Kenneth Hartmann Harrity Team

Technical Details are Needed to Avoid Patent Eligibility Issues for Patent Applications

By Kenneth Hartmann, Associate

Many patent practitioners have likely found success in overcoming and/or avoiding 35 USC §101 rejections since the USPTO’s Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance was released last January.  However, the Federal Circuit (“the court”) recently made it clear that continued attention and care should be given when drafting patent applications focused on payment systems and/or payment processing.

In Innovation Sciences, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc. 2018-1495 (Fed. Cir. Jul. 2, 2019) (“Innovation Sciences v. Amazon”) the court determined that a claim to an “online method for a payment server to support online buying over the Internet” in U.S. Reissue Patent No. 46,140 (the ’140 patent) was ineligible under Step 2 of Alice.  More specifically, the court agreed with the district court that the claim was directed to the abstract idea of “securely processing a credit card transaction with a payment server” and that the claim lacked an inventive step, stating that the transmission of credit card payment information through the completion of a purchase are the same as those used in a “conventional Internet transaction system having adequate credit card information security” as admitted in the specification of the ’140 patent.

While Innovation Sciences argued that a “wherein” clause indicating the process involved a switch from a server with less security to a server with more security, the court held that that claim is directed to the abstract idea of “switching.”  The court further mentioned that the claim seeks to capture the broad concept of switching to a more secure server, rather than a “specific way of doing so.”  For Step 1 of the Alice test, the court indicated that the claim may have avoided being directed to an abstract idea if the claim and/or specification had indicated a specific way of carrying out the switch from a less secure server to a more secure server.

Patent applications directed to payments or other financial related processes will likely continue to receive the highest level of scrutiny with respect to patent eligibility due to the Alice decision being based on a financial/business method patent application.  The fact is, many of these patent applications and/or patents likely involve novel technical features, communications, and/or processes that were overlooked and/or not considered when the patent application was drafted.  In Innovation Sciences v. Amazon, the court specifically referred to a lack of detail with respect to switching between a less secure server and a more secure server.  In fact, the word “switched” is mentioned only ONCE in the specification and ONCE in a flowchart.  It is no wonder that the court found Innovation Science’s arguments regarding the switch between servers to be futile.

The ’140 patent claims priority to a patent application filed back in April 2000.  That was obviously a different era of patent preparation and prosecution.  Today, patent practitioners should consider and outline the technical aspects of processes (especially business method processes) without taking for granted that one or more steps of the process are inventive, in and of, themselves.  Clearly, the switch between servers, considered to be one step in the overall process for performing an online method for a payment server, involved its own processes and/or steps.  How/when was the decision made to switch the servers?  What parameters were used to select the new server?  How were those parameters analyzed to make the selection? What types of communications (and/or how many) were needed to perform the switch?  Again, it was a different era of drafting patent applications in 2000.  However, if the patent application drafter was able to predict the future, those are just a few example questions that, if answered in the claim and/or specification, would have improved Innovation Sciences’ case for patent eligibility.  Moreover, to have the best chances of success, patent drafters should continue to discuss the technical problems solved by these processes (and/or by the steps of the processes) and any corresponding technical benefits.

Joseph Falkiewicz Harrity Team

How to Protect Your Client’s Reputation While Also Protecting Their Intellectual Property (IP)

By Joseph “Josh” Falkiewicz, Associate

An attorney that drafts a patent application must consider a multitude of issues to provide strong protection for a client’s IP. The patent application should be accurate from a technical standpoint while also satisfying statutory requirements of patentability (e.g., 35 USC §101, §102, §103, & §112). At the same time, the drafting attorney must also consider how the publication of the patent application or patent may impact the client’s reputation.

Journalists often misinterpret the publication of a patent as a statement by the client regarding its current actions or future intentions. This can cause problems with how people perceive the client if statements within the patent mischaracterize the client’s approach to sensitive issues, such as privacy. Therefore, the drafting attorney should write the patent application in a way that positively reflects – or at least avoids negative reflection – on the client.

