Patent Eligible Subject Matter

In an inter-partes review proceeding (IPR), a challenger can rely only on patents and printed publications to challenge the validity of a patent claim. In contrast, in a post grant review (PGR) proceeding, a challenger can rely on any ground related to patentability, including prior sale, to challenge a patent claim.  In particular, 35 U.S.C. §102(a)(1) bars a person from receiving a patent on an invention that was “in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.”
Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds That AIA On-Sale Bar Applied to Secret Sales

In an inter partes review proceeding, a challenger cannot raise patent-eligibility as a ground of invalidity.  Rather, the invalidity grounds are limited to lack of novelty and obviousness.  Notwithstanding, in construing claim terms, the PTAB can decide not to give patentable weight to certain claim limitations that are not patent-eligible. In Praxair Distribution., Inc. v. Mallinckrodt Hospital Products IP Ltd., No. 2016-2616, 2016-2656 (Fed. Cir. May 16, 2018) the PTAB had employed the so-called “printed matter doctrine” not to give patentable weight to certain limitations as merely “providing information”  and the CAFC affirmed the PTAB’s claim construction.

Mallinckrodt is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 8,846,112, which is directed to methods of distributing nitric oxide gas cylinders for pharmaceutical applications.

Claim 1 recites a method of providing pharmaceutically acceptable nitric oxide gas, which includes obtaining a cylinder containing compressed nitric oxide gas, supplying the cylinder to a medical provider who is responsible for treating neonates who have hypoxic respiratory failure, including some who do not have left ventricular dysfunction. Claim 1 further includes the step of providing to the medical provider “(i) information that a recommended dose of inhaled nitric oxide gas for treatment of neonates with hypoxic respiratory failure is 20 ppm nitric oxide and (ii) information that, in patients with preexisting left ventricular dysfunction, inhaled nitric oxide may increase pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP), leading to pulmonary edema, the information of (ii) being sufficient to cause a medical provider considering inhaled nitric oxide treatment for a plurality of neonatal patients who (a) are suffering from a condition for which inhaled nitric oxide is indicated, and (b) have pre-existing left ventricular dysfunction, to elect to avoid treating one or more of the plurality of patients with inhaled nitric oxide in order to avoid putting the one or more patients at risk of pulmonary edema.”

Independent claim 7 includes a “recommendation that, if pulmonary edema occurs in a patient who has pre-existing [LVD] and is treated with inhaled nitric oxide, the treatment with inhaled nitric oxide should be discontinued” (the “recommendation” limitation). Claim 9 depends on claim 7 and further comprises the following steps: performing at least one diagnostic process to identify a neonatal patient who has hypoxic respiratory failure and is a candidate for inhaled nitric oxide treatment; determining prior to treatment with inhaled nitric oxide that the neonatal patient has pre-existing left ventricular dysfunction; treating the neonatal patient with 20 ppm inhaled nitric oxide, whereupon the neonatal patient experiences pulmonary edema; and in accordance with the recommendation of [claim 7], discontinuing the treatment with inhaled nitric oxide due to the neonatal patient’s pulmonary edema. Id.

The Board applied the printed matter doctrine to interpret the providing information, evaluating, and recommendation claim limitations “to be either printed matter or purely mental steps not entitled to patentable weight, as those limitations lacked a functional relationship to the other claim limitations except in claim 9.” In particular, the PTAB was not persuaded by Mallinckrodt’s argument that the recitation of “a pharmaceutically acceptable nitric oxide gas” in the preamble of the claims would require considering information provided in the label of the supplied product.  Rather, the PTAB construed this limitation as simply “nitric oxide gas that is suitable for pharmaceutical use.”
Continue Reading CAFC Affirms PTAB’s Decision That Printed Matter Doctrine Can Be Used In Claim Construction

On January 21, 2014, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board issued its second Final Written Decision in a Covered Business Method (CBM) Proceeding under the America Invents Act. CBM Proceedings allow for the review of a business method patent on any ground of patentability, and fill a gap between Inter-Partes Review (IPR) which only allows for review based obviousness or novelty, and Post-Grant Review (PGR), which is applicable only to patents issued based on applications filed on or after March 15, 2013, though it allows for review on any ground of patentability.

In this proceeding, CRS Advanced Technologies alleged that certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,675,151 were invalid as patent ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Broadly, the patent covers systems and methods for placing temporary workers in open positions. The PTAB granted review of all of the challenged claims and held a hearing in August, 2013. The Final Written Decision invalidated all six challenged claims as “directed to abstract, and, therefore, unpatentable, methods for substitute fulfillment.” This is the second time in as many decisions in which the PTAB invalidated business methods claims.

Broadly, the claims are directed toward a method of using a computer to find temporary workers. Claim three, specifically, provides:

Continue Reading PTAB Rejects Covered Business Method Claims

On June 11, 2013, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) rendered its first decision in a case under the new AIA procedures for administratively contesting patents.  In the case of SAP America, Inc. v. Versata Development Group, Inc., CBM2012-00001, Paper 70 (June 11, 2013), the PTAB found Versata’s patent claims ineligible for patent protection because they were drawn to “abstract ideas.”

The petition for review was brought under the Covered Business Method (CBM) post grant review rules, which permit free-wheeling challenges to patents under essentially all grounds that are available (sections 101, 102, 103 and 112 of the US Patent Laws).  (Similar rules for non-business method patent will not kick-in until patents start issuing with effective filing dates on or after March 16, 2013.)

Interestingly, the same parties litigated this same patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,553,350 ) a few years ago in the Eastern District of Texas (Versata Software, Inc. v. SAP America, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45751 at 16-18 (E.D. Tex. 2009)).  In the district court case, the patent was found valid and infringed – and Versata was awarded a $391 million infringement judgment.  Apparently, SAP had not raised the issue of patent ineligibility under 35 U.S.C. 101 during the jury trial.  The district court judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit (Versata Software, Inc. v. SAP America, Inc., 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 8838; 106 U.S.P.Q.2d 1649 (Fed. Cir. 2013)).  The Federal Circuit will probably also wind up with an appeal of the PTAB decision since SAP had asked the Federal Circuit to stay the damage award and injunctive relief until the PTAB conducted its review.
Continue Reading PTAB Renders Its First Decision