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).

(more…)

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.”

(more…)

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.

A new PTO Director will face a patent system at a crossroads

The U.S. patent system is at a crossroads. See The Top 3 Reasons the U.S. patent system is in decline. In both 2016 and 2017, the Chinese government made significant improvements to its patent rules and laws. See China relaxing barriers to software and business method patents. As the Chinese landscape for patents and innovation continues to improve, we have to consider that more innovation might move to China, as investors flee in search of better legal protections – protections necessary to justify the speculative investment in early-stage high-tech innovative companies.

Time is of the essence for the U.S. patent system. The 2017 worldwide patent rankings of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce already shows the United States tumbling from 1st place into a tie for 10th place with Hungary.

With strong and principled leadership, it is not too late to turn the tide and restore the United States patent system to its former glory. With this in mind, I recommend in the strongest terms possible that the person selected as the next Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) share a vision for a stronger U.S. patent system that is once again the envy of the world.

(more…)

Waiting on Aqua Products

Last December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held an en banc rehearing of the In re: Aqua Products case, which questions whether a patent owner or a petitioner holds the burden of proving patentability of proposed amended claims during an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).

More than seven months have passed since the en banc rehearing in Aqua Products without a decision from the Federal Circuit. It could be an indication that the court is working on handing down a ruling that would greatly alter PTAB practices relating to motions to amend. In the alternative, it could be an indication that there’s a split in opinion and the Federal Circuit is still making up its mind on the matter, with multiple opinions being prepared and circulated. Interestingly, an article on In re: Aqua Products published last August by The National Law Review noted that, in its decision to grant Aqua’s petition for en banc rehearing, the Federal Circuit asked an additional question of law: who holds the burden for persuading PTAB or producing evidence to challenge the patentability of claims amended by a patent owner. That by itself could be an indication that the Federal Circuit is interested in ruling in favor of patent owners in this case.

(more…)