Brad Watts – Section 101 Reform Efforts in the 116th Congress: Clause 8, Episode 22

Brad Watts is the Majority Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the Senate Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. Under the leadership of Senator Thom Tillis, Brad Watts has led the effort to fix the Section 101 patent eligibility mess.

A series of Supreme Court decisions over the last decade have caused enormous confusion and uncertainty with regard to patent eligibility. After the 2018 midterm elections, to the relief of many in the innovation community, Senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons requested to reinstate the Senate Subcommittee on IP to fix this issue. The process for reforming 101 included a framework released in April 2019, a bipartisan, bicameral draft bill released in May 2019, and an unprecedented three days of hearings with 45 witnesses representing almost every imaginable view on the subject.

At the end of those hearings, Sen. Tillis said “I want to do this quickly . . . I think we can review the record and make changes, garner consensus, and introduce a final bill sometime after the July 4 recess.”  That never happened.

In an IP Watchdog interview earlier this year, Sen Tillis explained that the Section 101 reform “process stalled because stakeholders refused to compromise.”

What happened? Is the effort to reform Section 101 really over? Why did the effort fail in this Congress? What should the innovation community do help revive the effort? Is there a possibility of a narrow medical diagnostics fix that is likely to lead many others pushing for reform disappointed?

In this episode, I speak with Brad about what really happened during this last attempt at reform, why it wasn’t successful, where to go from here, and much more.

Some of the topics discussed:

  • How Capitol Hill staffers learn about IP issues
  • Influence of Professor David Taylor’s research about the current patent eligibility jurisprudence and its negative impact on investment
  • What prompted Sen. Tillis to focus on patent eligibility reform and restart the Senate Subcommittee on IP
  • Process laid out by Sen. Tillis for patent eligibility reform legislation
  • Why everyone who wanted to engage in good faith was invited to be part of the process
  • Whether goal was to pass bill this Congress or to start a multi-Congress effort
  • Bad faith efforts to stop patent eligibility reform and why even some opponents of patent eligibility reform might have legitimate points
  • How the bipartisan, bicameral draft bill released in May 2019 was drafted – involvement of staffers Jamie Simpson, Phil (Phillip) Warrick, and Tom (Thomas) Stoll and the principals
  • Possibility of narrow diagnostics-only fix for Section 101 and why Sen. Tillis is open to it
  • Why Sen. Tillis never introduced a bill after the 3 day of hearings
  • How stakeholders can reach consensus with regards to patent eligibility to make reform possible
  • Continued work on patent eligibility reform
  • How stakeholders can and should communicate their position and concerns to Sen. Tillis and their own Senators about IP issues in general

Listen and subscribe on IPwatchdog.com or your favorite podcasting app!

 

Diversity in Patent Law: A Data Analysis of Diversity in the Patent Practice by Technology Background and Region

Harrity’s Elaine Spector and LaTia Brand provide a deep-dive analysis of the lack of diversity in the patent practice for the American Bar Association’s Landslide® Magazine. Read the full article here:

 

Diversity in Patent Law

Professor Adam Mossoff – Academics in IP: Clause 8, Episode 21

When Eli first started practicing in the late aughts, he found that a lot of what he was seeing about patents in various academic papers and studies, on Capitol Hill, and even in Supreme Court decisions, didn’t really reflect the reality of what he was seeing in practice, talking to innovators. In contrast, Professor Adam Mossoff’s compelling work, including articles in various general interest newspapers, stood out.  Not surprisingly, he is largely responsible for providing the intellectual foundation that has helped shift the anti-patent narrative.  So, it was a huge honor to talk to someone who not only helped shape Eli’s own thinking about patent and IP policy issues but has really shaped the current debates in Washington, DC about these issues.

Professor Mossoff is currently Professor of Law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, and a Visiting Intellectual Property Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

On this episode, Professor Mossoff and Eli discuss academics’ impact on IP policy and many other subjects, including:

  • how Richard Epstein influenced Professor Mossoff’s scholarship,
  • how the ideals of classical liberalism relate to intellectual property rights,
  • the debate among conservatives and libertarians regarding IP issues,
  • what’s wrong about framing IP rights as being all about providing incentives,
  • the Supreme Court’s approach to patent cases,
  • why Congress and the executive branch – not the Supreme Court – are the better path for improving America’s patent system,
  • “Why Do Law Professors Do What They Do?”
  • how law school professors influence the patent policy debate,
  • how trade organizations try to shape the patent policy debate by using law professors and other prominent attorneys,
  • importance of law school professors making it clear when they’re acting as advocates v. as academics,
  • navigating junk science studies/statistical claims about the patent system,
  • importance of engaging in a positive research agenda about the patent system instead of just reacting to bad scholarship,
  • empirical research overwhelmingly contradicting the patent holdup theory over the last 10 years,
  • educating Congressman Darrell Issa and the importance of having evidence and data on your side,
  • contradiction of China strengthening its own patent system while continuing to steal IP from other countries and having no rule of law otherwise,
  • the unprecedented response by the pharmaceutical industry to the COVID?19 pandemic thanks to the foundation previously created by America’s patent system,
  • how current changes to the patent system can undermine a similar response to the future,
  • and much more!

Listen and subscribe on IPwatchdog.com or your favorite podcasting app!

 

Bruce MacEwen – Adam Smith, Esq.: Clause 8, Episode 20

On the latest episode of the Clause 8 podcast, Eli interviews Bruce MacEwen – the founder and president of Adam Smith, Esq. Bruce is recognized as the world’s leading expert on the economics of law firms, has written thousands of articles on the subject, and provides advice to select firms about how to succeed in the changing legal landscape.

The Great Recession spurred lots of talk about innovation, technology, alternative fee arrangements, new compensation structures, and countless of other ways that law firms need to change. However, the economic boom that followed has allowed “Big Law” firms to continue to thrive without making any substantial changes. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused painful flashbacks for many law firm leaders who previously led their firms through the Great Recession. At the same time, the continued uncertainty and uneven impact on the economy, has made it much more difficult for law firms to decide what steps need to be taken. For example, in the IP field, there was an initial slowdown of litigation work while patent prosecution work remained relatively stable.

Eli reached out to Bruce to get his thoughts about how law firms have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, what law firm leaders should be thinking about while navigating this moment in time, and the business of law in general.

On this episode, Eli and Bruce discuss:

  • Why Bruce thought there was something off about law firms by Thanksgiving of his first year as an associate
  • How companies select & manage outside counsel
  • Tension of building in-house law departments v. relying on outside counsel
  • Why law firms refuse to do recession scenario planning
  • Surprising nimbleness of law firms
  • Law firms being much more thoughtful and humane in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic than they were during the “Great Financial Reset of 2008”
  • Why successful law firm partners can be dynamite for law firms
  • Rethinking real estate needs of law firms
  • Different law firm models – “Best-in-breed” law firms v. full-service law firms
  • Boutiques and benefits of a lawyer’s practice being at the core of what a firm does
  • Using Net Promoter Score (NPS) to evaluate law firms
  • Law firms deciding whether to invest in a practice area
  • Vision and hunger being the key to starting a successful boutique law
  • Difference between lawyers who succeed v. fail
  • much more!

Listen and subscribe on IPwatchdog.com or your favorite podcasting app!

 

Data-Driven Decision Making for Patent Portfolio Managers

By Bret Tingey, Associate | IPWatchdog.com

A patent portfolio can be one of the greatest assets that a company owns. A patent portfolio may boost a company’s valuation for a stock offering or a sale, may be licensed for recurring revenue, may be sold to raise cash, or may be enforced to seek monetary damages or to exclude competitors from the market. However, growing a patent portfolio can be expensive. For this reason, many companies hire a portfolio manager to balance the value and expense of growing and maintaining the patent portfolio.

A portfolio manager may be responsible for making decisions including a total target number of patent filings, target numbers of patent filings for different technology areas of the company, patent firms to use for filing and prosecuting patent applications, or how to manage costs per issued patent. The portfolio manager can improve the decision-making process by using data-driven decision making. This article shows some examples of data-driven decision making.

Keep Reading on IPWatchdog.com

 

Product Success Can Show Nonobviousness

By Patrick Hansen, Associate

The U.S. Supreme Court’s KSR decision has left an impression that any claimed invention based on a combination of known, related features is likely obvious under 35 U.S.C. § 103.  The recent Fox Factory, Inc. v. SRAM, LLC (Fed. Cir. May 18, 2020) decision is a heartening reminder that is not always the case.  In Fox Factory, the Federal Circuit affirmed a Board holding that claims 1-26 of U.S. Patent 9,291,250 (‘250 patent) are not unpatentable as obvious under Section 103.  What makes this decision reassuring for patent owners and applicants is that the Federal Circuit upheld SRAM’s ‘250 patent based on objective indicia of nonobviousness (also known as secondary considerations).

Fox Factory and SRAM are bicycle competitors, and SRAM’s ‘250 patent is directed to a single chainring of a bicycle that does not switch a chain between multiple chainrings.  The single chainring has teeth that fit more snugly into chain link spaces, and the single chainring (marketed as “X-Sync”) has been praised for retaining the chain in poor cycling conditions.

As shown in Fig. 1 from the ‘250 patent, link spaces alternate in size (D1 or D2) due to the manner in which pieces of a chain are linked.Claim 1 of the ‘250 patent recites a chainring with wider teeth of a first size that alternates with teeth of a second size, in order to snugly fit into respective outer (D2) and inner (D1) link spaces.  In particular, claim 1 recites that a wider tooth is designed to fill, at the midpoint, at least 80% of an outer link space.

SRAM asserted the ‘250 patent against Fox Factory in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  In a corresponding inter partes review (IPR) proceeding, Fox Factory cited Japanese patent publication JP S56-42489 (“Shimano”) and U.S. Patent 3,375,022 (“Hattan”).  Shimano describes a chainring with widened teeth for wider link spaces, and Hattan describes filling link spaces between 74.6% and 96% of a space width at the bottom of a tooth.  Fox Factory argued that it would have been obvious to a skilled artisan to see the utility in designing a chainring with widened teeth to improve chain retention and to look to Hattan for filling the link space at least 80%.  However, the Board found that Hattan’s fill percentages applied to the bottom of a tooth rather than the midpoint of the tooth.  Notably, the Board found that SRAM’s evidence of secondary considerations rebutted Fox Factory’s argument that a skilled artisan would nevertheless find it obvious to modify Shimano’s chainring teeth to fill at least 80% of a wide link space at the middle of a tooth.  Judge Lourie, writing for the Federal Circuit panel that included Judges Mayer and Wallach, affirmed the Board’s decision.

As you may recall, the Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1 (1966) analysis includes four factors: (1) the scope and content of the prior art; (2) the differences between the prior art and the patent claims; (3) the level of ordinary skill in the art; and (4) secondary considerations (also known more favorably as objective indicia of nonobviousness).  All four factors are to be evaluated collectively before a conclusion on obviousness is reached, and the burden of proof remains with the patent challenger.  Fox Factory argued that the only difference at issue is the degree to which a wider link space is filled, measured halfway up the tooth.  Fox Factory also argued that the Board erred in presuming a nexus between the claimed invention and evidence of success, arguing that it is the tall hooked teeth that drove the X-Sync chainring to be successful.

While acknowledging that a mere change in proportion may not meet the level of invention required by Section 103, the Federal Circuit agreed with the Board that SRAM’s design of the X-Sync chainring teeth, as claimed, displayed significant invention.  The X-Sync chainring’s success surprised skilled artisans who were skeptical about it solving the long-felt need of chain retention.  In fact, the industry awarded the X-Sync chainring “Innovation of the Year.”

The Federal Circuit found that the X-Sync chainring and the ‘250 claims met the nexus requirement – that a product from which the secondary considerations arose is “co-extensive” with the claimed invention.  The Federal Circuit also stated that the unclaimed features, such as the hooks and protrusions of the teeth, are to some extent incorporated into the >80% fill requirement.  The Federal Circuit concluded that substantial evidence supports the Board’s determination that a nexus exists between the X-Sync chainring’s success and the teeth profile that is essentially the claimed invention.

While Fox Factory does not present any new rule, it is a reminder that patent owners and applicants should keep records indicating a long-felt need and any industry skepticism, as well as records of subsequent success of a product to which claims are directed.  Claim drafters should learn from inventors which features could contribute to a product’s commercial success or acclamation.  Fox Factory reassures us that objective indicia of nonobviousness can still be a meaningful consideration at the Board and the Federal Circuit, even over what may be argued to be routine optimization.

 

Sarah Tsou – Patent Litigation Funding: Clause 8, Episode 19

This episode features an interview with Sarah Tsou, who is an investment manager for patent litigation at the world’s leading litigation funder, Bentham IMF (now part of Omni Bridgeway Limited).

The playbook is simple for deep-pocketed defendants facing lawsuits from patent owners with limited resources. Even if a patent owner has a very strong case, the defendant can just drag the case out long enough until the patent owner and his lawyers run out of resources to continue. At best, the patent owners are forced to settle lawsuits for a fraction of what they think they are owed. Patent litigation funders have changed this calculus by providing select patent owners with enough resources.

During this episode, Sarah talks about:

  • becoming a patent litigation partner at Kirkland & Ellis and working with John Desmarais before he started his firm focusing on patent monetization;
  • how patent litigation funding can help in-house attorneys who are facing shrinking patent litigation budgets due to the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • what 1% of cases have the rare mix of merits and economics to receive funding from top litigation funders, including a discussion of specific amounts of potential damages and legal fees;
  • how she finds the cases that she funds;
  • why having the right patent litigation attorneys who are willing to share the risk is crucial;
  • what a Chief IP Counsel should think about when building a patent portfolio if he’s interested in possibly taking advantage of patent litigation funding in the future;
  • the importance of curiosity for junior attorneys who want to enter the litigation funding field;
  • and much more!

Listen and subscribe on IPwatchdog.com or your favorite podcasting app!

 

Brian Pomper – The Innovation Alliance: Clause 8, Episode 18

This episode of Clause 8 features an interview with Brian Pomper of the Innovation Alliance.

Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, and Charles Goodyear are some of America’s best-known innovators. Instead of just making and selling the final products, they obtained patents and licensed their innovations to manufacturers. American companies like IBM, Qualcomm, and Dolby have followed this great American tradition of focusing on innovation.

However, the patent troll narrative has undermined the idea that innovators should be incentivized and rewarded for their efforts. A string of Supreme Court decisions and the passage of the American Invents Act were part of an effort to deal with the so-called “patent troll” problem.

Around the time that the AIA was being debated in Congress, a diverse group of technology companies that focus on research and development formed the Innovation Alliance to educate DC policymakers.

And, Brian – a registered patent attorney who worked for several years on Capitol Hill – became the executive director of Innovation Alliance shortly after it was started.

During this episode, Brian discusses:
• working in Congress and how he became the head of The Innovation Alliance;
• the #1 way to improve the patent system;
• what unites the Innovation Alliance;
• how the Innovation Alliance tried to improve the AIA;
• the Obama administration’s continued efforts to restrict patent rights;
• how DC became more patent friendly;
• the Senate IP subcommittee and why there’s still hope for legislative action to fix patent eligibility;
• importance of having grassroots support for legislative efforts;
• the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the patent policy debate and the Open Covid Pledge; and
• much more!

Listen and subscribe on IPwatchdog.com or your favorite podcasting app!

 

Harrity & Harrity’s First Virtual Women’s Workshop

By Elaine Spector

Harrity & Harrity just completed its 3nd Annual Women’s Workshop.  Due to the quarantine, we shifted gears to host our Women’s Workshop virtually for the first time, which allowed us to offer more women seats in our program.  The Women’s 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.”  35 women, including recent law school graduates and current law students, participated in a 3 ½ 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.  Ed Good joined us this year to provide a ½ day seminar in effective legal writing.

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 speakers included Barbara Fiacco, a partner at Foley Hoag LLP and AIPLA’s President, Barbara Fisher, Assistant General Counsel, Intellectual Property and Technology Law for Lockheed Martin Corporation, Courtney Holohan, Accenture’s Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, Mercedes Meyer, a Partner at the law firm Faegre Drinker, Sophia Piliouras, president of MCCA’s Advisory Practice at the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), Teresa ‘Terry’ Stanek Rea, a Partner at the law firm Cromwell & Moring and former acting and deputy director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and Ellen Smith, a Partner at the law firm Sughrue Mion.

A favorite session among the participants was the Drafting 101 session with Harrity attorney, Peter Glaser.  The participants were taken through the application drafting process. Another favorite session was led by Harrity attorney, Tim Hirzel, who instructed the participants on patent prosecution.  Both sessions included a hands-on training assignment, which was reviewed by their instructors to maximize learning opportunities.

The session also included two-hour Q & A with Harrity attorneys, which included partners John Harrity, Paul Harrity, and Paul Gurzo.  John and Paul Harrity both agreed 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!

Frank Jakes, Legendary Trial Attorney – Clause 8 – Episode 16

This episode of Clause 8 features an interview with trial attorney Frank Jakes – the founder of the Intellectual Property Group at the firm of Johnson Pope in Tampa, FL. There’s a good chance that you have recently seen him questioning Joe Exotic in the Netflix documentary Tiger King. However, even before successfully representing Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue, Frank Jakes was already a legendary trial attorney in Tampa who handled lots of cases involving high-profile parties and interesting personalities and won many millions of dollars in verdicts. Many of those cases involved a wide variety of IP rights.

Listen and subscribe on IPwatchdog.com.

 

Your Licensees’ Patent Marking Program is Also Your Concern

By McCord Rayburn, Associate

As an in-house IP attorney, you may take comfort in knowing that your patent marking program is thorough, well-established, and properly executed. You have standardized procedures to determine which patents cover which products. You monitor product release dates to ensure appropriate marking. You have set up a “virtual marking” website to take advantage of this form of marking established by the America Invents Act (AIA). You regularly update the virtual marking website to remove expired patents and add newly granted patents. Your patent marking program is a well-oiled machine. But what about your licensees’ patent marking programs? Do you know anything about your licensees’ patent marking programs? Do you even care about your licensees’ patent marking programs? Well, you should, and the Federal Circuit recently provided another opinion to remind patent licensors that a licensee’s failure to mark can be costly.

Continue Reading on IPWatchdog.com.

In Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak, USPTO Extends Certain Patent Deadlines

By Ted Nissly, Associate

On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it has exercised its authority under section 12004 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to make 30-day extensions available to certain patent and trademark-related deadlines.  Prior to the enactment of the CARES Act, the USPTO did not have authority to extend deadlines because most patent and trademark-related deadlines are defined by statute.

Rather than take a uniform approach to extending deadlines for all filings and payments, such as other patent offices have taken across the world, the USPTO has focused on allowing extensions to only certain filings and payments.  Patent application extensions apply to, for example, responses to office actions, issue fee payments, and certain appeal filings that are due between March 27 and April 30, 2020.  Notably, the USPTO has excluded replies to pre-examination notices and maintenance fee payments to most applicants, unless an applicant is a small entity or micro entity.  The USPTO also granted extensions for certain filings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), including requests for rehearing of a PTAB decision.  Any qualifying filing or payment due between March 27 and April 30, 2020, will be extended 30 days from the initial date that it was due.

