Archive for the ‘ex parte reexamination’ Category

PTAB CBM: Versata Patent Claims Unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

On June 11, 2013, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a decision holding claims 17 and 26-29 of Versata’s 6,553,350 patent  unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  This decision arises from a petition filed on Sep. 16, 2012, in a proceeding that was accelerated when SAP agreed to focus its challenge on its proffered 101 grounds.  As discussed in prior posts, there are parallel actions in the courts, including:  a Federal Circuit decision affirming of portions of a district court decision and remanding the injunctive portion to the district court for correction; and Versata’s challenge of the PTO’s institution of this covered business method (CBM) trial in the Eastern District of Virginia by Versata.

The PTAB explained its decision in detail, and carefully set forth its bases for applying the Broadest Reasonable Interpretation standard:

Versata states that claim construction is a question of law and that claim terms should be accorded only one definition: that which is based on a district court interpretation standard. PO Resp. 62. There are, however, two claim construction standards: the Office’s BRI construction and the district court standard set forth in Phillips v. AWH [415 F.3d 1303, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc)].  The difference in standards generally arises from the ability of an applicant or patent owner in Office proceedings to amend their claims, and the fact that there is no presumption of validity before the Office.[Whereas a patent is presumed “valid” unless overcome by clear and convincing evidence before a district court, a petitioner’s burden before the Office is limited to proving “unpatentability” by a preponderance of the evidence. Compare 35 U.S.C. § 282(a) and § 326(e).] Through the use of the broadest reasonable interpretation standard, the Office is able to encourage inventors to amend their claims to remove uncertainties and over breadth of claim scope.

For at least a century, the Office has encouraged clear and unambiguous claim drafting by utilizing the broadest reasonable interpretation. For example, a 1906 Commissioner of Patent’s Decision held that there is no better method of construing claims before the Office. Specifically, this early decision explains the rationale for BRI as follows:

No better method of construing claims is perceived than to give them in each case the broadest interpretation which they will support without straining the language in which they are couched. This method would seemingly give more uniform and satisfactory results than are obtained by methods largely in vogue – such, for example, as that of importing limitations from the specification according to the exigencies of the particular situation in which the claim may stand at a given moment. The method suggested also seems to have the advantage according in its results with the probable intentions of the inventor at the time when the claim is drawn. In presenting claims to the Office the object constantly sought is breadth. Where a limited meaning is intended when a claim is drawn, what possible objection can there be to imposing that meaning unmistakably upon the claim by its express terms? That a claim which does not carry its true meaning on its face misleads those affected by the patent instead of guiding them to its true scope is alone sufficient reason why the Patent Office should refuse to recognize proposed limitations of claims which have not been clearly expressed therein.

Podlesak and Podlesak v. McInnerney, 123(2) O.G. 1989, 1990 (Dec. Com. Pat. 1906, emphasis added). This standard of claim construction and its rationale have been upheld consistently by the Federal courts, including both the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals (“CCPA”) and the Federal Circuit. . . .

The Board then continued on to discuss its constructions and how it held claims 17 and 26-29 “unpatentably abstract.”  The Board concluded:

This is a final written decision of the Board under 35 U.S.C. § 328(a). We hold Versata’s claims 17, and 26-29 to be unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. §101. Specifically, the claims recite unpatentable abstract ideas and the claims do not provide enough significant meaningful limitations to transform these abstract ideas into patent-eligible applications of these abstractions.

The Board ordered that claims 17 and 26-29 of the ’350 patent are cancelled as unpatentable.

You may recall from earlier posts, that SAP also filed an ex parte reexamination to raise the prior art challenges that it passed on in this CBM to accelerate this proceeding to trial on the 101 issues.  Versata had a motion to stay that pending reexamination which the Board declined in light of this final written decision.  The Board ordered that its claim construction in this CBM is binding on the patent owner in the reexamination and that a copy of this decision be placed in the reexamination file.

Now that this PTAB CBM decision is before us, we will monitor the parties’ next steps as this conflict progresses through the various other parallel actions.

AIA Patent Trials Differ from Reexamination

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

In the past few months, I have had discussions with many different stakeholders about how AIA post-grant review differs from conventional reexamination.  AIA patent trials (post-grant review or PGR, inter partes review or IPR, and covered business method patent review or CBM) are substantially different than traditional reexamination.  Some of these differences are summarized in the table below (click on the table to enlarge it):

Other than legacy inter partes reexaminations, the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) is currently only charged with processing ex parte reexaminations.  What remains to be seen is how ex parte reexamination will change as the CRU processes the legacy reexaminations and its docket frees up.

Comparative Study of Post Issuance Review Options

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Today I had the pleasure of co-presenting at the Midwest IP Institute on various post-issuance proceedings with Kevin Rhodes, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel and President of 3M Innovative Properties Company.  A PDF of our joint presentation is found here.

