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Claim Duality: Multiple Dependent Claims Can Be Both Patentable and Unpatentable

Addressing, for the first time, the issue of patentability of multiple dependent claims under 35 U.S.C. § 112, fifth paragraph, the Director of the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) granted rehearing and modified the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s (Board) Final Written Decision after finding that the patentability of a multiple dependent claim should be considered separately as to each of the claims from which it depends. Nested Bean, Inc. v. Big Beings US Pty. Ltd. et al., IPR2020-01234 (PTO Feb. 24, 2023) (Vidal, Dir.) (precedential).

Nested filed a petition for inter partes review challenging claims 1 through 18 of a patent owned by Big Beings. Claims 1 and 2 were independent, and claims 3 to 16 were multiple dependent claims, which depended directly from either claim 1 or 2. The Board granted institution and ultimately issued a Final Written Decision finding that Nested did not establish that claims 1, 17 and 18 were unpatentable, but that Nested had established that claims 2 through 16 were unpatentable.

Big Beings filed a Request for Director review, noting that each of claims 3 to 16 were multiple dependent claims that depended from both claims 1 and 2. Big Beings argued that because the Board found that Nested failed to show that claim 1 was unpatentable, the Board should have also found that Nested failed to show that claims 3 through 16, as depending from claim 1, were unpatentable. The Director granted review.

35 U.S.C. § 112, fifth paragraph, states, in relevant part, “[a] multiple dependent claim shall be construed to incorporate by reference all the limitations of the particular claim in relation to which it is being considered.” Big Beings argued that the statute requires the Board to separately consider the patentability of alternative dependencies of a multiple dependent claim. Nested responded by arguing that the statute should be read so that if any version of a multiple dependent claim is found unpatentable over the prior art, then all versions of the claim should be found unpatentable.

The Director found that this was an issue of first impression. Relying on 37 C.F.R. § 1.75(c) and 35 U.S.C. § 282, the Director concluded that “a multiple dependent claim is the equivalent of several single dependent claims. Thus, in the same way that the unpatentability of multiple single dependent claims would each rise or fall separately, so too should the dependent claims covered by a multiple dependent claim.” The Director also noted that the Federal Circuit in Dow Chemical and Dayco Products explained that “not addressing claim validity on an individual basis is an error and contravenes 35 U.S.C. 282[.]” The PTO Director concluded, quoting the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP), that “a multiple dependent claim must be considered in the same manner as a plurality of single dependent claims.”




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Little Weight Given to Conclusory Expert Declaration That Repeats IPR Petition Verbatim

The US Patent & Trademark Office Director affirmed and designated as precedential a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) decision denying institution of an inter partes review (IPR) petition where the expert declaration presented conclusory assertions without underlying factual support and repeated verbatim the petitioner’s argument. Xerox Corp. v. Bytemark, Inc., IPR2022-00624 (PTAB Aug. 24, 2022) (Wood, Grossman, Tartal, APJs); Xerox Corp. v. Bytemark, Inc., IPR2022-00624 (Feb 10, 2023) (Vidal, Dir.)

Bytemark owns a patent directed to a method and system for distributing electronic tickets. According to the patent, a user can procure and store an electronic ticket on a device such as a mobile phone, and when the user presents the ticket, the ticket taker can verify the ticket by inspecting a visual object that a human can perceive without a machine scan. In addition to using a validating visual object, the patent teaches data integrity checking to ensure that the ticket data and the software managing that ticket data on the user’s device has not been altered improperly. As to the data integrity concept, the claims of the patent recite a server that is configured to “store in a data record associated with the user account a data value indicating the fraudulent activity” (fraud limitation).

Xerox filed an IPR petition challenging certain claims of the patent as obvious over the Terrell prior art reference in combination with various secondary references. Xerox argued that Terrell disclosed that after fraudulent activity is detected, “the purchaser of the ticket could be blocked from further use of the system or pursued in respect of their potential fraud.” Xerox asserted that a skilled artisan would understand that such blocking would require recording the blocking in a data record associated with that user’s account, and would find it obvious that blocking the account of the purchaser from further use of the system would include storing a data value indicating the fraudulent activity in a data record associated with the user account.

