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Claim Term Read Out by PTAB Constituted “Harmless Error”

In a recent non-precedential decision, Snap-on Inc. v. Milwaukee Elec. Tool Corp., No. 2017-1305, 2018 WL 935454 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 16, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s final written decisions in several IPRs that upheld challenged claims of Milwaukee Tool patents as nonobvious, although the court determined that the PTAB erred in construing a … Continue Reading

Collateral Estoppel Not Limited to Identical Claims

The equitable doctrine of collateral estoppel protects a party from having to re-litigate an issue that has already been fully and fairly adjudicated. In Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Steuben Foods, Inc. the Federal Circuit said that application of collateral estoppel is not limited to construing only identical patent claims; but instead, it extends to terms … Continue Reading

A Split Federal Circuit Panel “at Once Envisaged” Different Conclusions of Anticipation

Can the disclosure in a prior art reference be too extensive for the art not to anticipate? According to a recent decision, the Federal Circuit apparently thinks so. In Microsoft Corp. v. Biscotti Inc., Case Nos. 2016-2080, -2082, -2083 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 28, 2017), a split Federal Circuit panel affirmed a Board’s decision—also a split … Continue Reading

The United States Can Have Standing in AIA Proceedings

PTABWatch Takeaway: When “sued for infringement” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1498(a), the United States has standing to petition the Patent Office to institute Covered Business Method (CBM) review.  Return Mail v. U.S. Postal Service, Appeal 2016-1502 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 28, 2017) Background Patentee, Return Mail, Inc., filed suit in the U.S. Court … Continue Reading

Federal Circuit Again Reminds PTAB that BRI Must Be Reasonable

Last fall, the Federal Circuit reversed a PTAB decision that affirmed an Examiner’s rejection of various claims in an ex parte reexamination because the Examiner’s interpretation of the claims, which the PTAB upheld, was unreasonably broad. In re Smith International, Inc., Appeal No. 2016-2303 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 26, 2017). The court’s decision is noteworthy because … Continue Reading

PTAB Not Always Bound By Previous Court Decisions Regarding Patent Validity

In Novartis AG v. Noven Pharm. Inc., Appeal 2016-1678-1679 (April 2017), Novartis appealed two PTAB decisions holding claims of two patents obvious over cited prior art (IPR2014-00549 and IPR2014-00550), arguing that previous judicial holdings of non-obviousness should control the PTAB’s factual findings and that the claims should have been held non-obvious. The two Novartis patents … Continue Reading

Error in Claim Construction Leads to Reversal of IPR Decision and Cancelation of Claims

Two recent Federal Circuit decisions illustrate how an error in construing claims may lead the court to reverse a PTAB final written decision. In Organik Kimya AS v. Rohm & Haas Co., the Federal Circuit determined that the PTAB correctly construed the disputed claim term, “swelling agent,” and therefore affirmed the PTAB’s decisions upholding the … Continue Reading

Patent Owner’s Optional Preliminary Response Avoids IPR, But Dooms Infringement Action

Earlier this year, the Federal Circuit held “that statements made by a patent owner during an IPR proceeding, whether before or after an institution decision, can be considered for claim construction and relied upon to support a finding of prosecution disclaimer.” Aylus Networks, Inc., v. Apple Inc., Appeal 2016-1599 (Fed. Cir. May 11, 2017). In … Continue Reading

Federal Circuit Overturns PTAB’s Finding of Patent Validity

In a split opinion in Homeland Housewares, LLC v. Whirlpool Corporation, the Federal Circuit has again overturned a final written decision issued by the PTAB determining that challenged claims in an IPR were not unpatentable, a development that should at least cast doubt on the validity of patents that survive challenges at the PTAB. Homeland … Continue Reading

Assertion of “Routine Optimization” Without Additional Reasoning Insufficient to Support Obviousness Conclusion

Recent Federal Circuit decisions reversing or remanding PTAB holdings of obviousness have faulted the Board for failing to clearly articulate its reasoning.  See our previous posts here and here.  In In re Stepan Co., No. 2016-1811 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 25, 2017), a split CAFC panel vacated a PTAB ex parte appeal decision affirming an obviousness … Continue Reading

Interim Director Matal Expresses High Confidence in Constitutionality of AIA Trials

An updated discussion of this issue is available here: The Supreme Court Finds IPR Proceedings Constitutional Joe Matal, interim director of the Patent Office, addressed the IPO’s 45th Annual Meeting on September 19, 2017, in San Francisco. He said that the Office, and particularly the PTAB, experienced a productive yet tumultuous five years since the … Continue Reading

Rejection of Claims Containing Functional Language and a Negative Limitation Affirmed by Federal Circuit

