Laura Peter, Deputy Director, Patent and Trademark Office v. NantKwest, Inc., No. 18-801 (December 11, 2019)

Today, the Supreme Court overruled a recent interpretation of 35 USC §145 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which permits the USPTO to recover expenses against applicants who filed civil actions against the USPTO. Section 145 allows unsuccessful parties at the USPTO to file a district court action for review of a decision from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board instead of going directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Traditionally, the statute has been interpreted to permit the USPTO to recover expenses such as copying costs and expert fees.


Continue Reading The American Rule Is Still the Rule

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) recently construed the on-sale bar provision of 35 U.S.C. 102(a) in a way that will make it easier for petitioners to challenge third party patents. While in an inter-partes review proceeding, a petitioner can rely only on prior art patents and printed publications to challenge the validity of one or more claims of a third-party patent, in a post-grant review proceeding, a petitioner can raise any statutory ground of invalidity including the on-sale bar provision of 35 U.S.C. 102(a).  This statutory provision, as modified by America Invents Act (AIA), bars patenting a claimed invention if the “claimed invention was patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed inventions.”

Prior to the enactment of AIA, it was well established that the sale of a claimed invention more than one year from the effective filing date of a patent application, even if the sale did not involve disclosing the underlying invention, would bar patenting the invention. However, the change in the wording of this statutory provision introduced by AIA, and particularly, the use of the phrase “otherwise available to the public” immediately following “on sale” created ambiguity about whether a sale of a claimed invention without disclosing the underlying invention would trigger the on-sale bar provision.

Recently, in the case of Helsinn Healthcare S.A. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., the CAFC cleared up this ambiguity and held that the on-sale bar provision of 35 USC 102(a) applies to the sale of a claimed invention even if the sale did not involve disclosing the underlying invention.  This decision can provide yet another tool for challenging patents in a post-grant proceeding.   
Continue Reading AIA On-Sale Bar Applies to Publicized Sales, Even When Knowledge of Sale Did Not Disclose the Underlying Invention

IPR petitioners wary of the statutory estoppel under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2) may have reason to be cautiously optimistic.   Judge Sue Robinson of the Federal District Court of Delaware recently held that Toshiba is not estopped from presenting invalidity grounds at trial that it did not raise in an earlier IPR.  Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Toshiba Corp. No. 1:13-cv-00453, D.I. 559 & 574 (D. Del. December 19, 2016 & January 11, 2017).

35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2) reads in relevant part:

The petitioner in an inter partes review of a claim in a patent under this chapter that results in a final written decision under section 318(a) . . . may not assert . . . in a civil action arising in whole or in part under section 1338 of title 28 . . . that the claim is invalid on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review.

In her opinion, Judge Robison noted that the Federal Circuit has interpreted Section 315(e)(2) very literally. “[E]stoppel applies to grounds for invalidity upon which the Board instated review in the IPR proceeding, whether or not the Board addresses those grounds in its final decision (‘instituted grounds’). . . . [T]here likewise can be no dispute that estoppel does not apply to invalidity grounds that were raised by a petitioner in an IPR, but rejected by the Board as instituted grounds (i.e., ‘noninstituted grounds’).” Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Toshiba Corp. No. 1:13-cv-00453, D.I. 574 (D. Del. January 11, 2017).

As background, Intellectual Ventures sued Toshiba for infringement of claims 17 and 19 of the ’819 Patent in Delaware in 2013. Toshiba petitioned for IPR of the ’819 Patent in 2014. Toshiba prevailed in the IPR, with the PTAB invalidating claims 17 and 19 in a final written decision. Toshiba Corp. v. Intellectual Ventures II LLC, No. IPR2014-00418, Paper No. 28 (P.T.A.B. Aug. 7, 2015).

Before the Delaware court, Intellectual Ventures moved for summary judgment that Toshiba is estopped from raising one of its invalidity grounds at trial because the ground was based on publicly available prior art that could have been raised in Toshiba’s IPR petition. Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Toshiba Corp., No. 1:13-cv-00453, D.I. 559 at p.26 (D. Del. December 19, 2016). Judge Robinson disagreed, citing Shaw Indus. Group, Inc. v. Automated Creel Systems. Id. In Shaw, the Federal Circuit held that Section 315(e)(2) does not estop a ground rejected by the PTAB at the institution stage because, since “[t]he IPR does not begin until it is instituted,” the petitioner “could [not] have reasonably raised – the [rejected] ground during the IPR.” 817 F.3d 1293, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2016) (emphasis in original). Extending the Shaw logic, Judge Robinson found that Toshiba is not estopped from raising its invalidity ground that was not raised at all in IPR. No. 1:13-cv-00453, D.I. 559 at 27 (D. Del. December 19, 2016). But Judge Robinson expressed misgivings at this result, noting that “[a]lthough extending the [Shaw] logic to prior art references that were never presented to the PTAB at all (despite their public nature) confounds the very purpose of this parallel administrative proceeding, the court cannot divine a reasoned way around the Federal Circuit’s interpretation in Shaw.” Id.
Continue Reading IPR Estoppel Provisions May Not Be That Scary After All

According to 35 U.S.C. §315(a), an inter partes review may not be instituted if, before the date on which the petition for such a review is filed, the petitioner or real party in interest filed a civil action challenging the validity of a claim of the patent.  In a recent decision, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board dealt with the issue of whether a petition would be barred under Section 315(a) when the petitioner previously had raised an affirmative invalidity defense as part of a motion to intervene as a defendant in a federal patent infringement suit.  The Board decided that the petition was not barred by Section 315(a) and instituted a trial on the merits.  (IPR2015-01872, Paper 10, March 14, 2016.)

