Recently, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) sent a memo to the Examining Corps with information and instructions relating to the recent ruling in Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp. by the United States Court of Appeals by the Federal Circuit. In Enfish, the Federal Circuit ruled that the software patent claims at issue were not abstract and were patent eligible. This marked the first time in 18 months, since the Court’s ruling in DDR Holdings in December 2014, that the Federal Circuit has found software patent claims to be patent eligible.
The USPTO memo was authored by Robert Bahr, who is Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy. As you would expect, it accurately explains the importance of the Federal Circuit ruling in Enfish. Bahr tells examiners that, based on the Federal Circuit ruling, they “may determine that a claim directed to improvements in computer-related technology is not directed to an abstract idea under Step 2A of the subject matter eligibility examination guidelines (and is thus patent eligible), without the need to analyze the additional elements under Step 2B.” (emphasis in the original) Bahr goes on to tell examiners that a claim that is “directed to an improvement to computer-related technology (e.g., computer functionality) is likely not similar to claims that have been previously identified as abstract by the courts.”
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently declined to institute a CBM review of U.S. Patent No. 6,006,227, owned by Mirror World Technologies, LLC. See Apple, Inc. et al v. Mirror World Technologies, LLC. The decision is significant not only because the PTAB refused to institute a covered business method review, but because the panel — Administrative Patent Judges Thomas Giannetti, David McKone, and Barbara Parvis — cited the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Enfish v. Microsoft when they found that the challenged claims of the ‘227 patent were not abstract.
The Petitioners argued that the challenged claims are directed to an abstract idea that is not patent-eligible subject matter. According to the Petitioners, “the challenged claims of the ‘227 patent are directed to the abstract idea of organizing items of information, i.e., ‘data units,’ in chronological order.” The patent owner responded that the Petitioners’ view “entirely omits the core concept of the claimed invention: using a ‘main stream’ and ‘substreams.’”
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced the appointment of David P. Ruschke as the next Chief Judge for the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Ruschke will begin his new role at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA, on May 23, 2016.
“The Patent Trial and Appeal Board plays a critical role in the patent ecosystem, especially since the launch of post-grant trials authorized in the America Invents Act of 2011,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office Michelle K. Lee. “David’s breadth of experience in global patent opposition proceedings and his deep understanding of intellectual property positions him perfectly to lead our Board well into the future.”
“Director Lee has assembled a highly talented and hard-working team at the USPTO. I am excited to have the opportunity to join the talented judges and staff of the PTAB as we work together to serve America’s inventors,” said Ruschke.
On April 1, 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published final rules in the Federal Register that relate to post grant proceedings. These new final rules went into effect on May 2, 2016, and amend the existing PTAB trial practice rules pertaining to inter partes review (IPR), post grant review (PGR), covered business method (CBM) review, and derivation proceedings brought into being by provisions of the America Invents Act (AIA).
In a nutshell, these new rules change existing practice by allowing new testimonial evidence to be submitted with a patent owner’s preliminary response, adding a Rule 11-type certification for papers filed in a proceeding, allowing a claim construction approach that emulates the approach used by a district court following Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) for claims of patents that will expire before entry of a final written decision, and replacing the current page limit with a word count limit for major briefing. These final rules are the culmination of a process started two years ago. For more information on the changes taking effect, please see Patent Office amends PTAB Trial Practice Rules.
Many had hoped that the Office would make it easier for patent owners to successfully amend patent claims in post grant proceedings, but the Office stood firm.
The Coalition for Affordable Drugs, the entity backed by patent renegades Kyle Bass and Erich Spangenberg, recently won two more victories at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). This time Bass and Spangenberg obtained favorable inter partes review (IPR) institution decisions on two petitions filed against the University of Pennsylvania, which challenged patents covering Juxtapid. Juxtapid is a drug that slows cholesterol production thereby making it easier for the body to remove remaining cholesterol from the bloodstream. To read these institution decisions see IPR2015-01835 and IPR2015-01836. Because the Board did not find it necessary to construe claim terms at the institution stage, both decisions are mirror images of one another.
The patents in question, U.S. Patent No. 7,932,268 and U.S. Patent No. 8,618,135, relate to “the surprising discovery that one may treat an individual who has hyperlipidemia and/or hypercholesterolemia with an MTP inhibitor in a manner that results in the individual not experiencing side-effects normally associated with the inhibitor, or experiencing side-effects to a lesser degree.”
Ultimately, the Board determined that the petitioner demonstrated that the claims challenged were likely invalid because they were obvious. The case will now proceed through the administrative trial. There were, however, several issues that came up in the institution decision that warrant consideration.