CAFC says the U.S. may file a CBM proceeding

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently issued a decision in Return Mail, Inc. v. United States Postal Service, which upheld the invalidity of all challenged claims in a covered business method (CBM) challenge decided by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). In the CBM proceeding, the PTAB panel found the claims to be directed to patent ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

That patent claims were found to be directed to patent ineligible subject matter in a CBM proceeding is hardly newsworthy. No patent that has entered CBM has done anything other than fall to date. What is newsworthy, however, is that the Federal Circuit also upheld a controversial ruling of the PTAB, which determined that the United States has standing to bring a CBM challenge. Legally speaking, the United States, or in this case the United States Postal Service, is considered a person within the meaning of AIA § 18(a)(1)(B).

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Federal Circuit reverses PTAB, says Whirlpool claims are anticipated

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently issued a decision in Homeland Housewares, LLC v. Whirlpool Corporation. The original panel voted 2-1 in favor of Homeland Housewares and overturned a final written decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which had confirmed that challenged claims from a Whirlpool patent were valid.

The Whirlpool patent before the Federal Circuit, which had the validity of the claims upheld at PTAB, is U.S. Patent No. 7581688, titled Blender with Crushed Ice Functionality. The ‘688 patent claims a cycle of operation for a blender having a motor, a container and a cutter assembly in which the motor automatically controls the cutter assembly’s rotational speed to effect a pulsing, each pulse having a constant speed phase, a deceleration phase and an acceleration phase. The resulting invention addressed shortcomings in conventional blender devices with a crushed ice functionality as those other prior art devices would often result in ice that was either over or under crushed. Further, conventional devices had difficulties mixing crushed ice with other contents to an even consistency.

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Amin confirmed by Senate as IP enforcement coordinator

On Thursday, August 3, 2017, the United States Senate, through a deal brokered by leaders McConnell (R-KY) and Schumer (D-NY), voted out dozens of Trump nominees under a unanimous consent agreement. Under this procedure, there is no individual or “roll call” votes or floor debate on a nominee.

Of particular note for the intellectual property community, Vishal Amin was confirmed to be the IP enforcement coordinator at the White House and Peter Davidson was confirmed to be general counsel at the Commerce Department.

Amin had been a lawyer for Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) working on the AIA and then for Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) working on the Innovation Act. Therefore, Amin has been in the middle of IP legislation since President Obama took office in January 2009. Before that, he worked in the Bush White House and Commerce Department on patent reform and IP issues.  Amin generally favors the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and going after patent trolls. He has been strongly endorsed by the film, music and traditional copyright interests, which puts him at odds with the tech community on copyright, Internet freedom and even, perhaps, cybersecurity issues (think proposals from Hollywood to enable proactive hacking to stop circumvention of copyright protection measures). Because of his support for the PTAB and close association with the AIA and Innovation Act, the independent inventor community opposed Amin for this position, which is sometimes referred to as “the IP Czar.”

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08.16.17 | Patent Issues | Gene Quinn

An interview with Congressman Thomas Massie

“I can tell you, every day Congress is in session, there are lobbyists here trying to weaken the patent system,” Congressman Thomas Massie explained to me when I interviewed him on June 28, 2017.

In Massie’s words, those companies that come to Capitol Hill and lobby to weaken the patent system want to get into new fields, but the problem is they didn’t invent in those fields, so they face problems. Patent problems. A lot of those companies want to become automobile manufacturers, or cell phone manufacturers, or they want to write software for operating systems, but they didn’t invent in those areas and they don’t own the patents that have historically been the touchstone of innovation ownership. “They’d love to just come in and start playing in those fields and start using their size and scale as an advantage, and to them, patents look like a hindrance,” Massie explained. “They are here in Congress looking to weaken patents and they are not just interested in weakening patents issued in the future, they are looking to weaken all patents.”

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Infringers may soon pay a heavy price in China

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently made some unusually strong comments regarding intellectual property. “Wrongdoing should be punished more severely so that IP infringers will pay a heavy price,” Xi said.

According to IAM, the comments from President Xi are the most extensive he’s made in public on the subject of intellectual property protection. He called on national authorities to advance IP regulations, improve the quality and efficiency of examinations and to accelerate the building of IP institutions. The remarks are a major acknowledgement of the importance of strong IP protections to a nation’s economy, directly from the head of state of one of the world’s major economies.

Political leaders in Washington, DC should take notice of Xi’s comments. In China, where there is single-party rule, change can happen dramatically, as we have already seen on the patent and innovation landscape. With the support of President Xi, China could very quickly move to become the preferred jurisdiction for innovators, given the market size afforded by a country with 1.4 billion people. If acted upon in a serious way, this new Chinese approach to dealing with infringers could send a shockwave through the entire intellectual property community, if not the entire world economy.

“President Xi’s statement on the importance of IP enforcement indicates China’s growing status as a leader in innovation,” said Erick Robinson, a U.S. patent attorney based in Beijing. He is Director of Patent Litigation at Beijing East IP. “China knows that only by protecting patent rights will individuals and companies have incentive to create new technical solutions.”

At a time when President Xi is actively moving China’s IP policy to a place where infringers are met with harsher penalties, some Congressional leaders support legislation that continue attempts to further gut the U.S. patent system, allowing infringers a free holiday and the ability to infringe without consequence or penalty.  In recent days, the House IP subcommittee has piled on, looking for ways to further reduce venue for plaintiffs in infringement suits and turning into a forum for attacking judges on patent cases and the critics of patent reform.

While factions within the U.S. seriously discuss further dismantling the U.S. patent system in favor of infringers, China takes the lead in increasing the enforceability of patents.

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