Three amici filed briefs last week in Jump Rope System’s petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) decision upholding a Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) finding of unpatentability. Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund and the Fair Inventing Fund filed briefs in support of the jump rope company while DivX filed in support of neither party .
Jump Rope Systems, the inventor of a novel jump rope system, is petitioning the Supreme Court to clarify “whether, as a matter of federal patent law, a determination of unpatentability by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in an inter partes review proceeding, affirmed by the Federal Circuit, has a collateral estoppel effect on patent validity in a patent infringement lawsuit in federal district court.”
Earlier this month, IP diversity advocacy group Invent Together announced that it had launched an online learning platform known as The Inventor’s Patent Academy (TIPA), an e-learning course designed in collaboration with Qualcomm to educate inventors from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds about the benefits of engaging with the U.S. patent system. This online academy is the latest of several efforts by Congress and patent system stakeholders in recent years to unlock the innovative potential of women, people of color, LGBTQIA, and low-income inventors to benefit the U.S. economy.
On June 7, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Director’s Blog published a post authored by USPTO Director Kathi Vidal announcing that the agency is now receiving applications from inventors seeking free legal assistance to bring ex parte appeals of patent examiner rejections to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). While Vidal’s announcement is certainly welcome news to many inventors who are in financial need, it fails to address larger issues faced by inventors at the PTAB that have been voiced by members of Congress and the inventor community alike in recent months.
On Wednesday, May 25, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal and a panel of academics from Silicon Valley participated in a 90-minute, live Q&A webinar regarding the state of the USPTO. I attended virtually. I am a five-time world jump rope champion and the only jump roper to design and patent a jump rope handle technology. I was granted my two patents (US 7,789,809 B2 and US 8,136.208 B2) in 2010/2012. I started my jump rope manufacturing business, JumpNrope, in 2010 here in Louisville, Colorado. I am proud to also say that I source all my jump rope parts and pieces from U.S. vendors. We make all our jump ropes by hand in Colorado. My technology not only changed the sport of jump rope by offering a precision speed jump rope handle, but it also changed the fitness industry. To date, hundreds of companies have infringed on my patent, including Rogue Fitness, the largest fitness distributor for CrossFit and Strongman. As detailed in my case, I believe that Rogue has willfully infringed on my patent since 2012 by selling tens of millions of dollars’ worth of infringing jump ropes per year.
All things in Washington are driven by money, media and votes. If you can deliver one or more of those things, you will get the results you want. Engaging in politics with this in mind is key to fixing the broken patent system by passing HR 5874, the Restoring American Leadership in Innovation Act (RALIA). Since no mortal can compete with Big Tech’s big bucks and their control of social media, and the media in general, the only lever remaining is delivering votes back home, or more importantly, delivering those votes to candidates who commit to supporting HR 5874.
Thirty percent of respondents to a survey of applicants using the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Patent Pro Bono Program (PPBP) were African American or Black and 41% were female, according to the latest USPTO Director’s Blog. The demographic data were collected voluntarily in 2021from the 21 regional programs that administer the PPBP as part of the broader goal of diversifying the patent system. A 2019 USPTO study found that only 12.8% of all inventors named on U.S. patents are women, while a Harvard study said that white individuals are three times more likely to invent than Black individuals.
Senator Thom Tillis has come out on the record in support of Kathi Vidal to be the next Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), on the eve of a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on her confirmation. Despite recent scrutiny of her ties to big tech and Silicon Valley, Tillis in a statement today said that he was satisfied with Vidal’s responses to his “tough questions” during the confirmation hearing process and feels he has received her commitment that she will continue the reforms implemented by former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu.
The question that we receive most frequently from inventors, usually independent inventors, relates to whether a provisional patent application can be refiled with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Before giving the correct answer, it is critically important for everyone to understand that if a provisional patent application is refiled it may become impossible for a patent to ever be obtained, period. Can a provisional patent application be refiled? The short, easy answer to the question is yes, of course you can refile the provisional application. The USPTO will be happy to have you refile the application, take your filing fee, and send you a new filing receipt. The problem for you, as an inventor, however, is the consequence of refiling a provisional application. So, while it may be very easy to do, and seem like you’ve just extended the life of your original provisional application, that is precisely NOT what has happened, and you may have – indeed likely have – made it impossible to ever obtain a patent anywhere in the world.
Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) on November 5 introduced a bill, titled the Restoring America’s Leadership in Innovation Act of 2021 (RALIA), HR 5874, that would repeal the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), return the patent system to a “first-to-invent” model, rather than first-to-file, and would end automatic publication of patents. Inventor groups such as US Inventor and conservative groups are supporting the legislation.
In a letter provided last week to members of the National Council for Expanding American Innovation (NCEAI), Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced her role as Chair of the Council for Inclusive Innovation (CI2). I congratulate the Secretary for this extremely important role. Innovation should have no barriers, and both of these—a) innovation and b) the breaking down of unjust barriers—stand at the root of America’s success and identity. To aid the CI2 and all who create and execute innovation policy in our government, underrepresented inventors have an unresolved ask, and it involves breaking down a barrier identified by the very people who the CI2 and Congress desire to help. That ask is this: remedy the inventor’s second prong.
The 2022 class of inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF), announced earlier this week, includes the inventors of the foundational technology for messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)-based vaccines, the Super Soaker, and Laserphaco cataract surgery. In all, 29 inductees will be honored at the Annual National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on May 5 of next year. Twenty-two of these inventors were announced in 2020.
Earlier today, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Ranking Member and Chair of the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee, introduced a pair of bipartisan bills that the Senators say are aimed at improving the participation Americans from all backgrounds in the patent system and ensuring that the public knows the true owners of patents. If enacted, the Unleashing American Innovators Act (UAIA) would require the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to establish another satellite office within three years somewhere in the Southeastern region of the nation, which the bill specifically defines as Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Of course, given that the main campus of the USPTO is located in Alexandria, Virginia, it would seem unlikely that Virginia would be the final destination of any Southeast Region satellite office. The UAIA would also require the Director to determine within two years whether any additional regional satellite offices are necessary to— in the words of the bill— “achieve the purposes described in section 24 23(b) of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act… and increase participation in the patent system by women, people of color, veterans, individual inventors, or members of any other demographic, geographic, or economic group that the Director may determine to be underrepresented in patent filings.”
Now that the 10th anniversary of the America Invents Act (AIA) has passed, we can look back not only at the past decade, but also the reactions of various interested parties and how they responded to that anniversary. There were two revolutionary amendments to U.S. patent laws enacted on September 16, 2011; one relating to the U.S. changing from first-to-invent to first-to-file, the other relating to the creation of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and three new procedural mechanisms to invalidate issued patents. While from a philosophical and practical point of view, the change from first-to-invent to first-to-file had the largest impact on patent practice, it has essentially become a footnote in patent history. Yes, the United States had a bizarre system that allowed the second filer in some instances (i.e., the first to invent) to obtain a patent over the first-to-file, but that almost never happened. And now, the United States has a strange, hybrid first-to-file system that still theoretically allows the first-to-invent to prevail in even rarer circumstances, but that change became easily baked into the system, because overwhelmingly, the first-to-invent did file first. The real story of the change to first-to-file is that much more is now prior art, including foreign filed applications as of their foreign filing date, typically, which continues the theme of the last 15+ years of making it harder to obtain and keep patent rights in the United States.
In March of this year, a bipartisan group of senators asked Drew Hirshfeld, who is Performing the functions and duties of the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to “publish a request for information on the current state of patent eligibility jurisprudence in the United States, evaluate the responses,” and provide the senators with a detailed summary of the findings in order to assist them as they consider appropriate legislative action. The letter gave a deadline of March 5, 2022 to submit a report on the topic. Now, a Federal Register Notice (FRN) scheduled to be published July 9 is requesting answers and input from stakeholders to 13 questions/topics to assist in that effort, according to a publicly posted draft of the FRN.
On May 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, holding that requests for information by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to an individual are exempt from the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). Gilbert P. Hyatt is the named inventor on hundreds of inter-related patent applications that encompass over 100,000 claims. See Generally Hyatt v. U.S. Pat. & Trademark Off., 797 F.3d 1377 (Fed Cir. 2015). Both Hyatt and the American Association for Equitable Treatment (AAET) contend that patent applicants should not have to comply with certain USPTO rules because, they allege, the USPTO is violating the PRA.