USPTO undertakes review of PTAB, IPR proceedings

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced that, at the direction of USPTO Director Michelle Lee (shown left), the Office is launching an initiative “to further shape and improve Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) trial proceedings, particularly inter partes review proceedings.” According to the USPTO, the purpose of the initiative is to ensure that post grant proceedings are both effective and as fair as possible.

The timing of the announcement is curious given that Michelle Lee’s days may be numbered as Director of the Office. As first reported on IPWatchdog.com, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has interviewed at least three candidates for the position of Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office: Phil Johnson, former Vice-President for Intellectual Property Strategy & Policy for Johnson & Johnson; Randall Rader, former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; and an unidentified patent attorney characterized by one source as a “dark horse” candidate.

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PTAB may invalidate claims federal courts confirmed valid

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently issued an opinion in Novartis AG v. Noven Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) invalidation of claims in related inter partes review (IPR) proceedings. The IPRs related to U.S. Patent No. 6,316,023 and U.S. Patent No. 6,335,031.

Patent owners losing claims and the Federal Circuit rubber stamping the PTAB isn’t news, sadly. What makes this case different, however, is that these very same patents were previously litigated and the claims were found to be nonobvious in federal district court.

Novartis argued to the Federal Circuit that the arguments presented to the PTAB by Noven, as well as the prior art submitted to support those arguments, were the same as considered during litigation in federal court. The Federal Circuit disagreed, finding that the record in federal court was not identical to the record at the PTAB. But the Federal Circuit went further, saying that even if the records were identical, Novartis’ argument would have to fail.

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Federal Circuit rejects Google’s petition for rehearing

On April 4, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a brief order denying panel rehearing and denying rehearing en banc in Unwired Planet, LLC v. Google, Inc.

Google filed a petition for both panel rehearing and rehearing en banc. A response to the petition was invited by the court and filed by Unwired Planet, LLC. No reason for the denial of Google’s petition was provided by the Federal Circuit, which is typical. The original panel decision, authored by Judge Reyna and issued on November 21, 2016, found that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) was using the wrong definition for what constitutes a covered business method (CBM) patent.

A covered business method patent is defined as a patent that claims a method for performing data processing or other operations used in the practice, administration, or management of a financial product or service. Specifically excluded from the definition of a covered business method patents are those that relate to technological inventions. See 37 C.F.R. 42.301(a). To determine whether a patent is for a technological invention, the PTAB is supposed to consider whether the claimed subject matter recites a technological feature that is novel and unobvious over the prior art, and solves a technical problem using a technical solution. See 37 C.F.R. 42.301(b). Nevertheless, the PTAB had been finding patents to be CBM patents when they covered matter incidental to a financial activity or complementary to a financial activity. For more see Federal Circuit slams PTAB.

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Board ends interference on CRISPR

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued a decision in the CRISPR patent interference pending between The Broad Institute, Inc. (the Junior Party; second filer) and The Regents of the University of California (the Senior Party; first filer). The dispute is related to U.S. Patent Nos. 8,697,359; 8,771,945; 8,795,965; 8,865,406; 8,871,445; 8,889,356; 8,895,308; 8,906,616; 8,932,814; 8,945,839; 8,993,233; 8,999,641; and U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 14/704,551.

The PTAB, in a per curiam decision, wrote:

Broad has persuaded us that the parties claim patentably distinct subject matter, rebutting the presumption created by declaration of this interference. Broad provided sufficient evidence to show that its claims, which are all limited to CRISPR-Cas9 systems in a eukaryotic environment, are not drawn to the same invention as UC’s claims, which are all directed to CRISPR-Cas9 systems not restricted to any environment. Specifically, the evidence shows that the invention of such systems in eukaryotic cells would not have been obvious over the invention of CRISPR-Cas9 systems in any environment, including in prokaryotic cells or in vitro, because one of ordinary skill in the art would not have reasonably expected a CRISPR-Cas9 system to be successful in a eukaryotic environment. This evidence shows that the parties’ claims do not interfere. Accordingly, we terminate the interference.

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PTAB institutes 6 IPRs challenging RESTASIS patents

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently instituted six separate inter partes reviews (IPRs) against patents owned by Allergan plc (NYSE: AGN), which cover RESTASIS® (Cyclosporine Ophthalmic Emulsion) 0.05%. RESTASIS® is an eye drop that helps increase the eyes’ natural ability to make tears. Mylan Pharmaceutical Inc. says they expect PTAB decisions on the IPRs sometime during the fourth quarter of 2017.

All the challenged patents are set to expire on August 27, 2024 and are listed in FDA’s Orange Guide. The patents being challenged are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,629,111 (the “‘111 patent”), 8,633,162 (the “‘162 patent”), 8,642,556 (the “‘556 patent”), 8,648,048 (the “‘048 patent”), 8,685,930 (the “‘930 patent”), and 9,248,191 (the “‘191 patent”). Hatch-Waxman litigations involving these patents against Mylan and other generic defendants remain pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

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