Bytemark responded that Terrell, at most, taught blocking a ticket purchaser from further use of the Terrell system based on potential fraud, but nowhere indicated that this would be achieved by using a data value indicating fraudulent activity, as opposed to some other manner of blocking a user, such as deleting the user’s account or reporting the user for fraud. Bytemark further argued that Xerox’s argument that a skilled artisan would find the fraud limitation obvious was conclusory and an improper attempt to use a skilled artisan’s common knowledge to supply a wholly missing claim limitation without evidentiary support.

The Board agreed with Bytemark, finding that Xerox did not provide sufficient evidence or persuasive reasoning to support either of Xerox’s arguments. The Board explained that Terrell taught blocking the purchaser rather than the account of the purchaser and that it was far from clear that blocking the purchaser would “require” recording the blocking in a record in the purchaser’s account, as opposed to deleting the purchaser’s account altogether. The Board noted that the [...]

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Took a DNA Test, Turns Out “100% THAT BITCH” Is 100% Registrable

Addressing a refusal to register for failure to function as a trademark, the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) reversed, finding that the evidence of consumer perception of “100% THAT BITCH” did not demonstrate that the proposed mark is such a widespread and common expression that it failed to function as a source identifier. In re Lizzo LLC, Serial Nos. 88466264, 88466281 (TTAB Feb. 2, 2023) (Cataldo, Pologeorgis, Coggins, ATJ).

World-renowned, Grammy-winning artist Lizzo, through her company, Lizzo LLC, filed two applications to register 100% THAT BITCH for use in connection with clothing and related goods in International Class 25. The mark is a reference to a lyric (“I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch”) from her chart-topping hit, “Truth Hurts.” The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) issued an office action refusing to register the mark based on failure to function as a trademark under Sections 1, 2 and 45 of the Trademark Act. Specifically, the examining attorney asserted that the phrase is a “commonplace expression widely used by a variety of sources to convey an ordinary, familiar, well-recognized sentiment.” The PTO denied the request for reconsideration, and Lizzo appealed.

In assessing a refusal to register for failure to function as a trademark, the Board must look to consumer perception of the mark; specifically, whether the mark serves merely an ornamental or informational purpose rather than a source-identifying one. In this case, the relevant consumer consists of the general public, as there were no limitations on the channels of trade or classes of consumers identified in the applications. The examining attorney argued that the evidence demonstrated only that the mark, as used on the relevant goods, portrayed “a message of self-confidence and female empowerment used by many different entities in a variety of settings”—a message that Lizzo “did not originate[,] . . . but merely popularized.”

The Board discounted much of the evidence proffered to show that the mark was ornamental as it largely all referred to Lizzo, her music and/or her song, “Truth Hurts,” demonstrating that “consumers encountering 100% THAT BITCH on the specific types of clothing identified in the application—even when offered by third parties—associate the term with Lizzo and her music.” The Board further noted that all of the evidence regarding third-party use corresponded with the release of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts”—a correlation that suggests the term was not widely known or used until Lizzo popularized it.

Although there was no disagreement that the proposed mark conveys a “feeling of female strength, empowerment and independence,” the Board found that the record supported that “most consumers would perceive 100% THAT BITCH used on goods in the application as associated with Lizzo rather than as a commonplace expression.” Accordingly, the Board reversed the refusal to register.




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PTO and Copyright Office Seek Public Comments on Non-Fungible Tokens

On November 23, 2022, the US Patent & Trademark Office and the US Copyright Office announced that they are seeking public input on intellectual property (IP) considerations related to non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The agencies will hold three public roundtables directed to patents, trademarks and copyrights, respectively, scheduled as follows:

  • January 10, 2023 – Patents and NFTs
  • January 12, 2023 – Trademarks and NFTs
  • January 18, 2023 – Copyrights and NFTs.

The roundtables will be livestreamed, and the agencies will post instructions for registration to view them live. Requests to participate as a panelist in any of the roundtables must be received by December 21, 2022, to be considered.

