IP Ownership Considerations in Multi-jurisdictional Software Development Agreements

As a result of the healthcare sector’s growing dependence on software, health IT companies are increasingly taking advantage of globalisation to engage contractors in low wage jurisdictions to develop their user-facing software applications. This can trigger unforeseen legal risks owing to the differing laws across jurisdictions related to the ownership and transfer of intellectual property (IP) rights.

At the most extreme end, best practices in some jurisdictions are unenforceable or even impermissible in others. In view of these issues, it is strongly recommended that a company looking to take advantage of cross-border contracting for critical development eorts should carefully consider the choice of law provisions in their agreements, and engage with local counsel to ensure proper vesting of intellectual property rights.

An inability to demonstrate proper ownership of such rights can be a substantial obstacle for later financings or in corporate activities. Depending on the jurisdictions involved, a contracting company may need to concern itself with at least three types of IP in the software that is developed on its behalf: copyrights, moral or author’s rights, and patents.

Click here to read the full article in our latest edition of International News.




Navigating the Interplay Between the ITC, PTAB and District Courts

Recent changes in intellectual property law in the US International Trade Commission (ITC), the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and federal US District Courts have had major impacts on litigation strategy and business operations. Within these venues, key changes often run parallel to each other, and understanding and maximizing the interplay between them is critical to formulizing an IP strategy. A panel of McDermott attorneys, including Charlie McMahon, Amol Parikh, Jay Reiziss and Jiaxiao Zhang, recently hosted a webinar exploring these issues in collaboration with IAM and Lexology. Click here to watch their discussion of the complexities of these related developments as well as innovative and practical insights to help you navigate them.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The rate at which the PTAB institutes petitions for Inter Partes Review (IPR) has been steadily declining, with a newer low expected this year. The falling institution rate over the last several years is attributable in part to discretionary denial under § 314(a).
  • Until 2020, there was still uncertainty behind the contours of how the PTAB’s discretionary denial would be applied when there was a co-pending district court or ITC proceeding. Last year, the PTAB designated as precedential its decision in Apple v. Fintiv, setting forth factors intended to guide the discretionary decision to institute when there are parallel proceedings.
  • Post-Fintiv, it looks less likely that litigants will be able to simultaneously pursue district court litigation and a PTAB proceeding. One of the benefits of the PTAB is the lower burden of proof to demonstrate that a patent is unpatentable. Removing this tool from the litigation toolbox could have a profound impact on defensive strategy.
  • It is still unclear how the PTAB’s Finitiv decision will apply to ITC investigations. Fitness technology companies, among others, have since asked the PTAB’s Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) to determine whether Fintiv should apply to parallel ITC investigations.
  • There have also been additional developments at the ITC related to the use of licensing to satisfy the domestic industry requirement. The pending Advancing America’s Interests Act (AAIA) would significantly change how complainants can rely upon licensing activities to establish a domestic industry.

 




It’s Highlighted and Verified: Reversal of PTAB Non-Obviousness Decision

In a relatively unusual outcome, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) decision finding non-obviousness in an inter partes review (IPR). Becton, Dickinson, and Co. v. Baxter Corp. Englewood, Case No. 20-1937 (Fed. Cir. May 28, 2021) (Dyk, J.)

Becton petitioned the Board for IPR of Baxter’s pre-America Invents Act (AIA) patent, directed to a system for preparing patient-specific doses and a method for telepharmacy. The Board decided that the patent claims were not shown to be invalid as obvious, but also found that Baxter’s secondary considerations evidence was “weak.” Becton appealed based on two contested limitations: a verification limitation and a highlighting limitation. The Federal Circuit reversed the Board, concluding that the challenged claims were obvious and explained that weak evidence of secondary considerations could not overcome the strong showing of obviousness.

First, the Federal Circuit decided that the Board erred in finding that a prior art reference that taught a remote pharmacist may verify a dose preparation did not render obvious a claimed method where a remote pharmacist must verify. The reference made clear that a non-pharmacist could not further process work without the verification step. Baxter’s own expert witness conceded that, in accordance with the teachings of the prior art, a non-pharmacist would be disciplined for continuing to process dose preparation without authorization. The Court concluded there was no significant difference between the teaching in the prior art reference and Baxter’s verification requirement.

