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Daniel Hanson

was Senior In-House Patent Counsel for Huawei Canada and has worked with a number of law firms and corporations, including BlackBerry Ltd. in Canada. His practice focuses upon patent preparation and prosecution. The views expressed are his own.

Photo credit: Thanks to Rod MacIvor

Recent Articles by Daniel Hanson

Saul v. Carr: The SCOTUS Social Security Decision Patent Practitioners Should Read

On April 22, 2021, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Carr v. Saul, which dealt with a constitutional Appointments Clause challenge to Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) under the Social Security Administration (SSA). In particular, the issue in Carr was whether claimants for disability benefits had forfeited their Appointments Clause challenges by failing to raise those constitutional challenges before the agency. The Supreme Court has now ruled that the claimants’ challenges were not forfeited. The decision favoring the claimants was unanimous, although the Court was not quite unanimous on the legal bases for the ruling. The question to be addressed in this essay is what effect, if any, Carr has on practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO); and in particular, whether constitutional challenges must be raised before the agency lest those challenges be forfeited.

Pardon Me, But What Is the Point of Deciding Whether or Not a Reference ‘Teaches Away’?

“Teaching away” is a concept important to obviousness analysis under U.S. patent law. “Teaching away” basically bears upon the issue of motivation to combine elements in a manner set out by a patent claim, and such motivation is relevant to obviousness analysis but not to anticipation analysis: would one skilled in the art have had reason (or motivation) to put the known elements in the arrangement that the inventor has claimed? In a sense, “teaching away” is an anti-motivation, as it weighs against such an arrangement…. The question I propose to address is: Does the jurisprudence concerning “teaching away”—particularly the jurisprudence pertaining to whether a reference does or does not “teach away”—make any sense? And if not, what ought to replace it?

Conventional Patent Wisdom Revisited

The time is upon us when young patent professionals, many of them fresh out of law school (or out of engineering school) begin their professional lives as patent prosecutors. These new members to our profession quite naturally look to senior patent professionals for practical guidance. The guidance often is in the form of adages that form the Conventional Wisdom of patent prosecution. Much of this Conventional Wisdom, as it turns out, is often not very practical and some of it is not all that wise. In most cases, the Conventional Wisdom is not exactly wrong; it’s just that there may be other ways of doing things that may be more practical or effective for a particular practitioner. I’m going to talk about some pieces of Conventional Wisdom that I received that turned out to be, well, not-all-that-helpful advice. I will share what advice I would offer in its place.

Focusing on the Details: What Two Recent USPTO Matters Can Teach Us About Patentability Analyses

Two matters currently pending before the United States Patent and Trademark Office illustrate the consequences of focusing upon details of a claim rather than upon the claimed subject matter as a whole. Looked at superficially, the decisions may be consistent with the law and supported by substantial evidence; but are they, really?

‘Now We Know’ – Lessons in Preserving Constitutional Error Before the USPTO

In 2019, the issue of preservation of constitutional arguments before the USPTO, which had basically been dormant for a decade, was abruptly and dramatically revived. Now the subject of whether constitutional arguments generally ought to be preserved before the agency is settled, at least for the time being. Constitutional arguments should ordinarily be preserved before the agency; otherwise those constitutional arguments might be summarily deemed forfeited on appeal.

TQ Delta Reminds Me: May We Dispense with the Puzzle Simile?

In KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007), the United States Supreme Court discussed legal principles of obviousness in the patent context. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Court: “Common sense teaches, however, that familiar items may have obvious uses beyond their primary purposes, and in many cases a person of ordinary skill will be able to fit the teachings of multiple patents together like pieces of a puzzle.” This simile, comparing obviousness analysis to the fitting together of pieces of a puzzle, has been referenced and quoted by a number of trial and appellate courts. Expert witnesses have used it in their testimonies. It also appears twice in the current Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP). With due respect to former Justice Kennedy, may we dispense with this terrible analogy? Although it has at least one redeeming aspect, the puzzle simile does more to confuse than to enlighten.

Proving a Negative Claim Limitation: A Tale of Three Nonprecedential Cases

In the past 10 months, the issue of proving negative claim limitations has cropped up on appeals to the Federal Circuit. At least three panels of the Federal Circuit have addressed the issue, to one degree or another. Each panel has contributed, to some extent, to an understanding of the law. In dealing with the issue, each panel cited no precedent for doing so. Curiously, all three decisions were designated as nonprecedential. The negative claim limitations issue is one that is almost certain to recur. Perhaps the next time the issue comes up, the decision ought to be precedential, and therefore, binding.

Are All Safety-Related Inventions Obvious After Celgene?

The case of Celgene Corp. v. Peter, Nos. 2018-1167 et al. (Fed. Cir. July 30, 2019) has drawn attention for its decision that inter partes review (IPR) may be applied to invalidate pre-AIA patents without running afoul of the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition of taking property without just compensation. Matthew Rizzolo and Kathryn Thornton, among others, have addressed the constitutional aspects of the decision. I will address the lesser issues decided by the Federal Circuit panel before it could reach those constitutional aspects. In particular, the Federal Circuit panel upheld the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB’s) conclusion that the claims in question were obvious. And, perhaps focusing upon the sparkling constitutional issue, the panel first had to address the mundane issues of obviousness; and in disposing of the obviousness issues, the panel set forth an analysis that is unclear at best and is in its present form arguably inconsistent with precedent and public policy.