The agencies also issued a request for comments, soliciting answers to 13 questions of particular interest:

  1. Describe current and potential future uses of NFTs in your field or industry.
  2. Describe any IP-related challenges or opportunities associated with NFTs or NFT markets.
  3. Describe how NFT markets affect the production of materials subject to IP protection.
  4. Describe whether, how and to what extent NFTs are used by or could be used by IP rights holders to
    1. Document the authenticity of an asset
    2. Document the seller’s ownership of or authority to sell an asset
    3. Document the seller’s authority to transfer any relevant or necessary IP rights associated with an asset
    4. Document any limitations related to IP rights surrounding the sale, or the purchaser’s use, of an asset.
  5. Describe whether, how and to what extent NFTs present challenges for IP rights holders, or those who sell assets using NFTs, with respect to the activities described in question 4.
  6. Describe whether, how and to what extent NFTs are used by, could be used by, or present challenges or opportunities for IP rights holders to
    1. Obtain their IP rights
    2. Transfer or license their IP rights
    3. Exercise overall control and management of their IP rights
    4. Enforce their IP rights.
  7. Describe how and to what extent copyrights, trademarks and patents are relied on, or anticipated to be relied on, in your field or industry to
    1. Protect assets that are associated with NFTs
    2. Combat infringement associated with NFT-related assets offered by third parties
    3. Ensure the availability of appropriate reuse of NFT-related assets.
  8. Are current IP laws adequate to address the protection and enforcement of IP in the context of NFTs? If not, explain why and describe any legislation you believe should be considered to address these issues.
  9. Describe any IP-related impacts those in your field or industry have experienced in connection with actual or intended uses of NFTs. Describe any legal disputes that have arisen in the following contexts, and the outcome of such disputes, including citations to any relevant judicial proceedings:
    1. The relationship between the transfer of an NFT and the ownership of IP rights in the associated asset
    2. The licensing of IP rights in the asset associated with an NFT
    3. Infringement claims when either (i) an NFT is associated with an asset in which another party [...]

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Another Kind of Term Limit: Delay Resulting from After-Allowance Amendments Deducted from PTA

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the US Patent & Trademark Office’s (PTO) decision on a patent term adjustment (PTA), finding that it was appropriate to deduct days from a patent term when the applicant files an amendment after notice of allowance and could have completed prosecution earlier by withdrawing the amendment or abstaining from filing it in first instance. Eurica Califorrniaa v. Vidal, Case No. 22-1640 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 7, 2022) (Lourie, Dyk, Hughes, JJ.) (per curiam) (non-precedential).

Eurica Califorrniaa is the sole inventor of a patent application entitled “nondestructive means of ectopic pregnancy management,” which was filed on March 15, 2014. Near the close of an extended patent prosecution, the examiner identified minor additional changes to the claim language of the patent application that would place it in position for allowance. The examiner unilaterally made the amendments and provided Califorrniaa a notice of allowance. In response, Califorrniaa requested an interview with the examiner and provided a list of further proposed amendments that included changes to the examiner’s amended claim limitations as well as substantive changes unrelated to the Examiner’s Amendments. Following the interview, Califorrniaa formally submitted his proposed amendments for the examiner’s consideration. As a result, the PTO deducted 51 days from the adjusted patent term of the patent to account for the time it took the examiner to consider and accept Califorrniaa’s post-allowance amendments. Califorrniaa appealed the PTO’s calculations, first to the district court (which affirmed the PTO) and then to the Federal Circuit.

The PTO may extend the nominal 20-years-from-filing patent terms to account for each day of delay attributable to the PTO, minus the number of days of delay attributable to an applicant’s failure to engage in reasonable efforts to conclude prosecution. Congress has granted the PTO authority to define when this “reasonable efforts” standard is not met, and the PTO has created regulations to address the issue. In 2019, the Federal Circuit issued its decision in Supernus v. Iancu, finding that the PTO failed to properly consider whether the applicant reasonably engaged in efforts to conclude prosecution. In response, the PTO adjusted its regulations to distinguish between post-allowance amendments expressly requested by the PTO and those voluntarily made by the applicant, and to change the relevant timeframe for the calculation of a reduction in PTA. The PTO’s regulations state, in part, that an applicant’s decision to amend their patent application after the examiner has issued a notice of allowance is not a reasonable effort to conclude prosecution.

Unlike its ruling in Supernus, where no identifiable effort to conclude prosecution existed, here the Federal Circuit agreed with the PTO’s finding that Califorrniaa could have, at any time, withdrawn his post-allowance amendments and accepted the examiner’s amendments to conclude prosecution. As such, an “identifiable effort” existed by which Califorrniaa could have avoided additional delay and concluded prosecution. Therefore, the Court affirmed the 51-day deduction of the patent term.

The Federal Circuit also found that the PTO’s post-Supernus updates to [...]

