Does the USPTO paying for shared services violate the AIA?

During the August 20, 2015, Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) meeting, USPTO Director Michelle Lee first announced what was known as the shared services initiative. Today, “shared services” has been re-branded “enterprise services,” but the initiative remains the same.

In 2015, Lee explained the shared services initiative by saying that agencies falling under the Department of Commerce would utilize shared services for human resources, information technology and procurement functions. The fear then, however, was that the USPTO’s user fees would be used to pay for the IT and other needs of other Commerce agencies when those funds are supposed to be used only for the operation of the USPTO. See AIPLA letter to Secretary Pritzker and Under Secretary Lee. That is precisely what is happening now, only worse.

The new reality today is that the USPTO is paying for shared services that are simply not shared. According to Frank Murphy, Acting Chief Financial Officer, who recently spoke at a PPAC public meeting, the USPTO will not be using the services because the USPTO systems are superior to the shared services being created. The USPTO is still, nonetheless, paying for the creation of these services.

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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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SCOTUS asks Director Lee to respond to SCOTUS cert petition

At the end of February, the United States Supreme Court requested a response from Michelle K. Lee, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), related to the petition for writ of certiorari filed by Oil States Energy Services, LLC, Petitioner, against Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, et. al. The dispute is between the parties to an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding conducted by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).

There are three questions presented by Oil States in the petition for writ of certiorari:

  1. Whether inter partes review – an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to analyze the validity of existing patents – violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury.
  2. Whether the amendment process implemented by the PTO in inter partes review conflicts with the Court’s decision in Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee, 136 S.Ct. 2131 (2016), and congressional direction.
  3. Whether the “broadest reasonable interpretation” of patent claims – upheld in Cuozzo for use in inter partes review – requires the application of traditional claim construction principles, including disclaimer by disparagement of prior art and reading claims in light of the patent’s specification.

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Congress moves to divert agency fees, but not Patent Office fees

In early February 2017, Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)(shown left) introduced the Agency Accountability Act of 2017 (AAA) in both the House of Representatives (HR 850) and the Senate (S. 299), respectively. The AAA is a bill that would direct most fines, fees, and other unappropriated proceeds to the Treasury, making them subject to the appropriations process.

Senator Lee and Congressman Palmer explained that the Agency Accountability Act is designed to reestablish Congressional authority over agencies. Palmer and Lee believe that at least some agencies have been spending money on programs that Congress has not approved.

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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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