For example, a patent describing steps for obtaining and storing personal information of individuals might raise a variety of privacy concerns. Therefore, the drafting attorney should also include, as part of the written description, statements explaining that implementations described in the patent are compliant with privacy laws of one or more jurisdictions, that the personal information is collected only after obtaining consent, that encryption is used to protect the security and/or integrity of the personal information, and/or the like. To provide a more specific example, if the disclosed subject matter involves capturing images or video of a particular area (e.g., a loading dock, an office, a home, and/or the like), the drafting attorney should include an example in the specification that illustrates how an individual would consent to being monitored, an example showing how the image data or video data is encrypted before being transmitted over a network, and/or the like.

Furthermore, the drafting attorney may want to include, in the written description, one or more additional examples that describe how the disclosed subject matter handles situations involving non-consenting individuals. For example, a camera or a drone may capture an image of a loading dock to verify whether a product has been delivered. What happens if an image of the loading dock also includes an image of a non-consenting individual that was walking by? By providing a thorough description of these situations in the patent application, the drafting attorney can help create a positive reputation of the client by illustrating that the client cares about privacy of its customers. This approach also reduces the likelihood of a skeptical or an antagonistic reader promoting negative press about the client based on the patent.

Recent Court Decisions Weigh in on Prior Art Standard in Patent Law

By Jonathan Goodman

Is a printed publication that predates a patent application always considered prior art?  Many may think that a reference published, and available to the public, prior to a patent application’s filing date is prior art.  While this is usually the case, recent court decisions have highlighted exceptions to this standard.

Courts Clarify What Constitutes Prior Art

In GoPro, Inc. v. Contour IP Holding LLC,  2017-1894, 2017-1936 (Fed. Cir. July 27, 2018) (“GoPro”), the Federal Circuit determined that a catalog distributed at a trade show open only to dealers of action sports vehicles was prior art to patents relating to action sports video cameras.  Particularly, the Court noted that the trade show’s focus on action sports vehicles did not preclude persons of ordinary skill in the art from attending because a primary purpose of action sports cameras is for use on action sports vehicles.

GoPro clarifies that a printed publication disclosed at a trade show is publicly accessible within the meaning of section 102 even if the trade show is not aimed at persons of ordinary skill in the relevant art.  While GoPro takes an expansive view, practitioners seeking to overcome a printed publication distributed at a trade show, conference, meeting, or similar gathering may still find success arguing that the printed publication was not publicly accessible when there is no credible reason that a person of ordinary skill in the relevant art would have been in attendance.  For example, a slight change to the facts in GoPro, such as the cameras at issue being used for portrait photography rather than action sports photography, may have persuaded the Court to find that the catalog was not publicly accessible.

In Acceleration Bay, LLC v. Activision Blizzard Inc., 2017-2084 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 6, 2018), the Federal Circuit found that an article published on a university website was not prior art to later-filed patents because the website only indexed articles by author and year, and lacked a reliable search function.  Specifically, the Court noted that the test for public accessibility is not whether a reference has been indexed, but whether the reference was indexed in a meaningful way that would permit a person of ordinary skill in the art to locate it.

It is worth noting that the university website at issue in Acceleration Bay was from 1999 and may have lacked competent search functionality that is now commonplace.  Moreover, today, articles published on a website likely would be keyword indexed by a search engine, thus making it difficult to argue against public accessibility regardless of the manner of indexing performed by the website.  Nevertheless, practitioners should be mindful that articles published on a website are not necessarily publicly accessible if it can be shown that no meaningful indexing of the article was performed.  In particular, if an article is not keyword indexed by the publishing website or a search engine—which may occur if the website prevents pages from being indexed by search engine crawlers—it may indicate that the article was not publicly accessible.

Key Takeaways

Although not every printed publication is considered prior art under Section 102, the growing ease with which nearly all printed material is easily accessible online makes that determination less and less likely.  Thus, when filing and prosecuting patent applications, practitioners should be wary of withholding references from the USPTO in reliance on prior art exceptions, such as those implied by GoPro and set forth in Acceleration Bay.

Harrity Womens Workshop 2019

Harrity & Harrity Holds its 2nd Annual Women’s Workshop

By Elaine Spector

Harrity & Harrity just completed its 2nd Annual Women’s Workshop.  The workshop is part of Harrity’s Diversity Initiative, whose Diversity Mission is to “promote and nurture a respectful, highly engaged, family friendly, and inclusive culture that values the diversity of our talented team with diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, skills/talents, and capabilities.”  Nine women, including recent law school graduates, current law students, and one research scientist with a Ph.D in electrical engineering, participated in a 3-day long workshop. The interactive programs included patent preparation and prosecution skills training, resume and interview preparation, and sessions with prominent women guest speakers in the intellectual property field.  The guest speakers ranged from IP partners at major law firms (both litigation and prosecution partners), former leaders at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Chief IP Counsel and IP Counsel at major corporations, and leaders within Diversity and Inclusion organizations.

