The Department of Commerce recently had a ceremony at Langdon Education Campus in Washington, DC, commemorating the issuance of the 700,000th design patent (see main image to the left). The design patent, titled Hand-held learning apparatus, was issued to LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: LF) on February 25, 2014, but the celebration ceremony was not held until March 26, 2014.
“Protecting and promoting our idea-driven economy is essential to keeping America open for business,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “The USPTO plays a major role in serving our nation’s innovators by granting them the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies and bring their products and services to the global marketplace.”
The ceremony also included the launch of a new Intellectual Property (IP) Patch developed as a joint project between the USPTO, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, and the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) Education Foundation.
On March 19, 2014, Actavis plc (NYSE: ACT) announced that it entered into an agreement with Noven Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to settle all outstanding patent litigation related to Actavis’ generic version of Daytrana® (Methylphenidate Transdermal System). Daytrana® is a CNS stimulant indicated for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For the 12 months ending December 31, 2013, Daytrana® had total U.S. sales of approximately $98 million, according to IMS Health data.
The ultimate launch of Actavis’ product is, however, contingent upon Actavis receiving final approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on its Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for generic Daytrana®.
This patent dispute in fact arose out of the filing of the ANDA by Actavis. An ANDA applicant must make one of four certifications regarding each patent that applies to the drug for which approval is being sought: (I) no such patent information has been submitted to the FDA; (II) the patent has expired; (III) the patent is set to expire on a certain date; or (IV) the patent is invalid or will not be infringed by the drug covered in the ANDA.
Once upon a time, one of the ways you could separate the unsavory underbelly of the patent industry from the legitimate operators was to look at who was directing clients to get design patents. Design patents have always been easy to obtain…indeed, far easier to obtain than a utility patent. But design patent rights are exceptionally weak. Nevertheless, over the past decade, design patents have continued to grow in numbers, and have proved to be an effective part of patent strategy, in some cases. If you have not considered advising clients to seek design patents, you really should consider the benefits.
Recently I was perusing press releases to see if I could find any interesting news items worth reporting. One particular press release did catch my eye. The title was AvidBiotics Granted U.S. Patent for Bactericidal Proteins that Selectively Kill C. Difficile. C. Difficile, or Clostridium difficile…more commonly called C. Diff. for short…. is a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. I have known people who have suffered with C. Diff., and it is no joking matter. So a treatment for C. Diff. is interesting enough, but an innovation that would kill only C. Diff., without harming other (good) bacteria, might be a real breakthrough. The problem with many antibacterial drugs is that they kill the good bacteria with the bad, or sometimes kill the good and not the bad, which can lead to a hose of digestive problems.
In any event, AvidBiotics Corp., which is a privately held biotechnology company, recently announced that it obtained US Patent No. 8,673,291, entitled “Diffocin and Methods of Use Thereof,” which claims modified R-type bacteriocins from C. difficile that specifically kill C. difficile bacteria. Also covered are methods of manufacturing such bactericidal proteins.
As many of you undoubtedly already know, the United States Supreme Court will soon decide whether software is patent eligible in the United States. The fact that such a question needs to be addressed in the year 2014 would be comically funny if it were not so tragically sad. Software has been patented in the United States since 1968, which means software has been patentable in the United States for the last two generations. Yet the Supreme Court is poised to decide whether software is or should be patent eligible in Alice v. CLS Bank, which will be argued to the Court on March 31, 2014.
What is the harm in allowing software patents? Saying that software is not patentable subject matter is akin to saying that a car battery is not patentable subject matter. No one could seriously argue that a new and non-obvious car battery would not be patentable subject matter. In fact, that is exactly what many researchers are trying to find right now, albeit not the same type of car battery that we are used to inserting under the hood.
Any car is itself just a bunch of pieces of metal that sit there fastened together to create a tangible shell that has taken on an identifiable structure. The car has lots of potential, but without some kind of fuel it doesn’t even have potential energy. It merely has potential to move from place to place under appropriate conditions. A car without a battery isn’t something that is useful in any real world sense of the word.