The America Invents Act (AIA) ushered in a new era for patent law and procedure at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Among the changes that took effect were the much-debated shift away from the first-to-invent standard and to a first-to-file standard that is far more consistent with the rest of the world, although not identical.
Philosophically, the shift to a first-to-file system represents a major shift, but in truth, the U.S. had a de facto first-to-file system already. It had been years since a small entity (i.e., a company with 500 or fewer employees) had been able to prevail by demonstrating that they invented before another party filed a patent application. For the most part, much of the focus on first-to-file has done nothing more than divert attention from the most significant change from the patent owners perspective….
There is little doubt that the largest change ushered in by the AIA was the creation of administrative patent trials, namely Inter Partes Review (IPR), Post Grant Review (PGR), and Covered Business Method (CBM) Review.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published a request for comments on a proposed pilot program pertaining to the institution and conduct of post grant administrative trials. The America Invents Act (AIA), which was signed into law on September 16, 2011, provides for the following post grant administrative trials: Inter Partes Review (IPR), Post-Grant Review (PGR), and Covered Business Method Review (CBM). These new administrative procedures became available on September 16, 2012, one year after the signing of the AIA.
The USPTO currently has a panel of three Administrative Patent Judges (APJs) determine whether to institute a trial, and then normally has the same panel conduct the trial, if a decision is made to institute a trial. The USPTO is now considering a pilot program where the determination of whether to institute an IPR would be made by a single APJ. If the decision is to institute a proceeding, two additional APJs would be assigned to the IPR, joining the APJ who decided to institute the trial. (more…)
The America Invents Act (AIA) created three new ways to challenge the validity of claims in already-issued patents. The AIA was signed into law on September 16, 2011, but the new post grant proceedings did not become available until one year after the signing, on September 16, 2012. These three new post grant proceedings are post-grant review, inter partes review, and covered business method review (the latter a variety of post-grant review that is limited to business methods relating to the financial industry).
Inter partes review has been extraordinarily popular due to the fact that the rules are stacked in favor of the challenger. Indeed, recently, Scott McKeown (a partner at Oblon Spivak and co-chair of the Oblon post grant practice group) wrote on his blog that the Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB) “offers unprecedented speed with none of the patentee safeguards of the district court.” The biggest safeguard that a patentee enjoys at the district court is a presumption of validity. The presumption of validity does not attach in a post grant administrative proceeding. That’s a significant benefit to the challenger.
The America Invents Act (AIA) provided for a variety of new administrative trial proceedings, including: (1) Inter partes review; (2) post-grant review; (3) covered business method patents review; and (4) derivation proceedings. To bring these new proceedings into being, the USPTO issued a number of final rules and a trial practice guide in August and September of 2012.
During the rulemaking to implement the administrative trial provisions of the AIA, the USPTO held roundtable discussions in a number of cities across the country. The USPTO at that time committed to revisiting the rules and practice guide once the Board and public had operated under the rules and practice guide for some period and had gained experience with the new administrative trial proceedings. With nearly three years of experience with these new proceedings, the time has now come for the USPTO to revisit the rules.
The USPTO began the process of revisiting the AIA administrative trial proceeding rules and trial practice guide by engaging in a nationwide listening tour. The USPTO conducted a series of eight roundtables in April and May of 2014, in Alexandria, New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Dallas, and Denver, to share information concerning the AIA administrative trial proceedings and obtain public feedback on these proceedings.
The USPTO is now ready to take the next steps and is seeking public comment on all aspects of the new administrative trial proceedings, including the administrative trial proceeding rules and trial practice guide. Written comments must be received on or before September 16, 2014, and should be sent via e-mail to TrialsRFC2014@ uspto.gov. Electronic comments submitted in plain text are preferred.
Last week, I published an article about inter partes review on IPWatchdog.com. Patent Office statistics for FY 2013 and FY 2014 show that there have been a total of 361 decisions on IPR petitions, with 288 trials instituted. There have been 11 cases that have been joined and only 62 petitions denied, which corresponds with an 82.8% IPR petition grant rate. Having said this, the IPR grant rate during FY 2013 was 87.2%, while so far during FY 2014, the IPR grate rate has been 77.2%.
But what about post-grant review?
Both inter partes review and post-grant review became a reality when “Phase 2” of the America Invents Act (AIA) became effective on September 16, 2012. But you haven’t seen any post-grant reviews yet, aside from the quasi-post-grant review known as covered business method (CBM) review. That is because the post-grant review provisions apply only to patents issued from applications that have an effective filing date on or after March 16, 2013. Said another way, post-grant review proceedings are only available to patents issuing from applications subject to first-inventor-to-file provisions of the AIA.