Federal Circuit Invites Patent Office to Open Pandora’s Box

It is puzzling, if not troubling, that the Federal Circuit recently invited (link) the Patent Office to submit a brief expressing its views on the scope of the petitioner estoppel under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2), a veritable Pandora’s Box. It is puzzling because only the judiciary can apply this estoppel provision, the Patent Office cannot. It is troubling not necessarily because the Patent Office unsurprisingly accepted the court’s invitation, but because it then answered in the affirmative a broad question the court did not pose: “whether section 315(e)(2) bars a successful inter partes review petitioner from making the same arguments in district court that it prevailed on in the inter partes review.” By inviting the court to conclude as much, the Patent Office has identified a statutory gaffe that may require parties to reevaluate the risks and rewards in pursuing inter partes review in parallel with district court actions. Continue Reading

“Hearsay & Authentication” From the PTAB Judges’ Perspective

The PTAB recently hosted a Boardside Chat webinar on the topic of hearsay and authentication before the Board. The Administrative Patent Judges that presented were Michael Zecher, Tom Giannetti and Grace Obermann. A PowerPoint of the presentation can be found here and the Boardside Chat schedule can be found here. Continue Reading

Federal Circuit Affirms Obviousness Decision by Board, Discusses Impact of Standing on Triggering of §315(b)’s Time Bar

In Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. v. F’real Foods, LLC, Appeal No. IPR2016-01107 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 16, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s final written decision in an IPR upholding the patentability of a patent claim under 35 U.S.C. § 103. Additionally, the court discussed but did not determine whether improper standing at the time of filing a complaint might impact the application of the one-year time bar under 35 U.S.C. §315(b). The decision provides a good opportunity for practitioners to brush up on the fundamentals governing obviousness determinations and suggests that the case law surrounding the one-year time-bar under §315(c) may still evolve. Continue Reading

Petitioner Has Burden of Persuasion on Real Party in Interest

Under 35 U.S.C. § 312(a), an IPR petition must identify “all real parties in interest,” and, an IPR petition is time-barred under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b) if “filed more than 1 year after the date on which the petitioner, the real party in interest, or a privy of the petitioner is served with a complaint alleging infringement of the patent.” As we have discussed, PTAB decisions on whether § 315(b) has been satisfied are reviewable on appeal. Continue Reading

“Your Call”: Fed. Cir. Says OK not to Reconsider Despite Remand

In Dell, Inc. v. Acceleron, LLC, 884 F.3d 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2018), the Federal Circuit determined that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board was not required to consider arguments first presented by the petitioner at oral argument, despite having remanded an earlier appeal of the Board’s decision for that very purpose. In that earlier appeal, the court had concluded that the Board deprived patent owner, Acceleron, a fair opportunity to rebut new arguments petitioner Dell presented during oral argument—arguments that convinced the Board to cancel Acceleron’s patent claims. The court had vacated the Board’s decision and remanded for reconsideration. On remand, the Board elected not to consider Dell’s new argument and, reversing itself, the Board found as a consequence that Dell had failed to establish that the challenged claims were anticipated. Continue Reading

Chemical Company Developing Industrial Process Had Standing to Appeal

In E.I du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Synvina C.V., No. 2017-1977 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 17, 2018), the Federal Circuit determined that the IPR petitioner, DuPont, had Article III standing to appeal an IPR final decision, although it had not been accused of infringement of patent owner Synvina’s patent, or engaged in activity that could be accused of infringement. The court explained that a controversy of sufficient immediacy and reality existed because DuPont, an avowed competitor of the patent owner, had taken and planned to take “action that would implicate” the patent under review. Specifically, DuPont had standing because it had built a manufacturing plant capable of operating within the parameters of the patent under review and had planned to engage in activities that could be accused of infringement. The court also noted that the record showed that DuPont had a non-hypothetical risk of infringement liability because the patent owner had refused to grant DuPont a covenant not to sue, and had argued before the PTAB that DuPont copied its patented process.  Continue Reading

Trade Show Publication Dooms Patent in IPR Appeal Despite Contrary Decision in ITC Appeal

Inter partes review not only provides a faster and cheaper way to challenge patent validity, but also expands the Patent Office’s ability to develop law on esoteric issues relating to prior art. The Federal Circuit’s decision Nobel Biocare Services AG v. Instradent USA, Inc. is another in a line of cases arising out of IPR proceedings dealing with the availability of conference and trade show materials as prior art. See, for example, PTABWatch posts here and here. Interestingly, the court affirmed the PTAB’s decision finding certain claims of the challenged patent anticipated by a trade show publication, whereas the court came to the opposite conclusion in a related ITC appeal based on the same publication.

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Confusion and Delay

In Oil States Energy Services., LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, Justice Thomas, writing for a 7-2 majority of the Supreme Court, explained that inter partes review proceedings do not violate Article III or the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution. 138 S. Ct. 1365 (2018). But his opinion for the majority invited confusion and delay, upon the brink of which the Federal Circuit now stands. This stems from Oil States’ failure to explicitly challenge in the broad question its certiorari petition presented the retroactive application of inter partes review to its patent—a patent that issued before the procedure existed. Continue Reading

IPR Estoppel Does Not Apply to ITC Investigative Staff

Judge Cheney of the United States International Trade Commission held that ITC Investigative Staff are not estopped from asserting invalidity of a patent based upon prior art that was previously asserted by a respondent in an IPR. See In the Matter of Certain Magnetic Tape Cartridges and Components Thereof, Inv. No. 337-TA-1058 at *106-107. While this is an initial determination that has not been adopted by the Commission, this determination creates a huge loophole limiting the effect of estoppel before the ITC.

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“Comments Anyone?”: PTO Makes Proposed New IPR Amendment Process

On October 29, 2018, the Patent and Trademark Office published a request for comments on a proposal to establish a new procedure by which patent owners may seek to amend their claims during inter partes review. Comments are due on or before December 14, 2018. The PTO proposes a pilot program implementing the new amendment process to begin shortly after the deadline for comments.

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