The presentation provides a comparison between IPR (inter partes review), PGR (post grant review), and CBM (covered business method) patent review.  It contrasts these proceedings to ex parte reexamination (EPX).  The goal was to present the available options for review of patents now that inter partes reexamination is no longer available.

The presentation further covered administrative trials in the PTAB.  A hypothetical was used to demonstrate the use of litigation, IPR, PGR, CMB, and EPX depending on strength of 35 USC § 101 and § 112 arguments as opposed to 35 USC § 102 and § 103 prior art invalidity arguments.  Different scenarios were used to demonstrate the complexity of the analysis.

My thanks to Kevin Rhodes and 3M for allowing me to post these slides.

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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Declaratory Judgment Plaintiff and Stays Pending Reexamination

Monday, March 12th, 2012

In Interwoven, Inc. v. Vertical Computer Systems, Inc. (Case No. C 10-04645 RS, Northern District of California), Judge Richard Seeborg was less than persuaded by Interwoven’s attempt to obtain a stay after filing an ex parte reexamination of the patents in suit.

BACKGROUND

Vertical owns U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,826,744 and 7,716,629 relating to Internet technologies.  Vertical sued Microsoft in the Eastern District of Texas and settled in 2009.  Later, Vertical informed Interwoven that its products infringed the patents as well.   Interwoven filed a declaratory judgment action in the Northern District of California and Vertical countered with a counterclaim for patent infringement. (more…)

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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Marine Polymer Technologies v. HemCon, Inc. and Intervening Rights

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc. v. HemCon, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2011) is a widely reported case that raises some questions about the scope of the application of intervening rights.  It involves a matter where the literal language of a claim was not amended, yet absolute intervening rights were still found to apply to the accused infringer.  Marine Polymer owns U.S. Pat. No. 6,864,245 (the ’245 patent), which claims a polymer p-GlcNAc that accelerates hemostasis (the process which causes bleeding to stop) and is useful in trauma units for treating serious wounds.  Marine Polymer sued HemCon, alleging that HemCon infringed claims 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 17, and 20 of the ’245 patent.  (more…)

New, More Popular Post-Grant Patent Challenges Drive Patent Generation Strategy

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Patent Generation and Enforcement Before the Popularity of Post-Grant Proceedings

Patent Owners adopt different approaches for drafting patent applications.  For large companies a patent production line approach is frequently adopted which limits the cost and the commensurate drafting efforts on any particular application.  There is a reasonable argument to use this “assembly line” approach for very large portfolios.  But for smaller companies and/or for extremely strategic portfolios this approach may fail.  Why?  Because when the effort expended to establish patent rights is limited, the resulting patent applications can be hastily drafted, or just plain incomplete.  They can also fail to consider relevant prior art.  Such applications can turn into weak patents.  And weak patents in litigation or in reexamination may lose the day for the patent owner.

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America Invents Act: Post-Grant Procedures for Patent Challengers

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Now that the America Invents Act has become law there are several new provisions for patent challengers to consider.  For example, the Act includes:

  • preissuance submissions by third party challengers (Sec. 8 — see the last post);
  • Post-Grant Review (Sec. 6 – see slides*);
  • Inter Partes Review (Sec. 6 – see slides*);
  • Business Method Transitional Proceedings (Sec. 18 – see slides*); and
  • Formation of the Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB) (Sec. 7 – see slides*).

(*Many of the features of the last 4 bullet items on this list are discussed in my PowerPoint slides presented at the AIPLA Electronics and Computer Law Summit on August 16, 2011.)

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Patent Challengers get additional Preissuance Challenge Option after Leahy-Smith Bill Passes

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Pre-Issuance Challenge Option Added

Section 8 of the Act provides for additional pre-issuance submissions by third parties by amending 35 U.S.C. 122.  Written submission of the relevance of a patent application,  patent, published patent application, or other printed publication must be made before the Notice of Allowance or the later of (1) six months after the date of publication of the application under section 122,  or (2) the date of first rejection under 35 U.S.C. 132.  The submission must set forth a concise description of the asserted relevance of each document submitted, include the necessary fee, and include a statement that the submisson was made in compliance of the section.  This option shall take effect one year after enactment of the Act and applies to any patent applications filed before, on, or after the effective date.

However, this option must be used carefully.  If the submission fails to convince the ex parte prosecution Examiner that a document is relevant, it may complicate a later challenge of the patent using similar grounds.  The test for initiating a post-grant review is that “more likely than not that at least one of the claims challenged is unpatentable.”  And for inter partes review, the test is that “there is a reasonable likelihood that the petitioner will prevail with respect to at least one claim challenged.”  Thus, a poorly postured preissuance submission can complicate acceptance of a later petition for a post-grant proceeding.