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Establishing Indefiniteness Requires More Than Identifying “Unanswered Questions” Part II

Earlier this year, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a district court decision for relying on an incorrect standard for indefiniteness. (Nature Simulation Systems Inc. v. Autodesk, Inc). Now, in response to a motion for panel rehearing, the Federal Circuit modified its decision on rehearing deleting language. Nature Simulation Systems Inc. v. Autodesk, Inc., Case No. 20-2257 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 17, 2022) (Lourie, Dyk, Newman JJ.) (Dyk, J., dissenting)

Nature Simulations Systems asserted two patents against Autodesk (one a continuation-in-part of the other), both entitled “Method for Immediate Boolean Operations Using Geometric Facets.” According to the patents, the claimed methods are improvements upon a “Watson” method known in the prior art. The district court concluded that two terms—“searching neighboring triangles of the last triangle pair that holds the last intersection point” and “modified Watson method”—were invalid as indefinite based on “unanswered questions” regarding the scope of the claims posed by Autodesk’s expert. In the first reported decision, the Federal Circuit reversed. The Court held that the “unanswered questions” analysis used an incorrect legal standard, citing the specification as clarifying the scope of the claims and citing case law on deference to US Patent & Trademark Office examiners.

Following rehearing, the Federal Circuit slightly modified its decision in two primary ways but maintained its reversal of the district court’s ruling on indefiniteness.

First, the Federal Circuit added an explanation regarding how the specification answers the questions raised by Autodesk. The Court stated that “the language that the court stated ‘is not contained in the claim language’ is in the specification,” and cited a flowchart and accompanying description in the patent. The Court found fault in Autodesk’s argument because “[t]he claims set forth the metes and bounds of the invention; they are not intended to repeat the detailed operation of the method as described in the specification.”

Second, the Federal Circuit backed away from its previous reliance on deference to the examiner. In its earlier decision, the Court explained that the examiner had issued rejections for indefiniteness but withdrew them after amendments to the claims. The Court then spent a little over a page of the opinion explaining that, as official agency actors experienced in the technology and legal requirements for patentability, patent examiners are entitled to “appropriate deference.” Following rehearing, the Court removed the portion of the opinion addressing examiner deference entirely while maintaining the criticism that the district court gave “no weight to the prosecution history showing the resolution of indefiniteness by adding the designated technologic limitations to the claims.” In support, the Court cited cases holding that claims are construed in light of the specification and file history from the perspective of skilled artisans.

Judge Dyk again dissented, stating that “[t]he fact that a patent examiner introduced the indefinite language does not absolve the claims from the requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 112.” Judge Dyk argued that far from adopting a flawed “unanswered questions” analysis, the district court’s analysis was detailed and [...]

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Claim at Issue Must Be Substantively Allowable to Qualify for PTA

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed two district court decisions, finding that a patent owner who only partially prevailed in one of two appeals was not entitled to any additional patent term adjustments (PTAs) from the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) under 35 U.S.C. § 154(b)(1)(C) during the pendency of their district court appeals. SawStop Holding LLC v. Vidal, Case No. 2021-1537 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 14, 2022) (Newman, Linn, and Chen, JJ.)

SawStop owns two patents directed to saws with a safety feature that stops a power-saw blade upon contact with flesh. During prosecution of the application for one of the patents, SawStop appealed an obviousness rejection to the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board). The Board affirmed the obviousness rejection but on new grounds. The patent ultimately issued after SawStop amended the claim at issue to overcome the obviousness rejection.

Similarly, during prosecution of the application for the second patent, independent claim 1 was rejected as being anticipated and for obviousness-type double patenting while dependent claim 2 was rejected as anticipated. SawStop appealed the rejections. The Board affirmed both rejections of claim 1 but reversed the rejection of claim 2. SawStop subsequently challenged the Board’s anticipation rejection of claim 1 before the US District Court for the District of Columbia, which reversed the anticipation rejection. SawStop did not challenge the obviousness-type double patenting rejection. On remand to the Board, SawStop cancelled claim 1 and rewrote claim 2 as an independent claim. A patent subsequently issued.

Since issuance of both patents was delayed by appeals before allowance, SawStop requested PTAs under Section 154(b)(1)(C):

Subject to the limitations under paragraph (2), if the issue of an original patent is delayed due to … (iii) appellate review by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board or by a Federal Court in a case in which the patent was issued under a decision in the review reversing an adverse determination of patentability, the term of the patent shall be extended 1 day for each day of the pendency of the proceeding, order, or review, as the case may be.

