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No Due Process Violation When New Panel Hears Substantive Arguments

Affirming a Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) non-obviousness determination, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the Board did not abuse its discretion in sanctioning a patent owner who engaged in ex parte communications by having a new panel hear the merits of the petition. Apple Inc. v. Voip-Pal.com Inc., Case Nos. 18-1456, -1457 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 25, 2020) (Reyna, J.). Voip-Pal sued Apple for allegedly infringing two of its patents directed to routing communications between two different types of networks: public and private. Apple then petitioned for inter partes review (IPR) of several claims from both patents, arguing they were invalid as obvious. The Board ultimately found the claims were not invalid because Apple did not provide evidentiary support as to the motivation to combine multiple references. During the IPR proceedings, Voip-Pal’s former CEO sent six letters to various parties, copying members of Congress, the...

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No Refunds: Cancellation of Patent Claims in IPR Isn’t a Taking

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that cancellation of a patent in an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding is not a taking and does not grant the patentee any compensable claim against the United States. Christy, Inc. v. United States, Case No. 19-1738 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 24, 2020) (Hughes, J.). After Christy sued two competitors for infringement of a patent directed to a vacuum, one of the competitors filed petitions for IPR. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) instituted the IPRs and ultimately found a majority of the patent claims unpatentable. Christy appealed to the Federal Circuit, which affirmed the PTAB’s invalidity decision. Christy then filed a class action suit in the US Court of Federal Claims to recover from the government the issuance and maintenance fees Christy had paid for the patent, investments Christy had made in the patented technologies, attorneys’ fees from defending the IPR proceedings, the value of the patent...

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Federal Circuit Has Jurisdiction over Constitutional Questions in AIA Appeals

Addressing for the first time whether a district court has jurisdiction to hear constitutional challenges to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (Board) final written decisions in an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction over AIA appeals, including constitutional questions. Security People, Inc. v. Iancu, Case No. 2019-2118 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 20, 2020) (Hughes, J.). Security People’s patent was challenged in an IPR, and the Board issued a final written decision invalidating all challenged claims. Security People appealed the Board’s decision to the Federal Circuit, which affirmed. The Supreme Court then denied Security People’s petition for certiorari. After the Supreme Court denied certiorari, Security People filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California, challenging the Board’s final written decision as unconstitutional. The district court dismissed...

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Challenge to PTAB’s Finding of Non-Obviousness Fails to Pay Out

Addressing whether the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in finding that a dependent claim was valid despite the patent owner’s lack of validity arguments beyond those advanced for the corresponding and invalid independent claim, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s ruling and found no APA violation. FanDuel, Inc. v. Interactive Games LLC, Case No. 19-1393 (Fed. Cir. July 29, 2020) (Hughes, J.) (Dyk, J. concurring in part and dissenting in part). Interactive Games owns a patent directed to a method for allowing users to gamble remotely via a mobile device, according to certain game configurations. Specifically, the independent claim is directed to altering a user’s game outcome based on the gaming configuration associated with the location of a user’s mobile gaming device. A dependent claim adds the additional limitation of “accessing a lookup table which contains an ordered...

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Explain Yourself: “Untethered” Obviousness Determination Reversed

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated in part and remanded a Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) determination of unpatentability because the Board did not adequately support its reasoning as to certain claims. Alacritech, Inc. v. Intel Corp., Case No. 19-1467 (Fed. Cir. July 31, 2020) (Stoll, J.). Intel petitioned for inter parties review (IPR) of a patent owned by Alacritech that is directed to performing network processes on a dedicated network card (INIC) instead of on a computer’s central processing unit (CPU). Intel asserted that the claims would have been obvious over prior art Thia in view of Tanenbaum. The Board agreed, finding claims of the patent were obvious. Alacritech appealed. Addressing the standard of review as set forth in the Administrative Procedure Act, the Federal Circuit explained that the Board is obligated to provide a record which shows the evidence on which its findings are based, as well as its reasoning in...