To qualify for an extension, a delayed filing or payment must be accompanied by a statement that the delay in filing or payment was due to a practitioner, applicant, patent owner, petitioner, third party requester, inventor, or other person associated with the filing or payment being personally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including through office closures, cash flow interruptions, inaccessibility of files or other materials, travel delays, personal or family illness, or similar circumstances.

The USPTO has clarified, in a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of its website that the statement that the delay was due to the COVID-19 outbreak should be a separate statement (e.g., not as part of a response to an Office action) but does not need to be verified or provided in an affidavit or declaration form.  However, the COVID-19 outbreak must materially interfere with a filing or payment to qualify as a delay due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The USPTO’s extension of deadlines under the CARES act is just the latest relief that the USPTO has granted due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Last month, the USPTO waived fees for reviving applications that became abandoned because of failure to meet a deadline for responding to an Office communication due to the COVID-19 outbreak and waived requirements for an original handwritten signature for certain correspondence with the Office of Enrollment and Discipline and certain payments by credit card.

As of the date of this posting, the USPTO’s extension of deadlines under the CARES act applies to deadlines through April 30, 2020, but the USPTO may extend the time window based on the continuing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The USPTO’s Notice of Waiver of Patent-Related Timing Deadlines under the CARES ACT can be found here.

The USPTO’s FAQs concerning the Extension of Deadlines under the CARES ACT can be found here.

 

Obvious to Use Common Sense (If You Can Prove It)

By Jafar Ali, Associate

In KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007), the Supreme Court recalibrated the obviousness analysis to (re-)emphasize the relevance of “the background knowledge posted by a person having ordinary skill in the art” when determining whether there would have been an apparent reason to combine and/or modify prior art to arrive at the claimed invention.  Before KSR, the Federal Circuit and lower courts had regularly been applying the so-called “teaching, suggestion, motivation” (TSM) test, which generally required some “teaching, suggestion, or motivation” to combine and/or modify the prior art to support a conclusion of obviousness.  Critically, the Supreme Court held that the TSM test as-applied was a rigid and mandatory rule that improperly limited the obviousness inquiry by denying factfinders (e.g., examiners and juries) recourse to common sense.  KSR changed the obviousness landscape by rejecting the rigidity and formalism of the TSM test and setting forth “an expansive and flexible approach” in which the factual determinations underlying the obviousness analysis could consider “the inferences and creative steps that a person of ordinary skill in the art would employ.”

One question that was not fully resolved in KSR itself, however, was the extent to which a claimed invention could be rendered obvious based on general knowledge or common sense.  Instead, the Court simply stated that the fact-finding supporting an obviousness analysis “should be made explicit” to facilitate review while favorably citing earlier Federal Circuit decisions holding that “there must be some articulated reasoning with some rational underpinning to support the legal conclusion of obviousness.”  In Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Google LLC, 2019-1177 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 30, 2020), the Federal Circuit clarified that the “general knowledge” of a person having ordinary skill in the art can indeed be relied upon to render a claimed invention obvious, even to supply an admittedly missing claim limitation, provided that the record contains a reasoned analysis and evidentiary support for such general knowledge.

In Philips, the Federal Circuit upheld an inter partes decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) finding claims 1-11 in U.S. Patent No. 7,529,806 (“the ’806 patent”) to be invalid as obvious over a single prior art reference.  The representative claim at issue generally related to a method for delivering digital content for playback on a client device.  In particular, the claimed method recited steps to retrieve a next portion of a media presentation during playback of a previous portion, thus reducing delays relative to traditional downloading approaches in which playback cannot begin until the entire media presentation has finished downloading.  Google, in challenging the validity of the ’806 patent, referred to a publication explaining a conventional pipelining scheme to divide a media presentation into multiple segments and play a current segment (Sn) while a next segment (Sn+1) is downloading.  Citing the pipelining scheme and an expert declaration, Google argued, and the Board agreed, that the claimed method was invalid as obvious because the features admitted to be missing from the prior art were within the general knowledge of a person having ordinary skill in the art.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit held that “the skilled artisan’s knowledge [can be considered] when determining whether it would have been obvious to modify the prior art” regardless of the tribunal.  Indeed, citing KSR, the court stated that the obviousness analysis requires an assessment of the “background knowledge possessed by a person having ordinary skill in the art.”  However, reliance on general knowledge or common sense would be improper if based solely upon “conclusory statements and unspecific expert testimony,” and using background knowledge to supply a missing claim limitation should be reserved to cases where the missing limitation is “unusually simple and the technology particularly straightforward.”  In this case, the background knowledge was sufficient to supply the missing claim features because the Board relied upon expert evidence that was corroborated by the literature establishing that pipelining was within the general knowledge of a skilled artisan.

This case provides important context to further refine the impact that general knowledge has on patentability.  One noteworthy aspect is that, in Philips, the party asserting obviousness presented an expert declaration and supporting documentary evidence rather than simply making conclusory statements that a person having ordinary skill in the art would have known about the missing claim features.  Accordingly, if a patent applicant is faced with an obviousness rejection relying upon general knowledge during prosecution, the applicant can challenge the Examiner to produce supporting documentary evidence.  Furthermore, this case reaffirms the importance of having robust backup positions in a patent application, including dependent claims.  Features of independent claims believed to overcome the prior art might be alleged to be within the general knowledge of a skilled artisan in adversarial proceedings when parties asserting invalidity typically devote more resources to finding evidentiary support.  Strong dependent claims provide an avenue for at least some claims surviving in that situation.

 

Addressing the Lack of Diversity in the Legal Field

Promoting the culture of diversity is important for all professions, but it is especially lacking in the legal field. In fact, the legal profession is among the least diverse professions in the United States.  Diversity and inclusion in the workplace help to identify and embrace different backgrounds and contribute to the overall advancement of the business.

There are several factors that impede the prevalence of diversity in the legal field.  At Harrity, we are dedicated to overcoming these obstacles by providing opportunities for minorities and developing tools for diverse candidates to succeed.  Although the disparity of minorities practicing law, and especially minorities in equity positions, will take time to overcome, it is an obtainable goal if all firms work to address the problem.

Statistics Talk

The industry needs to recognize the importance of creating an unbiased, equal, and harmonious working environment for all legal professionals.  Unfortunately, the lack of diversity is widespread in the legal field, and the numbers show the industry is moving at a slow pace to address the issue.

In 2018, 85% of lawyers in the U.S. were Caucasian, according to the American Bar Association.  Another report on diversity in U.S. law firms found that racially diverse women are the most underrepresented group in the legal profession.  Other diverse groups underrepresented include LGBTQ2+ lawyers, lawyers with disabilities, and Black/African lawyers.

The Challenges in Recruiting Diverse Workforce

While corporate legal departments and law firms are working on more inclusive recruitment and hiring practices, there is still a need to address the lack of diversity.  Many barriers impede the advancement and retention of diverse lawyers in the legal profession.  Some of the factors that contribute to the lack of diversity include in-group favoritism, stereotyping, unconscious biases, and diversity fatigue.

Law firms should regularly participate in diversity training, utilize a diversity consultant, and review their own Diversity & Inclusion policies.  Firms should also consider concepts such as implicit bias, i.e., attributing certain attitudes or associating stereotypes with a person or group of people without our conscious knowledge, and self-assessment bias, in which females and minority groups tend to rate themselves lower on skill-related surveys than white males.

Other factors that contribute to the lack of diversity in the legal field are the socio-economic circumstances that often hinder minority groups, including limited access to quality education and other resources, and the high cost of pursuing a legal degree.  Outreach programs, financial aid, and internal training opportunities targeting low-income families can help legal professionals address this and ensure all demographics have the same access to a legal career path.

Importance of Diversity in the Legal Field

Law firms must welcome a diverse workforce as it promotes mutual respect, acceptance, and co-existence.  It is crucial to formulate new strategies when working in the legal world.  A diverse group of lawyers, with different backgrounds, ethnicities, and skills, can help each other in building strengths and overcoming weaknesses.

Diversity leads to innovative ideas, opinions, and strategies.  It improves the quality of service and ensures that the voice of marginalized groups is also heard.  A female lawyer or black lawyer can highlight the issues of their respective groups better than others.  Diversity helps law firms to adapt accordingly to unprecedented or less familiar situations.  It allows them to respond to diverse clients more effectively.

Above all, diversity and inclusion in the legal field prevent discrimination against skilled and qualified lawyers.  Many reports and studies show that diverse workplaces are more productive and that they have lower turnover compared to non-inclusive workplaces.

Final Word

Harrity & Harrity strongly believes that the practice of law can advance only when there is a diverse legal team.  Our Diversity Mission is to promote a respectful, family-friendly, and diverse culture that recognizes and values the diverse backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, skills, and talents of each member on our team.

In order to provide equal opportunity to all candidates, Harrity developed the Rooney Rule 2.0 with regard to hiring, which is based off of The Rooney Rule.  The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview one minority candidate for each head coaching and senior football operation job.  According to The Rooney Rule, only one diverse candidate needs to be interviewed, while there could be hundreds or thousands of non-diverse candidates.  The Rooney Rule 2.0 changes that rule to commit to interviewing a female or minority candidate for every male or non-minority candidate we interview for any position at our firm.

The Harrity Diversity Committee has implemented several other initiatives in order to grow and nurture diversity in the IP legal field.  The Minority Firm Incubator helps train, develop, and launch minority-owned patent law firms in an effort to recruit, retain, and advance attorneys who will contribute to the diversity of the patent field.  The annual Women’s Workshop is a free program that introduces female engineers and law students or recent graduates to the practice of patent law with guest speakers, patent skills training, career mentoring, and more.  The Harrity Academy provides minority candidates with exclusive training and practice materials for drafting high-quality patent applications.

The goal of these programs is to help increase the number of diverse candidates applying to positions within Harrity and the legal field, help improve skillsets and the likelihood that these candidates will succeed in the interview process, and encourage upward movement for minorities within their firms.

If more firms commit to implementing a comprehensive diversity plan, together, we can help bridge the gap by eliminating biases and encouraging diversity within the legal community.  It is vital that the hiring process focuses only on required skillsets and qualifications, regardless of gender, color, race, or religion, and that steps are taken to reduce discrimination and give minorities the opportunity to succeed.

If you are interested in reading the 2018/2019 Harrity Annual Diversity Report, it can be found here.  For more information regarding Harrity’s diversity initiatives, visit harrityllp.com/diversity.

 

Elaine Spector
AUTHOR

Elaine Spector

Elaine Spector is a Partner at Harrity & Harrity, LLP, a boutique firm specializing in intellectual property law. Her practice focuses primarily on the prosecution of patent applications, specifically within electromechanical technologies. Elaine is a driving force in the firm’s diversity and charity initiatives and serves on several committees and boards in relation, including AIPLA’s Women in IP Law’s Global Networking Event & Outreach Subcommittee, IPO’S Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and the non-profit No More Stolen Childhoods.

Bunch O Balloons Inventor Josh Malone – Clause 8 – Episode 16

Tune into Eli Mazour‘s Clause 8 Podcast for an exclusive interview with Josh Malone – the inventor of Bunch O Balloons and America’s foremost advocate for reliable patent rights.

Josh came up with the idea for Bunch O Balloons to help his kids fill up 100 water balloons in less than one minute. It eventually became the most popular toy in America. However, before Bunch O Balloons even came to market, another company copied it and started selling its own versions of the product. Luckily – or so he thought at the time – Josh filed a patent application for his Bunch O Balloons invention. He did not know the enormous amount of time, money, and luck it would take to successfully enforce patents that covered his invention. This episode tells the story of what it took, including taking a trip to Bentonville, AR in the middle of the night to try to convince Walmart to stop selling knock offs of his product.

Listen and subscribe on IPwatchdog.com.

 

The Importance of Patent Analytics for Your Business Strategy

When a company or organization launches a new product, a patent is usually the first published evidence of the invention in the public domain. Patents are essential protections for any innovation-driven company that has a substantial Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) culture.

A patent protects the right of the inventor company to use their product, thereby preventing others from using the invention. Today, patents have become critical factors for businesses to get an edge over their competitors. Patent analytic tools are being used by organizations for various purposes, including development of sound business strategy.

How Does Patent Analytics Help Businesses?

Patent analysis helps businesses in many areas, both internally and externally. For instance, internal patent analytics helps organizations assess their own patent portfolio.

Further, it can assist in SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. With patent analytics, companies can make informed decisions regarding licensing and acquisition of advanced technologies.

External analytics, on the other hand, provides information about competitors and the technologies they use.

Let’s discuss the benefits of patent analytics for business strategies in detail.

1.     Portfolio Analytics

To stand out amongst the competition, you must understand your organization’s patent portfolio. Analyzing your company’s portfolio reveals valuable insights; you get a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Doing so allows you to make well-informed business decisions.

2.     Competitor Analytics

Another advantage of patent analysis is that it allows you to compare your own patent portfolio to those of competitors. Competitor analytics offers valuable insight into competitor business strategies and partnerships.  Patent analytics helps you understand what is working for your competitors and what mistakes you should avoid.

3.     Technology Analytics

Analytics tools keep you up to date on where your business and competitors stand in the dynamic landscape of technology. This information allows you to make better decisions regarding portfolio management and fosters stronger client relationships.

Field-relevant technology know-how helps identify market needs. Patent analysis provides researchers and inventors with valuable technological information needed to find innovative solutions to technical problems.

Additionally, patent analytics helps with licensing, mergers, and acquisitions. Patent data can provide a comprehensive, technical portfolio view for technologies and companies in consideration for licensing or acquisition and helps shorten the list of choices.

4.     Cost and Budget Analytics

Budgeting and wise resource-management is crucial to strong business strategy. Analytics provide detailed information on costs occurred during patent prosecution and maintenance periods. This information helps identify problems, cut costs, and spend your budget efficiently.

5.     Automated Portfolio Categorization

Patent portfolio categorization dashboards, such as those created by Harrity Analytics, are automated systems that categorize patent portfolios according to your business’s self-determined technology areas.  These tools can additionally perform a competitive analysis of the key players in your niche industry areas.

Final Words

Whether you are starting a new business, developing a new product, pitching a new client, planning a merger, or just trying to stay ahead of the competition, patent analytics is crucial to ensuring you are on the right track and building a sound business strategy.

Harrity Patent Analytics services can help you manage your patent profile, gain insight into your competitors’ portfolios, and understand patent trends around the world.  Harrity Patent Analytics can help you make patent prosecution decisions and refine your business strategy.  To view a list of Harrity Patent Analytics services or request your own customized reports, visit https://harrityllp.com/services/patent-analytics/.

 

About Harrity Patent Analytics

Harrity Patent Analytics, a team of professionals within the boutique IP law firm of Harrity & Harrity, LLP, uses cutting-edge capabilities to analyze patent data and extract insights for strategic decisions regarding patent portfolios.  Patent 300® companies rely on Harrity Patent Analytics services to better understand their own patent portfolios, those of their competitors, their key technology areas, and to keep track of patent office trends around the world.  For more information, visit harrityllp.com/services/patent-analytics.

 

Kevin Jakel of Unified Patents Pt. 2 – Clause 8 – Episode 15

Tune into Eli Mazour‘s Clause 8 Podcast for the second and final part of our interview with Kevin Jakel, the founder and CEO of Unified Patents. On this episode, we continue the conversation with Kevin about how Unified Patents operates, discuss Unified Patents’ new program for targeting Standard Essential Patents (SEPs), debate whether the patent troll narrative has been overblown, talk about the patent quality problem, and delve into some other patent policy issues related to IPRs and the PTAB. We also find out what Kevin has in common with George Costanza!

Listen and subscribe on IPwatchdog.com.

$750 Million Dollar Patent Infringement Award May Hinge on Whether a Certificate of Correction was Properly Issued to Fix a “Typo”

By Steven Underwood, Counsel

On December 15, 2019, a Los Angeles jury found that Kite Pharma Inc. (“Kite”) had willfully infringed a cancer-treatment patent licensed by Juno Therapeutics Inc. from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research (collectively, “MSKCC”), and held that Kite should pay MSKCC $752 million.  The litigation (Juno Therapeutics Inc. et al. v. Kite Pharma Inc., case number 2:17-cv-07639, C.D. Cal.) was widely reported in the press as potentially hinging on whether the patent-in-suit (U.S. Pat. No. 7,446,190) contained a simple “typo.”

During the litigation, Kite argued that the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) had erroneously issued a Certificate of Correction (CoC) because the “[t]he mistake corrected by the certificate of correction . . . was not of a clerical or typographical nature and was not of minor character,” as required under 35 U.S.C. § 255.  Kite’s position was that the CoC should not have been granted, and that if the CoC had not been granted, Kite clearly would not infringe the claims of the patent.

In order to understand the nature of the mistake corrected by the CoC, we must briefly consider the claims.  Claim 1 of the patent requires a “nucleic acid polymer encoding a chimeric T cell receptor comprising . . . a costimulatory signaling region [that] comprises the amino acid sequence encoded by SEQ ID NO:6.”  Therefore, infringement of claim 1 can be determined only by reference to the definition of SEQ ID NO:6 (which is provided in the specification of the patent) – and that definition was modified by the CoC (seven bases, out of 328, were deleted).

When the application was filed on May 28, 2003, the SEQ ID NO:6 listing was, as explained by MSKCC to the PTO, incorrect.  On September 4, 2007, after receiving a Notice of Allowance, MSKCC submitted a Request for Continued Examination (RCE) with an Amendment that requested the same changes to the specification that were subsequently requested by the CoC.  In the Amendment, MSKCC argued that the changes were not new matter, since one skilled in the art would have recognized, as clerical errors, the errors being corrected.  As required, a copy of the revised sequence listing on a computer-readable disk was submitted with the Amendment.  However, on November 2, 2007, the Amendment was rejected by the PTO, on the ground that the sequence listing disk submitted with the Amendment was “flawed technically.” After two attempts, in April 2008 MSKCC submitted, along with a corrected paper copy of the sequence listing, a copy of the disk that was accepted, and on November 4, 2008, the patent issued.

However, while the April 2008 submission made corrections that were requested by the PTO, those corrections were made to the original, not the amended, specification.  Consequently, the changes requested in the September 2007 Amendment/RCE were undone by the April 2008 submission.  As summarized in MSKCC’s Request of Correction: “Sequence ID Nos. 4 and 6 in the printed patent therefore contain the same errors that the RCE was filed to address.”  Thus, MSKCC argued, “The resubmission of the incorrect Sequence listing occurred through clerical error . . . and was not made in bad faith. The correction requested does not involve such changes in the patent as would constitute new matter . . . as it was the change that was presented to the Examiner in the initial amendment and arguments filed with the RCE.”

