must specifically identify all matters the party believes the Board misapprehended or overlooked, and the place where each matter was previously addressed in a motion, an opposition, or a reply. A request for rehearing does not toll times for taking action. Any request must be filed: . . .  (2) Within 30 days of the entry of a final decision or a decision not to institute a trial.

You prepare and file a request for rehearing according to the rules, but the PTAB affirms its earlier decision.  What can you do now?

Petitioners are starting to explore different avenues to attempt to challenge a decision not to institute trial.  Some have filed for relief in the Eastern District of Virginia, some have appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and some have made claims in both courts.  A recent decision by the Eastern District of Virginia relies on § 314(d) to hold that appeals of PTAB decisions to not institute trial are  final and nonappealable.

In Dominion Dealer Solutions, LLC, v. Michele K. Lee, 3:13CV699, ____ (E.D. Va. 2014), Judge Robert E. Payne denied  Dominon’s challenge of the PTAB’s decision not to institute trial in five IPR petitions filed by Dominion against patents owned by AutoAlert, Inc.  The court instead granted the PTO’s motion to dismiss based on its interpretation that the PTAB’s decision not to institute trial is final an nonappealable under 35 U.S.C. § 314(d).

As it turns out, the Federal Circuit already has a petition for mandamus from Dominion requesting relief from the PTAB decision to not institute IPR.  It will be interesting to see how the Federal Circuit decides that petition, because that may be an indicator of the Federal Circuit’s approach to other persons that are also seeking a writ of mandamus — some of which we will be discussing in future posts.

 

 

 

Join Me in San Francisco for PLI’s Post-Grant CLE Program on April 28

Friday, March 7th, 2014

I will be presenting at PLI’s “USPTO Post-Grant Patent Trials 2014” CLE Program on April 28th with a number of other post-grant practitioners. Please join us there or attend via webinar! — Timothy Bianchi

USPTO Statistics Show Inter Partes Patent Reviews are Frequently Settled Before Final Board Decision

Monday, February 17th, 2014

The U.S. Patent Office regularly posts statistics on post-grant proceedings such as inter partes review and covered business method patent review.   An excerpt of PTAB statistics for February 13, 2014 is found below.  The acronyms “FWD” and “RAJ” stand for “Final Written Decision on the merits” and “Request for Adverse Judgment.”  The “Other” category includes terminations due to dismissal.

IPR Stats for 2-13-2014

The number of trials with a final written decision on the merits (FWD) remains relatively small because IPR proceedings take roughly about a year and a half from filing of a petition to conclusion, and the AIA provision allowing IPRs is only about 17 months old.

Interestingly, the data shows a relatively high number of settled IPR proceedings.  These settlements can occur any time after the filing of the petition and before a final written decision on the merits.  Therefore, these settlements are made within months of the Petition filing rather than years.  Of course, all settlements are not equal.  Some result in the termination of both the Patent Office proceeding and the concurrent District Court litigation. Others may only  terminate the Patent Office proceeding.  And, as discussed in earlier posts, some settlements may dismiss the Petitioner from the Patent Office proceeding but maintain the proceeding against the Patent Owner.  Regardless, early settlements often favor the Petitioner and provide a “win” for the Petitioner.  And even if that is not the case, settlements executed before a final decision on the merits provide another opportunity for early discussion and resolution of patent disputes.

It should be noted that IPRs are responsible for more settlements than can be provided by these statistics, because many disputes are resolved by settlements achieved prior to any filing of IPR petitions (i.e., in cases where the Patent Owner is afforded an opportunity to settle before an IPR petition is filed).

It will be some time before more accurate statistics on IPRs will be available, however these settlement statistics show that parties can achieve some resolution of patent disputes very early in post-grant proceedings, and likely much earlier than in traditional litigation time frames.