Wasica Finance GmbH et al. v. Schrader Int’l, Inc. et al., C.A. 13-1353-LPS (D. Del. January 14, 2020) (publicly available on January 21, 2020).

Plaintiffs Wasica and Bluearc (collectively “Wasica”) filed an infringement action based on U.S. Patent No. 5,602,524 against defendants (collectively “Schrader”). The patent pertained to devices for measuring the air pressure in tires.
Continue Reading IPR Estoppel Strikes Again

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

Under 35 U.S.C. 315(e)(1), a petitioner in an inter partes review of a claim in a patent that has resulted in a final written decision by the Board may not request or maintain a proceeding before the Patent Office with respect to that claim on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have

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

Earlier this month, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) added two decisions to its list of “precedential” opinions for the USPTO’s new proceedings for challenging patents under the America Invents Act. The list (which now consists of three decisions out of the over 1000 opinions that have been rendered) is intended to bring to public’s attention cases that the PTAB has concluded settle aspects of the evolving law governing inter partes review (IPR), covered business method (CBM) review, supplemental examination and post grant review (PRG) proceedings.

With over 200 administrative patent judges and over 2000 pending proceedings being handled by a myriad of different panels of judges, precedential decisions are intended to resolve conflicts. However, the process for designating an opinion as “precedential” is quite cumbersome. The process starts by nomination of an opinion by a PTAB judge (or a member of the public within 60 days of the rendering of the opinion). The Chief Judge of the PTAB then circulates the opinion to all members of the PTAB with an invitation to comment (typically within 10 days) and then vote on whether the opinion should be designated as precedential. If a majority of the PTAB judges agrees, the Chief Judge notifies the Director of the Patent Office, who can concur or reject the recommended designation. If the Director concurs, then the opinion labeled as precedential and publishes as such on the USPTO website (http://www.uspto.gov/patents-application-process/appealing-patent-decisions/decisions-and-opinions/precedential).

In the first new precedential opinion, LG Electronics, Inc. v. Mondis Tech Ltd., IPR2015-00937, Paper 8 (PTAB Sept. 17, 2015), the PTAB found LG’s petition for inter partes review was barred by 35 U.S.C. § 315(b), even though LG had filed its petition within one year of being served with an infringement complaint in 2014. The opinion concluded that the one-year bar of section 315(b) applies because petitioner had also been served with an earlier infringement complaint in 2008 on the same patent. There’s a certain irony in this decision because IPR proceedings did not come into existence until 2012 – so LG could never have petitioned for IPR the first time around. The effect of this decision apparently is that anyone sued more than a year before the AIA proceedings became available is effectively barred from petitioning for inter partes (or CBM) review.

The LG opinion notes but does not necessarily endorse an earlier PTAB decision (Oracle Corp. v. Click-to-Call Techs., LP, Case IPR2013-00312, Paper 40 (PTAB Dec. 18, 2013) ) in which a panel held that the 315(b) bar is not triggered by an earlier complaint – more than one-year before the petition – if the action is dismissed without prejudice. The panel in the LG case distinguished the Oracle decision because in the present case the dismissal of Mondis’s 2008 complaint was dismissed partial with prejudice and partially without prejudice.

In the second decision designated as precedential on January 12, 2016, Westlake Services, LLC v. Credit Acceptance Corp., (CBM2014-00176, Paper 28 (PTAB May 14, 2015) the Board interpreted the estoppel provision of 35 U.S.C. § 325(e)(1), ruling that the estoppel that prevents a petitioner from bringing a second CBM or PGR proceeding following “a final written decision” in the statute refers only to a decision on the specific claims on which the proceeding was instituted. Westlake was thus not estopped from bringing a second petition and challenging different claims.
Continue Reading Patent Trial and Appeal Board Adds Two More Cases to its List of Precedential and Informative Decisions

In the case of Square, Inc. v. Unwired Planet, LLC (CMB2015-00148), the PTAB held that the grounds raised by Square, Inc. (Petitioner) to challenge the validity of claims 1-4 of Unwired Planet’s U.S. Patent No. 7,711,100 could have been raised in a previous petition filed by Square, Inc. against the same patent, and hence denied the institution of a covered business method (CBM) review. In particular, the Board relied on the estoppel provision of 35 USC 325(e)(1), to deny the institution of a CBM review. This portion of section 325 mandates that the petitioner, or the real party in interest or privy of the petitioner, in a post-grant review of a claim that results in a final written decision “may not request or maintain a proceeding before the Office with respect to that claim on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that post-grant review.”