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this case (an appeal seems likely), the clear takeaway for clients and practitioners is that a second pair of eyes should carefully review each filing with the PTO, including patent applications and responses.  Such a review will substantially reduce the risk of a patent application being filed with the wrong information, and better ensure that any mistakes are properly corrected.  As this case demonstrates, whether errors are properly (and promptly) corrected during prosecution may affect the validity or enforceability of a corresponding patent.

In Design Patents, Claim Language Matters

By Ryan Thelen, Associate

Often when a design patent application is prepared, the primary focus and effort of the drafting process is given to the drawings, while little thought is given to the wording of the actual claim.  However, the Federal Circuit recently issued a decision in a case of first impression in Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., 2018-2214 (Fed. Cir. Sep 12, 2019), in which the Federal Circuit highlighted how the words in a design patent claim can limit the scope of a design illustrated in a patent drawing.

Curver is the assignee of U.S. design patent no. D677,946 (’946 patent), which claims an “ornamental design for a pattern for a chair.”  However, the drawings of the ’946 patent do not show a chair and merely illustrate an overlapping Y design.  The term “chair” was added to the claim and title during prosecution as a result of an examiner objection to the use of the term “furniture part.”

Curver sued Home Expressions on the basis that Home Expressions sells baskets that incorporate an overlapping “Y” shape that infringes the ’946 patent.  The United States  District Court for the District of New Jersey first construed the scope of the ’946 patent to include the design illustrated in the drawings as applied to a chair, and then determined that Home Expressions’s baskets do not infringe under the “ordinary observer” test.  The District Court reasoned that the scope of the ’946 patent is limited to the article of manufacture listed in the ’946 patent, and found that an ordinary observer would not purchase Home Expressions’s basket with the ornamental “Y” design believing that the purchase was for an ornamental “Y” design applied to a chair, as protected by the ’946 patent.”

On appeal, Curver took issue with the claim construction aspect of the District Court opinion, arguing that the District Court improperly limited the scope of the claim due to the word “chair” in the claim, rather than focusing on the design shown in the drawings in which no chair is present.  35 U.S.C. § 171 permits patent protection for a “new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture” (emphasis added), yet no article of manufacture was illustrated in the drawings of the ’946 patent.  Thus, the issue before the Federal Circuit is how to construe the scope of a design patent in which the claimed design is illustrated in the abstract (i.e., is not applied to an article of manufacture in the drawings).

The Federal Circuit held that “claim language can limit the scope of a design patent where the claim language supplies the only instance of an article of manufacture that appears nowhere in the figures.”  The Federal Circuit cited various persuasive sources to support its decision, such as Gorham Co. v. White (Sup. Ct. 1871), Ex parte Cady (USPTO 1916), 37 C.F.R. § 1.15, and the MPEP.  The Federal Circuit specifically noted that 37 C.F.R. § 1.15 permits the scope of a design patent to be defined by a combination of the drawings and the language of the design patent.

This case makes clear that when filing and prosecuting a design patent application, applicants and practitioners should ensure that the claimed design is tied to an actual “article of manufacture,” and should carefully choose the words that will be used in the claim, description, and title.

USPTO October 2019 Update On Subject Matter Eligibility

By Tim Hirzel

The PTO’s Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance (2019 PEG) has been generally well received for providing a more reliable manner of applying the Alice/Mayo test used by the courts.  Even so, the 2019 PEG still left some matters unclear and the PTO has now responded to public feedback by providing further clarification in the October 2019 Update.  Below, we discuss the updates and how practitioners can use the updated guidance in practice.

Step 2A Prong One

In Step 2A Prong One, the 2019 PEG instructs examiners to evaluate whether a claim recites an abstract idea by a) identifying specific limitations in the claims believed to be an abstract idea, and b) determining whether the identified limitations fall within any of the three specific groupings of abstract ideas (mathematical concepts, certain methods of organizing human activity, and mental processes).

However, there was some question as to how explicitly limitations in the claims have to recite an abstract idea.  The October 2019 Update clarifies that “recites” should broadly be construed to mean that the claims either explicitly set forth the abstract idea or merely describe the abstract idea without explicitly using words that identify the abstract idea.  The PTO further clarifies that claims may recite multiple abstract ideas, which may fall in the same or different groupings, and that the groupings are not mutually exclusive (i.e., a single claim limitation may fall into more than one abstract idea grouping).

The October 2019 Update also provides clarification on what the three groupings of abstract ideas entail.

  • Mathematical Concepts – The 2019 PEG defines “mathematical concepts” as mathematical relationships, mathematical formulas or equations, and mathematical calculations. The PTO interprets the courts as having declined to distinguish between types of math when evaluating claims for eligibility, and the PTO will do the same.  For example, math used to solve a particular technical problem (e.g., an engineering problem) will still be considered to fall within the mathematical concepts grouping.  However, a claim does not recite a mathematical concept if it is only based on or involves a mathematical concept.
  • Certain Method of Organizing Human Activity – The PTO clarifies that not all methods of organizing human activity are abstract ideas, and this grouping is limited to only fundamental economic principles or practices, commercial or legal interactions, managing personal behavior, and relationships or interactions between people.
  • Mental Processes – Under the 2019 PEG, “mental processes” are concepts performed in the human mind, such as observations, evaluations, judgments, and opinions. A footnote in the 2019 PEG indicates that a claim limitation is not a mental process when it “cannot practically be performed in the mind.”  The October 2019 update expanded on this and clarified that this is “when the human mind is not equipped to perform the claim limitations.”  The PTO reemphasized that claims can recite a mental process even if they are performed by a computer in the claim and further clarified that there is no requirement that the claim be performed entirely in the human mind to fall into the mental processes grouping.

The 2019 PEG also allows for the possibility that a claim limitation that does not fall into one of the three groupings of abstract idea may be still determined to be an abstract idea upon TC Director approval.  The October 2019 update indicates that the public will be notified once such an office action issues.  At this time, the PTO has not provided any such notification.

Step 2A Prong Two

In Step 2A Prong Two, the 2019 PEG instructs examiners to evaluate whether the claim as a whole integrates the abstract idea into a practical application and gives several considerations in making this determination, 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.

The October 2019 Update reemphasized that this analysis considers the claim as a whole, and that the additional elements of the claim (i.e., those not identified as an abstract idea) are not to be evaluated separately from the limitations reciting the abstract idea.  Moreover, the PTO clarified that merely claiming a specific way of achieving a result is not a stand-alone consideration in Step 2A Prong Two and is not enough by itself to integrate the abstract idea into a practical application.  However, the specificity of the claims is relevant to the considerations related to using a particular machine, a particular transformation, and whether the limitations are mere instructions to apply an exception.

The October 2019 Update devotes lengthy discussion to how a claim improves the functioning of a computer or a technical field and provides a two-step procedure for how examiners are to perform this analysis.

  • Step One – Examiners are to evaluate the specification to determine if sufficient details are provided to establish the claimed invention provides an improvement to technology. However, there is no requirement that the specification explicitly recite the improvement.  The improvement is not relative to what is well-understood, routine, conventional activity in the field, but rather relative to existing technology.  Importantly, the PTO noted that an improvement to an abstract idea is not an improvement to technology.
  • Step Two – If the specification sets forth an improvement in technology, the claims must be analyzed to determine if the claims recite features that provide the improvement described in the specification. However, there is no need for the claims to explicitly recite the improvement.

Step 2B

In Step 2B, examiners are to evaluate whether the claims provide an inventive concept by reciting significantly more than the abstract idea.  The October 2019 Update itself provides almost no discussion or clarification of Step 2B other than to reemphasize that well-understood, routine, conventional activity will only be considered under Step 2B and not Step 2A.  However, the PTO provided Example 43 along with the October 2019 Update that shows how a claim can fail Step 2A but still be determined eligible under Step 2B.  Such an example was notably absent from the examples provided with the 2019 PEG.

Example 43 is a hypothetical based on the well-known Diamond v. Diehr case.  Example 43 is directed to a controller for an injection molding apparatus that repeatedly obtains temperature measurements of a mold, calculates an extent of curing completion based on the temperatures and an equation, and determines a percentage of curing completion.  Claim 3 specifies that the controller is connected to a means for temperature measuring (which is specifically interpreted to be an ARCXY thermocouple).  Under Step 2A Prong One, the claim is determined to recite a mathematical concept.  Under Step 2A Prong Two, the step of obtaining the temperature measurements is deemed to be insignificant extra-solution activity of data gathering and does not integrate the abstract idea into a practical application.  Notably, the fact that claim 3 uses an ARCXY thermocouple to obtain the temperature measurements is not considered in Step 2A Prong Two (not even to establish use of a particular machine).  Thus, claim 3 is determined to be directed to the abstract idea.

However, the consideration of whether the ARCXY thermocouple feature is mere insignificant extra-solution activity is reconsidered under Step 2B taking into account whether such extra-solution activity is well-known.  The PTO found that while use of ARCXY thermocouples is known in the aeronautical industry, the use of ARCXY thermocouples was not routine or conventional in injection molding apparatuses.  Because the ARXCY thermocouple resulted in better long-term performance, durability, and response time than other thermocouples, the result of using the unconventional thermocouple in the claimed manner amounts to significantly more than the abstract idea (i.e., mathematical concept) and the claim is patent eligible.

Key Takeaways

The October 2019 Update reinforces the idea that the best practice when drafting a patent application is to describe the invention as providing a technical solution to a technical problem.  In this way, should a Step 2A Prong One argument fail, practitioners can rely on a Step 2A Prong Two argument that the claims improve the functioning of a computer or other technology.  This argument seems to be the argument preferred by examiners and often cited by the courts as a basis for patent eligibility when there is a 101 issue.

Specifically, practitioners should keep in mind that examiners will heavily rely on the specification to determine if such a technical solution or technical improvement is provided.  The improvement should not be merely recited in a conclusory manner (e.g., an unsupported assertion that the invention provides a specific improvement), but should be explained in sufficient detail to tie specific features of the invention to the improvement.  Importantly, the claims should be drafted in such way to include the features that provide the improvement.  Examiners have often requested, or even required, that the claims explicitly recite the improvement to overcome a 101 rejection even though these claim features are often considered intended use or given little patentable weight.  The October 2019 update makes it clear this is not necessary.

The PTO also appears to narrow at least some of the three groupings of abstract ideas in Step 2A Prong One.  Practitioners should use this to their advantage when drafting applications to characterize features that may be arguably abstract in a way that avoids falling into the three groupings of abstract ideas.  For example, when appropriate, the application could describe the complexity of steps that may be arguably mental processes (e.g., determining steps, processing steps, analyzing steps, etc.) to establish that these steps cannot be practically performed in the human mind.  However, practitioners should be careful not to try to game the system by describing a simple step, which truly could be performed in the mind, as a complex step that cannot be performed in the mind because such a characterization could have unintended consequences for potential infringement and claim interpretation.  Moreover, if a feature truly could be performed in the mind, then there is most likely a better way to establish eligibility under Step 2A Prong Two or Step 2B.

The 2019 PEG stripped Step 2B of most of its previous considerations and moved them to Step 2A Prong Two.  While the 2019 PEG indicated that Step 2B was still a viable option to establish eligibility, there was little instruction on how practitioners could actually present a successful argument and no examples of succeeding under Step 2B were given.  Given this, examiners have been reluctant to seriously consider Step 2B arguments.  Although arguments under Step 2B are likely to remain an improbable way to overcome a 101 rejection in view of the of the October 2019 Update, practitioners should keep in mind that new Example 43 provides a manner of establishing an inventive concept and a rationale that can be used as a backup position under Step 2B going forward.  Therefore, practitioners should draft their specifications to highlight how their inventions differ from what is well-understood, routine, conventional in the field, even if it is a feature that is more tangentially related to the core invention that could be considered extra solution activity.

Overall, the October 2019 Update should help the PTO continue to provide more reliable subject matter eligibility analysis and clarify what kinds of arguments will successfully overcome a 101 rejection.

Why a Brief Response is the Best Response to an Office Action

By Rebecca Bachner, Associate

The Federal Circuit recently issued a decision that reminds us of the importance of always remembering prosecution history estoppel when presenting arguments in responses to the USPTO.  Specifically, in Amgen Inc v. Coherus Biosciences Inc., 2018-1993 (Fed. Cir. Jul. 29, 2019)) (“Amgen”), the Federal Circuit highlights how prosecution history estoppel can bar a patent owner from succeeding on its infringement claim under the doctrine of equivalents.

At issue was Amgen’s U.S. Patent No. 8,273,707 which was being asserted against Coherus for infringement.  During prosecution, the USPTO rejected Amgen’s claims as obvious in view of U.S. Patent No. 5,231,178 (“Holtz”).  In response, Amgen presented multiple different arguments.  First, Amgen argued that “the pending claims recite a particular combination of salts. No combinations of salts taught nor suggested in the Holtz et al. patent, nor [are] the particular combinations of salts recited in the pending claims taught nor suggested in this reference.” See Fed. Cir at pgs. 4-5.  Amgen further included a Declaration from the inventor of the ‘707 patent.  “The Declaration did not discuss any salt pairs other than sulfate/citrate, sulfate/acetate, and acetate/citrate—the only claimed pairs in the ’707 patent.”  See Fed. Cir at pg. 5.  The Patent Office issued another rejection and, in a final response, Amgen reiterated that Holtz did not disclose a combination of salts nor did Holtz disclose enhancing the dynamic capacity of an HIC column.  The Amgen patent issued after these arguments were filed.

Amgen filed suit against Coherus alleging infringement of the ‘707 patent under the doctrine of equivalents.  Coherus moved to dismiss Amgen’s complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) stating that Amgen argued that Holtz did not disclose “one of the particular, recited combinations of salts.”  See Fed. Cir at pg. 7.  A magistrate judge issued a report that recommended that Coherus’ motion be granted due to prosecution history estoppel.  The report stated that Amgen “clearly and unmistakably—and indeed, repeatedly—indicated to competitors that it surrendered processes using combinations of salts different from the ‘particular combinations of salts recited in the . . . claims[.]’”  See id.  Therefore, the report found that “prosecution history estoppel bars Amgen from now attempting to reassert surrendered ground involving other combinations of salts.” See id.  The District Court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation and granted Coherus’ motion to dismiss.

At the appeal, the Federal Circuit agreed with the lower court’s dismissal.   The Court looked at the prosecution history and noted that “Amgen distinguished Holtz on the basis that Holtz did not teach or suggest the “particular combinations of salts” recited in Amgen’s claims.”   See Fed. Cir at pg. 9.  The Court further noted that “Amgen emphasized “particular” and referred to its particular salts three times in the span of two pages.”  See id.  As to Amgen’s argument that it distinguished from Holtz on the basis of increasing dynamic capacity, the Court states that “while Amgen did assert multiple reasons for why Holtz is distinguishable, our precedent instructs that estoppel can attach to each argument.”  See Fed. Cir at pg. 11.  Importantly, the Court stated that “[t]here is no requirement that argument-based estoppel apply only to arguments made in the most recent submission before allowance.”  See id.

This case is a strong reminder that everything written during prosecution can be used against the patent owner in later litigation.  The fact that “this particular combination” was a non-convincing argument, but still was used against Amgen with doctrine of equivalents shows how careful patent practitioners must be in drafting responses to the USPTO.  Each argument written down is part of the record that can be used against the ultimate patent.  As such, a high emphasis must be placed on having successful interviews with the Examiner.  Examiner interviews should be used at every stage of prosecution.  The Examiner interview is an invaluable way to receive feedback from the Examiner without adding to the written record.  Often, an agreement on claim language can be reached during the Examiner interview.  Based on the agreement, a response can be drafted in a way that minimizes the written record.  As such, Examiner interviews not only help with efficiency but are also a crucial part of obtaining high quality patents.

Improving Speed and Quality Using Automation for Patent Application Drafting

Our own Shawn Lillemo writes about how the right automation tools can provide application drafters with extra time that can be spent fleshing out additional details of the invention, exploring alternative embodiments, and telling a good story about how the invention solves a technical problem.  Read more on IPWatchdog.com.

Watch Shawn’s IPO Presentation on Patent Drafting Automation below!

Peter Glaser Team

How the Wrong Applicant Entity Status Can Doom Your Patent

By Peter Glaser, Associate

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, more commonly referred to as AIA, provided the USPTO with fee-setting authority to implement micro-entity status in addition to the previously implemented small-entity status. Both small-entity status and micro-entity status designations reduce fees for some patent filers. In general, small entities are entitled to a 50% reduction in fees and micro entities are entitled to a 75% reduction in fees. For example, the basic Utility filing fee for regular entities, sometimes termed ‘large entities’ is $300.00. In contrast the same filing fees for small entities and micro entities are $150.00 and $75.00, respectively.

The USPTO sets a set of requirements for patent filers to claim small entity status or micro entity status. In short, a small entity may qualify based on organization type (e.g., an entity that is a non-profit organization or that has fewer than 500 employees) and assignee status (e.g., an entity that has not assigned, licensed, or conveyed an interest in the invention to a non-small entity). For micro entities, the USPTO qualifications include each inventor not having been named inventor on more than 4 prior patent applications or have a gross income greater than 3 times the US median household income.

Generally, entity status is a matter of self-certification. For example, a patent attorney may file an assertion of small entity status or micro entity status for an inventor or other entity. However, the entity status must be updated if there is a change. For example, if an inventor files a patent application and qualifies as a small entity at the time of filing, but later assigns the invention to a large entity, a notification of loss of entitlement should be filed and regular fees paid thereafter.

The USPTO provides a good faith error safe harbor, but remedies are not provided for fraudulent or other non-good faith errors. A common way that entity status may change is as a result of a change in size of the patentee. In such a case, the Federal Circuit has held that when small entity status has been established in error and small entity fees have been paid in error, a patent holder can correct a good faith mistake (DH Technology, Inc. v. Synergystex International). Notably, the Federal Circuit indicated that the patent does not lapse as a result of an erroneous payment of fess and become unenforceable.

Another situation where entity status may be in question is when a patent license agreement is entered that could result in an applicant no longer being entitled to small entity status. In Outside The Box Innovations L.L.C. v. Travel Caddy, Inc, a lower court determined that an agreement between a patentee (that was a small entity) and a distributor (that was not a small entity) included a patent license clause that stripped Travel Caddy of small entity status with regard to the patent at issue. Here, the per curiam panel of the Federal Circuit found that it was reasonable for those involved in the patent prosecution to have believed that the agreement did not includes a patent license clause within the meaning of 37 CFR Section 1.27(a)(2). In a dissent, Judge Newman provided instructive guidance that an incorrect filing of small entity status should not be per se material to patentability.

Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, patent prosecutors and applicants can take some of the following steps to ensure an accurate assertion of entity status.