The participants were particularly interested in how these women navigated their careers in light of gender issues associated with working in a male-dominated profession as well as balancing career with life.  For example, Barbara Fiacco, President-Elect of AIPLA and litigation partner at Foley Hoag, indicated that her love for research and writing led her to a career in IP litigation, where she is thriving.  Ellen Smith, a partner at Sughrue Mion, shared her philosophy from her daughter’s school, “If there is no path, make your own,” as she described her experiences in navigating a different path for herself at Sughrue Mion while she was starting a family.

Cynthia Raposo gave us an inside look on how she helped develop the legal department for Under Armour before Under Armour was a household name.  Interestingly, Cynthia had moved back to a small firm to a part-time position in attempt to achieve a better work-life balance.  She began to do work for Under Armour and soon became their go-to lawyer for legal advice.  When offered the position to go in-house at Under Armour, she indicated it was too exciting an opportunity to turn down.  Cynthia was responsible for developing strategies for securing trademarks worldwide well before Under Armour would even enter those particular countries.

Other sessions included health and wellness issues in the practice of law, top career tips, as well as the very sage advice from our Harrity founders.  John and Paul Harrity both conceded that their best career advice includes reading as much as possible with a focus on continued learning.  We hope the participants had a great time, and we are looking forward to next year’s workshop!

Plan Before You File: 3 Key Considerations in Patent Preparation

By Daniel Jebsen, Associate

It’s Monday, and your client comes to you with an urgent request for help: there will be a disclosure of an invention on Friday, and they’d like to file a patent application before that disclosure.  No problem, you can prepare a patent application for filing in a few days.  Other than the details of the invention itself, what do you need to consider when filing a patent application?  One easily overlooked issue, particularly in such a rush scenario, is the impact of inventor location, residency, and citizenship on your patent application filing.

Many jurisdictions, including the United States (see 35 U.S. Code § 184), impose some type of restriction on first filings outside of the jurisdiction (i.e., foreign first filings).  Such restrictions can be imposed on, for example, applications for inventions made in a given country, applications by inventors who reside in a given country, and applications by inventors who are nationals of a given country.  Note: the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has posted a list describing known filing restrictions for some Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) contracting states.

Some jurisdictions with foreign filing restrictions allow foreign first filing only with permission from the patent office (i.e., after obtaining a foreign filing license).  However, the amount of time needed to obtain a foreign filing license can vary from days to weeks, or even months, depending on the jurisdiction.  Some jurisdictions, such as Russia, do not allow foreign first filings at all and, as a result, do not grant foreign filing licenses.  Therefore, a very early consideration in the patent application preparation process should be whether inventor location, residency, and/or citizenship will dictate timing and/or jurisdiction of your first filing.  These scenarios can become quite complex when inventors are located in, reside in, or are citizens of different countries, and even more complex when an urgent filing is needed.

For example, maybe Inventor A is located in, resides in, and is a citizen of Country X, Inventor B is located in, resides in, and is a citizen of Country Y, and Inventor C is located in and resides in Country X, but is a citizen of Country Z.

Here are three steps to take before filing a patent application that should help preserve your invention’s first-to-file status:

  1. Before filing a patent application, the first step is to identify whether Country X, Country Y, and Country Z impose foreign filing restrictions based on the inventor relationships to the relevant jurisdictions. In this example, assume that Country X imposes a foreign filing restriction on applications made in Country X, Country Y imposes a foreign filing restriction on residents of Country Y, and Country Z does not impose a foreign filing restriction on citizens of Country Z.
  2. The second step is to determine whether permission for a foreign filing can be requested from any of these jurisdictions that impose such a restriction. Here, perhaps permission for a foreign filing can be requested from offices of both Country X and Country Y.
  3. The third step is to determine an approximate amount of time typically needed for a request for a foreign filing to be reviewed and (hopefully) granted. In our relatively simple example, perhaps a foreign filing license can be obtained from the Country X office in 3-4 days, but a foreign filing license from the Country Y office may take 4-6 weeks.  An attorney licensed in a given jurisdiction may have strategies for trying to expedite the review/grant process.