The Petitioner had previously filed a CBM petition challenging claims 1-4 of the ‘100 patent (CBM2014-00156), which relates to methods for coordinating financial transactions via a wireless network, such as a wireless telephone network. In that proceeding, the petitioner argued that the claims at issue were invalid under 35 U.S.C. §101 as drawn to patent ineligible subject matter as well as invalid under 35 U.S.C. §102 and 103 as either anticipated or rendered obvious by a prior art reference (a thesis by Vazvan). The PTAB initiated a trial on the §101 ground but declined to include the §102 and 103 grounds in the trial because it found the evidence of public availability of the Vazvan thesis deficient. Ultimately, in a final written decision, the PTAB held that the challenged claims were not eligible for patenting pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §101.

Not satisfied with the decision invalidating the claims as patent ineligible subject matter, Square, Inc. filed a second petition arguing that claims 1-4 were invalid under 35 U.S.C. §102 and 103 as anticipated or rendered obvious by a different prior art reference (U.S. Patent No. 5,579,535 of Orlen).
Continue Reading No Second Bite Of The Apple for Square, Inc. – PTAB Applies Estoppel Provision Of 35 U.S.C. §325(e)(1) TO CBM Review

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.

Last week we reported on a case (Blackberry v. MobileMedia Ideas) in which a PTAB panel refused to terminate an inter partes review proceeding with respect to the patent owner despite a settlement reached by the parties.  This was not the first instance of the PTAB deciding to continue a review on its own.  Back in November 2013, another PTAB panel had reached a similar decision in a covered business method (CBM) patent review proceeding despite a similar settlement and a joint petition to terminate.  The PTAB decision on the merits of the CBM case was handed down on January 30, 2014, finding all four contested claims patent ineligible and invalid – despite a federal district court’s judgment in favor of patent owner on these same issues and the expiration of the patent in the interim.
Continue Reading PTAB Strikes Down Patent Claims — Despite Settlement and Request from Parties to Terminate Proceeding

Under the America Invents Act (AIA), parties to an Inter Partes Review (IPR) or Post Grant Review (PGR) may move to join pending IPR or PGR proceedings. See 37 C.F.R. § 42.122 (for IPR), and 37 C.F.R. § 42.222 (for PGR).

The regulations provide, in part:

(b) Request for joinder. Joinder may be requested by a patent owner or petitioner. Any request for joinder must be filed, as a motion under §42.22, no later than one month after the institution date of any inter partes review for which joinder is requested. The time period set forth in §42.101(b) shall not apply when the petition is accompanied by a request for joinder.

In addition to the efficiencies that come with consolidation of proceedings, a petitioner may use the joinder rules to get around the filing deadline laid out in § 42.101(b). The regulations prevent that party from filing a new IPRs and PGRs more than a year after the date the petitioner was served with a complaint for patent infringement. However, if that petition is filed with a motion to join a pending review proceeding, the petitioner can avoid that deadline. In order to take advantage of this, there must already be a pending proceeding (i.e. an earlier petition must have been timely filed and a instituted).
Continue Reading The More the Merrier – Joinder under the AIA

In a number of IPR requests, the PTAB has relied on its authority to “deny some or all grounds for unpatentability for some or all of the challenged claims” to refuse to institute IPR based on certain invalidity grounds put forth by a challenger that the PTAB considered as cumulative relative to other grounds for which the review was instituted. 37 C.F.R. 42.108(b). The PTAB has reasoned that its denial for review of redundant invalidity grounds comports with the policy that the rules for conducting IPR proceedings be “construed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of every proceeding.” 37 C.F.R.  42.1(b).
Continue Reading Too Much of a Good Thing: The Challenge of Being Comprehensive and Yet not Redundant