Posts in Guest Contributors

Using contrasting examples to rein in capricious application of Alice by the patent examining corps

Although categorizing abstract ideas could be helpful, the use of categories expands the risk of overbreadth, especially when the categories have little definition, include sub-categories, and lack negative examples. The PTO should refine the categories of “judicial descriptors,” and do so both negatively and positively, to avoid overbroad application of Alice by examiners. The use of “judicial descriptors” not supported adequately by court decisions has the potential to do great mischief in the area in which I practice frequently, i.e., software and Internet-related patent applications.

IP Threats and Collaboration in the Auto Industry

In 1903, Henry Ford was hit with a patent lawsuit while watching his first automobiles get loaded into boxcars. IP issues have plagued the auto industry every since. Today, over 110 years later, automakers still deal with IP threats on a regular basis. The number of lawsuits filed against automakers by patent trolls rose from 17 in 2009 to 107 in 2014. These lawsuits often result in six and seven-figure settlements, and represent a serious drain on the automotive industry. With this spectre hanging over their heads, automakers can’t fully innovate, grow and prosper. It is time for the industry to band together and fight back.

Established Automakers Not Yielding to Technology Companies on Autonomous Cars

Thomson Reuters analysts put their research in high gear to quantify just who the major players in this space are with the “2016 State of Self-Driving Automotive Innovation.” Data was aggregated from the Derwent World Patents Index® collection to identify global patent activity and the total number of unique inventions issued in published patent applications and granted patents were analyzed from January 2010 through October 31, 2015. The findings detail a notable commitment from carmakers and tech companies to advance driverless technology, while uncovering the fact that established automakers are the most likely to have the biggest impact in the self-driving category in the near term.

Fully Baking Joint IP Ownership into Collaboration Agreements

It seems the since-kindergarten, ingrained notion of sharing supersedes our B.S., M.S., J.D., Ph.D. and/or M.B.A. training in this respect! Pressures to “get the deal done” by our business and engineering clients, as well as the corporate lawyers who may be supporting the deal and always think it’s a good idea, result in IP law practitioners’ capitulation into drafting joint IP ownership clauses. We should have learned long ago, however, that while splitting the baby (i.e., joint IP ownership in this case) may sound “fair” and give us psychological comfort, in reality it is usually undesirable, unwieldy and perhaps unworkable.

‘Y’ Patent on Presidents Day? Jefferson’s Revenge

Under President Jackson America rebooted the patent system and started numbering patents from 01. The prior patents under the Jeffersonian registration system were re-designated with the letter X. Since the American Invents Act (AIA) in 2011, we now have a Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) within the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This PTAB has the authority to hold administrative trials for the purpose of stripping property rights from patent owners. Perhaps we should once again re-designate all issued patents, this time with the letter “Y” after they survive what is essentially a de novo redo by the PTO. Why “Y”? “Y bother to patent anymore”? Or perhaps “Y bother to spend the time and money for a lengthy and onerous examination process that seems to mean nothing”?

Modelling the value of a strategic patent portfolio for high-tech companies

A well-developed patent portfolio offers you the ability to defend your R&D investments against competitors, creates freedom to move into new markets, deters corporate asserters and can eliminate licensing fees. How do you produce such a portfolio? Start by identifying potential threats, then balancing reasonable patent portfolio investment with revenue retention, and finally calculating your risks. This post presents an approach for modelling the value of a strategic patent portfolio for companies in the high-tech market (eg, cloud computing, semiconductors, mobile and networking). The biotech and chemical models are similar, but require modification for their specific patent risk challenges.

UN Panel on Access to Medicines Should Ensure Innovation by Preserving Market Incentives

The dilemma for developing countries is primarily a function of two things: lack of access to existing medicines and absence of innovation on the treatments and cures that are needed. Admittedly each of these can be linked to intellectual property rights, but poverty is at the heart of both issues. Fundamentally, drugs are not available because there is no market for them and the necessary market incentives are absent. To facilitate innovation, especially on ‘diseases of poverty’ the UN and member states need to commit to cultivating market incentives and removing obstacles.