As you can probably imagine, results of these inquiries can dictate where and how quickly the patent application can be filed.  In the above example, if timing is urgent, a first filing in Country Y after obtaining a foreign filing license for Country X may be a workable strategy.  Conversely, if timing is not an issue, a first filing in Country X after obtaining a foreign filing license for Country Y may be the way to go.

Of course, it is advisable to contact the relevant patent office or an attorney licensed in a given jurisdiction in order to ascertain detailed information for a given jurisdiction.

In summary, inventor location, residency, and/or citizenship can have a significant impact on timing and/or jurisdiction for a given filing.  Therefore, foreign filing considerations should be handled as early as possible during the patent application preparation process.

Kris Rhu Harrity Team

Using Data to Improve Patent Prosecution Performance

By Kris Rhu

How many office actions should I expect? Should I file an RCE or a Notice of Appeal? Is it worth filing a Pre-Appeal? These, among others, are common questions that practitioners may ask themselves during patent prosecution. In the past, they were mostly unanswerable questions. Now, using data analytics, we can get a better sense of how the patent prosecution process will go and be able to make an informed decision when a crossroad is reached.  Below, we will explore how to use statistics about a patent Examiner, which are based on public data provided by the USPTO, during patent prosecution.  I have provided example screenshots from Patentprufer, which was developed by Harrity & Harrity.

Examiner’s Allowance Rate

By looking at an Examiner’s allowance rate (i.e. allowance vs. abandonments), we can get a sense of the journey early on.  A high allowance rate is an indicator that the Examiner likely has no qualms about allowing applications, and that the Examiner likely will not stubbornly stick to poor rejections.  For these types of Examiners, if appropriate, it may be worth taking a more assertive initial position, including arguing that the rejections should be withdrawn or offering modest amendments.  If the Examiner’s allowance rate is low, you may want to consider substantial amendments, get the Examiner’s Supervisor involved early in the process, or anticipate the need to possibly file an appeal.

Office Actions per Patent, RCEs per Patent

A high office action (OA) per patent and/or RCE per patent rate may be an indication that reaching allowability will be challenging.  These types of Examiners likely are unafraid to combine three, four, or even five references to make prior art rejections.    To get a patent application allowed in a more efficient manner than an examiner’s statistics suggest, a more proactive posture may be needed from the beginning.

Examiner Interview Statistics

Generally speaking, it is beneficial to interview an Examiner as it gives a practitioner an opportunity to get a better sense of the Examiner’s interpretations of the application and the applied references, and an opportunity to explain the invention.  A high interview success rate (i.e. interviews that lead to an allowance in the next office action) may be an indicator that the Examiner uses interviews as opportunities for compact prosecution.  Some of these Examiners may even provide suggestions for amendments that would lead to allowance.  If the interview success rate is low for the Examiner, consider sending a substantive interview agenda with proposed amendments to maximize the chance of reaching an agreement with the Examiner.

A comparison of a patent Examiner’s final rejection allowance rate with and without AFCP may be an indicator of whether the Examiner takes the AFCP process seriously.  If there is a significant difference with those rates, the Examiner likely uses the allocated 2-3 hours to find a way to allow the application.  However, if the rates are similar, the Examiner likely uses pre-pilot procedures regardless of whether an AFCP is filed.

Pre-Appeal Statistics

Pre-Appeal statistics can be useful when deciding whether to file an Appeal Brief or a Pre-Appeal Brief.  A high rate of allowance and/or re-opening of prosecution when pre-appeals are filed may indicate that it is worth presenting arguments in a Pre-Appeal Brief.  However, a low rate of allowance and a low rate of re-opening of prosecution may indicate that it would be better to forego the pre-appeal process and go straight to appeal.

Appeal Statistics

Analyzing a patent Examiner’s appeal statistics may be useful in determining whether to file an appeal or an RCE.  If the Examiner’s rate of allowance and/or re-opening of prosecution after appeal is high, it may be worth appealing rather than filing an RCE and avoid narrowing claims unnecessarily.