Second, the Federal Circuit decided that the Board erred in finding that the “highlighting” limitation as it relates to a set of drug preparation steps on a computer was non-obvious. In what it characterized as a “close case,” the Board decided that a prior art reference’s teachings highlighting patient characteristics when dispensing repackaged medication did not make obvious highlighting, in a drug formulation context, prompts for additional information. Citing KSR v. Teleflex, the Court explained that the “combination of familiar elements according to known methods is likely to be obvious when it does no more than yield predictable results.” The reference taught highlighting in terms of various inputs and information delivered. Becton’s expert testified that one of ordinary skill would understand from the reference that other information, such as prescription order information, could be displayed on the user interface. Baxter’s expert did not contradict Becton’s expert. Because “a person of ordinary skill is also a person of ordinary creativity, not an automaton,” the Board erred in using that one reference as the only source for what one of ordinary skill would consider.

Lastly, Baxter unsuccessfully argued that under pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. § 102(e)(2), one of the patent references was ineligible as prior art. Sec. 102(e)(2) provides that a prior art reference may be a “patent granted” on another’s application filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant. Baxter argued that since the claims of the reference were cancelled after a 2018 IPR, the reference no longer qualified as a “patent granted” [...]

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Supreme Court to Consider Fraudulent Intent in Copyright Registration

The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to consider whether a copyright registration accurately reflecting a work can nevertheless be invalidated without fraudulent intent. Unicolors Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz LP, Case No. 20-915 (Supr. Ct. June 1, 2021) (certiorari granted)

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court decision awarding Unicolors a copyright infringement award of $800,000 as well as attorneys’ fees. The Ninth Circuit ruled that although Unicolors improperly registered the copyright (in a fabric design) as part of a “single-unit registration,” the district court was wrong to find intent to defraud the US Copyright Office—a requirement for invalidating a registration.

The issue presented is:

Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit erred in breaking with its own prior precedent and the findings of other circuits and the Copyright Office in holding that 17 U.S.C. § 411 requires referral to the Copyright Office where there is no indicia of fraud or material error as to the work at issue in the subject copyright registration.




PTO Rules Not Subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that certain challenged rules of the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) that relate to the patent application process do not violate the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) because each called for a response to an individualized communication; a category which is expressly exempted from the PRA. Hyatt v. Office of Management and Budget, Case No. 20-15590 (9th Cir. May 20, 2021) (Nguyen, J.).

Inventor Gilbert Hyatt and the American Association for Equitable Treatment (AAET) contended that patent applicants should not have to comply with certain PTO rules, alleging that the rules violated the PRA, which Congress passed to reduce the burden imposed on the public when responding to federal agencies’ requests for information from private individuals. The PRA requires federal agencies engaged in “collections of information” to first submit them to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval and an assignment of a control number. Collections of things other than “information” do not need to receive OMB approval, and the PRA applies only to “collections” seeking information through identical questions or requirements imposed on 10 or more people. Thus, the PRA and its regulations expressly exclude individualized communications from PRA applicability.

Hyatt asked OMB to review PTO rules 111, 115 and 116, arguing that those rules imposed “collections of information” under the PRA. Hyatt suggested that because the rules had not received OMB approval and control numbers, he was not required to maintain, provide or disclose the information these rules referenced. OMB responded that it had already determined that “these collections are not subject to the PRA because what is collected is not considered ‘information,’ pursuant to [three] exemptions in OMB’s PRA implementing regulation”:

  • Exemption 1: “[a]ffidavits, oaths, affirmations, certifications . . . provided that they entail no burden other than that necessary to identify the respondent, the date, the respondent’s address, and the nature of the instrument. . .”
  • Exemption 6: “request[s] for facts or opinions addressed to a single person”
  • Exemption 9: “[f]acts or opinions obtained or solicited through nonstandardized follow-up questions designed to clarify responses to approved collections of information.”

5 C.F.R. §§ 1320.3(h)(1), (6), (9).

AAET made similar arguments in submitting three requests to OMB on PTO rules 105, 130, 131 and 132 and MPEP § 2173.05(n). In its response to AAET, OMB only stated that “the requests under Rule 1.105 are not subject to the PRA because the responses to questions submitted under Rule 1.105 are not ‘information,’ but instead are exempt under” Exemption 9. AAET submitted three more requests to OMB on the same rules with similar arguments. OMB responded that Rules 105, 130, 131 and 132 and MPEP § 2173.05(n) were exempt under Exemptions 6 and 9; and Rules 130, 131 and 132 were additionally exempt under Exemption 1.

Hyatt and AAET sued OMB in district court, alleging that OMB’s denial of their petitions was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law in [...]

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