False Statements to CAFC Lead to Attorney Discipline

Each year, PLI holds its annual Patent Litigation seminar. I will be speaking at the New York Patent Litigation 2014 program, which will take place from November 10-11, 2014. There will be an earlier presentation of the program in Chicago, IL, from October 6-7, 2014. In addition to discussing the relatively new ethics rules applicable to patent attorneys, I will discuss a variety of ethics decisions from the Office of Enrollment and Discipline at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

In one particular enforcement decision that I will discuss during my presentation — In the Matter of James Hicks — the Office of Enrollment and Discipline instituted an enforcement proceeding against James Hicks, who is an attorney admitted to practice in the State of California. Although Hicks is not a patent attorney duly admitted to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, he had been permitted to practice before the Office in trademark and other non-patent matters, as can any attorney admitted to practice.

Hicks, a litigator, was alleged to have engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. In Rates Technology, Inc. v. Mediatrix Telecom, Inc., No. 05-CV-2755, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York entered an order sanctioning him and his client for failing to comply with the court’s discovery orders. Indeed, the abuses were such that the district court ultimately dismissed the case and imposed monetary sanctions against Mr. Hicks and Rate Technology in the amount of $86,965.81, to be split evenly between them.

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When “Patent Trolls” ARE Innovators

The term “patent troll” conjures up all kinds of images and ideas, but what is a patent troll?  Unfortunately, there is really no universally accepted definition of what a patent troll is, although if you are getting sued for patent infringement by a non-practicing entity, you probably think you are being sued by a patent troll.

My view has long been that companies that complain about patent trolls don’t really want them to go away. Patent trolls are extremely valuable to these big tech companies because they are an identifiable and unsympathetic villain, even if they cannot really be defined in any satisfying way. The image of a patent troll can be paraded about Capitol Hill whenever patent reform is being pushed, or even in front of the Supreme Court, which increasingly seems to be interested in taking them into consideration when reaching decisions, despite them not being involved in the case.

I personally hate the term patent troll, which may come as a shock to many because I use it all the time. I use it to attempt to crystalize the issue, because the term “patent troll” has over time become synonymous with “non-practicing entity,” and not all non-practicing entities are bad. In fact, many are good actors that diligently work against long odds to research and develop new technologies, treatments, drugs and therapies we all want.

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Australia Court: Isolated DNA Patent Eligible

The Federal Court of Australia issued a ruling recently that is directly opposite to the ruling rendered by the United States Supreme Court relative to gene patents. In Yvonne D’Arcy v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., the Federal Court of Australia ruled that Myriad’s claims to isolated DNA are patentable under the laws of Australia. That is the ruling the U.S. Supreme Court should have reached in Association of Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics. As the patent eligibility laws of the U.S. become increasingly inhospitable to high-tech innovative businesses, we can expect more job losses and worse news for the U.S. economy on the horizon.

Particularly interesting is that the Federal Court of Australia went out of their way to question the reasoning of the United States Supreme Court, and say that it is exceptionally difficult to reconcile Diamond v. Chakrabarty with AMP v. Myriad Genetics. I have previously written that AMP v. Myriad Genetics overrules the fundamental holding in Chakrabarty, with many disagreeing. I feel certain that my reading is correct, and the Federal Court of Australia agreed.

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A Strategy for American Innovation

The Partnership for American Innovation (PAI), which is comprised of Apple, DuPont, Ford, GE, IBM, Microsoft and Pfizer, recently submitted comments responsive to a request for public information published in the Federal Register. This Federal Register Notice was published on July 29, 2014, titled Strategy for American Innovation, and largely flew under the radar screen.

In February, 2011, President Obama released a Strategy for American Innovation, which described the importance of innovation as a driver of U.S. economic growth and prosperity, and the critical role the government plays in supporting the innovation ecosystem. The Office of Science Technology Policy and the National Economic Council are now tasked with updating the document to create a revised Strategy for American Innovation. This updating of the strategic vision for innovation in the United States was the subject of this Federal Register Notice.

To remind the White House of just how important a strong intellectual property system is for the U.S. economy. the leading innovators that make up the PAI explained just how important innovation is to the U.S. economy.

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The Demise of a High-Tech Economy

In a blog post from March 2014, Marian Underweiser, IBM’s Counsel for IP Law Strategy & Policy, wrote:

Computer implemented inventions, particularly in software, form the basis for innovation not only in the technology products we use every day, such as laptops and smartphones, but in everything from cars to surgical techniques to innovations that increase efficiency and production in factories. Strong and effective patent protection for these innovations in the U.S. has fostered a fertile environment for research and development and, as a result, the US is the undisputed leader in the software industry.

But will the U.S. be able to maintain its position as the leader in the software industry under a patent regime that seems openly hostile toward software innovators?

Unfortunately, many simply won’t believe what IBM says because, as one of the most innovative companies in the world, they are also the top patent filer ever year. IBM is a company that spends $6 billion annually, year after year, on research and development, so they have a bias. But the Government Accountability Office does not have a vested interest and, in a 2013 report, they concluded that between 50% and 60% of all patent applications filed seek protection for innovation related to software in one way or another. That means that at least half of all innovations could potentially be lost due to the Supreme Court’s failure to follow the enacted patent statutes and instead act as a super legislature that despises all things patent. The Alice decision will likely be viewed in years to come as a devastating decision for high-tech entrepreneurs and start-ups.

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