  1. Include questions regarding entity status in an initial invention disclosure interview questionnaire that is provided to inventors and/or applicants. Questions may include questions relating to company size, patent assignment status or licensing status, inventor household income, and the number of patents on which each inventor has been named.
  2. Following up with applicants and inventors regularly to determine whether answers to the above questions have changed.
  3. Maintaining comprehensive records of licensing agreements, joint inventorship agreements, research sponsorship agreements, and the like, and associating these records with patent family numbers.
  4. Performing a final check at issuance and at each maintenance fee payment date as to whether there has been any change to entity status. If a change has occurred, file a notification to indicate the status change.
The Pencil Test

How Reliable is the Pencil Test for Expediting the Patent Prosecution Process?

By Nathan Phares, Associate

Many patent practitioners and Examiners have spoken of the “pencil test,” which suggests that an independent claim is more likely to be rejected or is rejected as a matter of course if the claim is shorter than a pencil laid upon the claim.  Some point to the pencil test as a useful rule of thumb and suggest “padding” the length of the independent claim in hopes of improving the outcomes of prosecution.  However, drafting a lengthy independent claim may unnecessarily narrow the scope of the claim.  Does the length of the independent claim truly impact prosecution outcomes, or is the pencil test a myth?  We’ve analyzed the data, and we provide our conclusions below.

The data set we created for this analysis includes all patents that issued from applications filed post-AIA.  We limited the scope of the data set to electrical, mechanical, chemical, and biotech tech centers (i.e., Tech Centers 1600, 1700, 2100, 2400, 2600, 2800, 3600, and 3700).  For each patent, the data set indicates the number of Office Actions (OAs), the Art Unit and Tech Center, the length of claim 1 in total words and unique words, the length of the specification, and various other data (e.g., number of RCEs, Assignee, Agent, pendency, and so on).  We didn’t filter for unusually long or short claims – the longest claims (topping out at over 8,000 words!) and the shortest claims seem to generally be legitimate.

According to the data, first-OA allowances are slightly more likely with a longer independent claim than with a shorter independent claim, suggesting that the pencil test may be a factor in first-OA allowances.  Figure 1 shows a chart of the average number of total words in Claim 1 for buckets of the number of OAs.  First-OA allowances, which are associated with zero OAs, have a slightly longer first claim on average than second-OA allowances.  This relationship holds across all the Tech Centers we analyzed except TC 1600.  Figure 2 shows a chart of the average number of unique words in Claim 1.  In Figure 2, the same impact is present but is far less pronounced, indicating that total word count is more strongly correlated with first-OA allowance than unique word count.

 

Figure 1

 

Figure 2

The pencil test seems not to predict outcomes other than first-OA allowances: as the number of OAs before allowance increases, so does the length of claim 1.  This is the opposite of what the pencil test would suggest and may reflect the tendency to amend features into claim 1 over the course of prosecution in pursuit of allowance.

As the data shows, independent claims that include more total words tend to receive better treatment at the outset of prosecution, but outcomes are not clearly impacted by the pencil test as prosecution continues.  Therefore, the patent drafter should consider lengthening the independent claim if a first-OA allowance is the goal.  However, the data shows that the impact of the pencil test is mild at best, so the drafter should not rely on claim length alone to carry the day.  For example, the art unit where the application is assigned is a powerful predictor of the efficiency of the patent prosecution.  Therefore, the drafter should consider how the language used in the application may impact the assignment of the art unit.

It is important to note the limitations of the data set.  First, the claim lengths shown above are claim lengths of the issued patent, not of the patent application when it is first examined.  Thus, it is hard to tell whether the correlation between claim length and length of prosecution is due to the amendment of features into claim 1.  Second, we omitted patents associated with 8 or more OAs from the charts above, since the data set gets quite sparse after 7 OAs – for example, the 10, 11, 12, and 13 OA buckets collectively represent only 59 patents.  However, the trend shown in Figures 1 and 2 continues through the 9 OA bucket.

Matthew Allen, Harrity Team

Statements in Specification May Harm Patent Eligibility

By Matthew Allen, Associate

The Federal Circuit recently issued a decision that indicates how certain types of statements, made in an Applicant’s own specification, can undermine patent eligibility.  Specifically, in Solutran Inc. v. Elavon, Inc., U.S. Bancorp, 2019-1345, (Fed. Cir. Jul. 30, 2019) (“Solutran”), the Federal Circuit highlights how patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. §101 might turn based on a specification’s background information and statements regarding proposed advancements, or benefits, of an invention .

At issue in Solutran is claim 1 of U.S. Patent No. 8,311,945 (’945 patent), which recites:

A method for processing paper checks, comprising:

a) electronically receiving a data file containing data captured at a merchant s point of purchase, said data including an amount of a transaction associated with MICR information for each paper check, and said data file not including images of said checks;

b) after step a), crediting an account for the merchant;

c) after step b), receiving said paper checks and scanning said checks with a digital image scanner thereby creating digital images of said checks and, for each said check, associating said digital image with said check s MICR information; and

d) comparing by a computer said digital images, with said data in the data file to find matches.

When analyzing the claim under part one of the Supreme Court’s Alice test, the Federal Circuit determined that claim 1 was “directed to the abstract idea of crediting a merchant’s account as early as possible while electronically processing a check.”  In making its determination, the court examined the purported benefits of the ‘945 patent.  Two benefits were identified in the specification: “improved funds availability,” and “outsourcing.”  However, the court noted that while two benefits were identified in the specification, the claims were not limited to an embodiment that resulted in both benefits, stating that “[t]he only advance recited in the asserted claims is thus crediting the merchant’s account before the paper check is scanned.”  In other words, because the claims did not include features that required “outsourcing,” the court considered the only relevant benefit to be “improved funds availability.”

The court determined that the claimed advance (“improved funds availability”) was similar to abstract concepts such as “hedging” and “mitigating settlement risk,” and that “[t]he desire to credit a merchant’s account as soon as possible is an equally long standing commercial practice.”  Thus, the Federal Circuit used the purported advance of the ‘945 patent, as indicated in the specification and supported by the claims, in determining that claim 1 was directed to an abstract idea.  The court also noted that its characterization of claim 1 was appropriate where “the abstract idea tracks the claim language and accurately captures what the patent asserts to be the ‘focus of the claimed advance over the prior art.’”  This further signifies the importance the court placed on the alleged benefits of the application.

When addressing step two of the Alice test, the Federal Circuit used the background of the ‘945 patent against the patentee by stating that “the background of the ’945 patent describes each individual step in claim 1 as being conventional. Reordering the steps so that account crediting occurs before check scanning (as opposed to the other way around) represents the abstract idea in the claim, making it insufficient to constitute an inventive concept.”  In other words, simply re-ordering admittedly known steps will not constitute an inventive concept for purposes of step two of the Alice test.  Thus, the court used the applicant’s own statements in the specification, indicating that certain steps are conventional, to find that the claim was not patent eligible.

This decision provides important lessons about drafting and prosecuting a patent application that may increase the application’s likelihood to survive a §101 challenge.  First, practitioners should make sure that benefits identified in a patent application are exhibited in the claimed embodiments.  The identified benefits should ideally be clearly technical.  Second, practitioners should ensure that the patent application does not include any statements that might be used to argue against the patent eligibility of the claims.  This may include considering whether a detailed background may do more harm than good.

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.
Kenneth Hartmann Harrity Team

Case Summary of Data Engine Technologies LLC v. Google LLC

By Ken Hartmann

Data Engine Technologies LLC v. Google LLC, 2017-1135 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 9, 2018) is an appeal from the district court for the District of Delaware (No. 1:14-cv-01115-LPS).  The district court held that the asserted claims of Data Engine Technologies’ (DET) US patents are ineligible under 35 USC §101.  This decision was based on finding that the asserted claims are directed to abstract ideas and fail to provide an inventive concept.

The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos. are 5,590,259; 5,784,545; 6,282,551; and 5,303,146.  The first three patents (referred to herein as “the Tab Patents”) are directed to electronic spreadsheets with tabs used to identify the spreadsheets and navigate between the spreadsheets.  The fourth patent (referred to herein as “the ‘146 patent”) is directed to identifying changes to spreadsheets.  This case law study analyzes the decision made by the court regarding the Tab Patents.

The Tab Patents are titled “Systems and Methods for Improved Spreadsheet Interface With User-Familiar Objects” and share a substantially common specification.  The Tab Patents describe a three-dimensional, electronic spreadsheet:

that includes a number of tabs to navigate through different two-dimensional matrices of the spreadsheet:

where each of the tabs include identifiers that enable access to information on the respective spreadsheets.

The Tab Patents describe the tabs as familiar, user-friendly interface objects to navigate through spreadsheets while circumventing arduous process of searching for, memorizing, and entering complex commands.  Accordingly, the Tab Patents present the tabs as a solution to problems that users had 25 years ago when navigating through complex spreadsheets, finding commands associated with the spreadsheets, manipulating the spreadsheets, etc.  Several articles associated with Quattro Pro (the commercial embodiment based on the claimed method and systems) were published that touted the usefulness of the technology in the Tab Patents.

DET filed suit against Google, asserting claims from the Tab Patents.  The district court considered claim 12 of the ‘259 patent as representative of all asserted claims of the Tab Patents.  Claim 12 of the ‘259 patent included the following features:

while displaying [a] first spreadsheet page, displaying a row of spreadsheet page identifiers along one side of said first spreadsheet page, each said spreadsheet page identifier being displayed as an image of a notebook tab on said screen display and indicating a single respective spreadsheet page, wherein at least one spreadsheet page identifier of said displayed row of spreadsheet page identifiers comprises at least one user-settable identifying character.

Google filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), arguing that the asserted claims of the Tab Patents are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under § 101.  The district court granted the motion with respect to the Tab Patents, concluding that representative claim 12 is “directed to the abstract idea of using notebook-type tabs to label and organize spreadsheets” and that claim 12 “is directed to an abstract idea that humans have commonly performed entirely in their minds, with the aid of columnar pads and writing instruments.”  Further, the district court did not find that any features of claim 12 recited an inventive concept.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the Court) analyzed whether the Tab Patents are patent eligible under §101 according to the two-step test of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International (“the Alice test).   In performing this analysis, the Court performed a de novo review of the Tab Patents and the evidence (including the articles about Quattro Pro) submitted to the district court.

The Court disagreed with Google, except with respect to claim 1 of the ‘551 patent.  Claim 1 of the ‘551 patent recites:

In an electronic spreadsheet for processing alphanumeric information, said […] electronic spreadsheet comprising a three-dimensional spreadsheet operative in a digital computer and including a plurality of cells for entering data and formulas, a method for organizing the three-dimensional spreadsheet comprising:

partitioning said plurality of cells into a plurality of two-dimensional cell matrices so that each of the two-dimensional cell matrices can be presented to a user as a spreadsheet page;

associating each of the cell matrices with a user-settable page identifier which serves as a unique identifier for said each cell matrix;

creating in a first cell of a first page at least one formula referencing a second cell of a second page said formula including the user-settable page identifier for the second page; and

storing said first and second pages of the plurality of cell matrices such that they appear to the user as being stored within a single file.

Note that claim 1 of the ‘551 patent does not include an “implementation of a notebook tab interface” as recited in representative claim 12 of the ‘259 patent.

In disagreeing with the district court and Google on representative claim 12 (and the remaining claims of the Tab Patents other than claim 1 of the ‘551 patent), the Court determined that claim 12 recites “a specific structure (i.e., notebook tabs) within a particular spreadsheet display that performs a specific function (i.e., navigating within a three-dimensional spreadsheet).”  The Court asserted that claim 12 claims a particular manner of navigating three-dimensional spreadsheets, implementing an improvement in electronic spreadsheet functionality.  The Court frequently referred to the benefits described in the specification with respect to navigating through the spreadsheets.  For example, the Court identified that claim 12 recited a structure that enables a user to avoid “the burdensome task of navigating through spreadsheets in separate windows using arbitrary commands.”

Further, the Court rejected Google’s notion that the claims merely cite “long-used tabs to organize information” and that such tabs are common in physical notebooks, binders, file folders, etc.  The Court stated that it is not enough to simply point to a real-world analogy of the electronic spreadsheet because eligibility is not based on such concerns.  Notably, the court acknowledged that those concerns are reserved for §102 and §103.  As such, the Court determined that claim 12 was not directed to an abstract idea, and thus was patent eligible according to step 1 of the Alice test.

On the other hand, during review of claim 1 of the ‘551 patent, the Court concluded, under step 1 of Alice test, that the above claim is directed to the abstract idea of “identifying and storing electronic spreadsheets.”  As mentioned above, claim 1 does not recite the notebook tab structure, but simply “associating each of the cell matrices with a user-settable page identifier which serves as a unique identifier for said each cell matrix.”  The Court concluded that claim 1 of the ‘551 patent does not recite the specific implementation of a notebook tab interface.  Furthermore, the Court concluded under step 2 of the Alice test that the additional features did not provide an inventive concept as the claim merely recites “partitioning cells to be presented as a spreadsheet, referencing in one cell of a page a formula referencing a second page, and saving the pages such that they appear as being stored as one file.”

This case provides a few practice insights for practitioners with a noticeable compare/contrast result between claim 12 of the ‘259 patent and claim 1 of the ‘551 patent.  First of all, it is important to identify any functionality that a particular feature of a claim may have.  Though an “identifier” may “identify,” such a feature is considered abstract.  The identifier in the Tab Patents included the function of enabling navigation between the tabs and reference to other information in spreadsheets associated with the tabs.  Including that functionality likely would have swayed the court to find the ‘551 patent eligible as well.  Additionally, the Court frequently referred to the benefits of the tabs.  These benefits included removing burdens on the user.  As such, it obviously would not hurt to acknowledge such benefits when preparing patent applications.  Best practices would also involve including and/or discussing any technical benefits that the tabs may have provided.  For example, among other technical benefits, the tabs may have conserved processing resources associated with navigating to other spreadsheets by enabling a single click of the tab, rather than navigating multiple clicks through menus and/or windows to reach other spreadsheets.

Download Data Engine Technologies LLC v. Google LLC

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.

Ted Nissly, Harrity Team

Case Summary of Natural Alternatives v. Andrei Iancu

By Ted Nissly
October 17, 2018- Case Summary of Natural Alternatives v. Andrei Iancu

On October 1, 2018, the Federal Circuit issued an opinion regarding the removal of a priority claim in an application, of a chain of applications, and its detrimental effect on the priority claims of pending and subsequently filed applications in the chain.  In Natural Alternatives International v. Andrei Iancu, No. 2017-1962 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 1, 2018), the court affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (“PTAB”) final determination in an inter partes reexamination affirming an examiner’s rejection of the challenged claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,067,381 (“the ’381 patent”) as anticipated by or obvious over cited prior art, including a parent of the ’381 patent, because the ’381 patent could not claim priority to the parent.

Natural Alternatives International (NAI) filed a chain of eight U.S. patent applications between 1997 and 2011.  NAI filed the first application on August 12, 1997 and included a priority benefit statement under 35 U.S.C. § 120 to the first application in each subsequent patent application of the chain.  On April 10, 2003, NAI filed a provisional application while the fourth application in the chain was still pending.  On November 18, 2003, NAI filed the fifth application as a continuation-in-part of the fourth application.  The fifth application claimed priority to the first through fourth applications and the provisional application.  On August 29, 2008, NAI filed a sixth application that claimed priority to the first through fifth applications and the provisional application.  The court noted that at the time NAI filed the sixth application, the fifth application and the sixth application correctly claimed priority to the August 12, 1997 filing date of the first application.

On September 2, 2008, four days after filing the sixth application, NAI amended the benefit claim of the fifth application to claim priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to only the provisional application as an attempt to extend the potential patent term of the fifth application.  NAI subsequently filed the seventh and eighth patent applications that claimed priority to the first through fifth applications and the provisional application.  The eighth patent application issued as the ’381 patent on November 29, 2011.

In December 2011, NAI and Woodbolt Distributors (“Woodbolt”) became involved in litigation concerning the ’381 patent.  In May 2012, Woodbolt sought inter partes reexamination of the asserted claims of the ’381 patent.  Woodbolt’s request alleged that “the asserted claim to priority of the ’381 patent is defective” because NAI “deliberately and expressly terminated [its] claim to the priority of the first four applications[,]” which thus “broke[] the chain of priority between” the fourth and fifth applications.  NAI did not dispute that it had waived priority to the first through fourth applications when it amended the fifth application, but rather argued that the sixth application maintained priority to the first application because the sixth application’s priority claim was never amended.  Accordingly, NAI maintained that the sixth application became entitled to the first application’s filing date before it amended the fifth application.  The examiner rejected the asserted claims of the ’381 patent in view of prior art that included U.S. Patent No. 5,965,596 (i.e., the patent that issued from the first application.)

NAI appealed the examiner’s decision to the PTAB, which affirmed the examiner’s rejection.  The PTAB determined that because NAI deleted the claim of priority to the fourth application in the fifth application and the eighth application claimed priority to the first application via the fifth application, the eighth application was not entitled to the priority claims of the fourth through first applications.  NAI appealed the PTAB’s priority determination to the Federal Circuit.

APPLICATION CHAIN

Application Chain for Natural Alternatives v. Andrei Iancu

On appeal, NAI asserted four arguments: (1) that priority to the first application “vested” with the sixth application once the sixth application satisfied the criteria of 35 U.S.C. § 120; (2) waiver of priority in an application is limited to the instant application (i.e. that application with the amended priority claim) and does not extend to subsequent applications; (3) priority is not a single growing chain, but rather multiple fixed chains; and (4) the PTAB’s view on priority limits an applicant’s ability to amend a priority claim to gain patent term.

Regarding NAI’s first argument, the court explained that a patent application is “not entitled to an earlier priority date merely because the patentee claims priority,” but rather “the patentee must demonstrate that the claims meet the requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 120.” citing In re NTP, Inc., 654 F.3d 1268, 1276 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (emphasis in opinion).  The court also noted that its decision in In re Janssen Biotech, 880 F.3d 1315 (Fed. Cir. 2018) was instructive.  In that case, where an applicant attempted to delete a priority claim of an application during reexamination, the court explained that amending the priority claim of an earlier-filed parent application may affect the priority of its child applications.  Accordingly, the court here found that the PTAB “did not err in determining that the ’381 patent was not entitled to claim the benefit of the filing date of the first application under § 120, as the priority claim in the ’381 patent was defective from the start.”

Regarding NAI’s second argument, NAI averred that under Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) § 201.11, altering a claim of priority “applies only to the instant application—not other, … applications.”  The court noted, however, that the MPEP “does not have the force of law.” citing Molins PLC v. Textron, Inc., 48 F.3d 1172, 1180 n.10 (Fed. Cir. 1995).  Regardless, the court rejected NAI’s second argument because the text of MPEP § 201.11 does not limit “the scope of waiver to only the instant application.” (emphasis in opinion).  Regarding NAI’s third argument, the court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Godfrey v. Eames, 68 U.S. 317, 326 (1863), which held that “parent and continuing applications ‘are to be considered as parts of the same transaction, and both as constituting one continuous application” to support the court’s finding that priority is “a single chain, growing with each additional continuation.”

