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Construing the Construction: Federal Circuit Chips Away at IPR Win

Addressing claim construction issues in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed an obviousness finding as to some claims but reversed and remanded an obviousness finding as to another claim because of a claim construction error. VLSI Technology LLC v. Intel Corporation, Case Nos. 21-1826, -1827, -1828 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 15, 2022) (Chen, Bryson, Hughes, JJ.)

VLSI owns a patent directed to a technique for alleviating the problems of defects caused by stress applied to bond pads of an integrated circuit. Bond pads are a portion of an integrated circuit that sit above interconnected circuit layers and are used to attach the chip to another electronic component, such as a computer or motherboard. When a chip is attached to another electronic component, forces are exerted on the chip’s bond pad, which can result in damage to the interconnect layers. The patent discloses improvements to the structures of an integrated circuit that reduce the potential for damage to the interconnect layers when the chip is attached to another electronic component while also permitting each of the layers underlying the pad to be functionally independent in the circuit.

VLSI filed suit against Intel alleging infringement of the patent. During claim construction, the district court construed the claim term “force region” to mean a “region within the integrated circuit in which forces are exerted on the interconnect structure when a die attach is performed.” Before the district court’s construction but after the suit was filed, Intel filed petitions for IPR of the patent and advocated in its petitions for the same construction of “force region” that the district court ultimately adopted.

VLSI did not contest Intel’s construction, but it later became apparent that the two parties disagreed over the meaning of “die attach,” which formed part of the construction. Intel argued that the term “die attach” refers to any method of attaching a chip to another electronic component, including a method known as wire bonding, which was taught by a prior art reference included in Intel’s petitions. VLSI argued that the term refers to a method of attachment known as “flip chip” bonding and does not include wire bonding. In the Board’s final written decisions, it did not address the term “die attach,” but found that “force region” was not limited to flip chip bonding and subsequently found the challenged claims invalid as obvious. The Board also construed a second disputed term “used for electrical interconnection not directly connected to the bond pad,” which is recited in only one claim of the patent, in favor of Intel, and subsequently found that claim unpatentable. VLSI appealed.

On appeal, VLSI raised a number of procedural and substantive challenges to the Board’s construction of the two disputed terms. VLSI argued that the Board failed to acknowledge and give appropriate weight to the district court’s construction of “force region.” The Federal Circuit dismissed this argument, as there was ample evidence in [...]

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Delayed Disclaimer: Patent Owner Arguments Made during IPR Not a Claim Limiting Disclaimer in That Proceeding

Repeating a conclusion from an earlier non-precedential opinion in VirnetX, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) need not accept a patent owner’s arguments as a disclaimer in the very same inter partes review (IPR) proceeding in which those arguments are made. CUPP Computing AS v. Trend Micro Inc., Case Nos. 2020-2262, 2020-2263, 2020-2264, at *11 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 16, 2022) (Dyk, Taranto, Stark, JJ.)

CUPP Computing is the owner of three related patents each entitled “systems and methods for providing security services during power management mode.” After CUPP sued Trend Micro for patent infringement, Trend Micro filed petitions for IPR against all three patents, asserting that several claims of CUPP’s patents were obvious over two prior art references. The Board instituted all three IPR and found all challenged claims unpatentable as obvious. CUPP appealed.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s conclusions. The principal issue concerned CUPP’s argument that the Board erred in claim construction. In CUPP’s view, all of the evidence required the claimed “security system processor” be remote from a “mobile device processor.” The Court rejected CUPP’s arguments. Starting with the claims, the Court found that they simply required that the two processors be different. Although some claims required the security system to send a wake signal to or communicate with the mobile device, that language did not support CUPP’s remoteness construction. As the Court explained, just as an individual can send a note to oneself via email, a unit of the mobile device can send signals to and communicate with the same device. Indeed, some of the claims teach communication via an internal port of the mobile device, which was consistent with a preferred embodiment disclosed in the specification in which the two processors could be within the same mobile device.

The Federal Circuit then addressed CUPP’s disclaimer arguments. The Court agreed with the Board that CUPP’s statements made during the original prosecution were far from clear and unmistakable, being susceptible to several reasonable interpretations that are contrary to CUPP’s construction. The Court also agreed with the Board that CUPP’s arguments during the Trend Micro IPRs do not qualify as a disclaimer for purposes of claim construction. While a disclaimer made during an IPR proceeding is binding in subsequent proceedings, the “Board is not required to accept a patent owner’s arguments as disclaimer when deciding the merits of those arguments.”

