IP Law Alert Blog

USPTO Takes Measures to Help Small Businesses Patent and License COVID-19 Inventions

USPTO Takes Measures to Help Small Businesses Patent and License COVID-19 Inventions

On May 8, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a new COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program. Under this Pilot Program, the USPTO will grant qualified requests for prioritized examination of COVID-19-related patent applications without requiring payment of fees associated with other prioritized examination programs. Why is the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program important? This Pilot Program is the latest measure by the USPTO to spur innovation related to fighting the coronavirus. “Independent inventors and small businesses are often the difference makers when it comes to cutting-edge innovation and the growth of our economy,” said USPTO Director Andrei Iancu. “They are also in most need of assistance as we fight this pandemic.” Iancu continued, “Accelerating examination of COVID-19-related patent applications, without additional fees, will permit such innovators to bring important and possibly life-saving treatments to market more quickly.” Who may participate in the Pilot Program? Applicants of COVID-19-related patent filings who qualify for either small entity (37 C.F.R. §1.27) or micro entity status (37 C.F.R. §1.29) may participate. When can I apply? On May 14, 2020, the USPTO started accepting requests for prioritized examination under the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program. How long will the Pilot Program...

Organizations Commit to Share Their Intellectual Property to Support the Fight Against the Coronavirus

Organizations Commit to Share Their Intellectual Property to Support the Fight Against the Coronavirus

The Open COVID Pledge calls on organizations around the world to make their patents and copyrights freely available to combat the coronavirus. The Pledge was developed by the Open COVID Coalition (“Coalition”), an international group of scientists and lawyers, seeking to accelerate the rapid development and deployment of diagnostics, therapeutics, medical equipment, and software solutions to this urgent public health crisis. Many major technology companies and academic organizations have “signed onto” the Pledge. The Pledge, however, does not appear to be as popular with biopharmaceutical companies. Am I eligible? How do I make the Pledge? Anyone who holds intellectual property rights is eligible by either issuing a public statement making the Pledge or issuing a press release and notifying the Coalition. What IP is covered? Pledging parties may share any of their intellectual property rights, including patents and copyrights relating to the coronavirus pandemic. The Pledge does not cover trademarks or trade secrets. How do I implement the Pledge? The Coalition has published three standard licenses. A pledging party may adopt one of these standard licenses, adopt its own compatible license, or adopt an alternative license. What are some of the key terms of the standard licenses? Grant: Simply stated,...

Senator Sasse Proposes Legislation Extending the Patent Term for Inventions Intended to Treat COVID-19

Senator Sasse Proposes Legislation Extending the Patent Term for Inventions Intended to Treat COVID-19

On March 30, 2020, Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., introduced a bill that would create the Facilitating Innovation to Fight Coronavirus Act. The first part of the legislation would shield healthcare providers from federal, state, and local civil liability if they are testing or treating coronavirus patients in certain circumstances. The second part of the bill would extend patent protection for new and existing medical devices and drugs intended to treat COVID-19. The added patent protection under the bill would only apply to eligible patents. An eligible patent is “a patent issued for a new or existing pharmaceutical, medical device, or other process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof used or intended for use in the treatment of the Coronavirus Disease.” The bill proposes that the term for new eligible patents “not begin until the date on which the national emergency declared by the President …terminates.” Moreover, the bill provides that the term for an eligible patent “shall extend for 10 years longer than it otherwise would under [the Patent Act].” Thus the bill would enhance patent protection for inventions covering technologies created to treat the coronavirus and inventions covering existing technologies adapted to...

USPTO Waives Certain Deadlines in Light of the Coronavirus Outbreak

USPTO Waives Certain Deadlines in Light of the Coronavirus Outbreak

On March 31, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) issued a notice permitting 30-day extensions to the time allowed to file certain patent-related documents and to pay certain required fees. Gibbons previously analyzed the first USPTO coronavirus guidance. For this second guidance, the USPTO determined, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), that the COVID-19 “emergency has prejudiced the rights of applicants, patent owners, or others appearing before the USPTO in patent matters, and has prevented applicants, patent owners, or others appearing before the USPTO in patent matters from filing a document or fee with the Office.” The USPTO thus provided parties with the ability to extend certain patent deadlines if the party is personally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The USPTO notice expressly provides that three Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) deadlines may be extended for 30 days upon request: a request for rehearing of a PTAB decision; a petition to the Chief Judge under 37 C.F.R. § 41.3; and a patent owner preliminary response in a trial proceeding. “For all other situations, a request for an extension of time where the COVID-19 outbreak has prevented or interfered with a filing...

US Patent and Trademark Office Measures Taken in View of COVID-19 Outbreak: What Applicants and You Should Know

US Patent and Trademark Office Measures Taken in View of COVID-19 Outbreak: What Applicants and You Should Know

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has implemented several measures over the past week to assist patent and trademark applicants in view of the COVID-19 outbreak and its disruption to businesses. The USPTO stresses that, until further notice, USPTO operations will continue without interruption. Below are the key USPTO measures and what you should know if you have a pending patent or trademark application, are planning to file such an application, or are involved actively in a PTAB proceeding. Unlike the European Patent Office and Canadian Intellectual Property Office, which have eased the burden on their patent applicants by extending all deadlines until at least the earliest April 17 and April 1, 2020, respectively, the USPTO has offered more limited relief. On March 16, 2020, the USPTO announced that it will not extend any deadlines, including new and existing patent and trademark application, prosecution, and PTAB deadlines. Instead, the USPTO will waive revival petition fees for those whose patent applications were deemed abandoned or had reexamination proceedings terminated when the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak led to a missed deadline. This waiver will also apply to trademark applications labeled abandoned or whose registrations were canceled or expired based on...