Regarding NAI’s fourth argument, the court noted a natural trade-off exists between priority and patent term.  The court explained that an “uncommon but permissible way for patent applicants to avoid losing term [for a patent application] . . . is to disclaim the benefit of earlier filing dates” which in turn makes the patent application’s “children become vulnerable to rejections based on a larger pool of prior art—including former parent applications in some cases.”  The court therefore rejected NAI’s attempt to gain patent term for the fifth application while maintaining the priority claims of its children.  Accordingly, the court affirmed the PTAB’s final decision invalidating the challenged claims of the ’381 patent.

This case highlights some potential pitfalls to consider when deciding whether to amend a patent application’s priority claim.  A practitioner may understand the limiting effect the amendment has on the priority of the amended patent application, but she must also keep in mind that the amendment may irreversibly limit the priority of any child application of the amended patent application too.  To ensure that a priority claim is not lost, the practitioner should consider maintaining the priority claim in currently pending applications, especially applications with pending child applications, and filing a new continuation and/or continuation-in-part with a different priority claim.  In this way, the claim of priority can be protected for the chain of currently pending patent applications and a longer patent term can be pursued for the new application.

Download Natural Alternatives v. Andrei Iancu

William Gvoth Harrity Team

Case Summary of GoPro, Inc. v. Contour IP Holding LLC

By William Gvoth
September 27, 2018- Case Summary of GoPro, Inc. v. Contour IP Holding LLC

GoPro, Inc. v. Contour IP Holding LLC, 2017-1894, 2017-1936 (Fed. Cir. July 27, 2018) (“GoPro”) is an appeal from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) (Nos. IPR2015-01078, IPR2015-01080). At the PTAB, GoPro, Inc. challenged two patents owned by Contour IP Holding LLC as obvious in light of a GoPro catalog that GoPro distributed at a trade show in July of 2009. The PTAB found against GoPro, Inc. in the challenge. This decision was based on finding that the GoPro catalog was not prior art for the claims of the patents owned by Contour IP Holding LLC.

The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,890,954 (the ‘954 patent) and 8,896,694 (the ‘694 patent), which have a common specification. The common specification of these patents generally describe video cameras or camcorders that can be controlled remotely (e.g., for remote image capture and/or viewing). Specifically, these patents claim use of global positioning system (GPS) technology to track a location of a camera and/or a camcorder during use and further describe use a wireless connection to facilitate remote control of the camera and/or the camcorder. The common specification of these patents further describe that the claimed device can be deployed in areas that do not permit easy use by an individual, such as in a sports scenario. Both patents claim priority to a provisional application filed on September 13, 2010, resulting in a one year prior art date of September 13, 2009.

In July of 2009, GoPro, Inc. attended the Tucker Rocky Dealer Show (the trade show) hosted by Tucker Rocky Distributing, a trade organization related to off-road, all-terrain-type vehicles and related products (e.g., snowmobiles, ATVs, etc.). The trade show was attended by numerous dealers and there were over 1000 attendees, including some potentially interested in video cameras and/or camcorders. There was no evidence presented to the PTAB that the 2009 trade show was advertised to the public, nor was the trade show open to the public. At the trade show, GoPro, Inc. distributed copies of its catalog for its HD Motorsports HERO camera. The catalog described the camera as a “1080p [high-definition (HD)] wearable camera [with] optional wireless remote with an omni-directional range of 30 feet.” In addition, the catalog included several images of the camera and wireless remote, including an image showing attachment of the camera to a helmet (specifically a motocross/ATV-type helmet).

In analyzing the evidence presented, the PTAB determined that a bachelor’s degree in computer science, electrical engineering, and/or the like and experience with video cameras and/or cameras (e.g., creating, programming, etc.) constituted the ordinary skill in the art. Next the PTAB determined that the GoPro, Inc. catalog was not a prior art printed publication by applying Blue Calypso v. Groupon, Inc., 815 F.3d 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2016). In making this determination, the PTAB found that the trade show at which the GoPro catalog was distributed was not advertised or announced to the public, such that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have known about it, and in addition, the trade show was not publicly accessible and was only open to members of the Tucker Rocky Distributing trade organization. Essentially, the PTAB failed to see how the general public would have obtained the GoPro catalog from the trade show, especially in light of the fact that the trade show was closed to the general public and was for dealers only. Further, the PTAB did not find any evidence that the catalog was distributed at the show to any persons of ordinary skill in the art, or that any one of such skill was actually in attendance (besides

GoPro’s representatives at the trade show) given that the trade show was focused on off-road, all-terrain-type vehicles and related products.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the Court) analyzed whether the catalog constituted a printed publication under 35 U.S.C. 102(b) (Pre-AIA). In performing this analysis, the Court performed a de novo review and reviewed the PTAB’s factual findings for substantial evidence. Under section 102(b), “a person shall be entitled to a patent unless the invention was described in a printed publication more than one year prior to the date of application for the patent in the United States.” Contour IP Holding LLC did not dispute any of the evidence presented regarding distribution of the catalog, nor did they dispute that the trade show occurred more than one year before the application for patent of the ‘954 and ‘694 patents. As such, the issue before the Court was “whether the GoPro catalog was sufficiently accessible as contemplated under 102(b).

The Court agreed with GoPro, Inc.’s argument that the evidence submitted was sufficient to establish that the GoPro catalog was publicly accessible. Citing Medtronic v. Barry, 891 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2018), the Court found that the PTAB relied too heavily on the target audience of the distributed GoPro catalog in finding that the GoPro catalog was not publicly accessible. In addition, the Court stated that the PTAB failed to consider other factors, such as “the nature of the conference or meeting at which material is distributed, whether there are restrictions on public discourse of the information, expectations of confidentiality, and expectations of sharing the information.”

In examining these factors, the Court noted that there was no restriction on distribution of the GoPro catalog at the trade show and that the GoPro catalog was freely on display for anyone in attendance. The Court further rejected the notion that the trade show’s focus on “action sports vehicles is not preclusive of persons ordinarily skilled in the art from attending to see what POV digital cameras were being advertised and displayed.” Similarly, the Court found that the patents at issue described that “a primary purpose of POV cameras is for use on vehicles in extreme action environments, such as the ones advertised at the Tucker Rocky Dealer Show.” With regard to attendees of the of the trade show, the Court determined that nothing about the trade show would have excluded cameras, camcorders, or related products from the trade show, and that it would have been likely for people attending the trade show to be interested in such products. Lastly, the Court determined that the vendor lists for the trade show included a number of vendors that would have likely been involved in selling and/or producing cameras and/or camcorders of the type shown and described in GoPro’s catalog.

Based on these determinations, the Court determined that “a dealer show focused on extreme sports vehicles is an obvious forum for POV action sports cameras,” and that “dealers of POV cameras would encompass the relevant audience such that a person ordinarily skilled and interested in POV action cameras, exercising reasonable diligence, should have been aware of the show,” despite the trade show not being open to the general public or advertised to the general public. In addition, the Court determined that the lack of restrictions placed on the dissemination of the GoPro catalog indicates that the GoPro catalog was “intended to reach the general public.” As such, the Court concluded that the GoPro catalog was a printed publication under 102(b) and that the GoPro catalog was prior art for purposes of the patents at issue. The Court remanded to the PTAB for an obviousness determination in light of the GoPro catalog.

This case provides a few practice insights for practitioners. This case highlights that when working with clients, practitioners should broadly interpret non-confidential disclosures of material as public disclosures. Despite the closed nature of the trade show and the lack of evidence that any persons skilled in the art, outside of GoPro, Inc.’s attendees, attended the trade show, the Court nonetheless found that dissemination of the GoPro catalog at the trade show constituted a prior art reference under 102(b). Similarly, this case highlights that a public disclosure can occur as long as the distributed material is not restricted from reaching the general public. Even if the material is not necessarily distributed to anyone of ordinary skill in the art, as long as there are no restrictions on further dissemination by those individuals, a court may find that such dissemination is a public disclosure as the material could, in theory, reach someone skilled in the art. As such, practitioners should work with clients to determine the exact nature of past or future disclosures of invention-related material for purposes of identifying relevant public disclosures.

Download GoPro, Inc. v. Contour IP Holding LLC

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.

READ MORE

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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Rebecca Bachner, Harrity Team

Case Summary of SAP America, Inc. v. InvestPic, LLC

By Rebecca Bachner

In SAP America, Inc. v. InvestPic, LLC, 2017-2081 (Fed. Cir. May 15, 2018), the Federal Circuit (“the Court”) agreed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (the “District Court”) that the claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,349,291 (“the ‘291 patent”), were invalid because their subject matter is invalid under 35 U.S.C § 101 (“Section 101”).

The ‘291 patent is directed to calculating and analyzing investment data in order to generate a resampled distribution.  In 2016, SAP America, Inc. filed a declaratory judgment alleging the that ‘291 patent was invalid and moved for a judgment on the pleadings on that ground.  In May 2017, at the judgment on the pleadings, the District Court granted the motion and held all claims ineligible under Section 101 and hence invalid.  The District Court concluded that the claims were directed to performing statistical analysis based on the language in the claims and the mathematical calculations in the written description and dependent claims.  InvestPic, LLC appealed the grant of the motion.

On the merits with regards to the claims of the ‘291 patent, the Court found, as did the District Court, that the claims in the ‘291 patent are ineligible under Section 101.  The Court stated that “[w]e may assume that the techniques claimed are ‘groundbreaking, innovative, or even brilliant,’ but that is not enough for eligibility.” Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Inc, 569 U.S. 576, 591 (2013).  The Court reiterated that overcoming novelty and non-obviousness is not enough and that “[t]he claims here are ineligible because their innovation is an innovation in ineligible subject matter.”  SAP America, Inc. v. InvestPic, LLC at p. 3.  The Court said that the subject matter is nothing but a series of mathematical calculations and the presentation of the results in the plot of a probability distribution function.

To make this determination, the Court looked to the patent’s description of existing practices being improved by the ‘291 patent.  The ‘291 patent discusses that conventional financial information websites perform rudimentary statistical functions relying on a false presumption of a probability distribution and that the patent proposes a technique that “utilizes resampled statistical methods for the analysis of financial data.”  The patent then discusses using a bootstrap method and bias parameters.

The Court then looked to the independent claims.  Independent claims 1 and 11 are method claims and claim 22 is a system claim.

Claim 1: A method for calculating, analyzing and displaying investment data comprising the steps of:
(a) selecting a sample space, wherein the sample space includes at least one investment data sample;
(b) generating a distribution function using a re-sampled statistical method and a bias parameter, wherein the bias parameter determines a degree of randomness in a resampling process; and,
(c) generating a plot of the distribution function.

Claim 11: A method for providing statistical analysis of investment data over an information network, comprising the steps of:
(a)storing investment data pertaining to at least one investment;
(b)receiving a statistical analysis request corresponding to a selected investment;
(c)receiving a bias parameter, wherein the bias parameter determines a degree of randomness in a resampling processing; and
(d)based on upon investment data pertaining to the selected investment, performing a resampled statistical analysis to generate a resampled distribution.

Claim 22: A system for providing statistical analysis of investment information over an information network comprising:
a financial data databased for storing investment data;
a client database;
a plurality of processors collectively arranged to perform a parallel  processing computation, wherein the plurality of processors is adapted to:
receive a statistical analysis request corresponding to a selected investment;
based upon investment data pertaining to the elected investment, perform a resampled statistical analysis to generate a resampled distribution; and
provide a report of the resampled distribution.

 

Upon reviewing the claims, the Court found them directed to abstract ideas.  The Court found this case to be similar to Electric Power Group v. Alstom S.A. 830 F.3d 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2016) as the claims select certain information, analyze it using mathematical techniques and report or display the results of the analysis.

The Court distinguished this case from McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America Inc., 837 F.3d 1299 (Fed. Cir. 2016) by stating that McRO was directed to the creation of something physical and the improvement was to how the physical display operated.  However, the claims in the ‘291 patent claimed an improvement to a mathematical technique with no improved display mechanism.  The Court further distinguished these claims from McRO stating that McRO had the specificity required to transform a claim from claiming only a result to claiming a way of achieving it.  Similarly, the Court stated that Thales Visionix Inc. v. U.S., 850 F.3d 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2017) taught an improvement of a physical tracking system.

In contrast, the Court stated, the focus of the claims in the ‘291 patent is not a physical-realm improvement, but an improvement in the selection and mathematical analysis of information followed by reporting or displaying the results.  The Court stated that it did not matter as to whether the information claimed is information about real investments as the limitations were not enough to make the collection or analysis of that information not abstract.

Further, the Court also distinguished the claims in the ‘291 patent from the results of the first test of the Alice inquiry in Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327 (Fed. Cir. 2016) and BASCOM Global Internet Services, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC., 827 F.3d 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2016), stating that those claims were directed to improvements in the way the computers and networks carry out their basic functions.  Alice Corp Pty. Ltd v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S.Ct 2347 (2014).  The Court said that the claims of the ‘291 patent are directed to improved mathematical analysis and that the technology used can be off-the-shelf computer technology.  As such, the claims of the ‘291 patent did not meet the first test of the Alice inquiry.

Looking to the second test of the Alice inquiry, the Court concluded that there is nothing in the claims sufficient to transform them to patent eligible and that the claims in the ‘291 patent are merely an advance of mathematical techniques in finance.  As such, the Federal Circuit agreed with the District Court that the claims of the ‘291 patent lack subject matter eligibility.

This case illustrates the importance of having claims that are specific and solve a technical problem.  Furthermore, the decision in SAP America, Inc. v. InvestPic, LLC emphasizes the importance of having claims focused on advancements in an area of technology.

Download Case Summary of SAP America, Inc. v. InvestPic, LLC. 

Peter Glaser Team

Case Summary of Vivint, Inc. v. Alarm.com Inc.

By Peter Glaser and So Ra Ko
August 22, 2018- Case Summary of Vivint, Inc. v. Alarm.com Inc.

In Vivint, Inc., v. Alarm.com Inc., 2017-2076 (Fed. Cir. July 26, 2018), the Federal Circuit (“the Court”) affirmed an inter partes review decision of the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“the PTAB”) that the claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,924,727 (“the ‘727 patent”), were invalid because their subject matter is invalid under 35 U.S.C § 103 (“Section 103”).

The ‘727 patent is directed to a method that allows a user to remotely control electronic devices located in the user’s home.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) issued the ‘727 patent in 2005 with a priority date in 2001.  Independent claim 1 is representative (emphasis added):

A method for remote control of home-located electronic devices, comprising the steps of:
receiving, at a management facility, from a terminal via a network, a request signal and a terminal identifier that identifies said terminal;
identifying, in said managing facility a server, said server being identified by a server identifier that corresponds to said terminal identifier;
obtaining, in said management facility, from said server via said network, status information and said server identifier, said status information indicative of the status of home-located electronic devices controlled by said server;
generating display information for said terminal dependent upon the performance of said terminal, wherein said display information includes the status of said home-located electronic devices based on said status information and a prompt for input of a control instruction for said home-located electronic devices, said terminal being identified by said terminal identifier, said terminal identifier corresponding to said server identifier;
transmitting said display information from said management facility to said terminal;
displaying, with said terminal, a screen showing the status of said home-located electronic devices and a screen to prompt for input of a control instruction of said home-located electronic devices on the basis of the received display information;
transmitting, by said terminal, said terminal identifier and first control information;
generating, by said management facility, second control information that directs said server to perform control of said home-located electronic devices, on the basis of said first control information;
transmitting, by said management facility, said second control information to said server, said server being identified by said server identifier that corresponds to said terminal identifier, and
controlling, by said server, said home-located electronic devices on the basis of said second control information.

In 2015, Vivint sued Alarm.com in United States District Court for the District of Utah (“the District Court”) alleging infringement on 6 patents relating to smart home technology, and Alarm.com challenged 5 of the 6 patents in an inter partes review.  The District Court stayed the infringement suit pending results of the inter partes review.  The PTAB concluded that the claims were obvious in view of two earlier patents directed to internet-based home communications system.  Vivint appealed the finding of obviousness arguing that the PTAB misconstrued a term of the claims by departing from the term’s plain meaning.

The PTAB adopted Alarm.com’s proposed construction of “terminal identifier” to mean “an identifier associated with a terminal that enables the home network management facility to identify or communicate with the terminal” rather than “an identifier associated with a terminal that enables a terminal to be identified” as proposed by Vivint.  The PTAB based this construction on several grounds.  First, the ‘727 patent did not include an explicit definition of a “terminal identifier.”  Second, the claims of the ‘727 patent recite “a terminal identifier that identifies said terminal” and “said terminal identifier to determine at least one of a display capability or a communication capability of said terminal,” which the PTAB found instructive in construing a terminal identifier as identifying a terminal and being used to determine a format of information that is to be communicated to a terminal.  Further, the ‘727 patent’s claims recite “wherein said identifier is a manufacturer model identifier of said remote terminal,” which the court indicated is informative in identifying a manufacturer model identifier as a type of terminal identifier.  Third, the PTAB confirmed that the specification of the ‘727 patent recited that the ‘727 patent did not intend to limit an identifier to a specific type of identifier, such as an alphanumeric number or a unique identifier specific to a device.  Fourth, the PTAB found that a definition of “server identifier” was relevant to a definition of “terminal identifier” insofar as each was a type of “identifier” distinguished by the entity being identified.  See Chamberlain Grp., Inc. v. Lear Corp., 516 F.3d 1331, 1337 (Fed. Circ. 2008).  Here, the term “server identifier” was construed parallel to a terminal identifier as “an identifier associated with a home server that enables the home network management facility to identify or communicate with the home server” and this construction was unchallenged, resulting in it being applied to the construction of the “terminal identifier.”

Based on this construction, the PTAB found that U.S. Patent 6,580,950 (“Johnson”) and U.S. Patent 6,161,140 (“Moriya”) independently taught “receiving, at a management facility, … a terminal identifier” (“the terminal identifier limitation”).  The PTAB found that Johnson inherently taught the terminal identifier limitation based on the Johnson’s IP address being a form of terminal identifier.  The PTAB found that Moriya taught the terminal identifier limitation based on Moriya’s model code being a form of the terminal identifier.

Reviewing the claims of the ‘727 patent de novo, the Court found, as did the PTAB, that the claims in the ‘727 patent are ineligible under Section 103.  The Court first reviewed the claims construction decision of the PTAB, confirming that the PTAB correctly applied the claims and specification to arrive at the construction of the term “terminal identifier.”  Although the Court, however, found that the PTAB erred in finding that Johnson inherently disclosed a limitation of the ‘727 patent, the Court found that such error was harmless as Moriya independently taught the limitation of the ‘727 patent.