The Board granted PTA “for the delay incurred in the successful reversal of the rejection of claim 2” of the second patent but denied additional PTA for both patents resulting from the appeals. SawStop filed suits in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, challenging the Board’s decision. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the PTO in both suits. SawStop then appealed to the Federal Circuit.

The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that SawStop was interpreting Section 154(b)(1)(C) too broadly. SawStop argued in part that any examiner rejection overturned on appeal qualified as “a reversal of a determination of patentability.” The Court rejected this argument, explaining that the Board’s adverse determination of unpatentability remained before and after the appeal to the Board. That is, “the reversal of a ‘determination of patentability’ requires a determination that the claim in question is substantively allowable, not just free of [...]

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PTO Director Lays Out Limits on “Roadmapping” as Factor for Discretionary IPR Denials

Exercising its discretion under 35 U.S.C. § 314(a), the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) denied institution of two inter partes reviews (IPRs) based on its understanding of its own precedential 2017 decision in Gen. Plastic Indus. Co. v. Canon Kabushiki Kaisha. US Patent & Trademark Office Director Kathi Vidal subsequently reversed the Board’s ruling in a precedential sua sponte decision clarifying how to apply the seven factors set forth in General Plastic. Code200, UAB v. Bright Data, Ltd., IPR2022-00861; -00862, Paper 18 (PTAB Aug. 23, 2022) (Vidal, Dir. of PTO).

In General Plastic, the Board addressed the practice of filing seriatim petitions attacking the same patent, where each petition raises a new ground for invalidity. The Board considers the General Plastic factors when determining whether to deny IPR institution to ensure efficient post-grant review procedures and prevent inequity. The seven factors are as follows:

  1. Whether the same petitioner previously filed a petition directed to the same claims of the same patent
  2. Whether at the time of filing of the first petition the petitioner knew of the prior art asserted in the second petition or should have known of it
  3. Whether at the time of filing of the second petition the petitioner had already received the patent owner’s preliminary response to the first petition or had received the Board’s decision on whether to institute review in the first petition
  4. The length of time that elapsed between the time the petitioner learned of the prior art asserted in the second petition and the filing of the second petition
  5. Whether the petitioner provided adequate explanation for the time elapsed between the filings of multiple petitions directed to the same claims of the same patent
  6. The finite resources of the Board
  7. The requirement under 35 U.S.C. § 316(a)(11) to issue a final determination no later than one year after the date on which the PTO Director notices institution of review.

In denying institution in this case, the Board explained that the petitioner’s failure to stipulate that it would not pursue the same grounds in district court “weigh[ed] strongly in favor of exercising discretion to deny institution and outweigh[ed] the fact that the Board did not substantively address the merits of the prior petition.” Director Vidal disagreed, reasoning that when a first petition is not decided on its merits, a follow-on petition affords a petitioner the opportunity to receive substantive consideration. Director Vidal further explained that factor 1 “must be read in conjunction with factors 2 and 3.” Application of factor 1 in a vacuum strips context from a petitioner’s challenges and creates an inappropriate bright-line rule for denying institution.

Proper application of the General Plastic factors requires consideration of the potential for abuse by a petitioner. Director Vidal noted the problem of “roadmapping” raised in General Plastic (i.e., using one or more Board decisions to create a roadmap for follow-on filings until the petitioner finds a ground that results in institution). A denial decision based solely on the [...]

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If You Come for the Prince, You Best Not Miss

In a precedential decision, the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) granted two opposers’ motions for partial judgment on their claim of false suggestion of a connection under Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act based on a trademark application to register the mark PURPLE RAIN. NPG Records, LLC, and Paisley Park Enterprises, LLC v. JHO Intellectual Property Holdings LLC, Opp. No. 91269739 (TTAB Aug. 23, 2022) (Kuczma, Adlin, Johnson, Administrative Trademark Judges) (per curiam).

JHO Intellectual Property Holdings sought to register the mark PURPLE RAIN on the Principal Register in standard characters for several dietary and supplemental energy drinks and for “Energy drinks; Isotonic drinks; Non-alcoholic drinks, namely, energy shots, Sports drinks.” Paisley Park opposed, claiming to own rights in the name, image and likeness of famed musical artist Prince. NPG also opposed, claiming to own registered and common law rights in the trademark PURPLE RAIN. Paisley Park and NPG moved for summary judgment based on an assertion of false suggestion of a connection with Prince under Trademark Act Section 2(a). JHO admitted that its proposed mark was identical to Paisley Park and NPG’s marks and that its use of such mark was without consent or permission.

