The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) has published a request for comments in the Federal Register for a proposed pilot program which would allow for a single Administrative Patent Judge (APJ) to determine whether to institute an inter partes review (IPR), with two additional APJs being assigned to the IPR if a trial were instituted.
Federal Circuit Panel Concludes That It Lacks Jurisdiction to Review PTAB Decision Terminating IPR Proceeding
Recently, the Federal Circuit held that it lacks jurisdiction to review non-final Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) decisions, such as decisions to vacate or terminate a post-grant proceeding. In GEA Process Engineering, Inc. v. Steuben Foods, Inc., the Federal Circuit denied GEA’s petition for writ of mandamus directing the PTAB to withdraw an order in which it terminated GEA’s five pending IPR proceedings on the grounds that these IPRs should have never been instituted. The PTAB reasoned that GEA failed to identify all real-parties-in-interest and, thus, the petitions were incomplete.
On June 15, 2015, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) introduced a new pilot program, beginning on June 19, 2015, that will allow appellants with multiple ex parte appeals pending before the PTAB to obtain an expedited review of one appeal in return for withdrawing another appeal. The stated goals of this program are to allow appellants with multiple ex parte appeals pending to have greater control over the priority with which their appeals are decided and reduce the backlog of appeals before the PTAB.
On April 29, 2015, Senators Grassley, Leahy, Corny, Schumer, Lee, Hatch, and Klobuchar introduced another patent reform bill known as the Protecting Talent and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (“PATENT Act”). This bill includes many provisions similar to the previously introduced Innovation Act of 2015, but takes a slightly different approach on some key issues.
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved yet another patent reform bill to curtail misleading and frivolous demand letters sent by patent assertion entities (also known as “patent trolls”). The legislation, approved by a vote of 30 to 20, is known as the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters Act, or TROL Act (H.R. 2045). This bill aims to protect businesses from frivolous demands while preserving the ability of patent holders to legitimately protect their intellectual property. The overall goal is to curtail “certain bad faith communications in connection with the assertion of a United States patent [that] are unfair or deceptive acts or practices, and for other purposes.”
Recently, Senators Chris Coons, Dick Durbin, and Mazie Hirono introduced an alternative patent reform legislation to the Innovation Act of 2015. This bill, known as the as Support Technology and Research for Our Nations Grown Patents Act (“STRONG Patents Act”), aims to strengthen the rights of patent holders. According to Sen. Coons, “[t]he STRONG Patents Act includes targeted thoughtful reforms to combat abuse where it’s prevalent while ensuring our rich innovation ecosystem remains vibrant.” The goal is to “move past the false premise that the only way to deter ‘patent troll’ abuses is to enact sweeping reforms that weaken patent protections for everyone . . . . and [instead we aim] to narrowly target and deter abusive troll behavior while preserving the ability of legitimate patent holders to protect their innovation,” said Senator Durbin.
Recently, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte reintroduced a patent reform bill, known as the Innovation Act of 2015 (H.R. 9) (“The Act”). This reintroduced bipartisan bill is substantially similar to its predecessor, Innovation Act of 2013. The Innovation Act of 2013 had received overwhelming support by the House of Representatives, but was ultimately tabled, along with other patent reform bills, due to bipartisan disputes.
An Issue of First Impression: Federal Circuit Limits Review of Stay Motions in Connection With Covered Business Method Reviews
On April 1, 2015, The Federal Circuit dismissed JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s (“JPMC”) interlocutory appeal of a district court ruling denying a motion to stay pending a covered business method review (“CBMR”). Addressing an issue of first impression, the Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction under §18(b)(2) of the America Invents Act (“AIA”) to review the district court’s order because JPMC moved for a stay while JPMC’s CBM petition was under review by the USPTO Director and a CBM proceeding had yet to be instituted. In Intellectual Ventures v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Intellectual Ventures (“IV”) sued JPMC alleging infringement of five patents. JPMC responded by filing a motion to stay pending the results of four CBMR petitions that it was planning to file. Immediately after, JPMC filed two CBM petitions covering only two of the asserted patents.
In a 7-2 split decision issued on March 24, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) rulings may have preclusive effects in subsequent federal district court litigation. The Court ruled that so long as the elements of issue preclusion are met, it is irrelevant that the TTAB is not an Article III court.
The Federal Circuit recently addressed the issue of whether Patent Term Adjustment (“PTA”) can be reduced under 35 U.S.C. § 154(b)(1)(C) by conduct that does not actually cause delay in the conclusion of prosecution. Section 154(b)(1)(C) provides that PTA “shall be reduced by a period equal to the period of time during which the applicant failed to engage in reasonable efforts to conclude prosecution of the application.” The USPTO has interpreted the statute to mean that conduct that did delay or that could potentially delay the examination of a patent applications should be sanctioned. In Gilead Sciences Inc. v. Lee, Gilead Sciences, Inc. (“Gilead”) contested the USPTO’s interpretation and argued that the statue required actual delay in the conclusion of prosecution. The Federal Circuit held that Congress’s intent in enacting the statute was “to sanction not only applicant conduct or behavior that result in actual delay, but also those having the potential to result in delay irrespective of whether such delay actually occurred.”