In concluding that the PTAB erred with regard to Johnson the Court analyzed inherency doctrine—finding that “inherency ordinarily applies in an anticipation context where a prior art reference, which does not expressly disclose every limitation of a claim, may still anticipate that claim,” but that use of inherency doctrine in the context of obviousness is limited to cases where “the limitation at issue [is] necessarily… present, or the natural result of the combination of elements explicitly disclosed by the prior art.” Par Pharm., Inc. v. Twi Pharm. Inc., 773 F.3d 1186, 1194-96 (Fed. Circ. 2014).  Thus, inherency “requires more than agreement; inherency requires inevitability” and evidence that a limitation “comport[s] with” a claim construction is insufficient.

Furthermore, the Court reinforced the point that inherency and obviousness are “distinct concepts” by finding that expert testimony discussing obviousness did not constitute substantial evidence to support an inherency finding.  See In re Spormann, 363 F.2d 444, 4848 (CCPA 1966)).  In this case, the PTAB had supported its inherency finding through expert testimony that, based on an Examiner’s Official Notice, the use of IP addresses in Johnson would have been “obvious” to a skilled artisan.  The Court rejected the PTAB’s reliance on the expert testimony to support its inherency finding, because “what would have been obvious to a skilled artisan is not a valid consideration in an inherency analysis.”

Nevertheless, the Court agreed with the PTAB that Moriya teaches model code capable of identifying a generic terminal rather than a specific terminal.  The ‘727 patent distinguishes between the terminal identifier and a model name (which identifies a generic model).  Thus, Vivint argues, the model code of Moriya should be analogous to the model name and not the model identifier.  The Court agreed with the PTAB finding that claims 29 and 37 of the ‘727 patent, which recite that the terminal identifier is “a manufacturer model identifier,” were sufficient to conclude that the model code was analogous to the model identifier based on the claims construction of the “terminal identifier” as including a manufacturer model identifier.  Further the Court found that the functionality of the model code in Moriya—to allow a system to determine a terminal’s display capability—was the same functionality of the terminal identifier in the ‘727 patent.

The take-aways from this decision include the relevance of dependent claims in the eventual construction of an independent claim, the risks in using similar phrasing for different elements (i.e., use of the common word “identifier” for both a “terminal identifier” and a “server identifier”) and the importance of precision in identifying the functionality of each term in a patent.

Download Case Summary of Vivint, Inc. v. Alarm.com Inc.

Matthew Allen, Harrity Team

Practice Insights in the Wake of Blackbird Tech LLC v. ELB Electronics, Inc.

By Matthew Allen
July 26, 2018- Practice Insights in the Wake of Blackbird Tech LLC v. ELB Electronics, Inc.

In Blackbird Tech LLC v. ELB Electronics, Inc. (Fed. Cir. July 16, 2018), the Federal Circuit found, with one judge dissenting, that the district court erred during claim construction by construing a claim limitation to include a requirement not included in the plain language of the claim, and not supported during the prosecution history.

The decision provides insight into how choices made during drafting and prosecution may affect claim construction, and provides insight into how issues of claim construction might be avoided.

The patent at issue (7,086,747) describes an energy efficient lighting apparatus designed to be retrofitted with an existing light fixture. At issue was claim construction regarding the meaning of “attachment surface,” and whether the attachment surface must be secured to a “ballast cover.” Specifically, claim 12 recites:

12. An energy-efficient lighting apparatus for retrofit with an existing light fixture having a ballast cover, comprising:
a housing having an attachment surface and an illumination surface;
a plurality of illumination surface holes in the illumination surface;
a circuit board comprising a plurality of light-emitting diodes, wherein the circuit board is positioned adjacent the housing so that the plurality of light-emitting diodes protrude through the plurality of illumination surface holes in the illumination surface; and
a fastening mechanism for securing the attachment surface of the lighting apparatus to the illumination surface, wherein the lighting apparatus is coupled to a wall switch and wherein the illumination of the light-emitting diodes is controllable based upon the position of the wall switch.

Blackbird argued that “attachment surface” should be construed as “layer of the housing to which the illumination surface is secured,” while ELB argued (and the district court agreed) that “attachment surface” should be construed as “layer of the housing that is secured to the ballast cover.”

In concluding that “claim 12 does not require the attachment surface to be secured to the ballast cover,” the Federal Circuit relied on the plain language of claim 12, stating that claim 12 “does not require the attachment surface be secured to anything other than the illumination surface.” The Court also pointed out that there was no suggestion (e.g., in the specification or during prosecution or litigation) indicating that the fastening mechanism securing the attachment surface to the ballast cover was an important feature of the claimed invention.

Interestingly, the Federal Circuit also noted that “possibly the most important reason why the fastener for connecting the attachment surface to the ballast cover disclosed in an embodiment ought not be imported into the claim is because that limitation was originally present in claim 12 and was expressly eliminated during prosecution.” During prosecution, an amendment made “to resolve 112 issues” deleted “ballast cover” and replaced it with “illumination surface.” The federal circuit concluded that “[n]o ordinary artisan could read the prosecution history as anything other than eliminating the requirement that a fastening mechanism secures the attachment surface to the ballast cover.”

In his dissent, Circuit Judge Reyna concluded “that the district court correctly construed ‘attachment surface’ to mean ‘layer of the housing that is secured to the ballast cover.’” In particular, Circuit Judge Reyna states:

The plain language of claim 12, read in the context of the specification, implicitly requires that the attachment surface be secured to the ballast cover to achieve the retrofit function. Apart from the preamble, which the parties agree is limiting, claim 12 contains no reference to the ballast cover, the existing light fixture, or where or how the apparatus is retrofit with the existing light fixture. Because the only feature of the existing light fixture described in claim 12 is the ballast cover, a person of ordinary skill would necessarily conclude that the attachment surface is secured to the ballast cover of the existing light fixture.

In addition to the plain language argument, Circuit Judge Reyna noted that “[e]very single embodiment of the retrofit lighting apparatus in the specification describes securing the attachment surface to the ballast cover of the existing light fixture.” He also cites a portion of the specification, which states that “[i]n typical operation, the attachment surface 530 is secured to the ballast cover,” to support his conclusion that the attachment surface should be read as being secured to the ballast cover.

Clearly, this case was not as clear cut as the plain language of claim 12 might have made it seem. However, the case does provide insight into how practitioners might draft and prosecute an application in a manner designed to avoid unfavorable claim construction.

For example, both the district court, and the dissenting Circuit Judge, felt that the specification did not make it clear that the attachment surface might not be secured to the ballast cover. In describing various components, a patent drafter might avoid similar issues by describing components as having multiple functions or capabilities, or avoiding describing a component as serving only one function.

In addition, the inclusion of “ballast cover” in the preamble of claim 12 was given weight in both the majority and dissenting opinions. During drafting, or prosecution, a practitioner might wish to avoid including (or amend to exclude), in the preamble of a claim, limitations, structure, or the like, which might be construed as being somehow tied into other claimed features.

Also, during prosecution, the elimination of claim features is clearly given weight in determining whether an eliminated feature might be required for patentability. Accordingly, rather than leaving in unnecessary claim features, it may be beneficial to remove claim features in a manner designed to pre-empt a claim construction that requires a claim feature that is actually not necessary for patentability.

Download Blackbird Tech LLC v. ELB Electronics, Inc..

Kris Rhu Harrity Team

Case Summary of Zeroclick, LLC. v. Apple Inc.

By Kris Rhu
June 26, 2018- Case Summary of Zeroclick, LLC. v. Apple Inc.

Zeroclick sued Apple alleging that Apple infringed claims 2 and 52 of U.S. Patent No. 7,818,691 and claim 19 of U.S. Patent No. 8,549,443, which relate to modifications of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that allow the GUIs to be controlled using pre-defined pointer or touch movements instead of mouse clicks.  Apple responded by asserting invalidity of those claims.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found that the claims recited means-plus-function terms for which the specification did not have sufficient structure, and therefore, were invalid for indefiniteness.  However, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) vacated and remanded, holding that the district court did not undertake the relevant inquiry when making factual findings to support its conclusion that the claims recited means-plus-function terms.

Claim 2 of the ’691 patent recites:

2. A graphical user interface (GUI), which may comprise an update of an existing program, that may fully operate a GUI by a two step method of movement of a pointer (0) to operate one or more functions within the GUI,
wherein, said existing program is any existing program that can operate the movement of the pointer (0) over a screen (300) and has one or more functions operated by one or more other methods apart from said two step method,and/or one or more functions operated by said one or more other methods in said existing program can be updated to operate by said two step method,
wherein said GUI executes one or more functions within the GUI by the completion of the following said two step method:
first said pointer (0) is immediately adjacent or passes within a control area (1), which is an area of the screen (300) that may be any size including from a pixel on the screen (300) to occupying the whole screen (300), and
second by the completion of a subsequent movement of said pointer (0) according to a specified movement generates a ‘click’ event, thereby triggering one or more functions within the GUI.

Claim 52 is directed to the “method of operating a graphical user interface” described in claim 2.

Claim 19 of the ’443 patent recites:

  1. A device capable of executing software comprising:

a touch-sensitive screen configured to detect being touched by a user’s finger without requiring an exertion of pressure on the screen;a processor connected to the touch-sensitive screen and configured to receive from the screen information regarding locations touched by the user’s finger;executable user interface code stored in a memory connected to the processor;the user interface code executable by the processor;the user interface code being configured to detect one or more locations touched by a movement of the user’s finger on the screen without requiring the exertion of pressure and determine therefrom a selected operation; andthe user interface code is further configured to cause one or more selected operations, which includes one or more functions available to the user interface code of the device, to deactivate while the user’s finger is touching one or more locations on the screen.

During claim construction, the district court found that the limitation “program that can operate the movement of the pointer (0)” in claim 2 of the ‘691 patent is a means-plus-function term.  Specifically, it found “program” to be a means that performs the function of operating the movement of the pointer.  The district court also found that “user interface code being configured to detect one or more locations touched by a movement of the user’s finger on the screen without requiring the exertion of pressure and determine therefrom a selected operation” in claim 19 of the ‘443 patent is a means-plus-function term.  Specifically, it found “user interface code” to be a means that performs the functions of detecting one or more locations touched by a movement of the user’s finger on the screen without requiring the exertion of pressure and determining therefrom a selected operation.

The CAFC cited Williamson v. Citrix Online, LLC, which stated that the failure to use the word “means” creates a rebuttable presumption that 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6 does not apply, but that the presumption can be overcome “if the challenger demonstrates that the claim term fails to recite sufficiently definite structure or else recites function without reciting sufficient structure for performing that function.”  792 F.3d 1339, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (en banc).  Williamson further stated that the essential inquiry in determining whether a claim limitation involves § 112, ¶ 6 is “whether the words of the claim are understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art to have a sufficiently definite meaning as the name for structure.” Id.  The CAFC found that the district court failed to undertake this inquiry and make related factual findings.

The CAFC noted that the claims did not include the word “means,” which invokes the presumption.  The CAFC also noted that Apple provided no evidentiary support for their position that the claim limitations must be construed under § 112, ¶ 6, and therefore, failed to rebut the presumption.  By relying on Apple’s arguments without evidentiary support, the district court legally erred by not giving effect to the unrebutted presumption.

The CAFC further found that the district court effectively treated the features “program” and “user interface code” as nonce words that operate as a substitute for “means,” and found such treatment to be erroneous for three reasons: 1) just because the disputed limitations incorporate functional language does not necessarily convert those words into means for performing those functions.  There are plenty of devices that take the names of the functions they perform (e.g. brake, clamp, screwdriver); 2) the district court removed those terms from their context, which otherwise strongly suggests the plain and ordinary meaning of the terms.  Claim 2 of the ‘691 patent recites a “graphical user interface” which may “comprise an update of an existing program” using a two-step method.  Claim 19 of the ‘443 patent tethers “user interface code” to the code “stored in a memory connected to the processor.”  That processor, in turn, is configured to perform the indicated functions.  Thus, a person of ordinary skill in the art could reasonably discern from the claims that the words “program” and “user interface code” are not used as generic terms, but rather as specific references to conventional GUI programs or code existing previously.  The written description further bolsters this conclusion because it describes the distinction drawn between GUIs in the prior art and the improvement to such interfaces in the claimed invention; and 3) the district court made no findings that compel the conclusion that a conventional GUI program or code is commonly used as a substitute for “means.”

This opinion illustrates the importance of avoiding the use of the word “means” in order to create a rebuttable presumption that 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6 does not apply to a claim.  The opinion also illustrates the importance of tethering software-esque terms like “program” or “code,” or other terms that may not inherently have structure, to a specific structure in the claims and/or providing context to such claim limitations.  Such strategies can help prevent claim limitations from being construed under 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6.

Download Summary of Zeroclick LLC. v. Apple Inc. 

James Olsen, Harrity Team

Case Summary of Medtronic, Inc. v. Barry

By James Olsen
June 17, 2018- Case Summary of Medtronic, Inc. v. Barry, C.A. No. 2017-1169 (Fed. Cir. June 11, 2018)

Background
This is an appeal from two related decisions of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeals Board (Board) in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings.  The Board concluded that the petitioner, Medtronic, Inc., had not proven that the challenged patent claims are unpatentable.  The Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part and vacated-in-part the decision.

Dr. Mark Barry sued Medtronic for patent infringement in the Eastern District of Texas.  Barry alleged that Medtronic’s products infringed U.S. Patent Nos. 7,670,358 (the 358 Patent) and 7,776,072 (the 072 Patent).  Medtronic petitioned for, and the Board instituted, IPR proceedings for all claims in both patents.

During the IPR proceedings, Medtronic asserted that the claims of the patents were obvious over three references: (1) U.S. Patent Application No. 2005/0245928 (the 928 Application), (2) a book chapter which appears in Masters Techniques in Orthopaedic Surgery: The Spine (2d ed.) (MTOS); and (3) a video entitled “Thoracic Pedicle Screws for Idiopathic Scoliosis” and slides entitled “Free Hand Thoracic Screw Placement and Clinical Use in Scoliosis and Kyphosis Surgery” (Video and Slides).  The Board determined that the claims of the patents were not obvious over the 928 Application and MTOS, and that the Video and Slides were not prior art since they were not publicly accessible.

The primary dispute is whether the Video and Slides were publicly accessible, and thus, prior art to the 358 patent and the 072 patent.

Patents at Issue
The 358 patent relates to a method for ameliorating aberrant spinal column deviation conditions, such as scoliosis.  The 072 patent is a continuation-in-part of the application that led to the 358 patent and shares substantially the same specification.

Analysis
The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s determination that the claims of the patents were not obvious over the 928 Application and MTOS.  However, Federal Circuit held that the Board erred in concluding that the Video and Slides were not accessible to the public.

On appeal, the parties disputed whether the Video and Slides constituted printed publications within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. § 102(b).  A CD containing the Video was distributed at three separate programs in 2003: (1) a meeting of the “Spinal Deformity Study Group” (SDSG) in Scottsdale, Arizona, (the Scottsdale program); (2) the Advanced Concepts in Spinal Deformity Surgery meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado (the Colorado Springs program); and (3) the Spinal Deformity Study Symposium meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.  Binders containing relevant portions of the Slides were also distributed at the Colorado Springs and St. Louis programs.  The earliest of the three 2003 programs, the Scottsdale program, was limited to 20 SDSG members (e.g., experts within the field of spinal deformity), and the other two programs were attended by 20 and 55 surgeons at the Colorado Springs and St. Louis programs, respectively.

The Federal Circuit found that the determination of whether a document is a “printed publication” under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b) involves a case-by-case inquiry into the facts and circumstances surrounding the reference’s disclosure to members of the public (citing In re Klopfenstein, 380 F.3d 1345, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2004)).  A reference will be considered publicly accessible if it was disseminated or otherwise made available to the extent that persons interested and ordinarily skilled in the subject matter or art exercising reasonable diligence can locate it.

The Federal Circuit held that the question becomes whether such materials were sufficiently disseminated at the time of their distribution at the conferences.  The Federal Circuit pointed to Massachusetts Institute of Technology v. AB Fortia (MIT), where a paper that was orally presented at a conference to a group of cell culturists interested in the subject matter was considered a “printed publication.” 774 F.2d 1104, 1109 (Fed. Cir. 1985).  In that case, between 50 and 500 persons having ordinary skill in the art were told of the existence of the paper and informed of its contents by the oral presentation, the document was disseminated without restriction to at least six persons, and whether the copies were freely distributed to interested members of the public was a key consideration in the analysis.

The Federal Circuit also pointed to Cordis Corp. v. Boston Scientific Corp., 561 F.3d 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2009), where the issue pertained to whether a set of research papers distributed by a doctor to certain colleagues and two commercial entities rendered the documents printed publications.  In that case, the Federal Circuit concluded that such documents were not publicly accessible since academic norms gave rise to an expectation that disclosures would remain confidential, and there was an expectation of confidentiality between the doctor and each of the two commercial entities.

Finally, the Federal Circuit identified In re Klopfenstein, 380 F.3d 1345, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2004), where a reference in dispute was a printed slide presentation that was displayed prominently for three days at a conference to a wide variety of participants.  The reference was shown with no stated expectation that the information would not be copied or reproduced by those viewing it, but copies were never distributed to the public and never indexed.  In that the case, the Federal Circuit identified the relevant factors to include: (1) the length of time the display was exhibited, (2) the expertise of the target audience (to determine how easily those who viewed the material could retain the information), (3) the existence (or lack thereof) of reasonable expectations that the material displayed would not be copied, and (4) the simplicity or ease with which the material displayed could have been copied.  After reviewing these factors, the Federal Circuit determined that the reference was sufficiently publicly accessible to count as a “printed publication” for the purposes of § 102(b).

The Federal Circuit held that the size and nature of the meetings and whether they are open to people interested in the subject matter of the material disclosed are important considerations.  The Federal Circuit further held that another consideration is whether there is an expectation of confidentiality between the distributor and the recipients of the materials.

The Federal Circuit found that the Board did not fully consider all of the relevant factors.  For example, the Board did not address the potentially-critical difference between the SDSG meeting in Arizona and the programs in Colorado Springs and St. Louis, which were not limited to members of the SDSG but instead were attended by at least 75 other surgeons, collectively.  The Board’s analysis was silent on the distribution that occurred in the two non-SDSG programs.  Further, even if the Board were correct in its assumption that Medtronic only gave the Video and Slides to the SDSG members, it did not address whether the disclosures would remain confidential.

Accordingly, the Federal Circuit held that whether dissemination of the Video and Slides to a set of supremely-skilled experts in a technical field precludes finding such materials to be printed publications warrants further development in the record.  For these reasons, the Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s finding that the Video and Slides are not printed publications and remanded for further proceedings.

Practice Insights
Consider counseling inventors and clients regarding the appropriate factors to consider when presenting materials at conferences and distributing materials without a legal obligation of confidentiality.  It may be wise to file a provisional patent application before presenting or distributing materials related to an invention.  Also, one may enter non-disclosure agreements with parties viewing a presentation or receiving distributed materials.

Download Medtronic, Inc. v. Barry.