If the Examiner’s board decision success rate is high, it may be an indication that the Examiner goes to the Board only when he/she believes that an examiner’s answer would be particularly strong.  If you receive a compelling examiner’s answer from these types of Examiners, consider filing an RCE rather than going to the Board.

Conclusion

Just like how data analytics has improved efficiency in other industries, using examiner analytics can improve the efficiency of patent practitioners and the patent prosecution process.

Eli Mazour Harrity Team

Why the Revised 101 Guidance Continues to be Important After Cleveland Clinic

By Eli Mazour

After the 2014 Supreme Court Alice decision, the judges of the Federal Circuit failed to reach a meaningful consensus regarding how the subject matter eligibility test set out in Alice should be applied.  As a result, new USPTO Director Andrei Iancu recognized that there was no practical way for examiners to navigate all of the patent eligibility decisions for each individual patent application.  To address this problem, the USPTO released the “2019 Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance.”

In the recent Cleveland Clinic Foundation v. True Health Diagnostics decision, a panel of the Federal Circuit invalidated claims related to cardiovascular testing under § 101 and stated that “[w]hile we greatly respect the PTO’s expertise on all matters relating to patentability, including patent eligibility, we are not bound by its guidance” (Fed. Cir. 2019).  The decision caused consternation among some practitioners regarding the value of relying on USPTO guidance.

Director Iancu’s comments regarding Cleveland Clinic

This past Thursday, at the ABA’s annual IP conference, Iancu addressed those concerns.  First, he pointed out that Cleveland Clinic did not even mention the 2019 revised guidance.  Instead, Cleveland Clinic discussed Example 29 from guidance that was published by the PTO on May 4, 2016, which is almost two years before Iancu became the director.  Second, Iancu noted that Cleveland Clinic just stated that to the extent that Example 29 contradicts a court decision, the court decision controls.  In other words, Cleveland Clinic pointed out facts that were clear before the 2019 revised guidance was even released: 1) courts are not bound by guidance released by the USPTO and 2) incorrect guidance released by the USPTO would not override previous court decisions.  Cleveland Clinic did not in any way directly undermine the 2019 revised guidance.

Moreover, Iancu indicated a change in approach by the USPTO: instead of reacting to each new Federal Circuit decision that deals with § 101, the USPTO is now taking a look at the § 101 issue holistically.  And, Iancu argued that the Federal Circuit should address the § 101 problem through en banc decisions by the full Federal Circuit.  In totality, this suggests that a single Federal Circuit decision by a panel of three judges is unlikely to significantly change the USPTO’s approach set out by the 2019 revised guidance.

Practical tips for drafting & prosecution

As it stands now, USPTO examiners and PTAB judges are expected to apply the 2019 revised guidance for § 101 analysis.  In fact, ex parte appeal decisions that deal with § 101 are currently being reviewed at the PTAB to make sure that the 2019 revised guidance is being applied by PTAB judges.  Therefore, in order to ensure efficient prosecution and positive appeal results, practitioners should primarily rely on the 2019 revised guidance to overcome § 101 rejections.

However, when drafting new patent applications, practitioners should plan for the possibility of the Federal Circuit, the Supreme Court, or even possibly Congress taking a narrower view of patent eligibility.  Therefore, to the extent possible, patent applications should be drafted with all of the relevant court decisions in mind.  The goal should be for an eventual patent to be able to withstand – or even better yet avoid – the most stringent § 101 scrutiny during litigation.

Tim Hirzel Harrity Team

Summary of USPTO Revised Guidance on Subject Matter Eligibility

By Tim Hirzel

The PTO released their highly anticipated revised guidance on subject matter eligibility that take effect on January 7, 2019.  A summary of the guidance is provided below.  A more in-depth discussion can be found on our website HERE.

Summary of Revised Guidance

The revised guidance maintains the two step Alice/Mayo Test but revises the procedure for determining whether a claim is directed to a judicial exception (e.g., an abstract idea) under Step 2A by instituting a two-prong analysis.

