Scott McKeown on Which Comes 1st: The USPTO or the Court?

The hierarchy of the U.S. court system is well established, but recent patent law cases have challenged this hierarchy with the power of government agency – the USPTO to be exact. Scott McKeown, Partner at Oblon, Spivak, Practice Center Contributor and author of Patents Post Grant Blog, recently wrote two articles concerning the USPTO’s reexamination process and how its parallel nature to patent infringement cases resulted in conflict that’s occurred with the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit (CAFC) as well as with the U.S. District Court in the District of Connecticut. Scott explains the patent law issue:

Patent reexamination is often initiated in parallel with an ongoing infringement litigation. In the case of a parallel inter partes proceeding (IPX), the first of the proceedings to conclude (litigation or IPX) controls the outcome of the other by operation of statutory estoppel. As such, a final holding in the parallel court proceeding will end an ongoing IPX. Moreover, the losing party would be precluded from seeking IPX at a later date.

On the other hand, ex parte patent reexamination (EXP) has no such statutory “shut off valve.” Thus, even a party that was bound by IPX estoppel could file a request for ex parte patent reexamination. In this way, the infringer could attempt to “undo” the effect of the earlier, final, court judgement by invalidating the patent via the EXP filing. (more…)

The New Law the USPTO is Thankful for this Thanksgiving

In the spirit of expressing gratitude this Thanksgiving holiday, Scott McKeown, Partner at Oblon, Spivak, Practice Center Contributor and author of Patents Post Grant Blog, shares the newest law for which the USPTO is thankful. On November 18, 2011, President Obama signed into law H.R. 2112, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act. This bill provides the USPTO with official spending authority through the end of September 2012 (the end of the fiscal year) and the ability to spend up to $2.7 billion dollars. According to Scott’s post (more…)

Rubbing The Court The Wrong Way In Seeking A Stay Pending Patent Reexamination

Reexamination can be an extremely useful alternative case management strategy.  More and more, litigants are using Reexamination to derail a litigation or limit damage exposure. Potential benefits of patent reexamination for defendants include providing an opportunity to stay concurrent litigation, creating an intervening defense, and providing additional prosecution history for a later claim construction ruling.  For Patentees, patent reexamination may provide a mechanism to add new claims to hedge against invalidity, avoid time consuming reissue proceedings, and target specific claims for reexamination/amendment while insulating others. Oblon Spivak Partner and Practice Center Contributor Scott A. McKeown, sent along this article he wrote with colleague Stephen G. Kunin for Patents Post Grant Blog.  The article discusses the litigation between 3M Innovative Properties Co., et al. and Envisionware, Inc., wherein Envisionware was seeking a stay pending patent reexamination.

On August 20, 2010, a motion to stay the litigation between 3M Innovative Properties Co., et al. and Envisionware, Inc. (0-09-cv-01594) (NDM) pending the outcome of a parallel patent reexamination was denied. At issue in the litigation are three of 3M’s patents relating to RFID technology, namely 6,232,870, 6,486,780 and 6,857,568. Envisionware requested inter partes reexamination of the ‘780 and ‘568 Patents. Curiously, since the third patent, the ‘870 Patent does not qualify for inter partes reexamination, reexamination of this patent was not sought at all. A non-final office action rejecting  the ’568 Patent claims was issued by the USPTO, the ‘780 Reexamination has yet to begin. On August 2, 2010, Envisionware filed the motion to stay the litigation. (more…)

Patent Reexamination As A Form Of Litigation Damage Control

The following post comes from Scott A. McKeown, partner at Oblon Spivak, Practice Center Contributor and writer for Patents Post Grant.

Threat of Injunction Dissolves in Flexiteek Litigation

The initiation of patent reexamination for patents subject to concurrent litigation can provide strategic benefits independent of the ultimate outcome of the reexamination. These litigation inspired applications of patent reexamination can be thought of as falling into one of two categories, namely, pre-trial maneuvers or post-trial, damage control.

Pre-trial Maneuvers are those patent reexaminations initiated to potentially enhance a defendant’s battle in the district court.  For example, patent reexamination may be sought as an avenue to establish objectively reasonable behavior for use in preventing a willfulness finding. (see e.g., the yesterday’s Fairchild Semiconductor press release). Still other defendants initiate patent reexamination concurrent with litigation as a mechanism to leverage more acceptable settlement terms, provide additional fodder for claim construction, or to demonstrate the materiality of a reference subject to an inequitable conduct defense.

Post-trial (damage control) on the other hand, is a litigation inspired use of patent reexamination that seeks to undo the damage inflicted by the ruling of the district court. One of the more well known uses of a patent reexamination filed after a district court judgment was illustrated in In re Translogic Tech., Inc., 504 F.3d 1249, 1257 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Translogic had secured an earlier verdict for significant damages against Hitachi, the appeal reached the CAFC at the same time as the appeal rejecting all claims in reexamination, as a result, the infringement verdict was vacated. (more…)

Patent Reform: Fantasy or Reality?

Patent Reform is an issue that has plagued the patent community for quite some time.  Will it actually ever happen or is it eternally on hold?  Surprisingly, the Patent Office and it’s deficiencies have gotten some well deserved attention in the media and in Congress during the last week.  Will this attention actually result in Congressional action on Patent Reform during the fall term?  Two of our Practice Center Contributors, Scott Mckeown and Gene Quinn, have passed along articles discussing the recent events and what if anything it may mean for Patent Reform.

Economy Recovery Platform Paving The Way For Patent Reform?

Written by Scott Mckeown (partner at Oblon Spivak and our newest Practice Center Contributor)

With Congress on summer hiatus, and significant election uncertainty coming in the Fall, Patent Reform efforts are seemingly on hold (again). Still, last week, the USPTO was able to secure an additional $139 million in funding. H.R. 5874 permits the USPTO to retain $139 million in fees collected from patent applications and patent maintenance fees for fiscal year 2010 “salaries and expenses.”

Senator Leahy, a backer of S.515, in passing the new PTO funding bill took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of the this perenially pending legislation, noting that more needs to be done to modernize and improve our patent system, which is a crucial component of our economic recovery… This bill [the S. 515 manager’s amendment] will provide the legal structure we need to allow our inventors to flourish. It will improve our economy and create jobs without adding a penny to the deficit. (more…)