“Purple Rain” is associated (and often synonymous) with Prince. Paisley Park and NPG presented as evidence, for example, that PURPLE RAIN is a certified “13x Platinum” album selling millions worldwide, the 143rd Greatest Song of All Time according to Rolling Stone magazine, and the title of an Academy-Award-winning motion picture scored by and starring Prince. Paisley Park and NPG showed that unauthorized use of PURPLE RAIN is far from unusual, citing 17 unauthorized uses in December 2021. Paisley Park and NPG also had expert surveys conducted that established the connection between Prince and “Purple Rain.” JHO’s rebuttal included conclusory statements that the surveys conducted by Paisley Park and NPG’s expert did not ask respondents about the association of “Purple Rain” with energy drinks or supplements. JHO also pointed to a list from the US Patent & Trademark Office’s databases of third-party applications and registrations that includes PURPLE RAIN or its homophone PURPLE REIGN.

In view of Paisley Park and NPG’s evidence, the Board first found that there was no genuine dispute that the opposition was within reach of the Paisley Park and NPG’s zone of interests, and they were thus entitled to oppose registration of the mark.

Turning to the merits, the Board explained that in order to prevail on their motion under Section 2(a), Paisley Park and NPG were required to establish there was no genuine dispute that:

  • JHO’s mark is the same or a close approximation of Prince’s name or identity.
  • The mark is uniquely and unmistakably pointed to Prince.
  • Paisley Park and NPG are not connected with JHO’s goods or activities related to the mark.
  • “Purple Rain” is sufficiently famous to establish a presumed connection with Prince.

On the first factor, the Board explained that the approximation must be “more than merely intended to refer or intended to [...]

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Claim Cancelation Limits but Doesn’t Prohibit Assignor Estoppel Defense

On remand from the Supreme Court, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reconsidered the boundaries of the doctrine of assignor estoppel. The Federal Circuit found that the patent assignor was estopped from challenging the validity of an asserted patent because the asserted claim was not materially broader than the specific claims assigned to the patent owner. Hologic, Inc. v. Minerva Surgical, Inc., Case Nos. 2019-2054; -2081 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 11, 2022) (Stoll, Clevenger, Wallach, JJ.)

Csaba Truckai filed a patent application for a device that was designed with a moisture-permeable head to treat abnormal uterine bleeding while avoiding unintended burning or ablation. Truckai assigned the pending patent application to his company, Novacept, which was later acquired by Hologic. Truckai then founded a new company, Minerva Surgical, and developed a new device that used moisture impermeability to avoid the unwanted ablation. Hologic subsequently filed a continuation application to expand the scope of its claims to encompass applicator heads in general, regardless of moisture permeability. The US Patent & Trademark Office issued a patent on the expanded claims in 2015, and Hologic subsequently sued Minerva for patent infringement.

Hologic argued that doctrine of assignor estoppel barred Minerva from challenging the validity of the patent claims. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment of infringement. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the summary judgment of no invalidity. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and declined Minerva’s request to discard the doctrine of assignor estoppel but clarified that it comes with limits, holding that “assignor estoppel applies only when an inventor says one thing (explicitly or implicitly) in assigning a patent and the opposite in litigation against the patent’s owner.” The Supreme Court remanded to the Federal Circuit to address whether Hologic’s claim was materially broader than the one Truckai assigned. The Supreme Court explained that if the asserted claim was materially broader than the assigned claim, “then Truckai could not have warranted its validity in making the assignment and without such a prior inconsistent representation, there is no basis for estoppel.”

On remand, the Federal Circuit considered whether Truckai warranted the assigned claim’s validity at the time of assignment and whether the assigned claim was materially broader than the asserted claim.

The Federal Circuit concluded that Truckai had represented that the assigned claim was valid. The Court explained that the assigned claim was initially rejected as being anticipated, but Truckai successfully argued for its allowance. The claim was then canceled in response to a restriction requirement, but such cancellation did not speak to the claim’s patentability because an assignee would understand that it could later prosecute the claim’s subject matter under standard patent practice. Therefore, cancelation did not nullify the claim, and it “remained viable for further prosecution.” Additionally, the assignment was not just to the rights to the application, but to the rights to any continuation, continuation-in-part or divisional patent applications not yet filed. When presenting the application, Truckai signed [...]

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