The Federal Circuit’s recent decision in In re Chudik, Appeal 2016-2673 (Fed. Cir. August 25, 2017) (non-prec.), offers patent practitioners a cautionary tale and good teaching points about the propriety of negative limitations and functional claim language.  No two situations are the same, of course, but the case offers a real-world example of how claims … Continue Reading

How to Overcome a Section 112 ¶ 6 Means-Plus-Function Presumption

PTABWatch Takeaway: Claims that recite the term “means” may trigger the means-plus-function presumption under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. § 112 ¶ 6 (Section 112(f) of the AIA), but the presumption can be overcome where: (1) the means term itself recites structure; (2) that structure is “common parlance” to those of ordinary skill in the art; and … Continue Reading

Adding Two More to the List of Serious Questions about AIA Trials

In a routine AIA trial, the PTAB determined that challenged claims in a patent directed to HVAC systems were unpatentable as being obvious and anticipated by prior art. This trial was unusual, however, because the Board premised its anticipation conclusion on a joined IPR petition that successfully rectified evidentiary deficiencies in the same petitioner’s earlier … Continue Reading

Enactment of the STRONGER Patents Act Would Severely Limit PTAB Proceedings

The STRONGER (Support Technology & Research for Our Nation’s Growth and Economic Resilience) Patents Act of 2017 was recently introduced in the Senate.  The Act is an updated version of the STRONG Patents Act of 2015 that stalled in Congress.  Like its predecessor, the STRONGER Patents Act is designed to significantly modify the AIA trial … Continue Reading

Reluctant to Reverse, the Federal Circuit Offers the PTAB a Mulligan

The Federal Circuit recently vacated the PTAB’s decisions in three interferences. Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Jr. Univ. v. Chinese Univ. of Hong Kong, Appeal 2015-2011 (Fed. Cir. June 27, 2017). These interferences concern which parties’ inventors first conceived methods for diagnosing fetal aneuploidies using cell-free fetal DNA from maternal blood samples. The PTAB … Continue Reading

PTAB’s Conclusion of Obviousness Overturned as Lacking Sufficient Justification

In In re Schweickert, No. 2016-1266 (Fed. Cir. 2017), the Federal Circuit in a non-precedential opinion vacated the PTAB’s decision canceling patent claims in an ex parte reexamination as being obvious over prior art. The Federal Circuit determined that the PTAB’s conclusion of obviousness was based on no more than a broadly-stated assertion that the … Continue Reading

Claim Construction Sends Duke’s Patent Back to PTAB for Reconsideration, In Part

In a recent appeal from a PTAB final written decision, the Federal Circuit reversed the Board’s determination that all claims of a Duke patent were unpatentable (Duke Univ. v. BioMarin Pharm. Inc., Appeal No. 2016-1106 (Fed. Cir., April 25, 2017). The court concluded that certain of the Board’s claim constructions were incorrect, and that others, while appropriate, … Continue Reading

Federal Circuit Signals that PTAB Correctly Construed Most Signal Terms but Misconstrued one Other

In Wasica Finance GmbH v. Continental Automotive Sys., Inc., (Fed. Cir. Apr. 4, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part and reversed-in-part two PTAB final written decisions cancelling some but not all challenged claims  of U.S. Patent No. 5,602,524 (“the ‘524 patent”). The PTAB and court decisions are interesting because together they highlight the consequence of not … Continue Reading

Failing to Articulate Desired Claim Construction Before PTAB May Lead to Waiver

In the latest development in the ongoing patent battle between Google and SimpleAir Inc., a Federal Circuit panel agreed with SimpleAir that Google waived a claim construction it asserted on appeal because Google had failed to argue that construction before the PTAB. SimpleAir originally asserted a series of patents against Google, including U.S. Patent No. … Continue Reading

Teaching Away for Dummies

In Meiresonne v. Google, Inc., No. 2016-1755 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 7, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s final written decision in IPR2014-01188 that the challenged claims in U.S. Patent No. 8,156,096 (the “’096 patent”) are unpatentable as obvious over the 1997 book “World Wide Web Searching for Dummies, 2nd Edition” by Brad Hill (“Hill”) and … Continue Reading

Joinder Does Not Prevent Application of IPR Estoppel Provision

A little more than a month after the Delaware district court narrowly interpreted the IPR estoppel provision to suggest that it may not be necessary to include all known grounds so as to avoid estoppel in district court litigation, the same court issued a decision suggesting that the IPR estoppel provision may not be so … Continue Reading

CBM Eligibility: Patent Must Have a Claim that Contains, However Phrased, a Financial Activity Element

A patent that is merely incidental to a financial activity is not sufficient to render that patent eligible for CBM review.  Secure Access, LLC v. PNC Bank National Association et. al, Case No. 2016-1353 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 21, 2017).  In Secure Access, the Federal Circuit reversed and vacated the PTAB’s decision that U.S. Patent No. … Continue Reading
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