The Patent Office should establish a more systematic approach to Alice-based 101 examination

Addressing the problem would be responsive to the overwhelming bulk of commenters who expressed opinions on the PTO’s most recent July 2015 Update on Subject Matter Eligibility (Section 101), who have agreed that the PTO has been applying Alice too vigorously and has been making more rejections than warranted, and that the excess rejections are reflected in the statistics. Examiners would welcome such efforts, because they would better know whether and when to make Alice-type abstract idea rejections under Section 101, in contrast with current guidance, which allow them to find reasons to make such rejections in virtually all cases. A more systematic approach to consideration of such rejections might look like this…

Federal Circuit Reiterates High Standard for Prosecution History Disclaimer

In a January 29, 2016 decision, the Federal Circuit vacated a jury judgment of non-infringement and ordered the District of Delaware to conduct a new trial where construction of a claim term based on prosecution history disclaimer was found to be too narrow. In rejecting the district court’s construction as too limiting, the Court emphasized the high standard for finding prosecution history disclaimer of claim scope. Examining the two prosecution history passages said to be a disclaimer, the Court found that each was readily susceptible to a narrower reading than the one needed to support the district court’s conclusion.

CAFC Dismisses Inter Partes Reexamination Appeal By a Party Who was Not Initial Requester

Waters argued that Agilent could not appeal, because Aurora was the third-party requester of the reexamination, not Agilent. The Court held that the relevant question was whether Agilent was a member of a class of litigants that may enforce a legislatively created right under 35 U.S. C. § 141 (reexamination appeals). If so, that party has a ‘cause of action’ under the statute, and this cause of action was a necessary element of his ‘claim.’ See Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 239 (1979). The Court held that both 35 U.S. C. § 141 and 35 U.S. C. § 315(b) confirm that the right to appeal an adverse reexamination decision is reserved only to patent owners and third-party requesters.

Partner-up: Risk-sharing provides patent holders better monetization opportunities

Lenders and investors like Gerchen Keller and Fortress, among others, have provided capital to or are partnering with private and public NPEs. These business are well suited to assessing market conditions, especially value, and calculating risk for given rights in a specific industry. That they are still willing to fund activities and co-invest in this climate is a testament to the durability of good patents. Also, there is some expectation that we are at or near bottom, and that there are more opportunities now.

Beware the Ides of March: How Surrogates Will Set Patent Policy

In 2008 the surrogates did at least increase the emphasis on having some form of post grant challenge procedure in the bill that would pass Congress and be signed into law. Their work began to surface in March 2008 by way of surrogates speaking at public and private events focused on innovation related issues. While the campaigns today may not spend many bytes on patent policy soon enough surrogates will be convening at events around the country to discuss innovation policies. If innovation policies or broader tech issues matter the time to get involved is now. As the field of candidates continues to narrow it will become increasingly more difficult, and more costly, to influence policy.

Why Trump’s love of eminent domain should concern patent owners

Donald Trump argued at the New Hampshire debate that our nation’s infrastructure would not happen without eminent domain. While economic development as a justification for eminent domain has been severely criticized, there does not seem to be a similar criticism associated with stripping property rights from patent owners in order to allow technology adopting infringers to distribute what they did not themselves innovate without paying the property owner for the privilege.

The 2015 Brokered Patent Market: A Good Year to be a Buyer

If you were buying patents in 2015, you likely did better than any previous year. The patent market, and, in particular, the brokered patent market, continues to be a robust market for buying and selling patents. Prices are down unless an EOU is available. Sales rates are up, and sales are tending to happen earlier. Caselaw impacted the market but not as much as you might have expected (Alice impacted fintech patents much more than software patents). With an estimated $233M in patent sales, we think the patent market will continue to provide interesting opportunities for both patent buyers and sellers.

The USPTO harms the economy with over-aggressive, haphazard Alice-based 101 rejections

It is poor patent policy to have broad areas of technology deemed patent-ineligible entirely, or ineligible without the high cost of attorney time to argue, and likely appeal, amorphous Alice-type rejections. This is particularly so as to technology that is central to the United States economy. Invention is central to U.S. economic might, and as our economy moves away from the “old line” manufacturing strength of the past, the U.S. has become especially strong in fields dependent on software technology and business methods. Strengths of the current U.S. economy include social media, the Internet, and the service economy, especially financial services. We are also strong in biotech. Yet those are precisely the fields most heavily damaged by Section 101 Alice-type rejections.