Panelists at IPWatchdog’s Artificial Intelligence Masters Program today debated how artificial intelligence (AI) interacts with intellectual property protection, and how laws around who (or what) can be an inventor or creator, as well as areas like patent eligibility, will need to evolve to ensure the continued “gold standard” status of the U.S. IP system. Attorneys working on some of the biggest cases in the AI space today took part in day one of AI Masters, including Professor Ryan Abbott, who is representing Stephen Thaler in his myriad of cases involving the AI machine, DABUS, both in the United States and elsewhere, and Van Lindberg, who represented Kristina Kashtanova in their recent bid to copyright a partially AI-generated graphic novel.
In a precedential decision published Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) decision to invalidate a pharmaceutical patent owned by the University of Minnesota. Gilead Sciences filed an inter partes review (IPR) in 2017 challenging the claims of the university’s U.S. Patent 8,815,830 as unpatentable. The ‘830 patent covers chemical compounds that prevent the reproduction of viruses or the growth of cancerous tumors. The PTAB found that the University of Minnesota failed to provide a sufficient written description that supported the patent’s priority claim. The Board thus concluded that the patent would not guide a skilled artisan to the patent’s claims. The CAFC agreed with the PTAB’s decision and with the ruling that a 2010 patent application publication filed by Gilead was “prior art” over the university’s patent.
Patents essential to standards are surrounded by discussion, dispute and litigation. A key focus of this activity is how to decide on what is a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) rate for using standard-essential patents (SEPs), and arrive at a number that both licensor and licensee can accept. In other words, we need a “path to success”. To accomplish this, I think what is needed first is a good method or approach to doing the calculation of a rate, a method which both parties can agree on. Once the parties have agreed on how to calculate, the licensing negotiations will likely be streamlined and there might be an easier and speedier path to success.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) on Monday granted Patent Quality Assurance’s (PQA’s) motion to dismiss its January 24 petition for a writ of mandamus asking the CAFC to restore it as a party to its high-profile inter partes review (IPR) proceeding against VLSI Technology. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal in December 2022 ruled that PQA abused the IPR process by filing an IPR and threatening to join a separate IPR against VLSI in order to receive a payout from the technology firm. She also found that PQA misrepresented an “exclusive engagement” with a witness, Dr. Adit Singh, who was involved in another IPR petition against VLSI brought by OpenSky. She sanctioned PQA by dismissing it from the proceeding and said that, “though the behavior here may not be as egregious as that of OpenSky… I find that PQA’s behavior, nonetheless, amounts to an abuse of process.”
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) ruled on March 1 that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) erred in its analysis of an inter partes review (IPR) filed by streaming giants Netflix and Hulu. The CAFC vacated and remanded the case, ordering the PTAB to once again review the patent dispute filed against DivX. “Because the Board legally erred in its obviousness analysis, and the error cannot be regarded as harmless, we vacate and remand,” wrote the CAFC judges in their ruling. Netflix and Hulu petitioned the PTAB to carry out an IPR in February 2020 of DivX’s U.S. Patent No. 10,225,588. The petition claimed the ‘588 patent was unpatentable due to obviousness.
Patent filings continue to be slightly depressed in the district courts and at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) compared to the highs of last year, with 17 new PTAB cases and 38 new district court filings. New filings consist primarily of a few apparently funded cases—a Fortress entity, for instance, sued Amazon, and a Taiwanese entity with no Internet presence has sued Apple and Samsung on wireless charging patents, with some new Jeff Gross entity filings, a slew of Dynapass filings, and some other banking campaigns picking up steam; at the Board, most of the fillings revolved around existing campaigns Robocast and Daedalus Prime, as detailed below. Ericsson continued with challenging some Phillips patents; and there’s even a funder, Element Capital, who has been hit by inter partes reviews (IPRs) after suing in their own name (via a Singapore subsidiary, against Chinese subsidiaries of other companies, including Motorola).
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal today issued a second Director Review decision correcting the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) on its approach to the “compelling merits” analysis outlined in her June 2022 Guidance Memo. In AviaGames, Inc. v. Skillz Platform, Inc., IPR2022-00530, Vidal vacated the PTAB’s denial of AviaGames’ petition to institute IPR of certain claims of Skillz’s U.S. Patent 9,479,602 B1. She explained that the Board’s determination to deny the petition following a Fintiv analysis was improperly based on the district court’s judgment of invalidity under 35 U.S.C. § 101, since that is “a statutory ground that could not have been raised before the Board” and “does not raise concerns of inefficient duplication of efforts or potentially inconsistent results between the Board and the district court.”
The People’s Vaccine Alliance released comments this week on a draft of a pandemic accord currently being considered during the fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) at the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization criticized the draft for lacking strong language that would obligate WHO member parties to share knowledge and intellectual property during a pandemic. The Zero Draft is being discussed at the INB meeting from February 27-March 3, and the organization will later decide if it will be the basis of negotiation for the pandemic prevention accord. After the fourth meeting, the INB will hold another meeting from April 3-6, and it will report on developments around the accord in May, at the 76th World Health Assembly. The People’s Vaccine Alliance saw some positives in the Zero Draft; however, the group asked for more concrete language on the issue of intellectual property rights, among other topics.