Ericsson Inc. (the Petitioner) filed a petition to institute an inter partes review of claims 1-25 of U.S. Patent No. 7,385,994 of Intellectual Ventures II LLC (the Patent Owner).  In a preliminary response, the Patent Owner argued that the Petition was time barred under Section 315(a) because prior to the IPR Petition Ericsson had filed a motion to intervene as a defendant in a patent infringement litigation, initiated by the Patent Owner against AT&T and Cingular Wireless, along with an Answer in Intervention, in which the Petitioner had raised an affirmative defense of invalidity of the ‘994 patent.  The Patent Owner characterized the intervention initiated by the Petitioner as “initiating a new dispute,” when none existed beforehand.

The Board disagreed with the Patent Owner and relied on the reasoning put forth in Ariosa Diagnostics v. Isis Innovation Limited (IPR2012-00022) to hold that Ericsson’s answer did not constitute a civil action challenging the validity of a claim of a patent.
Continue Reading Affirmative Defense of Invalidity As Part of a Motion to Intervene Does Not Bar Filing of a Subsequent IPR Petition

Two recent cases show that simply avoiding a post-grant review proceeding at the U.S. Patent Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) not only does not preclude a defendant in underlying patent infringement litigation in a federal district court from raising the same invalidity arguments again, it also may not even influence the court’s claim construction. Moreover, the patent owner may not be allowed to make reference to its prior success in avoiding an administrative trial at the Patent Office as well.

Although 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2) provides an estoppel binding on a petitioner (or any party in privity with the petitioner) from raising the same issue in federal court patent infringement litigation if they lose in a PTAB final written decision, it is increasingly clear that a PTAB decision not to institute a trial is not likely to carry much weigh in federal court.

In Adidas AG v. Under Armour Inc. et al, C.A. No. 14-130, slip op. (D. Del. Dec. 15, 2015), the District Court of Delaware denied a defendants’ motion to modify the court’s claim construction order based on a PTAB decision denying institution of an inter partes review (IPR). The patent at issue covers “location aware” fitness trackers, which Addidas has alleged are infringed by Under Armour’s fitness and exercise monitoring systems. Even though Under Armour didn’t get a trial initiated on the Addidas patent at the PTAB, it did like the way the board construed the claims and urged Judge Sleet of the Delaware federal district court to adopt the same construction.

The Delaware District Court declined to change its construction of the term “with respect to a route path.”  Judge Sleet noted in a footnote that the “PTAB’s choice not to institute an IPR is not the type of adjudication that leads to issue preclusion.” The order further noted that the PTAB had not reached a final decision on the claim construction and consequently, the Court “is not bound by a preliminary claim construction used by the PTAB for the limited purpose of denying an IPR request.”
Continue Reading A Decision Not to Institute a Trial at the PTAB Does Not Carry Much Weight in Federal Court

Two of the earliest challenges to patents under the new post grant proceedings established by the America Invents Act (AIA) are now on appeal to the Court of the Appeals for the Federal Circuit and both appeals are taking direct aim at the US Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to adopt a controversial standard for claim construction – the so-called “Broadest Reasonable Interpretation” standard – to govern all of the new AIA proceedings.

Versata v. SAP concerns the very first “covered business method” (CBM) review proceeding (CBM2012-00001) conducted by the USPTO and is on appeal by the Patent Owner, Versata, of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) decision to invalidate certain challenged claims. Cuozzo v. Garmin concerns the first inter partes review (IPR) proceeding and likewise is on appeal from a PTAB decision finding Couzzo’s claims invalid.

Both appellants are challenging the USPTO’s claim construction standard as impermissible substantive rule-making by the agency and arguing that the standard instead should be the same as that applied to issued patents by the federal courts – the so-called Phillips rule that requires judges and juries to give the elements of a claim their “ordinary and customary meaning.” (See, Phillip v AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005))
Continue Reading Does the Broadest Reasonable Interpretation Standard Make Sense?

In a decision this month (IPR2013-00308), the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) has ruled against Stanford University’s patented method for detecting Down’s syndrome and other chromosomal defects, finding all of the challenged claims 1-13 invalid. The Stanford patent, U.S. Patent Number 8,296,076, is licensed to Verinata Health Inc., and is the subject of patent infringement litigation initiated by Verinata and Stanford against Ariosa Diagnostics in 2012 (Verinata Health Inc. et al. v. Ariosa Diagnostics Inc. et al., case no. 3:12-cv-05501, N.D. California). (Verinata is now owned by genetic instruments maker, Illumina, which acquired it in 2013 for over $350 million dollars.) The remaining two claims of US Patent 8,296,076, independent claim 14 and its dependent claim 15 directed to a “method of testing for an abnormal distribution of chromosome in a sample comprising a mixture of maternal and fetal DNA,” were not challenged in the IPR2013-00308.

