Several weeks ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in Dynamic Drinkware v. National Graphics, which asked the Court to determine who has the burden with respect to whether a provisional patent application sufficiently supports a later-issued patent so as to become effective prior art as of the provisional filing date in an inter partes review.
National Graphics owns U.S. Patent 6,635,196, which is directed to making molded plastic articles bearing a “lenticular” image. The ’196 patent issued on October 21, 2003, from an application filed on November 22, 2000. The ’196 patent claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application 60/211,112, filed on June 12, 2000.
Dynamic petitioned the PTO for inter partes review of the ’196 patent. In its petition, Dynamic argued that claims 1, 8, 12, and 14 of the ’196 patent were anticipated by U.S. Patent 7,153,555 (“Raymond”). The application for Raymond was filed on May 5, 2000, claiming the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application 60/182,490 (the “provisional application” or “Raymond provisional application”), filed on February 15, 2000. The PTO granted the petition in part, and instituted trial on claims 1 and 12.
Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, decided SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, which required the Court to determine the continued applicability of the laches defense for patent infringement actions. This issue presents itself in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1962 (2014), which determined that laches is not a defense to a copyright infringement action brought within the statute of limitation.
Petrella involved an assertion that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s (“MGM”) 1980 film “Raging Bull” infringed a copyright in a 1963 screenplay authored by Frank Petrella. Frank Petrella’s daughter renewed the copyright in 1991, but did not contact MGM until seven years later. Over the next two years, Petrella and MGM exchanged letters concerning Petrella’s copyright claim. Petrella then went silent, and did not file suit until January 6, 2009, about nine years after her last correspondence with MGM. MGM moved for summary judgment based on laches, which the district court granted and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.
The CDC estimates that over 42 million adults in the U.S. are smokers. Other estimates claim that there are currently 1.1 billion smokers worldwide. Still, the American tobacco market is shrinking, which has companies like Reyonlds American (owner of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company) searching for innovative solutions for the future.
Reynolds American is not the most prolific innovator that we have covered, but it does have a leading research and development position among cigarette makers. The company holds a portfolio of 1,011 active patents, including 307 U.S. patents, according to information collected from Innography’s patent portfolio tools. A search of recently issued patents shows that the American tobacco giant is shifting its research and development focus away from traditional tobacco products and towards e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products and cigarettes that are more environmentally friendly, or at least that possess a greater degree of biodegradability.
On July 30, 2015, Drew Hirshfeld was sworn in as the new Commissioner for Patents. Prior to taking the helm of patent operations as Commissioner for Patents, Hirshfeld served as Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy. Even before assuming the position of Deputy Commissioner, Hirshfeld was no stranger to senior management, having served two years as the USPTO Chief of Staff for David Kappos. He also served as a Supervisory Patent Examiner as well as a Group Director of Technology Center 2100, overseeing Computer Networking and Database workgroups.
I spoke with Hirshfeld on the record on August 10, 2015. What follows are some of the highlights of the interview. For more please see the complete transcript of our interview.
On June 12, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc. v. Sequenom, Inc. The Federal Circuit decision has been widely criticized (see here and here, for example). Sequenom has asked for reconsideration en banc, with 12 separate amici filers in support of Sequenom’s petition for reconsideration en banc.
The original panel decision dealt with whether a non-invasive method for detecting paternally inherited cell-free fetal DNA (“cffDNA”) from a blood sample of a pregnant woman was patentable. See U.S. Patent No. 6,258,540. The district court ruled that the method claims were patent ineligible and the Federal Circuit agreed. Judge Linn was uncomfortable with the decision, but wrote in a concurrence that he thought that the outcome was mandated by the “sweeping language of the test set out in Mayo.”
Sequenom has retained Tom Goldstein, co-founder of the SCOTUS blog, to handle the appeal. Goldstein has served as counsel in over 100 Supreme Court cases over the last 15 years. His presence sends a clear message that Sequenom is heading to the Supreme Court if they do not prevail in an en banc rehearing.