This week in Other Barks & Bites: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) extends its Climate Change Mitigation program until 2027; the Unitary Patent System and accompanying Unitary Patent Court launches in Europe; the Supreme Court again denies an opportunity to review 35 U.S.C. § 101.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Accountability, James Comer (R-KY), announced an investigation this week into accusations raised by former Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioner Christine Wilson in her resignation against the conduct of FTC Chair Lina Khan. Wilson sent a letter to President Joe Biden in March claiming that his appointment of Khan as Chair brought “an abrupt halt” to Biden’s promised “return to normalcy” for the agency. She said that Khan “scorned and sidelined” knowledgeable career staff, in part by imposing a gag order on staff “that prevented them from engaging in consumer and business education — a vote of no confidence in our staff and a disservice to those we serve.”
Former Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Andrei Iancu, who is now a partner with Irell & Manella, told attendees of an Orrin G. Hatch Foundation webinar today that many of the proposals in the USPTO’s recent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) practices should be legislated by Congress. Particularly on issues that were statutorily prescribed, such as the standard patents are reviewed under at the PTAB versus the courts, the timing for filing petitions, and who can bring an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding, Iancu said the better route to certainty is through Congress.
In my previous article, I made a modest proposal for improving one aspect of patent examination by requiring applicants to identify support in the specification for new and amended claims. That suggestion was premised on my firm conviction – based on 34 years at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in roles ranging from examiner to Commissioner for Patents – that we must improve the quality of examination if we want the United States to remain on a par with patent offices in other leading jurisdictions such as Europe, Japan and China. I believe that the best, and perhaps only, way to do this is to move toward viewing examination less as an adversarial process and as more of a shared responsibility in which applicants work in partnership with examiners to improve examination. Continuing with that theme, I would suggest that the current fee-adjustment process presents another opportunity for applicants and the Office to work together to improve examination and strengthen our nation’s patent system.
The Unified Patent Court (UPC) is now a reality. The Court opens its doors tomorrow, June 1, 2023. In the past four articles, we have aimed to dispel myths about some of the key aspects of the UPC. Part 1 focused on the designated UPC judges, Part 2 on the timelines, Part 3 on the remedies that are available at the UPC and finally Part 4 on the financial aspects of the UPC. These articles illustrated that the UPC will become a success story, since there are simply no good reasons not to engage with the Court. This final installment to the series will provide five predictions about how the UPC will operate. We’ll review in 12 months where our peek into the crystal ball got it right, and where it missed the mark.
Last week, retired U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) Chief Judge Paul Michel and law professor John F. Duffy filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of CareDx, Inc. and the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. The company and university are asking the Supreme Court to review a 2022 decision invalidating claims of its patents directed to detection levels of donor cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in the blood of an organ transplant patient. In the amicus brief, Michel and Duffy wrote, “this case concerns [us] because it represents a continuing trend of uncertainty and inconsistency in patent-eligibility jurisprudence…The outcome undermines the innovation promoting goals of U.S. patent law.”
One of the most intriguing, and frankly long overdue, reforms the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) needs to consider is putting an end to the practice of for-profit entities like Unified Patents and RPX filing petitions challenging a patent. This practice has recently been called into question by the USPTO through an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) published in the Federal Register. The ANPRM, among many other things, raises the question whether the Office should discretionarily deny post grant proceedings filed by for-profit, non-competitive entities that in essence seek to shield actual real-parties-in-interest (RPIs) and privies from the statutory estoppel provisions contained within the America Invents Act (AIA). And two recent decisions from the Office of Patent Legal Administration (OPLA) provide even more hope that the USPTO will take a reasonable approach going forward when it comes to RPIs.
The European Commission (EC) is at it again, threatening to regulate standard essential patent (SEP) licensing relationships, despite a lack of evidence that such regulation is appropriate. The economically harmful nature of this regulatory framework (and its prior draft) has been highlighted by many expert commentators, including contributors to IPWatchdog (see here, here, and here) and Truth on the Market (see here and here). Fortunately, the EC’s proposed regulatory framework is still open for public comments. Mindful of that opportunity, on May 23, Mercatus Center scholars Christine McDaniel, Satya Marar, and I filed a public interest submission with the European Commission, focusing on three sets of problems posed by the framework. I summarize our submission below.
On April 3, 2023, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) issued much needed guidance on how digital goods and services – namely non-fungible tokens (NFTs), virtual goods, and services provided in the metaverse – should be classified for trademark purposes. NFTs The UKIPO defines an NFT as “a unique unit of data (the only one existing of its type) that…
This week in Other Barks & Bites: The USPTO releases a blog post detailing the success of its Patent Pro Bono Program and announces a proposed pilot for micro entity applicants; NBA superstar LeBron James puts his weight behind Taco Bell in its battle to cancel the “Taco Tuesday” trademark; and Gilead and Teva sign a deal with pharmacies to avoid an antitrust suit.
In response to last week’s hearing of the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on copyright law, former Copyright Office General Counsel, Jon Baumgarten, submitted a letter this week to the Subcommittee expressing his concerns with the testimony of one of the witnesses, Sy Damle of Latham & Watkins, who also formerly served as U.S. Copyright Office General Counsel. The letter was published in full on the Copyright Alliance website.
The U.S. Solicitor General recommended Tuesday that the United States Supreme Court deny Apple, Inc.’s petition asking the Court to clarify the proper application of estoppel in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings. The case stems from a February, 2022, decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) in which the court issued a mixed precedential decision that affirmed, vacated, and remanded in part a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. That ruling related to a patent infringement suit filed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) against Broadcom Limited, Broadcom Corporation, and Avago Technologies (collectively “Broadcom) and Apple Inc. concerning Caltech’s U.S. Patent 7,116,710 (‘710 patent), U.S. Patent 7,421,032 (‘032 patent), and U.S. Patent 7,916,781 (‘781 patent).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) ruled in a precedential decision today that Medtronic, Inc. failed to show the challenged claims of five patents covering catheter technology unpatentable. The CAFC specifically upheld the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB’s) finding that the primary prior art reference cited by Medtronic did not qualify as prior art under pre-America Invents Act (AIA) first-to-invent provisions. Judge Dyk dissented, arguing that the prior art reference had been shown to qualify as prior art, and thus could support a determination of anticipation or obviousness.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued a precedential decision affirming a district court ruling that denied attorney fees to oil drilling equipment company, FMC Technologies. OneSubsea, a competitor in the offshore oil extraction industry, originally sued FMC for patent infringement in 2015; FMC subsequently countersued. At the heart of the patent infringement dispute was whether fluid flows through FMS’s device, as in the OneSubsea patent.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) yesterday made public a Sanctions Order against a patent owner that resulted in the cancellation of all 183 claims of five patents challenged in separate inter partes review (IPR) proceedings. The PTAB order said that Longhorn Vaccines & Diagnostics “committed an egregious abuse of the PTAB process” by “selectively and improperly” withholding “material results that were inconsistent with its arguments and the patentability of both original and proposed substitute claims.”