In two other recent decisions in October, 2014, Verinata’s own IP survived challenges by Ariosa. In final decisions on IPR 2013-00276 and IPR2013-00277, the PTAB decided that Ariosa had failed to meet its burden of showing by a preponderance of evidence that the claims of U.S. Patent Number 8,318,430 were invalid, representing a rare outcome where all of the challenged claims in a IPR proceeding were successfully defended. The Verinata ‘430 patent is the subject of separate pending litigation in the Northern District of California between Verinata and Ariosa (Illumina, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc., case no. 3:14-cv-01921, N.D. California).
Continue Reading Stanford Patent Found Invalid in IPR proceedings but Licensee’s IP Survives

Patent owners enforcing their rights who seek to exclude testimony about a pending administrative challenge to the patent-in-suit may face a Hobson’s choice – at least in Nevada. Particularly, the price for excluding evidence of pending administrative challenges to a patent may be a loss of the presumption of the patent’s validity in a district court trial.

In federal courts, judges may preclude evidence from being presented to a jury, particularly where the evidence has the potential to cause unfair prejudice. Such an opportunity is provided by Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which states that a court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, and/or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.

Judges may use Rule 403 in patent infringement cases, particularly in cases where the patent in question is part of a concurrent reexamination proceeding in the Patent Office. In a recent ruling on a motion to preclude evidence concerning a concurrent reexamination of a patent, the District Court of Nevada held, consistent with precedent, that the evidence would be prejudicial, and therefore was inadmissible at trial. Server Technology, Inc. vs. American Power Conversion Corporation (3:06-CV-00698-LRH-VPC (D. Nev.)).

Particularly, District Court Judge Larry Hicks stated that the reexamination of the patent in question was not final, and that a final decision would not occur until long after the trial. Judge Hicks reasoned that the prejudicial effect of notifying the jury about the reexamination proceeding would influence the jury’s determination of the issues of infringement and invalidity. In addition, allowing the evidence would only confuse a jury because both the standard of proof and the applied claim construction by the Patent Office would be different from the standards to be applied at trial. Such differences, in addition to causing jury confusion, would also waste time and resources because it would be necessary to explain the differences to the jury.
Continue Reading What Should A Jury Be Told About A Concurent PTO Trial?

Several recent cases from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit have confirmed that Congress has given the U.S. Patent Office a great deal of discretion in deciding whether or not to initiate a trial when a petition for patent review under the America Invents Act (AIA) is filed by a challenger. In each instance the Federal Circuit noted it was relying upon the clear wording of the statute that established the new procedures for administratively challenging patents. Under 35 U.S.C. §314(d), “The determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review (IPR) under this section shall be final and nonappealable.” (The same “nonappealable” language is found in the sections of AIA governing covered business method (CBM) and post grant review (PGR) challenges).

In St. Jude Med. v. Volcano Corp., Fed. Cir., No. 2014-1183, 4/24/14, the Federal Circuit ruled on an appeal filed St. Jude Medical Cardiology Division Inc. after the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) denied St Jude’s petition for inter partes review of a patent on systems for cardiovascular imaging owned by Volcano Corp. (U.S. Patent No. 7,134,994). In ruling on the petition the PTAB never reached the merits of St. Jude’s arguments but instead found the petition to be barred under 35 U.S.C. 315(b) because St Jude had not challenged the patent within one year of having been served with complaint (or counterclaim) alleging infringement of the patent. In this case, litigation between the two parties had been going on for numerous years and the counterclaim of patent infringement of the patent had been raised by Volcano years before the enactment of the AIA. Volcano’s counterclaim was later dismissed without prejudice by stipulation of the parties.
Continue Reading PTAB Trial Institution Decisions – Are They Ever Appealable?

Much has occurred during the first year after the America Invents Act (AIA) established several new procedures for the public to challenge issued patents and a new administrative court to hear these cases. Here are some observations on the first year of this evolving practice.

1. Many More IPR Petitions Have Been Filed Than CBM Review Petitions.

Although Congress expected the Covered Business Method (CBM) review process would be widely used by irate businesses tired of dealing with so-called “business method” patents, only 67 CBM petitions were filed during the first year compared to nearly 500 petitions for Inter Partes Review (IPR). Many practitioners thought the more expansive grounds for challenge in CBM review (permitting challenges based on prior public uses and sales as well as prior art publications) would have piqued more interest, especially in tandem with recent Supreme Court decisions roundly criticizing non-technological patent claims. However, IPRs have been more widely invoked, probably reflecting the much larger number of non-business method patents being asserted in litigation.

2. The PTAB is Quite Willing to Initiate IPR Proceedings when a Petition is Filed

Over 86% of the IPR petitions filed in the first year have been granted –at least in part.
Continue Reading Lessons From The First Year Of Post Grant Proceedings In The U.S.