Elaine Spector, Harrity Team

Case Summary of Vanda Pharma v. West-Ward Pharma

By Elaine Spector
May 18, 2018- Case Summary of Vanda Pharma v. West-Ward Pharma

Background
This is an appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware holding the asserted claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,586,610 (the ‘610 patent) to be infringed and not invalid. The Federal Circuit affirmed.

West-Ward filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) that substantially copied Vanda’s New Drug Application, which Vanda was able to obtain approval from the FDA for treatment of patients with schizophrenia. After the ‘610 patent issued, Vanda filed an infringement action against West-Ward in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. After a bench trial, the district court held that the asserted claims were not invalid under §101, §103, or §112 for lack of written description.

The primary dispute is whether the claims are patent eligible in view of Mayo v. Prometheus, or are they instead directed to a law of nature.

Patent at Issue
The ‘610 patent relates to a schizophrenia treatment using iloperidone. The claims require a dosage according to a patient’s metabolization rate of iloperidone (“CYP2D6 activity”).

Comparison of Vanda to Mayo claims

Vanda

Mayo

A method for treating a patient with iloperidone, wherein the patient is suffering from schizophrenia, the method comprising the steps of: A method of optimizing therapeutic efficacy for treatment of an immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder, comprising:
determining whether the patient is a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer by: obtaining or having obtained a biological sample from the patient; and performing or having performed a genotyping assay on the biological sample to determine if the patient has a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype; (a) administering a drug providing 6-thioguanine to a subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder; and
and if the patient has a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype, then internally administering iloperidone to the patient in an amount of 12 mg/day or less, (b) determining the level of 6-thioguanine in said subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder,
and if the patient does not have a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype, then internally administering iloperidone to the patient in an amount that is greater than 12 mg/day, up to 24 mg/day, wherein the level of 6-thioguanine less than about 230 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to increase the amount of said drug subsequently administered to said subject and
wherein a risk of QTc prolongation for a patient having a CYP2D6 poor metabolizer genotype is lower following the internal administration of 12 mg/day or less than it would be if the iloperidone were administered in an amount of greater than 12 mg/day, up to 24 mg/day. wherein the level of 6-thioguanine greater than about 400 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to decrease the amount of said drug subsequently administered to said subject.

Analysis

The Federal Circuit analyzed the findings of the lower court and noted that “[t]he [district] court did conclude that ‘the asserted claims depend upon laws of nature,’ specifically, ‘the relationship between iloperidone, CYP2D6 metabolism, and QTc prolongation.”  Id at 7.  But the Federal Circuit continued by explaining that the ‘610 patent “addresses natural relationships to which the claims add conducting CYP2D6 genotyping tests to determine the appropriate dose of iloperidone to reduce QTc-related risks.”  Id.

 The Federal Circuit held that the claims at issue were not directed to one of the patent-ineligible concepts.  Since the claims were directed to patent-eligible subject matter, no step two inquiry Alice inquiry is needed.  The Federal Circuit explained, that “at step one, ‘it is not enough to merely identify a patent-ineligible concept underlying the claim; we must determine whether the patent-ineligible concept is what the claim is ‘directed to.’’”  Id. at 28 (quoting Rapid Litig. Mgmt. Ltd. v. CellzDirect, Inc., 827 F.3d 1042, 1050 (Fed. Cir. 2016).

In distinguishing Mayo, the Federal Circuit explained that the “claims in Mayo were not directed to a novel method of treating a disease.  Instead, the claims were directed to a diagnostic method based on the ‘relationships between concentrations of certain metabolites in the blood and the likelihood that a dosage of thiopurine drug will prove ineffective or cause harm.’ Id.  This ‘relation is a consequence of the ways in which the thiopurine compounds are metabolized by the body- entirely natural processes.  And so a patent that simply describes the relations sets forth a natural law.”  Id. at 29 (quoting Mayo v. Prometheus).

The Federal Circuit distinguished the claims in Mayo by explaining that “the claim as a whole was not directed to the application of a drug to treat a particular disease.” Id.  As noted by the Supreme Court in Mayo, “the administering step was akin to a limitation that tells engineers to apply a known natural relationship or to apply an abstract idea with computers.”  Id.  “To underscore the distinction between method of treatment claims and those in Mayo, the Supreme Court noted that ‘[u]nlike, say, a typical patent on a new drug or a new way of using an existing drug, the patent claims do not confine their reach to particular applications of those laws.’”  Id. (quoting Mayo v. Prometheus).

The Federal Circuit noted the following three distinctions in the claims of the ‘610 patent:

  1. The claims require a doctor to administer a drug in a certain amount.
  2. The claims do not tie up the doctor’s subsequent treatment plan. (In Mayo, a doctor could infringe even if he/she did not change up his/her treatment plan).
  3. The claims recite the steps of carrying out a specific dosage regimen based on the results of the genetic testing. (In Mayo, the claims did not prescribe a specific dosage regimen or other added steps to take as a result of the indication).

The Federal Circuit summarized that “the claims here are directed to a specific method of treatment for specific patients using a specific compound at specific doses for a specific outcome.”  Id. at 32.

The dissent disagreed, concluding that “[w]hile the claims here do not solely state a law of nature, they do no more than simply direct the relevant audience to apply it.”  (Dissenting Opinion, p. 2).  The dissent reasoned that the claims are directed to “no more than optimization of an existing treatment of schizophrenia, just as the claims in Mayo concerned ‘optimizing therapeutic efficacy’ of thiopurine drugs.’”  Id. at 5.  “It claims no more than instructions directing the audience to apply the natural law in a routine and conventional manner.”  Id. at pp. 5-6.  With regard to the difference in claiming a specific dosage, the dissent highlighted that Mayo considered “the ‘administering’ step in its search for an inventive concept, not as part of the determination whether the claims were directed to a natural law at the threshold.”  Id. at 6.  As noted by the dissent, “the specific dosage adds nothing inventive to the claims beyond the natural law.”  Id.  Similarly, the dissent noted that requiring treatment instead of indicating a dosage is not sufficient at step two of the analysis.

Practice Insights
It is important to be specific about a particular method of treatment, and also to be specific about a particular dosage for a specific outcome. In particular, a specific treatment should be claimed, instead of an optimization of a treatment, as in Mayo.  The treatment should also include a specific dosage, intended for a specific outcome.  Although not determinative, careful consideration should be given to drafting the preamble, as it also plays a role in finding the claims patent eligible, particularly as it related to specifying the particular method of treatment.

Download Case Summary of Vanda Pharma v. West-Ward Pharma.

Nathan Phares Harrity Team

Hologic, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc.

By Nathan Phares
Satisfying the Written Description Requirement for a Genus based on a Disclosure of a Species of the Genus

May 8, 2017 – Hologic, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc. is related generally to the written description requirement under 112 paragraph 1 (pre-AIA). The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeals Board’s (PTAB’s) decision that a genus, claimed in a child application, was adequately disclosed by a species in the specification of a parent application in accordance with the written description requirement.

Smith & Nephew (appellees) secured U.S. Patent No. 8,061,359 on a surgical endoscopic cutting device and method for the cutting device’s use (the ‘359 patent, issued Nov. 22, 2011). The ‘359 patent claims priority to earlier-filed PCT International Publication WO 99/11184 by the same inventor (the Emanuel PCT, published March 11, 1999).

Claim 1 of the ‘359 patent recites a “light guide” that is “permanently affixed” to a “first channel” of the apparatus. This article focuses on the analysis surrounding the light guide. The Emanuel PCT specifies “a connection 8 for a light source . . . for connection to a fibre optics bundle which provides for lighting” (emphasis added). The Examiner of the ‘359 patent objected to the drawings for not showing the “light guide.” Smith & Nephew addressed this objection by amending the specification to state: “A connection 8 for a light source . . . for connection to a light guide, such as a fibre optics bundle which provides for lighting” (emphasis added). The Examiner issued the ‘359 patent thereafter.

Hologic (appellant) requested inter partes reexamination (IPR) of the ‘359 patent, and the PTO granted the reexamination. The IPR Examiner found that the ‘359 patent could not claim priority to the Emanuel PCT because the “fibre optics bundle” of the Emanuel PCT did not provide adequate written description for the “light guide” of the ‘359 patent’s claims. Thus, priority to the Emanuel PCT was severed, so the Emanuel PCT invalidated the ‘359 patent’s claims as obvious in view of a secondary reference.

Smith & Nephew appealed to the PTAB. The PTAB found that the disclosure in the Emanuel PCT provides sufficient written description for the “light guide” of the ‘359 patent, thereby preserving the priority claim of the ‘359 patent to the Emanuel PCT. Thus, the PTAB reversed the IPR Examiner’s rejection of the ‘359 patent’s claims. A more detailed description of the PTAB’s reasoning is provided below. Hologic appealed to the Federal Circuit and appeared before Judges NEWMAN, WALLACH, and STOLL. Judge STOLL authored the opinion.

Claim 1 of the ‘359 patent reads in relevant part:

1. A method for removal of tissue from a uterus, comprising: inserting a distal region of an endoscope into said uterus, the endoscope including a valve and an elongated member defining discrete first and second channels extending from a proximal region of the elongated member to the distal region, the second channel having a proximal end in communication with the valve such that fluid from the valve is able to flow into and through the second channel to the uterus, and the first channel having a light guide permanently affixed therein and being sealed from the second channel to prevent fluid from the valve from entering the uterus through the first channel. . . (emphasis added).

The specification of the ‘359 patent reads, as amended and in relevant part: “[a] connection 8 for a light source is also present, for connection to a light guide, such as a fibre optics bundles which provides for lighting at the end of lens 13.” Col. 3 ll 55-58.

The specification of the Emanuel PCT reads in relevant part:

“A connection 8 for a light source is also present, for connection to a fibre optics bundle which provides for lighting at the end of lens 13.” Emanuel PCT at 4:34-36. See also U.S. Patent No. 7,249,602, which issued from the Emanuel PCT and of which the ‘359 patent is a divisional, at para. [0030].

Hologic appealed the PTAB’s decision that the ‘359 patent is entitled to priority to the Emanuel PCT.  Specifically, Hologic contended that the obviousness rejection should be reinstated based on the Emanuel PCT not satisfying the written description requirement of pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112 paragraph 1.  Hologic contends that the Emanuel PCT does not provide adequate description of the “light guide,” as well as the “permanent affix[ture]” of the light guide in a “first channel” claimed in the ‘359 patent. As stated above, this article focuses on the analysis of the written description of the light guide.

The CAFC affirmed the PTAB’s findings that the Emanuel PCT provides written description support for the claims of the ‘359 patent, and that the ‘359 patent is entitled to claim priority to the Emanuel PCT, using a substantial evidence standard. Thus, the Emanuel PCT is not prior art to the ‘359 patent and the obviousness rejection was reversed.

A summary of the relevant written description law follows. To support priority, the specification of a parent patent must disclose what the child patent claims according to the written description requirement of pre-AIA 112 Paragraph 1. Slip Op. at 6, citing In re Katz at 1322. Ariad Pharm. v. Eli Lilly provides the standard: “based on ‘an objective inquiry into the four corners of the specification from the perspective of a person of ordinary skill in the art . . ., the specification must describe an
invention understandable to that skilled artisan and show that the inventor actually invented the invention claimed . . . . In other words, the test for sufficiency is whether the disclosure of the [earlier] application relied upon reasonably conveys to those skilled in the art that the inventor had possession of the claimed subject matter’ as of that earlier filing date.” Slip Op. at 7, citing Ariad at 1351.

The PTAB reasoned (and the CAFC agreed) that field of the invention is a predictable art, meaning that a lower level of detail is required to satisfy the written description requirement than for unpredictable arts (e.g., pharmaceutical arts, biological arts, etc.). Slip Op. at 7, citing Ariad at
1351. The PTAB further found that the Emanuel PCT discloses a “light guide” based on the facts that the parties do not dispute that a “fibre optic bundle” is a type of light guide, and that various types of light guides were well-known in the art. Slip Op. at 8. Hologic’s experts did not dispute these points. Because the Emanuel PCT showed possession of a “fibre optic bundle,” because a “fibre optic bundle” is a type of light guide, and because various “light guides” were known in a predictable art, the PTAB concluded that the Emanuel PCT reasonably conveys to a skilled artisan that the inventor of the Emanuel PCT had possession of a “light guide.” The CAFC affirmed.

This decision provides a framework for arguing against a written description rejection of a claimed genus over a disclosed species, particularly in the case of a priority claim to an earlier application. For example, this decision could be used to go after a broader scope in a continuation application, a divisional application, or a utility that claims priority to a provisional. Seek to establish that the specification shows possession of a species of a genus, and that the various other species of the genus are known in the art. After this, you may assert that the genus is adequately described in the specification based on the species. This may be particularly useful in predictable arts, although the prosecutor may lower the bar for obviousness by arguing that the art is predictable or that other species of the genus are known in the art. For the patent drafter, this decision provides a cautionary tale to think in terms of the genus as well as the species – add value for your clients by ensuring that your specification covers reasonable alternatives where possible.

The PTAB also found that the “permanently affixed” element and the “first channel” elements were adequately disclosed in the Emanuel PCT, and the CAFC affirmed – this aspect of the decision is not discussed any further in this article, as it is not particularly instructive for prosecutors.

Download Hologic, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc.
Harrity Blog

Steven E. Berkheimer v. HP Inc.

By Kenneth Kwan

March 28, 2018- In Steven E. Berkheimer v. HP Inc., 2017-1437 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment that claim 1 (among other claims) of U.S. Patent No. 7,447,713 (the ’713 Patent) is patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101, but reversed the district court’s summary judgment that claims 4 and 5 (among other claims) of the ’713 Patent are patent‑ineligible.

The ’713 Patent is directed to archiving files.  Different files can have portions (objects) that are the same.  A main aspect of the invention in the ’713 Patent is to archive files by linking the objects (that are in common) to one another, such that an update to one of the objects of one file can be reflected in linked objects of other files.

The specification of the ’713 Patent provides the following:

By eliminating redundancy in the archive 14, system operating efficiency will be improved, storage costs will be reduced and a one-to-many editing process can be implemented wherein a singular linked object, common to many documents or files, can be edited once and have the consequence of the editing process propagate through all of the linked documents and files. The one-to-many editing capability substantially reduces effort needed to up-date files which represent packages or packaging manuals or the like as would be understood by those of skill in the art.

Claims 1, 4, and 5 of the ’713 Patent read:

  1. A method of archiving an item comprising in a computer processing system:

presenting the item to a parser;
parsing the item into a plurality of multi-part object structures wherein portions of the structures have searchable information tags associated therewith;
evaluating the object structures in accordance with object structures previously stored in an archive;
presenting an evaluated object structure for manual reconciliation at least where there is a predetermined variance between the object and at least one of a predetermined standard and a user defined rule.

  1. The method as in claim 1 which includes storing a reconciled object structure in the archive without substantial redundancy.
  2. The method as in claim 4 which includes selectively editing an object structure, linked to other structures to thereby effect a one-to-many change in a plurality of archived items.

The Federal Circuit found that claim 1 is not patent eligible under 35 U.S.C. 101, since parsers and parsing functions are conventional in the art, the analysis and comparison of data, to reconcile differences between two objects, fail to transform the abstract idea into something patent-eligible, and the claim does not contain limitations that relate to the benefits of the invention.

In contrast, the Federal Circuit found that dependent claims 4 and 5 may be patent eligible, since these claims contain limitations relating to the benefits of the invention—i.e., the recitation “without substantial redundancy” in claim 4 and the recitation “to thereby effect a one-to-many change in a plurality of archived items” in claim 5 relate to the benefit of redundancy elimination, which leads to increased operating efficiency and reduces storage costs.

This opinion illustrates the potential importance of including claim limitations that directly relate to the technological improvements described in the patent’s specification, since this might help with the question of subject matter eligibility (particularly Step 2 of the Alice test).

Download Steven E. Berkheimer v. HP Inc.

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

Tim Hirzel Harrity Team

Finjan, Inc. v. Blue Coat Systems, Inc.

By Timothy Hirzel

February 9, 2018- In Finjan, Inc. v. Blue Coat Systems, Inc., 2016-2520 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 10, 2018), the Federal Circuit found that claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,154,844 (‘844 patent) were directed to patent eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101 (“101”).  This opinion provides insight on how the first step of Alice’s two-step test is applied and provides an example of claims that are not “directed to” an abstract idea under Step 1 of the Alice test.

A jury found Blue Coat infringed the ‘844 patent owned by Finjan and the District Court held, as a matter of law, that the ‘844 patent was patent eligible under 101.  Blue Coat appealed the subject-matter eligibility decision under 101 to the Federal Circuit.

The ‘844 patent recites a system and method for providing computer security by attaching a security profile to a downloadable (i.e., an executable application program).  Representative claim 1 of the ‘844 patent reads:

  1. A method comprising:

receiving by an inspector a Downloadable;

generating by the inspector a first Downloadable security profile that identifies suspicious code in the received Downloadable; and

linking by the inspector the first Downloadable security profile to the Downloadable before a web server makes the Downloadable available to web clients.

The Federal Circuit applied Alice’s two-step test and reiterated that under Step 1, the court determines whether the claims at issue are “directed to” a patent-ineligible concept, such as an abstract idea.  If they are, the court proceeds to Step 2 and determines whether the additional elements of the claims transform the nature of the claim into a patent-eligible application.

Starting at Step 1, the Federal Circuit first examined the ‘844 patent’s “claimed advance” to determine whether the claims are directed to an abstract idea or whether the claims focus on a specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities.  During claim construction, the “identif[y] suspicious code” feature was construed to be only satisfied if the security profile includes “details about the suspicious code in the received downloadable such as ‘all potentially hostile or suspicious code operations that may be attempted by the Downloadable.’”  Importantly, the Federal Circuit further stated that “[t]he security profile must include the information about potentially hostile operations produced by a ‘behavior-based’ virus scan,” as opposed to “code-matching” virus scans.  The question under Step 1 then became whether this behavior-based virus scan in the ‘844 patent constitutes an improvement in computer functionality.

The Federal Circuit determined the behavior-based virus scan was in fact an improvement to computer functionality.  Behavior-based scans are not limited to recognizing the presence of previously-identified viruses like code-matching scans.  Accordingly, the behavior-based scans can be used to protect against previously unknown viruses as well as “obfuscated code” known virus that attempt to avoid detection by code-matching scans.  Moreover, the Federal Circuit found that claim 1 “employs a new kind of file that enables a computer security system to do things it could not do before.”  For example, the security profile approach allows administrators to tailor access for different users and ensures potential threats do not reach a user’s computer.

The Federal Circuit distinguished this case from Intellectual Ventures v. Symantec Corp., which held virus screening by itself constitutes an abstract idea, because the claimed method in the ‘844 patent “does a good deal more” than conventional approaches to virus screening.  The Federal Circuit also distinguished the ‘844 patent from other cases that have held a result, even an innovative result, is not itself patentable because the ‘844 claims recite more than just the desired result.  Instead, the claims recite specific steps to accomplish the desired results, such as generating a security profile that identifies suspicious code and linking it to a downloadable.