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PTAB May Reject Substitute Claims Under Any Basis of Patentability

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit considered for the first time whether a district court’s invalidity determination, when made final after all appeals are exhausted, divests the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of jurisdiction in a co-pending inter partes review (IPR) proceeding involving the same claims, and held that it does not. The Court also held that in an IPR proceeding, the PTAB is free to reject proposed substitute claims for failing to meet the subject matter eligibility requirements of § 101. Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Hulu, LLC, Case No. 19-1686 (Fed. Cir. July 22, 2020) (Wallach, J.) (Dyk, J., dissenting). Hulu filed an IPR petition challenging claims of Uniloc’s patent directed to adjustable software licensing for digital products. After the PTAB instituted review, Uniloc filed a motion for substitute claims, conditional on whether the PTAB found the original claims unpatentable. Before the PTAB issued its final determination and...

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Delicate Balance: Details of Parallel Proceeding Tip Scales for Discretionary Denial

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) designated two decisions informative as they relate to weighing factors for determining how a parallel district court proceeding may impact the Board’s determination of whether to discretionarily deny institution under § 314(a). In Apple Inc. v. Fintiv, Inc., Case No. IPR2020-00019, Paper 15 (USPTO May 13, 2020) (Horner, APJ) (designated informative on July 13, 2020), the Board had previously requested supplemental briefing in a pre-institution order in this case (itself now designated by the Board as precedential) regarding six factors for weighing the impact of the parallel district court proceeding on whether to discretionarily deny institution. As to factor (1), whether the district court action is stayed or evidence exists that a stay may be issued, the Board weighed this factor as neutral because neither party had requested a stay and the district court had given no indication as to whether it would entertain a...

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Joined Parties Have Rights Too

In vacating an unpatentability decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the rights of a joined party to an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding applies to the entirety of the proceedings and includes the right of appeal. Fitbit, Inc. v. Valencell, Inc., Case No. 19-1048 (Fed. Cir. July 8, 2020) (Newman, J.). Apple petitioned the Board for IPR of certain claims of a patent owned by Valencell. The Board granted the petition in part, instituting review of certain claims and denying review of other claims. After institution of the Apple IPR, Fitbit filed an IPR petition for the instituted claims and moved for joinder with Apple’s IPR. The Board granted Fitbit’s petition, granted the motion for joinder and terminated Fitbit’s separate proceeding. After the Apple/Fitbit IPR hearing, but before any Final Written Decision was issued, the Supreme Court decided SAS Institute v. Iancu (IP Update,...

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Reliance on Common Sense Permitted in Obviousness Analysis

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a final written decision from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) finding patent claims directed to aircraft lavatories obvious based on prior art because a skilled artisan would have used common sense to incorporate a missing limitation into the prior art. B/E Aerospace, Inc. v. C&D Zodiac, Inc., Case Nos. 19-1935, -1936 (Fed. Cir. June 26, 2020) (Reyna, J.). C&D Zodiac sought inter partes review of two patents owned by B/E Aerospace relating to space-saving technologies for aircraft lavatory enclosures. The challenged claims recited a “first recess” and a “second recess” associated with a lavatory unit. The PTAB found that the challenged claims were obvious over several prior art patents under separate “traditional” and “common sense” approaches. The PTAB based its traditional approach on Zodiac’s arguments and expert testimony. The PTAB’s common sense approach relied on the prior art in...

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“Seams” Like Activity Giving Rise to Infringement Risk Supports Appellate Jurisdiction

Adding to its body of jurisprudence on standing to challenge an adverse final written opinion in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found a petitioner had constitutional standing to appeal where it showed it engaged in activity that would give rise to a possible infringement suit. Adidas AG v. Nike, Inc., Case Nos. 19-1787; -1788 (Fed. Cir. June 25, 2020) (Newman, J.). Nike owns two patents which are generally directed to methods of manufacturing an article of footwear with a textile upper and which cover Nike’s Flyknit product. Five months after Nike announced Flyknit, Adidas announced a similar product that it called Primeknit. Adidas filed petitions for IPR challenging Nike’s patents. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) found that Adidas had not demonstrated the challenged claims as unpatentable. Adidas appealed. On appeal, Nike challenged appellate jurisdiction, claiming Adidas had not suffered an...

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