Does Section 285 Permit an Award of Attorney’s Fees for Patent Office Proceedings?

Back in 1988, the Federal Circuit reversed a district court decision that refused to award a party its reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in successfully litigating a patent’s validity before the Patent Office. PPG Indus., Inc. v. Celanese Polymer Specialties Co., 840 F.2d 1565 (Fed. Cir. 1988). The Office determined that the patent asserted in litigation—stayed pending the Office’s review—was invalid and obtained through inequitable conduct. Nobody contested the district court’s conclusion that the case was exceptional. Continue Reading

Incorporating Entire Arguments by Reference Can Lead to Disastrous Outcomes

In General Access Solutions, Ltd. v. Sprint Spectrum L.P., Case No. 19-1856 (Fed. Cir. May 11, 2020) (non-precedential), General Access Solutions (“GAS”) appealed from two final written decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“the Board”) in an inter partes review (“IPR”) proceeding holding that multiple claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,173,916 and 6,891,810 were obvious over prior art cited by Sprint Spectrum L.P. (“Sprint”). Specifically, the Board found certain claims to be unpatentable based on various grounds relying on U.S. Patent No. 7,366,133 (“Ahy”) as prior art under 35 U.S.C. § 102(e). Continue Reading

Fast-Track Decisions on Ex Parte Appeals

On July 2, 2020, the Patent Office initiated the “Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program,” which it designed to reduce the pendency of ex parte appeals. The program, effective for one year, is in a pilot stage to gauge the public’s interest and to assess its longer-term feasibility. The Office neither expects nor intends any delays for appeals that forego the pilot program. So, for now, participation in the program is first come, first served, limited to 500 applications, and requires submission of a short petition and payment of a modest fee. The program is likely welcome news, especially to those who have complained about the lengthy pendency often accompanying appeals. Continue Reading

PTAB’s Obviousness Analysis Inconsistent with KSR

In a decision issued on May 5, 2020, the Federal Circuit reversed a PTAB decision upholding patent claims challenged for obviousness. Uber Technologies, Inc. v. X One, Inc., 957 F.3d 1334 (Fed. Cir. 2020). The Board failed to properly apply the obviousness test of KSR International Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398, 421 (2007), which recognized that a person of skill in the art has good reason to pursue the use of a finite number of identified, predictable solutions to solve a problem. Continue Reading

Patent Invalidated Despite Owner’s Argument Reinstated On Appeal

In The Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. One World Techs., Inc., Case 18-2112 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 17, 2019), the Federal Circuit held the USPTO erred in determining that Chamberlain raised a new argument during the Board’s final hearing. There, Chamberlain argued that the prior art did not anticipate certain claims of the patent. The Federal Circuit explained that “Chamberlain was merely clarifying its earlier position” in response to One World’s reply brief and “not raising a new issue.” The Court, nevertheless, affirmed the Board’s decision canceling the challenged claims as anticipated by the prior art, noting that substantial evidence supported the finding. Continue Reading

Federal Circuit Reaffirms that Software is Patent Eligible

In Uniloc USA, Inc. v. LG Electronics USA, Appeal No. 19-1835 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 30, 2020), the Federal Circuit reaffirmed that software inventions are patentable in the U.S. with a bright-line statement: “Our precedent is clear that software can make patent-eligible improvements to computer technology, and related claims are eligible as long as they are directed to non-abstract improvements to the functionality of a computer or network platform itself.” Continue Reading

The Arthrex Mulligan

The Federal Circuit, in Arthrex, concluded that the Patent and Trial Appeal Board’s Administrative Patent Judges were unconstitutionally appointed “principal” officers. The court therefore vacated the Board’s decision that canceled claims in an inter partes review and remanded so a new panel of APJs would re-decide the patentability of the claims. What happens, however, when the Board’s pre-Arthrex final written decision does not cancel—but rather upholds the patentability of—the challenged claims? Well, there’s an appeal for that. Continue Reading

Assignor Estoppel Does Not Prevent Reliance on PTAB Decision Canceling Claims

In Hologic, Inc. v. Minerva Surgical, Inc., Case 19-2054 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 22, 2020), the Federal Circuit held that an assignor of a patent may rely on a PTAB unpatentability decision as a defense in infringement litigation, although the equitable doctrine of “assignor estoppel” prevents the assignor from directly challenging validity in the litigation. In Additional Views, Judge Stoll suggests that the en banc court reconsider the issue of assignor estoppel, because the court’s precedent permits an assignor of a patent to “circumvent the doctrine of assignor estoppel by attacking the validity of a patent claim in the Patent Office.” Continue Reading

PTAB Determination on One-Year Time Bar Cannot be Appealed

On April 20, 2020, the Supreme Court held that PTAB decisions instituting IPR are final and non-appealable and that the language of 35 U.S.C. § 314(d) “indicates that a party generally cannot contend on appeal that the agency should have refused “to institute an inter partes review.”  Thryv Inc. v. Click-To-Call Technologies LP, case number 18-916, 2020 WL 1906544 at *4, __S.Ct. __ (2020). Continue Reading

The Long Run

Adidas successfully petitioned the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in 2012 to review a Nike shoe patent. During that review, Nike filed a motion to amend the patent by canceling all claims and substituting four new claims. The Board canceled the patent claims and found the new claims unpatentable. Among other things, the Board said that Nike—the patent owner—did not establish the new claims were patentable over the prior art. Continue Reading

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