  1. First prong of Step 2A – Examiners evaluate whether a claim recites an abstract idea.  Instead of a case law specific approach as previously performed, the PTO newly identified three groups of abstract ideas: mathematical concepts, certain methods of organizing human activity, and mental processes.  If any recited claim limitations fall within the three groups of abstract ideas, the analysis proceeds to the second prong of Step 2A.
  2. Second prong of Step 2A – Examiners evaluate whether the claim as a whole integrates the abstract idea into a practical application. A practical application will apply, rely on, or use the judicial exception in a manner that imposes a meaningful limit on the judicial exception.  The PTO gives examples based on case law that indicate practical applications, such as: improving the functioning of a computer or a technical field, effecting a treatment for a medical condition, using the judicial exception with a particular machine, or transforming or reducing a particular article to a different state or thing.  If the claim does not integrate the abstract idea into a practical application, then the claim is directed to an abstract idea under Step 2A and the analysis proceeds to Step 2B.

Step 2B has not changed under the revised guidance and is still performed pursuant to the Berkheimer memo.

Our Impressions

  1. Under the prior guidance, Examiners would often dismiss any Step 2A arguments because their guidelines simply said a claim was directed to an abstract idea if any part of the claim recited an abstract idea.  The two-prong approach will make it much more difficult for Examiners to simply dismiss an Applicant’s Step 2A arguments.
  2. Applicants should now be able to avoid the necessity of debating case law with Examiners because the Examiners are not required to cite specific decisions in their rejections and only have to identify one of the three newly defined groups of abstract ideas. Instead, Applicants can now focus on the newly articulated “practical application” consideration in the second prong of Step 2A.
  3. While the examples of practical applications given in the revised guidelines are nothing new, the revised guidelines’ focus on the “practical application” consideration may make it easier to use these examples to effectively overcome the 101 rejections (without necessarily having to argue the case law behind the examples).
  4. The PTO broadly describing the case law as establishing a “practical application” consideration gives Applicants more leeway than relying on specific court decisions as done in the past.  For example, it may be easier to convince an Examiner on a technical level that claims “apply, rely on, or use the judicial exception” in a meaningful manner than to convince the Examiner that claims are similar to subject matter previously held by the courts to be directed to statutory subject matter.
  5. Any noticeable change in examination will depend heavily on how Examiners are trained to implement the new guidance.  Accordingly, it may be months before we fully realize how significant the changes will be to 101 rejections in practice.
Elaine Spector, Harrity Team

Elaine Spector on the 2018 AIPLA Annual Meeting and the Women in IP Law Breakfast

By Elaine Spector

The 2018 AIPLA Annual Meeting was held on October 25-27 in Washington, DC, and included the gathering of more than 2,000 diverse professionals in the field of intellectual property.  In addition to the numerous networking opportunities and education sessions, committees within the AIPLA conducted their committee meetings.

Perhaps the most enjoyable of these committee meetings was the Women in IP Law Breakfast meeting.  Despite being held on Friday morning of the conference at 6:45 AM, attendance was certainly impressive.  The full buffet breakfast helped!  But the breakfast is not the only reason we have seen such a surge in attendance.  The leadership of the Women in IP committee is forward thinking and inclusive.  What used to be a small breakfast, has turned out to be one of the most well attended sessions at the AIPLA, likely because of the programming and inclusiveness it provides.  By the way, men are invited too!

During the meeting, we discussed numerous committee issues.  But the one most dear to my heart is the AIPLA Women in IP Global Networking Event which I co-chair with Lucy Samuels.  The Global Networking Event is scheduled for April 4, 2019, of which my firm, Harrity & Harrity, is a proud sponsor in Northern, Virginia.  The Global Networking Event consists of a plurality of events held on the same day in various cities around the world. The hosts are responsible for choosing their type of event, sending out invitations to female AIPLA members in their area (the AIPLA provides a list), and of course inviting anyone else they would like. Each host event can include any activity the host would like such as a cocktail reception, dinner, guest speaker, or panel discussion etc. Each host is asked to join a brief teleconference call to connect and say hello to other hosts in different locations.  It is a wonderful event, and I strongly encourage women IP professionals to attend, or host in your area.

Please contact me if you are interested in attending in Northern Virginia, or if you would like to host in another area.