The United States Supreme Court is soon poised to decide the fate of the enablement requirement, and the patent community is collectively holding its breath, wondering if the Court will strike a deathblow to the biopharmaceutical industry—simultaneously making all patents harder to get and even easier to challenge than they already are. The Supreme Court does not have a strong track record of objectively getting patent issues correct, at least not from a pro-innovation standpoint, although the Justices and their supporters likely would disagree. The undeniable truth, however, is that since the Supreme Court issued its decision in eBay v. MercExchange, virtually every decision of consequence to the patent system has made patent rights weaker and patents themselves easier to successfully challenge.
A manufacturer of Radio Frequency Identification Device transponders (RFIDs), Avery Dennison Corporation, yesterday petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to grant certiorari in its appeal of a decision upholding ADASA, Inc.’s patent for RFID technology as patent eligible. Avery Dennison is urging the Court to take up the case, which it says “illustrates the depths of the Federal Circuit’s division” and represents “the other side of the coin” in the eligibility debate, in order to balance competing perspectives. While past and present petitions to the Court on eligibility have traditionally focused on uncertainty due to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s (CAFC’s) too-narrow view of the law and tendency to invalidate patents under Section 101, Avery Dennison’s petition takes the view that the Federal Circuit’s reading of 101 is too broad.
The United States Supreme Court is set to hear opening arguments in Amgen Inc. v. Sanofi on March 27. This is a case that could have profound impacts both on the invention enablement issues that have been plaguing life science patenting, but also more broadly on defining the contemporary role that the patent system will play in our innovation economy going forward. Specifically at issue will be the question of what genus claims require from an enablement perspective. Will the enablement standard be governed by the black and white, codified Section 112 statutory requirement that the specification must only teach those skilled in the art how to “make and use” the claimed invention? Or will the Supreme Court lean on lower court-based additions to the standard that the specification must enable those skilled in the art “to reach the full scope of claimed embodiments” without undue experimentation?
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal yesterday issued a precedential Director Review decision clarifying that her June 2022 “compelling merits” memo was not meant to replace the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB’s) analysis under Apple Inc. v. Fintiv, Inc. In IPR2022-01242, the PTAB instituted inter partes review (IPR) without exercising its discretion under 35 U.S.C. § 314(a), citing Vidal’s “Interim Procedure for Discretionary Denials in AIA Post-Grant Proceedings with Parallel District Court Litigation.” In that memo, Vidal said that the PTAB “will not deny institution of an IPR or PGR under Fintiv (i) when a petition presents compelling evidence of unpatentability; (ii) when a request for denial under Fintiv is based on a parallel ITC proceeding; or (iii) where a petitioner stipulates not to pursue in a parallel district court proceeding the same grounds as in the petition or any grounds that could have reasonably been raised in the petition.”
I attended the hearing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) in Maalouf v. Microsoft on Monday February 6, 2023, and the CAFC issued its opinion in the case this past Thursday. This case has curious origins. Through his company Dareltech, Ramzi Khalil Maalouf, a Lebanese immigrant and U.S. citizen, sued Xiaomi, a Chinese multinational corporation, for patent infringement in New York. The case was dismissed without prejudice because Xiaomi was found not to have a physical presence in New York, notwithstanding their proven secret office. Later, Microsoft, naming Xiaomi as the real party in interest, filed an Inter Partes Review (IPR) with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). In other words, a U.S. Big Tech multinational acted on behalf of a China-controlled multinational to invalidate the patents of a small American inventor, thus clearing the way into the U.S. market for the China-controlled multinational.
On February 24, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a notice in the Federal Register indicating that the nation’s patent agency was reopening the comment period related to its request for comments (RFC) on collaboration initiatives with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Previously closed on February 6, the comment period on USPTO-FDA collaboration initiatives is now extended until March 10. The reason stated in the Federal Register notice for reopening and extending this comment period is to “ensure that all stakeholders have a sufficient opportunity to submit comments on the questions presented” in the agency’s RFC on ways that the two agencies could cooperate to improve market entry of generic drugs and biosimilars, and to reduce the number of patent grants related to certain drugs. The reopening of the comment period comes a few weeks after the USPTO also reopened and extended the deadline for responding to the agency’s RFC on ensuring robust and reliable patent rights. As reported at that time, while it’s understandable that the agency is interested in hearing from as many stakeholders as possible, some have said the extensions are creating uncertainty as to which stakeholders are being given more time to prepare their full comments for submission.
A number of amici weighed in this week on Novartis Pharmaceuticals’ petition to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Justices to consider whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) should have been allowed to vacate the decision of a previous three-judge panel composed of different judges, thus invalidating Novartis’ patent for a dosing regimen for its multiple sclerosis drug, Gilenya. In January of this year, Novartis followed through on its September 2022 promise that it would appeal the CAFC’s June 2022 decision invalidating its U.S. Patent No. 9,187,405 to the Supreme Court, after the CAFC denied its request to rehear the case.