Federal Circuit Affirms Inequitable Conduct Against Apotex

Apotex Inc. and Apotex Corp. (collectively, “Apotex”) appealed the decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida finding that Apotex’s U.S. Patent No. 6,767,556 (“the ’556 patent”) is unenforceable due to inequitable conduct. Apotex likewise appealed the district court determination that the asserted claims were indefinite, that they disclaimed coverage of the accused products from the scope of the ’556 patent’s claims, and any recovery of pre-suit damages was barred by laches. In an opinion authored by Judge Reyna (with Judges Wallach and Hughes joining), the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding inequitable conduct, and on that basis alone, affirmed the district court’s judgment. See Apotex, Inc. v. UCB, Inc. (August 15, 2014).

The ’556 patent is generally directed to a process for manufacturing moexipril tablets. Moexipril is an angio-tensin-converting enzyme (“ACE”) inhibitor used to treat hypertension. To improve stability, the ’556 patent discloses a process of making moexipril tablets consisting mostly of moexipril magnesium obtained by reacting moexipril, or its acid-addition salts, with an alkaline magnesium compound.

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CAFC Reverses Summary Judgment for Lack of Adequate Written Description

In ScriptPro, LLC v. Innovation Associates, the Federal Circuit recently addressed the sufficiency of a disclosure vis-a-vis the patent claims issued.

The dispute arose when ScriptPro, LLC and ScriptPro USA, Inc. (collectively, “ScriptPro”) sued Innovation Associates, Inc, alleging infringement of claims 1, 2, 4, and 8 of U.S. Patent No. 6,910,601. The district court granted summary judgment for Innovation Associates, holding that the asserted claims were invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 112(a) because the specification describes a machine containing “sensors” and the claims at issue describe a machine that does not need to have “sensors.” ScriptPro appealed and the Federal Circuit, per Judge Taranto (with Judges Bryson and Hughes) reversed, finding summary judgement inappropriate.

Generally speaking, the ’601 patent describes as the invention a “collating unit,” which works with an “automatic dispensing system” that automatically fills and labels pill bottles or other prescription containers. The collating unit has a number of storage positions (e.g., slots) into which containers are placed as they emerge from the dispensing system. The claims at issue do not require “sensors,” although other claims of the ’601 patent do require the use of a “plurality of sensors.”

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Head-Mounted Wearable Tech

The field of wearable technology became somewhat “sexy” with the much-anticipated release of Google Glass, a lightweight pair of glasses that incorporates computer elements, sensors and other components, all for $1,500.  One goal of this system is to allow media capture of images, video and sound that replicate the Glass wearer’s point of view.

In February 2012, Google filed a patent application to protect a system of capturing pictures through a wearable device by analyzing a user’s gaze. A user looks through the viewfinder, which can detect the field of vision of a user based on the direction of that user’s gaze. This gaze information can be processed to determine the exact field of view for a user, and this data can be used to adjust the image being captured by the device. This patent application, U.S. Patent Application No. 20130222638, just recently received a non-final Office Action on August 12, 2014.

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PTO & Alice – Things Have Really Changed

Despite what the United States Patent and Trademark Office suggested in their initial guidance to patent examiners, the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank has substantially changed the prosecution landscape for computer implemented inventions (i.e., software).

At least initially, the USPTO guidance to examiners seemed extremely patentee friendly. In a memo to the patent examining corps, the USPTO explained that the reason Alice’s claims were determined to be patent ineligible was because “the generically-recited computers in the claims add nothing of substance to the underlying abstract idea.” The USPTO then went on to point out to patent examiners that there is no new category of innovation that is patent ineligible, nor is there any new or special requirements for the eligibility of either software or business methods. Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy Andrew Hirshfeld explained: “Notably, Alice Corp. neither creates a per se excluded category of subject matter, such as software or business methods, nor imposes any special requirements for eligibility of software or business methods.”

Hirshfeld also explained that there is now a slight change in the way applications are to be examined when claims involve abstract ideas. Essentially, it was said, Alice stands for the proposition that the same analysis should be used for all types of judicial exceptions and the same analysis should be used for all categories of invention. Still, even recognizing this shift in analysis, Hirshfeld told examiners: “[T]he basic inquiries to determine subject matter eligibility remain the same as explained in MPEP 2106(I).” (emphasis added). Therefore, this initial guidance clearly took the position that nothing has changed from a substantive law point of view as far as the USPTO was concerned.

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USPTO Proposes Electronic Sharing with Foreign Offices

The electronic sharing of information and documents between intellectual property (IP) offices is critical for increasing the efficiency and quality of patent examination worldwide. Due to the confidential nature of unpublished U.S. patent applications, set forth in 35 U.S.C. 122, an applicant must provide the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) written authority in accordance with 37 CFR 1.14 to grant a foreign IP office access to an unpublished U.S. patent application. With this grant of authority, the Office may electronically provide the U.S. patent application-as-filed or the requested file contents, such as information and documents, from the U.S. patent application to the foreign IP office on behalf of the applicant.

To facilitate electronic file sharing between IP offices, such as the sharing relating to the priority document exchange (PDX) program and the program by which U.S. search results are delivered to the European Patent Office (EPO), USPTO is proposing to amend its rules of practice to include a specific provision by which an applicant can authorize the USPTO to give a foreign IP office access to all or part of the file contents of an unpublished U.S. patent application. This would satisfy a requirement for information imposed on a counterpart application filed with the foreign intellectual property office.

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