As the Federal Circuit explained, expanding the application of disclaimers to the proceedings in which they are made—as CUPP proposed—is rife with problems. IPR proceedings are more similar to district court litigation than they are to initial examination, and it is well established that disclaimers in litigation are not binding in the proceeding in which they are made. Further, CUPP’s proposal would effectively render IPR claim amendments unnecessary, as patent owners would be free to change the scope of their claims retrospectively without regard to the protections provided by the IPR claim amendment process, such as [...]

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Sleep Better: Amendments Proposed during IPR Deemed Proper and Valid

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s (Board) finding that proposed amendments made during an inter partes review (IPR) are valid and proper despite the inclusion of changes not related to patentability issues raised in the petition. Nat’l Mfg., Inc. v. Sleep No. Corp., Case No. 21-1321 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 14, 2022) (Stoll, Schall, Cunningham, JJ.)

We’ve likely all seen the commercials promising a proven quality of sleep. Sleep Number is the owner of numerous patents, including several directed to methods for adjusting “the pressure in an air mattress ‘in less time and with greater accuracy’ than previously known.” The patents state this is achieved by taking pressure measurements at the valve enclosure and applying a pressure adjustment factor that is iteratively revised using an “adjustment factor error.” The patent states that this method allows for monitoring the pressure of the air mattress without the need to turn off the pumps.

American National Manufacturing challenged the validity of the patents in an IPR proceeding, claiming that most were rendered obvious by the prior art of Gifft in view of Mittal and Pillsbury and that six of the dependent claims requiring a “multiplicative pressure adjustment factor” would have been obvious in further view of Ebel. Gifft disclosed an air-bed system using valve assembly pressure to approximate the air chamber pressure and Mittal and Pillsbury both disclosed using additive offsets to improve accuracy. Ebel disclosed using both additive and multiplicative components to accurately measure the actual pressure in an inflating or deflating air bag.

The Board agreed with American National that it would have been obvious to combine Gifft, Mittal and Pillsbury and that the resulting combination rendered most of the claims obvious, but it also noted that the combination failed to show that a “skilled artisan would have applied Ebel’s multiplicative factors” to the prior art. However, in each proceeding Sleep Number filed a motion to amend the claims contingent on a finding that the challenged claims were unpatentable. The proposed claims included the “multiplicative pressure adjustment factor” that the Board had determined was not unpatentable along with other non-substantive changes.

American National took issue with these amendments, arguing they were legally inappropriate, non-enabled because of an error in the specification and lacked written description support. The Board disagreed. American National appealed. Sleep Number cross-appealed the Board’s finding of obviousness.

The Federal Circuit found that the proposed amendments were not improper even though some of the changes were non-substantive changes to address consistency issues. The Court pointed out that “once a proposed claim includes amendments to address a prior art ground in the trial, a patent owner also may include additional limitations to address potential § 101 or § 112 issues, if necessary.” The Court rejected American National’s argument that permitting such amendments creates an “asymmetrical” and “unfair” proceeding “by allowing the patent owner and the Board to address concerns that may be proper for [an] examination or reexamination proceeding, but that [...]

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Cloudy Skies: PTO Director Finds Abuse and Sanctionable Conduct

The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) Director issued a precedential opinion finding that filing an inter partes review (IPR) solely to extract payment in a settlement—without the intent to prosecute the IPR to completion—is a sanctionable abuse of process. OpenSky Indus., LLC v. VLSI Tech. LLC, IPR2021-01064 (Oct. 4, 2022) (Vidal, Dir.)

In 2019, VLSI asserted two patents against Intel. In response, Intel filed two IPRs against the allegedly infringed patents, but both IPRs were discretionally denied by the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) based on the advanced stage of the underlying litigation and overlapping issues. The suit proceeded, and a jury awarded VLSI more than $600 million in damages in 2021.

OpenSky Industries was founded two months after the judgment. OpenSky filed a “copycat” IPR petition based on Intel’s previous petitions (including refiling the declarations of Intel’s expert without his knowledge) targeting VLSI’s two allegedly infringed patents. The Board instituted over VLSI’s argument, noting that patentability issues were raised that had not been resolved in the district court case. Initially, OpenSky attempted to settle the IPRs with VLSI, but VLSI refused. OpenSky then reached out to Intel, offering to let Intel collaborate if it agreed to pay a success fee. Intel refused and later filed its own IPR petition and joinder motion. After Intel’s refusal, OpenSky pivoted back to VLSI, offering to “refuse[] to pay [the] expert for time at deposition so [the] expert does not appear at deposition” in return for payment. VLSI reported the scheme to the Board.

