The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet today held Part II in a series of hearings to consider reforms to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) 10 years after it was created by the America Invents Act (AIA). The hearing, titled “The Patent Trial and Appeal Board After 10 Years, Part II: Implications of Adjudicating in an Agency Setting,” coincided with the release of a preliminary report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that was commissioned in June of last year by IP Subcommittee Chair Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) to investigate PTAB decision-making practices. The GAO’s preliminary findings revealed that “the majority of [administrative patent] judges (75 percent) surveyed by GAO responded that the oversight practiced by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) directors and PTAB management has affected their independence, with nearly a quarter citing a large effect on independence.”
This week in Washington IP news, the House Committee on the Judiciary’s IP Subcommittee takes a second look at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board after 10 years of existence, with a special focus on issues with adjudicating legal matters in an agency setting. The full House Judiciary Committee also hosts a hearing to explore government access to consumer personal data. Elsewhere, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation debates ways that cultural changes at federal agencies can improve IT modernization efforts, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hosts a Southeast Asia Intellectual Property Roadshow to educate business owners on how they can leverage their IP rights for business success in that region of the globe.
Recently, we submitted comments for the record to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s IP Subcommittee in response to its June 22 hearing on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), titled: “The Patent Trial and Appeal Board: Examining Proposals to Address Predictability, Certainty and Fairness.” The hearing focused on Senator Leahy’s PTAB Reform Act, which among other changes, would eliminate the discretion of the Director to deny institution of an inter partes review (IPR) petition based on an earlier filed district court litigation involving the same patents, parties and issues. Here is the net of what we told them:
The debate over patent reform is heating up again. Last month, Google published a blog post on patent reform, purportedly aimed at promoting American innovation. In it, Google decried the rising tide of “wasteful patent litigation,” railed against the disfavored practice of “forum shopping” and advocated for pending legislation aimed at making it easier for large companies to challenge the validity of patents owned by smaller rivals — all in the name of promoting a patent system that “incentivizes and rewards the most original and creative innovators.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied certiorari in American Axle v. Neapco Holdings, Inc., leaving it up to Congress and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to restore any semblance of clarity on U.S. patent eligibility law for now. Many expected that the Court would grant the petition after the U.S. Solicitor General in May recommended granting review. The SG’s brief said that inventions like the one at issue in American Axle have “[h]istorically…long been viewed as paradigmatic examples of the ‘arts’ or ‘processes’ that may receive patent protection if other statutory criteria are satisfied” and that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit “erred in reading this Court’s precedents to dictate a contrary conclusion.”
This week in Washington IP news, subcommittee hearings at the U.S. House of Representatives will explore the leading role that Michigan has taken in addressing cybersecurity risks in state and local governments, as well as ways to promote data privacy despite the growth of biometric tracking systems. Elsewhere, the Hudson Institute takes a closer look at the background and potential impacts of small claims for copyright infringement filed at the recently established Copyright Claims Board, while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hosts the inaugural meeting of the Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies Partnership Series.
Senator Thom Tillis yesterday wrote to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, asking for a third time that the FDA conduct “an independent assessment and analysis of the sources and data that are being relied upon by those advocating for patent-based solutions to drug pricing.” Tillis expressed his frustration with the lack of response thus far, explaining that no formal reply has yet been received despite his first letter being sent in January 2022, and calling it “unacceptable” that the FDA apparently “refuses to reply to emails or to engage.”
Today, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property met to hear testimony from four witnesses about proposed changes to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) as outlined in the recently announced PTAB Reform Act. Subcommittee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the bill last week. Those testifying generally agreed the bill represents compromise and, at Tillis’ prompting, on a scale of green to red, scored it a green to yellow overall.
This week in Washington IP news and events, both the Senate and the House of Representatives hold hearings looking at various aspects of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), including its impact on small businesses as well as ways that predictability and fairness in PTAB proceedings can be restored by Congress. Elsewhere, the American Enterprise Institute explores the current state of the debate over a waiver of international IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines, and IPWatchdog’s President and CEO Gene Quinn hosts a conversation with outgoing USPTO Commissioner of Patents Drew Hirshfeld and recently confirmed USPTO Director Kathi Vidal.
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today introduced the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Reform Act of 2022, which is meant to tackle gamesmanship at the PTAB. In April, Senators Leahy and Tillis penned an op-ed that announced such a bill would be introduced “in the coming days”, but it never materialized. The bill makes a number of key changes to PTAB procedures, including explaining that “the right to appeal shall extend at least to any dissatisfied party that reasonably expects that another person will assert estoppel against the party under section 325(e) as a result of the decision.”
On June 8, a letter signed by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators was sent to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal voicing concerns over the anti-competitive impacts of so-called “patent thickets,” especially in the drug industry. The senators’ letter urged Director Vidal to address issues of large numbers of patents granted to cover various aspects of a single pharmaceutical treatment, “primarily made up of continuation patents.” The letter, signed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Braun (R-IL), advances a few claims about continuation filings that don’t come from any clear source.
This week in Washington IP news, the Subcommittee on Environment in the U.S. House of Representatives starts the week with a look at challenges impacting the future of weather research. Over in the U.S. Senate, the Judiciary Committee will consider several judicial nominations made by President Joe Biden, including one nomination for a circuit judgeship in the Second Circuit, a regional circuit which hears many appeals in intellectual property cases. Elsewhere, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hosts the first PPAC meeting featuring Director Kathi Vidal, the American Enterprise Institute explores unfair Chinese practices including the theft of IP from Western countries, and the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation takes a closer look at the main elements and potential impacts of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed into law last November.
The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) 12th Ministerial Conference is set to take place this week, June 12-15, at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. As part of the four-day meeting, discussions around the latest text of the proposal to waive intellectual property (IP) rights under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for COVID-19 vaccine technology will take place around the clock, and it is expected that some agreement will be reached. TRIPS Council Chair, Ambassador Lansana Gberie of Sierra Leone, said on June 7 that “delegations have entered into real negotiation mode in the last 24 hours,” and that she is “feeling cautiously optimistic now that we will get this text ready for adoption by ministers in time for the coming weekend.”
On June 8, news reports indicated that U.S. Senators from both sides of the political aisle were confident that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee this January, has the necessary votes to pass the Senate and move on to the U.S. House of Representatives. While several top Senate lawmakers continue to argue that the bill will enact much needed antitrust enforcement mechanisms against Big Tech, the bill has several critics and has raised midterm election concerns for some Senators facing tough re-election cycles.
Following a late April request by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to then newly-confirmed United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal asking her to respond to a number of questions surrounding abuse of the inter partes review (IPR) system, Vidal last week sent a letter explaining she is working on the problem. The senators’ April letter had expressed concern over Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) decisions to institute inter partes review (IPR) proceedings in OpenSky Industries, LLC v. VLSI Technology LLC and Patent Quality Assurance, LLC v. VLSI Technology LLC. “The facts and circumstances around these proceedings suggest petitioners OpenSky Industries, LLC (OpenSky) and Patent Quality Assurance, LLC (PQA) brought the proceedings to manipulate the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for their own financial gain,” explained the letter.