Haste Makes Waste?

If the Federal Circuit’s decision in Arthrex wasn’t sufficiently newsworthy, then look at what lurks in its wake. The day after the decision, the court issued precedential orders indicating that a timely Constitutional challenge apparently must be presented to the court in an opening brief. A few days after those orders, two of the court’s most senior active-service judges said that the court’s remedy in Arthrex (i) wasn’t required by Supreme Court precedent, (ii) imposed unnecessary burdens on all involved in AIA trials, (iii) requires hundreds of new proceedings, and (iv) involves decision-making that is itself unconstitutional. And a day later, another panel of the court issued an order soliciting briefing on those and other issues left in Arthrex’s wake, tacitly questioning the Arthrex panel’s decision.

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PTAB Should Have Determined that Gravity Feed Display Design Patent is Obvious

In Campbell Soup Co. v. Gamon Plus, Inc. (Fed. Cir. Sept. 26, 2019), the Federal Circuit vacated the PTAB’s decision (discussed here) upholding the validity of Gamon’s design patent D621,645 (“the ‘645 patent”) for soup can display racks.  The court determined that substantial evidence did not support the Board’s finding that Linz is not a proper primary reference for a design patent obviousness challenge.  Continue Reading

Fixing an Appointments Clause Violation

In Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., Appeal 2018-2140 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 31, 2019), the Federal Circuit concluded that the PTAB’s Administrative Patent Judges (APJs) are “principal” officers and their appointment by the Secretary of Commerce therefore violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. The issue arose in an appeal of a decision by a panel of APJs canceling claims in Arthrex’s patent in a recent inter partes review (IPR). But because that decision occurred while there was an Appointments Clause violation, the court vacated and remanded the IPR to be decided by a different panel of APJs. Continue Reading

Highlights of the U.S. Patent Office’s Update to its 2019 Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance

PTABWatch Takeaway: In mid-October 2019, the Patent Office updated its subject matter eligibility guidance published in January 2019. The update does not change the guidance, but simply offers clarifications invited by public responses to the January guidance.

On October 17, 2019, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a 22-page an Update (“October PEG Update”) to its 2019 Revised Patent Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance (“2019 PEG”). Continue Reading

PTAB Revises Trial Practice Guide To Reflect Recent Decisions On Claim Construction, Petition and Motion Practice

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) recently published a second update to its Trial Practice Guide (TPG). The TPG, initially released in 2012, was first updated in August 2018 (see here). This second update further revises and/or adds guidance relating to certain general procedures and many aspects of trial practice before the PTAB. Continue Reading

The Chaos of Too Many Rules

The Patent Office issued Honeywell a patent that required correction. The patent, according to Honeywell, did not include the proper claim for the benefit of priority to the filing date of an application that Honeywell had earlier filed. But before Honeywell noticed the error and tried to correct that priority claim, its competitor, Arkema, petitioned the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to institute a post grant review proceeding. Shortly after institution, Honeywell sought the Board’s authorization to file a motion for leave to obtain from the Patent Office’s Director a certificate of correction. After all, the Director often issues certificates to correct priority claims. But the Board refused authorization and ultimately canceled the patent. On appeal, the Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s decision, chastising the Board for abusing its discretion. Honeywell Int’l Inc. v. Arkema Inc., Appeals 2018-1151, ‑1153 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 1, 2019).

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Don’t Save New Fish to Fry in Reply

In Henny Penny Corp. v. Frymaster LLC (Fed. Cir. 2019), the Federal Circuit again upheld the PTAB’s application of its rule prohibiting petitioners from raising new arguments in a reply brief, and upheld the challenged claims as not unpatentable for obviousness, relying in part on secondary considerations evidence. Continue Reading

Federal Circuit Affirms Obviousness Decision by Board, Finds No APA Violation Based on New Characterization of Passage Providing Motivation to Combine

In Smith & Nephew, Inc. v. Arthrocare Corp., Appeal No. IPR2016-00918 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 21, 2019), the Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s decision in an IPR to invalidate patent claims on the basis of obviousness, determining that the Board did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by describing the motivation to combine the teachings of the prior art in different language than that used in the petition.  Additionally, the court affirmed the Board’s claim construction as reasonable and found that subjecting a pre-AIA patent to inter partes review was constitutional when the patent issued after the passage of the AIA.  Continue Reading

Federal Circuit Addresses Constitutional Issue Supreme Court Left Open

In consolidated appeals of a trio of Board decisions canceling pre-AIA patents in inter partes reviews (IPR), the Federal Circuit held “that the retroactive application of IPR proceedings to pre-AIA patents is not an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment.” Celgene Corp. v. Peter, Appeals 2018-1167, -1168, -1169, Slip Op. at 3 (Fed. Cir. July 30, 2019). As we previously discussed (link), the Supreme Court’s decision in Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, 138 S. Ct. 1365, 1379 (2018), left open this issue. The Board’s decisions on appeal pre-date Oil States and unsurprisingly, perhaps, Celgene did not therefore raise the issue before the Board. But Celgene and the Patent Office briefed this constitutional issue in the appeal and then addressed it at oral argument to the Federal Circuit’s satisfaction. In further view of the growing number of appeals raising this issue in the wake of Oil States, the court exercised its discretion to decide the issue. Continue Reading

A Reference is Publicly Accessible if a Person of Ordinary Skill in the Art Could Access the Reference

In a recent decision vacating the PTAB’s finding that a draft standard for video coding emailed to a listserv was not publicly accessible, the Federal Circuit again corrected the PTAB’s application of the legal standard to determine the public accessibility of prior art. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. v. Infobridge Pte. Ltd., case no. 2018-2007, 2018-2012, 2019 WL 3047113 (Fed. Cir. July 12, 2019). Although multiple means of accessibility were alleged, the PTAB’s analysis was upheld with respect to all but the listserv distribution. Continue Reading

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