Accordingly, the Federal Circuit found the claims of the ‘844 patent not to be abstract and affirmed the District Court.  Because the claims were not abstract, the Federal Circuit found no need to proceed to Step 2 of Alice.

This opinion illustrates the importance to subject matter eligibility under 101 of tying the claims to the asserted technical advance.  In this case, the advance was a new type of file that enabled new capabilities in a computer that could not be performed before.  This opinion also shows that claims should be drafted to do more than simply recite the desired result of the invention, but actually, recite specific steps to accomplish that result.  This opinion further illustrates the importance of claim construction because even though the claims did not recite “behavior-based” virus scanning, this feature was read into the claims and became an important factor in determining whether the claims constituted an improvement to computers.  Rather than relying on a court’s hopefully beneficial claim construction, patent applicants should carefully draft claims to capture necessary features to illustrate the technical improvement or advance.

Download Finjan v. Blue Coat.

William Gvoth Harrity Team

Two-Way Media LTD v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, et al.

By William Gvoth

January 23, 2018 – In Two-Way Media LTD v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, et al., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21706 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 1, 2017), the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that claims of various patents owned by Two-Way Media LTD were directed to ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101 (“101”).

This opinion provides insight into how claims may be construed and how this might impact an analysis of the claims under 101.

Four continuation patents were at issue: 5,778,187 (’187 patent), 5,983,005 (’005 patent), 6,434,622 (’622 patent), and 7,266,686 (’686 patent).  The patents relate generally to a system for streaming audio/visual data over a communications system like the Internet.  Claim 1 of the ’187 patent is representative of all the claims of the ’187 patent and the ’005 patent; claims 1 and 29 are representative of the ’622 patent; and claims 1, 22, 26, and 30 are representative of the ’686 patent.

As an example, and at a high level, claim 1 of the ’187 patent is generally directed to a method for:

  • Converting a plurality of streams of data into a plurality of streams of addressed digital packets;
  • Controlling the routing of the stream of packets in response to selection signals; and
  • Monitoring receptions of packets by the users and accumulating records.

The other representative claims are directed to similar methods or to systems with means plus function claiming similar to the previously described claim.

The common specification describes the invention as a scalable architecture for delivering real-time information (e.g., a distribution architecture integrated with a control architecture).  Embedded in the architecture is a control mechanism that provides for the management and administration of users who are to receive real-time information.  The specification also describes monitoring network conditions and generating records about real-time streams.

The Federal Circuit first analyzed the ’187 and ’005 patents.  Under Step 1 of the Alice test – the district court found that the claims of these patents are directed to the abstract idea of 1) sending information, 2) directing the sent information, 3) monitoring the receipt of the sent information, and 4) accumulating records about receipt of the sent information.  In analyzing this determination, the Federal Circuit stated that “claim 1 recites a method for routing information using result-based functional language…but does not describe how to achieve these results in a non-abstract way.”  Further, the Federal Circuit rejected proposed claim constructions, offered by Two-Way Media, that the claims are tied to the network architecture described in the specification.  In rejecting the proposed claim constructions, the Federal Circuit stated that the “constructions recite only conventional computer components.”

After affirming the analysis of the district court under step 1 of the Alice test, the Federal Circuit analyzed these claims under step 2 of the Alice test.  Under step 2, the district court “found no saving inventive concept” in the claims.  Although the district court acknowledged that the specification describes “a system architecture as a technical innovation,” the claim is not tied to the described architecture.  The Federal Circuit rejected Two-Way Media’s assertions that the “claim solves various technical problems” because the claim recites generic functional language to solve these problems.  In addition, the Federal Circuit stated that the claim does not require anything other than conventional technology and that the claim merely recites a conventional ordering of steps.

After analyzing the ’187 and ’005 patents, the Federal Circuit analyzed the ’622 patent and ’686 patent under the Alice test.  For these patents, the district court concluded that the ’622 patent was directed to “the abstract idea of monitoring the delivery of real-time information to a user…and that the ’686 patent was directed to the abstract idea of measuring the delivery of the real-time information for commercial purposes.”  It is worth noting that the district court, in part, based its conclusion on the preamble of the claims at issue.  The Federal Circuit found no error in the district court citing the preamble in its review.  The Federal Circuit then concluded that the claims are “directed to monitoring the delivery of real-time information to user(s) or measuring such delivery for commercial purposes.”

Under step 2 of the Alice test, the Federal Circuit reviewed the district court’s finding that the claims of the ’622 and ’686 patents did not contain an inventive concept.  Similar to the claims discussed above, the Federal Circuit disagreed with the argument that the district court failed to account for the system architecture and failed to give weight the “nonconventional arrangement of components” of the system architecture.  The Federal Circuit agreed with the district court, stating that the claims do not include an inventive concept.  For example, the claims recite use of an “intermediate computer” and an “intermediate server.”  The Federal Circuit stated that these components are “conventional computer and network components operating according to their ordinary functions.”  Further, the Federal Circuit stated that the steps of the claims “are organized in a completely conventional way – data are first processed, sent, and once sent, information is recorded” and “fail to describe a ‘specific, discrete implementation of the abstract idea’ sufficient to qualify for eligibility under 101.”

One of the main takeaways from this opinion is that even though the specification of the patents at issue arguably recited a novel concept (e.g., a novel system architecture), the claims were not tied sufficiently to that novel concept.  This opinion highlights the importance of the relationship between the claims and the specification with regard to a 101 analysis.  It shows that it may be difficult to argue that broad terms used in the claims are tied to novel concepts described in the specification, unless those broad terms are explicitly, or very clearly, tied to the novel concepts.  For example, for purposes of a 101 analysis and with regard to this opinion, reciting generic devices in the claims, such as an “intermediate server” or an “intermediate computer,” may not sufficiently tie the claims to a novel system architecture described in the specification unless the specification or the claims describe the relationship between the terms and the novel concepts.

Download Two-Way Media LTD v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, et al. 

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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William Gvoth Harrity Team

Trading Technologies International, Inc. v. CQG, Inc.

By William Gvoth

November 16, 2017- Trading Technologies International, Inc. v. CQG, Inc. relates to abstract ideas under § 101.  In Trading Technologies, two patents were at issue: U.S. Patent Nos. 6,772,132 (’132) and 6,766,304 (’304) (referred to collectively as “patents”).  These patents shared a common specification and related to a method and a system for electronic trading of stocks, bonds, futures, options and similar products.  The patents describe a problem that arises when a trader attempts to enter an order at a particular price but misses the price because the market moved before the order was entered.  The patents describe implementations that reduce the time it takes for a trader to place a trade when electronically trading on an exchange and that improve the way information is displayed to the trader.  For example, the implementations display market depth, which moves visually up/down and left/right as the market for a product fluctuates.  In addition, the implementations described in the patents permit a user to place an order for a product via a click on a user interface.

Trading Technologies appealed, to the Federal Circuit, the decision of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (District Court), finding that the patents were directed to patent-eligible subject matter under the two step test from Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International (Alice), 573 U.S., 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014).  The Federal Circuit affirmed.

To analyze the patent eligibility of the patents, the Federal Circuit selected claim 1 of the ’304 patent as the representative claim.  At a high level, claim 1 of the ’304 patent was directed to “a method for displaying market information relating to and facilitating trading of a commodity being traded in an electronic exchange…on a graphical user interface” that comprised dynamically or statically displaying various information and submitting a trade based on a user selection of a portion of the user interface.

The Federal Circuit analyzed the District Court’s analysis of the representative claim under the two step test from Alice.  Under the first step, the Federal Circuit reviewed, and agreed with, the District Court’s findings that the patents solve problems of prior graphical user interface devices used for computerized trading.  Specifically, the Federal Circuit stated that “the patents describe a trading system in which a graphical user interface ‘display[s] the market depth of a commodity traded in a market” including various static and dynamic displays and this graphical user interface solves “‘problems of prior graphical user interface devices…relating to speed, accuracy and usability.’”  Further, the Federal Circuit referenced the District Court’s findings that “the challenged patents do not simply claim displaying information on a graphical user interface” but rather “require a specific, structured graphical user interface paired with a prescribed functionality directly related to the graphical user interface’s structure that is addressed to and resolves a specifically identified problem in the prior state of the art.”  Based on the reasons stated by the District Court, the Federal Circuit agreed that the patents presented patent-eligible subject matter.

The Federal Circuit then analyzed the District Court’s analysis of the representative claim under the second step of the test from Alice and concluded that the District Court correctly “determined that the challenged claims recite an ‘inventive concept.’”  The Federal Circuit agreed with the District Court’s identification of the feature of “the static price index as an inventive concept” that permits more efficient and accurate trade placement when using electronic trading systems.  In addition, Federal Circuit agreed with the District Court’s distinction of the trading system from a conventional computer or the Internet based in part on the idea that the trading system presents “specific technologic modifications to solve a problem or improve the functioning of a known system.”

One of the main takeaways from the Federal Circuit’s analysis is that the claimed graphical user interface addresses specific problems with prior art graphical user interfaces in electronic trading.  In other words, the claimed invention includes an improvement to the functioning of technology and steps that address a specific problem.  This decision highlights the importance of framing a problem solved by an invention in technical terms and then presenting claims that solve the problem.

Download Trading Technologies International V CQG Inc.

Kris Rhu Harrity Team

Practice Insights in the Wake of Sonix Technology Co., LTD., v. Publications International, LTD

By Kris Rhu

October 30, 2017-  In Sonix Technology Co., LTD., v. Publications International, LTD (Fed. Cir. Jan. 5, 2017), the Federal Circuit found that the term at issue in U.S. Patent No. 7,328,845, i.e. “visually negligible,” did not render the asserted claims indefinite under 35. U.S.C. § 112, second paragraph.

The decision provides insight into how terms of degree in claims are treated and how the specification can be useful in providing an objective baseline in interpreting such terms.

The ‘845 patent of Sonix is directed to using a graphical indicator (e.g. a matrix of small dots) to encode information on the surface of an object, and an optical device that can read the graphical indicator and output additional information.  An example application is a children’s book with icons, where if one scans an icon (e.g. a horse) with the optical device, the book will output a sound (e.g. pronunciation of “horse”).  The patent admits that encoding graphical indicators is not new (e.g. barcode on a book cover), but the invention is an improvement over conventional methods because it renders the graphical indicators “visually negligible.”

The district court granted summary judgment against Sonix finding the patent invalid as being indefinite.  Particularly, the district court found the term “visually negligible” in the claim as indefinite under 35. U.S.C. § 112, second paragraph because the term was “purely subjective” and because the claim language provides no guidance on its meaning.  The court also determined that the specification does not provide a person of ordinary skill in the art “with a meaning that is reasonably certain and defines objective boundaries” of the claim scope.

On appeal, Sonix argued that the requirements and examples in the specification would have allowed a skilled artisan to know the scope of the claimed invention with reasonable certainty and establish that the term depends on human perception, not opinion.  They argued that this was consistent throughout the initial examination and reexamination processes.  Publications argued that there is no objective standard to determine whether something is “visually negligible” because it depends on the vagaries of a person’s opinion.

The Federal Circuit agreed with Sonix and reversed the district court, citing Enzo Biochem, Inc. v. Applera Corp., 599 F. 3d 1325, 1336 (Fed. Cir. 2010), where the court found that the clause “not interfering substantially” did not render a claim indefinite because the intrinsic evidence provided examples for non-interfering structures and criteria for their selection.  Thus, sufficient guidance was given to allow a skilled artisan to compare a potentially infringing product with examples from the specification to determine whether interference is “substantial.”

The court also cited Datamize, LLC v. Plumtree Software, Inc., 417 F. 3d 1342, 1348-1349 (Fed. Cir. 2005), where the court found the term “aesthetically pleasing,” with respect to a look and feel for interface screens, indefinite because the specification provided no guidance to a person making aesthetic choices.  Without any guidance, a determination of whether something is “aesthetically pleasing” was completely dependent on a person’s subjective opinion.

The court further cited Interval Licensing, LLC v. AOL, Inc., 766 F .3d, 1364, 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2014), where the court found displaying content “in an unobtrusive manner that does not distract a user” indefinite because the single example in the specification without more information leaves the skilled artisan to wonder what other forms of display are unobtrusive and non-distracting.  This leaves the skilled artisan to consult the “unpredictable vagaries of any one person’s opinion.”

Here, the Federal Circuit found that the term “visually negligible” does not depend on a person’s taste or opinion, but rather depends on whether something can be seen by the normal human eye.  The court found that this provides an “objective baseline” to interpret the claim, and thus, is not “purely subjective” even though it may be a term of degree.  When turning to the specification to determine whether there is some standard for measuring visual negligibility, the court found that the specification 1) has a general exemplary design for a visually-negligible indicator, 2) states “requirements for the graphical indicators [to be] negligible to human eyes”, and 3) contains two specific examples of visually negligible indicators.  Thus, the court found the existence of examples in the specification distinguishes this case from Datamize, and the existence of an additional example and specific requirements distinguishes the case from Interval Licensing.  The court also found the level of detail in the specification to be closer to that provided in Enzo because it provided guidance on how to create visually negligible indicators and specific examples that provide points of comparison for the result.  Further, the court found that Publications had not provided evidence that human perception varies so significantly that reliance on it as a standard renders the claim indefinite, noting that no one involved in the first or second reexamination had any difficulty in determining the scope of the term “visually negligible.”

The Federal Circuit made one final point about how their holding in this case does not necessarily mean that “the existence of examples in the written description will always render a claim definite, or that listing requirements always provide sufficient certainty.”  The court indicated that they simply held that “visually negligible” is not purely a subjective term and that the written description and prosecution history provided sufficient support to inform with reasonable certainty those skilled in the art of the scope of the invention.

Going forward, the decision provides some instruction regarding potential patent drafting strategies with regard to terms of degree.  For example, the decision highlights the importance of providing sufficient requirements and examples in the written description so that sufficient guidance is provided to those skilled in the art for interpreting such terms.

Download Practice Insights in the Wake of Sonix Technology Co., LTD., v. Publications International, LTD.

Harrity Blog

Practice Insights in the Wake of Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp.

By Sean Quinn & Peter Glaser

August 25, 2017- In Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp. (Fed. Cir. Aug. 15, 2017), a divided panel at the Federal Circuit determined that U.S. Patent No. 5,953,740 is not directed to an abstract idea.

The decision provides a positive result in the context of software-based inventions, and provides a few insights regarding potential patent drafting strategies.  Namely, the decision highlights the importance of focusing the specification on improvements to hardware components, and bolsters the importance of mentioning technical benefits wherever appropriate.  

The ‘740 patent teaches a memory system having programmable operational characteristics that are capable of being configured for use with multiple different types of processors without causing a reduction in performance ostensibly present in the prior art computer systems.  This enables the memory system to be used efficiently with multiple types of processors, rather than only with a single type of processor.  Further, the ‘740 patent claims a computer memory system comprising a main memory, a cache, and programmable operational characteristics that determine a type of data stored by the cache.

On appeal from a district court’s grant of NVIDIA’s motion to dismiss based on the asserted claims being directed to patent -ineligible subject matter, Judge Stoll, writing for the majority, stated that “[courts] must articulate with specificity what the claims are directed to (citing Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States),” and “ask whether the claims are directed to an improvement to computer functionality versus being directed to an abstract idea (citing Enfish LLC v. Microsoft).”  (Opinion at 7).

Using Enfish and Thales as guidance, the majority stated that the ‘740 patent’s claims are directed to an improved computer memory system rather than to an abstract idea of categorical data storage and  mentioned that claim 1 of the ‘740 patent requires a memory system “having one or more programmable operational characteristics, said characteristics being defined through configuration by said computer based on the type of said processor,” and “determin[ing] a type of data stored by said cache.”  (Opinion at 9).  Further, the  majority stated that dependent claims 2 and 3, respectively, narrow the memory system’s programmable operational characteristic to storing certain types of data and buffering data from certain sources and that none of the claims recite all types and all forms of categorical data storage.

The majority noted that the ‘740 patent’s specification mentions various technical benefits associated with the memory system, such as permitting different types of processors to be installed with the subject memory system without significantly compromising their individual performance, obviating the need to design a separate memory system for each type of processor, avoiding the performance problems of prior art memory systems, enabling interoperability with multiple different processors, and outperforming prior art memory systems having larger cache sizes.

Analogizing the ‘740 patent to the self-referential table in Enfish and the motion tracking system in Thales, the majority noted that the ‘740 patent’s claims are directed to a technological improvement and focus on a specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities rather than a process that qualifies as an abstract idea for which computers are invoked merely as a tool.  Further, the majority noted that the specification of the ‘740 patent discusses the advantages offered by the proffered technological improvement.  

Juxtaposing the ‘740 patent and the claims in Content Extraction & Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank and In re TLI Communications LLC Patent Litigation, the majority noted that the ‘740 patent recites an ostensibly new, improved, and more efficient memory system as opposed to claims that are not directed to an improvement in computer functionality and cover abstract ideas operating on generic hardware.

In dissent, Justice Hughes posited that the ‘740 patent fails to describe how the invention’s purpose is achieved, fails to describe how to implement the programmable operational characteristic, requires a third party to supply the innovative programming, and, as such, is not properly described as being directed to an improvement in computer systems.

In response, the majority identified three flaws with Justice Hughes’s posit.  

First, the majority noted that the ‘740 patent includes an appendix having 263 frames of code, and noted that the assumption that the code does not teach a person of ordinary skill in the art was improper at the stage of reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, where all factual inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party.

Second, the majority noted that the question of whether a patent specification teaches a person of ordinary skill in the art how to implement the claimed invention presents an enablement issue under 35 U.S.C. § 112 rather than an eligibility issue under § 101.  Further, the majority noted that the implementation details regarding how to configure a programmable operational characteristic may very well fall within the routine knowledge of persons having ordinary skill in the art and, as such, may have been permissibly omitted.  

Third, the majority noted that Justice Hughes’s assumption that the innovative effort in the ‘740 patent lies in the programming required for a computer to configure a programmable operational characteristic of a cache memory was misplaced.  In support, the majority noted that the assumption was inconsistent with the ‘740 patent’s specification and claims, which expressly state that the improved memory system is achieved by configuring a programmable operational characteristics of a cache memory based on the type of processor connected to the memory system.

In closing, the majority refrained from proceeding to step two of the Alice test because of the finding that the claims of the ‘740 patent are not directed to an abstract idea.   

Going forward, the decision provides some instruction regarding potential patent drafting and prosecution strategies regarding software-based inventions and § 101 issues.  For example, the decision highlights the importance of directing the specification and claims to improvements in computer systems, and the importance of mentioning technical benefits provided by the invention wherever feasible.  Moreover, the case highlights a distinction that can be drawn between enablement and eligibility.

Download Practice Insights in the Wake of Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp.

 

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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