New Decision on Asserting the Defend Trade Secrets Act Against Foreign Entities

New Decision on Asserting the Defend Trade Secrets Act Against Foreign Entities

A recent federal court decision concluding that a Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) claim could go forward against a UK-based defendant should be read both by foreign entities doing business in the United States and by U.S.-based entities that work with foreign affiliates. The case highlights the DTSA’s strong reach over both activity and actors residing outside the United States. In vPersonalize Inc. v. Magnetize Consultants Ltd., Civ. No. 18-CV-01836-BJR, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18491 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 3, 2020), a UK-based defendant moved to dismiss a DTSA claim arguing that the Economic Espionage Act’s extraterritorial provision should not apply to private civil actions under the DTSA, should not apply to a foreign entity, and should not apply unless a foreign defendant is alleged to have committed “an act in furtherance” of the violation. The court rejected these arguments and declined to dismiss the DTSA claim. The dispute centers on the relationship between 18 U.S.C. § 1837 entitled, “Applicability to conduct outside the United States” and 18 U.S.C. § 1836, which provides a private right of action under the DTSA. Section 1837 states that “this chapter” (which includes sections 1831-1839 of Title 18) applies to conduct outside the U.S. if...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Fee Award in DTSA Case

Ninth Circuit Reverses Fee Award in DTSA Case

The Ninth Circuit recently added to the small body of appellate court precedent interpreting the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), reversing an attorney fee award which had been granted by a district court in Washington. The reversal stemmed from the appellate court’s de novo determination that no circumstances existed to support a finding that the suit was brought and maintained in bad faith. In RJB Wholesale, Inc. v. Castleberry, the plaintiff sued a former sales representative for violation of the DTSA, claiming misappropriation of a customer list and company cell phone programmed with customer contact information. After the close of discovery, the defendant moved for summary judgment that the plaintiff had not proven any damages caused by the alleged misappropriation. The district court granted the motion, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, however, the district court’s fee award to the prevailing defendant. The decision follows on the heels of a decision from the Fourth Circuit, Akira Technologies, Inc. v. Conceptant, Inc., affirming the denial of attorney fees where the plaintiff “had at least some chance of success” on its DTSA claim and the Fifth Circuit in Dunster Live, LLC v. Lonestar Logos Mgmt. Co., LLC, where the...

Federal Court Denies Order to Show Cause with Temporary Restraints in Recent Defend Trade Secrets Act Case

Federal Court Denies Order to Show Cause with Temporary Restraints in Recent Defend Trade Secrets Act Case

A recent federal trade secret decision may spur employers to conduct forensic analyses of the computers of departing executives either before or immediately after their departures. In McKinsey & Co., Inc. v. Shi, a consulting firm sued a former senior partner asserting violation of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), among other claims. McKinsey alleged that the defendant misappropriated confidential McKinsey and client documents over the thirteen week period preceding his last day of work. Shi had worked at McKinsey or one of its affiliates for ten years before he began working for a competitor three days after his departure. In an unusual fact pattern for DTSA cases, before McKinsey’s federal lawsuit was filed, the former employee had sued McKinsey in state court, alleging his entitlement to almost $1 million in discretionary compensation and asserting claims for fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of contract, among other claims. In the process of reviewing documents for discovery in the state court action, McKinsey allegedly discovered the misappropriation. It then filed a verified complaint in New Jersey federal court with an order to show cause for temporary restraints and request for expedited discovery. The court declined to enter the order to show cause,...

Another Motion to Dismiss Federal Defend Trade Secret Act Claim is Denied

Another Motion to Dismiss Federal Defend Trade Secret Act Claim is Denied

Following a national trend, another Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) claim has survived a motion to dismiss filed in a California district court. The DTSA enables trade secret owners to pursue trade secret misappropriation claims in federal court if the trade secret is related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce. In the recent Volans-i, Inc. v. SpektreWorks, Inc. case, the parties both developed and built long-range high-payload aircrafts known as drones. Pursuant to a consulting agreement, the defendant allegedly assisted Volans-i with design, engineering, testing and other work related to Volans-i’s C-10 and C-20 drones and had access to Volans-i’s trade secrets related to the same. The consulting agreement allegedly prohibited SpektreWorks from using Volans-i’s confidential information or its consultant work product other than to provide consulting services to Volans-i. Volans-i alleged that in violation of the DTSA and in breach of the parties’ agreement, the defendant sold a knockoff of its C-10 containing an avionics board which copied the design of Volans-i’s avionics board and utilized many identical components—thereby “copying plaintiff’s design and component choice[.]” 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90923, at *5. In its motion to dismiss, SpektreWorks argued...