Intel was joined as a party to the OpenSky IPR proceeding in June 2022 based on its later-filed petition. Once Intel joined, OpenSky threatened to forego both deposing VLSI’s expert and filing its reply brief unless Intel paid it for its “prior work in the IPR” plus “additional remuneration.” Intel refused. While OpenSky did notice VLSI’s expert, it declined to file a Petitioner Reply brief, forcing Intel to draft the reply. Later, at VLSI’s request (OpenSky missed the request date), oral argument in the proceeding took place before the Board. OpenSky did not meaningfully participate.

While all this was unfolding, the Director sua sponte initiated an investigation to determine “[w]hat actions the Director . . . should take when faced with evidence of an abuse of process or conduct that otherwise thwarts . . . the goals of the Office and/or the AIA.” To begin the investigation, the Director sent discovery requests to each of the three parties. VLSI and Intel complied. OpenSky, by comparison, either incompletely complied with or directly refused each request. Based on those evasions, the Director sanctioned OpenSky for discovery misconduct, applying adverse inferences against OpenSky on each request.

Discovery sanctions in place, the Director moved to the central question: Did OpenSky abuse the IPR process? The Director answered yes.

First, the Director found that OpenSky’s conduct violated its duty of candor and good faith to the Board. In its negotiations with VLSI, OpenSky offered to deliberately sabotage its own petition to hinder Intel. In its negotiations with Intel, OpenSky did [...]

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The Board Is Back in Town: Arthrex Can’t Save Untimely Motions to Terminate

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) unpatentability finding and denial of a motion to terminate, finding that the Board had already issued final written decisions that were not vacated at the time the Board denied the parties’ motion to terminate. Polaris Innovations Ltd. v. Derrick Brent, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of The United States Patent and Trademark Office, Case No. 19-1483 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 15, 2022) (Prost, Chen, Stoll, JJ.)

Polaris owns two unrelated patents directed to computer memory. The first patent relates to improved control component configuration, and the second patent relates to a shared-resource system in which logical controls are used to manage resource requests. In 2016, Polaris filed a complaint accusing NVIDIA of infringing both patents. NVIDIA responded by filing petitions for inter partes review (IPR) against each patent. In 2017, the Board issued its final written decisions, finding the challenged claims of both patents unpatentable. Polaris appealed.

The Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s decision in view of Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc. (Arthrex I). On remand, the Board administratively suspended the IPR proceedings pending potential Supreme Court review of Arthrex I. During the administrative suspension, Polaris and NVIDIA filed a joint motion to terminate the proceedings. While those motions were pending, the Supreme Court vacated Arthrex I, substituting an alternative remedy for violation of the Appointments Clause in United States v. Arthrex, Inc. (Arthrex II). In view of Arthrex II, the Supreme Court vacated the Federal Circuit’s vacatur of the Board’s final written decision, thus reinstating those decisions.

On remand to the Board, Polaris argued that the Board should grant Polaris’s then-pending motion to terminate. The Chief Administrative Law Judge responded that termination was not appropriate because the Supreme Court’s decision meant that the “final written decision in each of these cases is not vacated, and it is not necessary for the Board to issue a new final written decision in either of these cases.” Polaris filed a request for Director rehearing. The Director denied rehearing. Polaris appealed.

Polaris argued that the Board erred by failing to grant the joint motions to terminate filed in both proceedings before the Board on remand. Relying on 35 U.S.C. § 317, the Federal Circuit explained that motions to terminate should be granted “unless the Office has decided the merits of the proceeding before the request for termination is filed.” The Court found that the Board had already decided the merits of the cases in final written decisions that were not vacated at the time the Board made its decision denying Polaris’s motions to terminate. The Court therefore affirmed the Board’s decision that termination was inappropriate.

Polaris also raised two claim construction arguments. Polaris argued that the Board misconstrued the term “memory chip” in the IPR involving one of the challenged patents and misconstrued the term “resource tag buffer” in the IPR involving the [...]

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It Can Take Three Appeals to Make a Claim Construction Go “Right”—or Three Bites by Apple

In a nonprecedential opinion on remand from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and a US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) Director-granted request for review, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) reconstrued claim terms it had previously construed in consideration of the patent specification, prosecution history and Federal Circuit construction of similar terms in a related case. Apple Inc. v. Personalized Media Communications, LLC, IPR2016-00754, IPR2016-01520 (P.T.A.B. Sept. 8, 2022) (Turner, APJ.)