Harrity Blog

September 2018 – Creativity in Enhancing the Quality and Size of Patent Portfolios

By Nathan Phares and Kenneth Hartmann

One of the most challenging choices for an organization’s patent strategy is whether to focus on quality or quantity. A small number of high-quality patents may provide value and solid protection for some inventions, but innovation can occur at a fast pace, which may require rapid filings at a high volume. When presented with the challenge of increasing portfolio size without sacrificing patent quality or ballooning the budget, you, the patent practitioner (whether in-house or in private practice), may need to take creative steps to increase the number of ideas that are harvested from inventors, the number of patents that can be obtained for an idea or group of ideas, and the efficiency with which patents can be drafted. This article discusses several creative strategies to help grow a patent portfolio for your clients, whether they are a business unit of an organization or the organization itself. These creative strategies can be implemented prior to reaching the prosecution phase, both before patent applications are drafted and during the application drafting stage, without simply increasing patent expenditures.

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Eli Mazour Harrity Team

Dissecting Dissents for Ex Parte Appeals

By Eli Mazour and So Ra Ko

Dissent is not the highest form of judgment for judges on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  As discussed in further detail below, our own analysis indicates that dissents for ex parte appeals are found in about .5% of decisions issued by the PTAB.  A PTAB judge deciding an ex parte appeal is more than ten times less likely to dissent than a Federal Circuit (CAFC) judge.

The PTAB decides thousands of ex parte appeals per year.  Each appeal is assigned to a panel of three Administrative Patent Judges (APJs).  While one judge is designated to write the initial opinion, all three judges are supposed to take an active role in adjudication before the final decision is issued.

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Top Patent Firms 2018

Top Patent Firms List 2017

By Paul Harrity, Rocky Berndsen, Jaclyn Jones & Matthew Maslink

Harrity Patent Analytics compiled a list of the top patent firms that are ranked based on the total number of U.S. utility patents that issued in 2017 where the patent firms were listed on the front of the utility patents. We have included only patent firms that have obtained at least 50 utility patents. We made an attempt to correct for typographical errors. We did not eliminate company legal departments from the list.

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Top Patent Firms Badge 2017, Harrity

Peter Glaser Team

Changes in Patent Language to Ensure Eligibility Under Alice

By Peter Glaser and William Gvoth

When a rule becomes a target, it ceases to be a good rule.  In the three years since the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Alice, there have been positive changes to patent applications, but there remains a long-term risk that patent practitioners will use tricks to beat the Alice test.  Here, we focus on the changes to patent applications by drafters, as well as changes to patent applications that have issued since Alice.

*Please note, citations were inadvertently omitted from the original publication of this article. Please contact the authors, directly, to obtain a version of this article including citations*

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ALA Diversity Seminar

Diversity: An Interview With John Harrity

By Mauricio Velásquez, MBA

At a recent Association of Legal Administrators, Washington, D.C. Chapter meeting, John Harrity, Managing Partner of Harrity & Harrity, spoke about his firm’s Diversity and Inclusion initiative. Harrity & Harrity is an innovative boutique patent law firm based in Fairfax, VA. When asked about his firm’s commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, he explained, “We believe that the ‘practice of law’ is advanced by a more diverse legal team – with diversity of background, upbringing, education, and perspective comes quality legal innovation. At Harrity & Harrity, we are committed to The Rooney Rule 2.0. This is a hiring practice that shows our firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is something that we take seriously; it’s something we’re very proud of.”

The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. But there was a flaw – the football team only had to interview at least one minority candidate for an NFL coach opening but could interview an unlimited number of other candidates. “The Rooney Rule is just not going far enough,” Mr. Harrity said, “we wanted to go much further and so we decided that for every opening – attorney or non-attorney – we are committed to interviewing a female or minority candidate for every male, non-minority candidate we interview.”

After his presentation, I asked Mr. Harrity what sort of benefits his current team could expect to see from their diversity efforts. “We are creating and nurturing a workplace culture that is inclusive, values differences, and is authentic, and we want our team to know we really care about them, their well-being, and their future. This will make us the patent law firm employer of choice. We are looking for good people from all backgrounds to help our team grow and to help us become the number one patent law firm.”

There has been recent press about the Mansfield Rule. This rule, introduced in 2016, requires that women and minorities comprise at least 30 percent of the candidates for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, and lateral positions in law firms. Again Mr. Harrity countered, “Just like the Rooney Rule, we don’t think the Mansfield Rule goes far enough.”

