Hearing on Examiner Fraud Leaves No Resolution

In mid-September, the House Judiciary Committee held what seemed like it was going to be an oversight hearing to address the allegations of timekeeping fraud by patent examiners made in the Inspector General’s recent report. Prepared statements released in advance of the hearing talked tough, but that was pretty much it. Insofar as getting to the root of the problems identified in the IG report the hearing turned out to be a big, fat nothing.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (pictured left at the hearing) defended the Office in his prepared remarks, explaining that there were flaws with the methodology of the IG study, which make the conclusions unreliable. For example, it is entirely possible that patent examiners were indeed working while they were not logged into the Patent Office computer systems. After all, examination is a job that requires a lot of reading and contemplation, much of which might occur without being logged into the server. Of course, that, at best, means there is no way to know whether patent examiners are working or not, which is why the IG report recommended the sensible step of requiring patent examiners to log into the Office computer systems whenever they are working.


Alice Experts and the Return of Second Pair of Eyes to the PTO

“I have not yet run into an Art Unit that does not have someone designated as an Alice expert,” explained JiNan Glasgow of Neopatents. “They won’t always tell you who it is, but they all say they have an Alice expert.”

While discussing the importance of doing interviews in every single case, Glasgow explained that although it is not something that has been generally publicly disclosed by the Patent Office, “in every art unit examiners confirm that there is an examiner within the Art Unit who is the Alice expert and that examiners have said that even if they are ready to allow a case, nothing can be allowed without the approval of that Alice expert.” This applies to TC 3600 and beyond, according to Glasgow.

If what examiner after examiner has told Glasgow is correct, this means there is essentially a return to the so-called “second pair of eyes” review at the Patent Office.


Prosecuting Patent Applications: Establishing Unexpected Results

Today’s guest post was written by Garth M. Dahlen, Ph.D., Partner at Birch, Stewart, Kolasch & Birch, LLP.

The purpose of this article is to provide suggestions on how to effectively make a showing of unexpected results during prosecution before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in order to overcome a rejection based on obviousness under 35 U.S.C. §103(a).

I. General Comments

“One way for a patent applicant to rebut a prima facie case of obviousness is to make a showing of ‘unexpected results,’ i.e., to show that the claimed invention exhibits some superior property or advantage that a person of ordinary skill in the relevant art would have found surprising or unexpected. The basic principle behind this rule is straightforward – that which would have been surprising to a person of ordinary skill in a particular art would not have been obvious.” In re Soni, 54 F.3d 746, 750, 34 USPQ2d 1684, 1687 (Fed. Cir. 1995). (more…)

Taking Advantage of the First Action Interview Pilot Program

This post comes from Robert Hulse (Partner at Fenwick & West and Practice Center Contributor)

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) introduced its “First Action Interview Pilot Program” about two years ago. This program enables patent applicants to conduct an interview with the assigned patent examiner, by phone or in person, before the examiner issues a first office action. In the first office action, the patent examiner either allows the application or identifies grounds to reject the application based on the results of the examiner’s search of the prior art and review of the patent application.

Historically, patent applicants could conduct an interview with the patent examiner after the first office action was issued, but not before this time. With this program, the USPTO has attempted to bring the benefits of the interview earlier in the process by focusing the examiner on relevant aspects of the invention at the beginning of examination and helping the applicant understand the examiner’s interpretation of the patent claims that define the invention. (more…)

Inequitable Conduct As An Affirmative Defense

Robert Faber, partner at Ostrolenk and Faber LLP and Practice Center Contributor, recently passed along a great article called Prosecution Ethics   he wrote for the upcoming PLI program: Advanced Patent Prosecution Workshop: Claim Drafting and Amendment Writing.  In the article, Faber discusses the Patent and Trademark Office Duty of Disclosure Rules and in partiuclar what types of failure to provide different forms of information to PTO Examiners have been found by Courts to be inequitable conduct.  Faber explains that the duty of candor and good faith is breached when an affirmative misrepresentation of material fact, faliure to disclose material information or submission of false information occurs.  He then discusses particular cases when the Court has found inequitable conduct.

I caught up with Faber and asked him about one particular inequitable conduct allegation that has recently been getting more attention – “Burying” (submitting information material to an Examiner’s examination of a patent application where that submission includes a large quantity of other less relevant material).   (more…)