In March 2016, Apple filed a petition to institute an inter partes review (IPR) against a patent (’635 patent) owned by Personalized Media Communications, LLC (PMC). After PMC filed its Patent Owner Preliminary Response (POPR), the Board instituted the IPR on some, but not all, of Apple’s requested grounds. Per Board procedure, PMC filed its Patent Owner Response (POR) and a contingent motion to amend its patent’s claims. In response, Apple filed a reply and an opposition to the contingent motion, and PMC filed a reply to Apple’s opposition. After oral argument the Board issued a Final Written Decision (754-FWD) finding all challenged claims unpatentable and denying the contingent motion to amend. PMC first sought rehearing of the Board’s decision and, after rehearing was denied, appealed the Board’s decision to the Federal Circuit.

Similarly, in July 2016, Apple filed another petition against the same PMC patent. After considering PMC’s POPR, the Board instituted an IPR on some of Apple’s requested grounds. PMC again filed a POR and a contingent motion to amend, to which Apple filed a reply and opposition (to which PMC filed its reply and Apple a sur-reply). Again, the Board held an oral hearing and issued a Final Written Decision (FWD) finding all challenged claims unpatentable and denying the contingent motion to amend. PMC again sought rehearing of the Board’s decision and, after rehearing was denied, appealed the Board’s decision to the Federal Circuit.

On appeal of each proceeding, PMC moved, and the Federal Circuit granted remand in light of and consistent with the 2021 Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Arthrex, Inc., where a five-justice majority found that the appointment of Board administrative patent judges was unconstitutional and a seven-justice majority concluded that the remedy was to vest the PTO Director with authority to overrule Board decisions.

On remand to the PTO, PMC filed a request for director review, which the Commissioner for Patents (performing the functions and duties of the PTO Director) granted. The Commissioner’s Granting Order agreed with PMC’s argument that the Board, in these two cases, had construed the claim terms “encrypted” and “decrypted” in a manner that could include “scrambling and descrambling operations on digital information, but could also include … on analog information” and was inconsistent with the Federal Circuit’s partial reversal of the Board’s construction in yet another IPR proceeding (755-IPR regarding another related PMC patent) between Apple and PMC. As to the related patent IPR, the Federal Circuit ultimately construed “encrypted digital information transmission including encrypted information” as “… limited [...]

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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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Check Your Expert Skills and Standing

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dismissed a portion of an appeal from the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) regarding obviousness because the patentee did not have standing to challenge the decision regarding one of the claims. The Court also affirmed-in-part because the definition of person of ordinary skill in the art applied by the Board was not unreasonable or unsupported by the evidence. Best Medical International, Inc. v. Elekta Inc., Case Nos. 21-2099; -2100 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 29, 2022) (Hughes, Linn, Stoll, JJ.)

Best Medical International (BMI) owns a patent directed to a method and apparatus for conformal radiation therapy of tumors using a pre-determined radiation dose. The Board instituted two inter partes review (IPR) petitions filed by Varian Medical Systems and Elekta. During the pendency of the IPR proceeding, a parallel ex parte re-examination was ongoing. After institution of the IPRs, the examiner in the re-examination rejected claim 1, which BMI subsequently cancelled “without prejudice or disclaimer.” After BMI cancelled claim 1, the Board issued its final written decision in the IPR proceedings. The Board noted that BMI had cancelled claim 1 during re-examination, but concluded that claim 1 had “not yet been canceled by a final action” because BMI had “not filed a statutory disclaimer of claim 1.” The Board therefore considered the merits of Elekta’s patentability challenge and determined that claim 1 was unpatentable as obvious. The Board issued a split decision as to the other claims, finding one claim patentable and the others unpatentable. BMI appealed.

The Federal Circuit began by analyzing whether BMI had standing to challenge the Board’s invalidation of the now cancelled claim 1. BMI attempted to invoke Munsingwear vacatur, which allows courts to vacate underlying decisions on issues that have become moot during their pendency. As an initial matter, the Court found that the Board had the authority to invalidate the claim because it was not finally cancelled at the time the Board issued its final written decision. Regarding BMI’s vacatur argument, Elekta argued that BMI lacked standing to challenge the decision related to the cancelled claim. BMI countered that it had suffered an injury sufficient to create Article III standing because it believed that collateral estoppel might be applied by the examiner regarding other claims in another patent subject to re-examination. The Court was unpersuaded by this argument, in part because BMI could not cite any case law where collateral estoppel was applied in that fashion. The Court found that Munsingwear vacatur was inappropriate because the mooting event did not happen during the pendency of the appeal—it happened before the appeal was filed. The Court therefore concluded that BMI lacked standing to challenge the Board’s decision regarding the now cancelled claim.