Sandra Maxey, Chief Diversity Officer at Harrity & Harrity told me that “making the commitment is one thing, executing the everyday work of finding, hiring, and retaining divers talent is the real challenge. We are fully committed to diversity and inclusion at our firm.”

For more information about Harrity & Harrity’s Diversity Program, please visit their website (www.harrityllp.com/diversity). Please join Harrity & Harrity and the ranks of other law firms in implementing the Rooney Rule 2.0.

Mauricio Velásquez, MBA, is President and CEO of the Diversity Training Group based in Herndon, VA. He can be reached at 703-478-9191 or mauriciov@diversitydtg.com. DTG is in our 21st year of operation.

Diversity Semi

Editor’s Note: The Rooney Rule 2.0 was created in 2015 by the Diversity Committee at Harrity & Harrity, LLP. For a brief period in 2017, it was known as The Harrity Rule, however, after careful consideration, the name was changed back.

 

 

Harrity unmanned aerial vehicles

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Patents: A Survey

By Peter Glaser

Although many think of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or “drones” as a modern development, UAVs have an extensive history dating back to the original development of lighter-than-air flight.  Initial attempts were limited by the technology of the age – an attempt by the Austrian empire to launch balloon bombs against the Venetian state failed when a shift in wind resulted in the balloon bombs returning toward the Austrian troops.  Early engineering efforts to support unmanned aerial flight included the development of radio-based remote control by Serbian-American Nikola Tesla, an “Aerial Target” developed in 1916-17 by Englishman Archibald Low, and an “AutomaticAirplane” developed in 1916-18 by Americans Elmer Sperry and Peter Cooper Hewitt.  Early attempts often ended in failure – Low’s Aerial Target crashed during all three test flights before being abandoned; Sperry and Hewitt’s Automatic Airplane successfully completed a single successful test flight of 1000 feet, but all completed test airframes were destroyed in subsequent crashes resulting in abandonment.

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Harrity Blog

Is It Really That Obvious? A Tale of Two Decisions

By William Gvoth & Paul Gurzo

On January 3, 2017 the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the court) handed down two decisions relating to obviousness under § 103 – In re: Marcel Van Os, Freddy Allen Anzures, Scott Forstall, Greg Christie, Imran Chaudhri, No. 2015-1975 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (Van Os) and In re: Ethicon, Inc., No. 2015-1696 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (Ethicon).  This article will tell the tale of these two decisions as well as highlight some of the questions that these decisions raise.

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Harrity Blog

Analysis of December 2016 USPTO Subject Matter Eligibility Examples

By Kris Rhu & Paul Gurzo

On December 15, 2016, the USPTO published three subject matter eligibility examples focusing on business method claims, which can be found here.  The purpose of these examples is to give guidance on how claims should be analyzed using the 2014 Interim Guidance on Subject Matter Eligibility, recent Supreme Court and Federal Circuit decisions, and recent Memorandums published by the USPTO.  These examples seem to indicate that the power of §101 to restrict patentability has been whittled down since Alice and that the USPTO would like to reduce the number of §101 rejections for technological claims in light of court decisions post-Alice.  Below, we describe each example provided by the USPTO, explain the USPTO guidance for each example, and provide practical practice tips that practitioners can use to help reduce or overcome §101 rejections.

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Top Patent Firms 2018

Top Patent Firms for 2016

By Paul Harrity & Anna Yee (Originally published by IP Watchdog)

We compiled a list of the top patent firms that are ranked based on the total number of U.S. utility patents that issued in 2016 where the patent firms were listed on the front of the utility patents. We have included only patent firms that have obtained at least 50 utility patents. We made an attempt to correct for typographical errors. We did not eliminate company legal departments from the list.

For the list from last year see: Top Patent Firms for 2015.

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Alice in Wonderland falling surrounded by playing cards

Alice on Dulany Street: How the PTAB Handles 101 in Ex Parte Appeals

By Eli Mazour & James Bennin

“The outlook has become only more grim for appellants who are hoping that the PTAB will overturn a § 101 rejection.”

Previously, we analyzed ex parte appeal decisions by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) from the year following the Alice v. CLS Bank decision. At the time, we concluded that the PTAB is unlikely to reverse § 101 rejections based on Alice. We decided to revisit this conclusion based on ex parte appeal decisions from December 2016.

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