Turning to the other claims the Board found unpatentable, BMI challenged the Board’s finding that a person of ordinary skill in the art must have formal computer programming experience. The Federal Circuit recited the non-exhaustive list of factors used to determine the requisite level of [...]

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Not “Use It or Lose It”: Even if Unexercised, Director’s Authority over Institution Decisions Remains

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied mandamus relief, finding that a party is not entitled to petition the director for review of a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) decision denying institution of an inter partes review (IPR) or post-grant review (PGR) proceeding. This ruling reflects the Court’s ongoing consideration of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Arthrex, Inc., which held that Board judges cannot constitutionally render final decisions in IPRs without US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) Director oversight. Click here for our discussion of the case on remand, for which the Federal Circuit just denied en banc rehearing. In re Palo Alto Networks, Inc., Case No. 22-145 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 16, 2022) (Dyk, Chen, JJ.) (Reyna, J., concurring).

After being sued by Centripetal Systems for patent infringement, Palo Alto Networks filed petitions for IPR and PGR of some of the asserted patents. The Board denied institution, and Palo Alto Networks filed requests for Director rehearing. Although the PTO acknowledged receipt of the request, it informed Palo Alto Networks that the Director was not considering requests for rehearing of institution decisions “at this time.” Thereafter, Palo Alto Networks sought a writ of mandamus from the Federal Circuit. Between the request for mandamus and the Court’s decision, the PTO issued guidance explaining that although the PTO was not considering requests for rehearing, “the Director has always retained and continues to retain the authority to review such decisions sua sponte after issuance (at the Director’s discretion),” and indeed, exercised its authority to initiate sua sponte review since.

The Federal Circuit rejected Palo Alto Networks’ claim that the Director’s refusal to consider petitions for rehearing of institution decisions amounted to an abdication of authority prohibited by the Appointments Clause. Even assuming that institution decisions were “final decisions on how to exercise executive power” implicating the Appointments Clause, the Court found that the Director maintains statutory and regulatory authority to review institution decisions (unlike in Arthrex), and that the Board renders such decisions only based on the Director’s delegation of authority (also unlike Arthrex). Accordingly, the structural authority maintained by the Director is sufficient, even if such authority goes unexercised, according to the Court.

Writing separately, Judge Reyna agreed that no Appointments Clause violation had occurred but on different grounds. Although Judge Reyna noted that a categorical rejection of requests for rehearing by the Director might raise constitutional concerns, he concluded that mandamus was inappropriate for several reasons. First, the Director’s caveat that she refused to accept requests “at this time” did not constitute a categorical refusal but rather an exercise of discretion. Second, the Director’s invocation of her sua sponte authority to review belied a lack of exercise of discretion. The Director did in fact exercise sua sponte authority to consider Palo Alto Networks’ request, even though briefing in the Federal Circuit was pending, and thus a writ of mandamus was inappropriate.




Prior Art Citation to Inventors’ Report Not “By Another” for § 102(e)

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that a prior art patent’s summarization of a report authored by the inventors of a patent challenged under inter partes review (IPR) did not constitute a disclosure “by another” under pre-America Invents Act § 102(e). LSI Corp. v. Regents of Univ. of Minnesota, Case No. 21-2057 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 11, 2022) (Dyk, Reyna, Hughes, JJ.)

The Regents of the University of Minnesota (UMN) sued LSI Corporation and Avago Technologies (collectively, LSI) for infringement of a patent related to methods for reducing errors in binary data sequences. LSI petitioned for IPR, challenging several claims of the asserted patent and arguing that they were anticipated by two prior art references, Okada and Tsang. Tsang made reference to a “Seagate Annual Report” that was published by the inventors of the asserted patent, and which was later embodied in the patent’s application.

The Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) found that one of the challenged claims was anticipated by Okada. The Board also found that LSI had not shown that the other challenged claims were rendered unpatentable by either Okada or Tsang and further rejected an invalidity (anticipation) theory first raised by LSI during oral arguments as untimely (while noting that the argument failed even if timely raised). The Board determined that the Tsang reference was not “by another” under § 102(e) because LSI’s petition relied solely on material that was originally disclosed in the inventor’s Seagate Annual Report. LSI appealed the Board’s determinations relating to invalidity based on Okada or Tsang.

The Federal Circuit noted that LSI did not challenge the Board’s untimeliness determination and rejected LSI’s argument that it did not need to because the Board nevertheless reached a merits decision on the argument. The Court cited to its 2016 decision in Intelligent Bio-Systems v. Illumina Cambridge, which held that “the Board’s rejection of arguments on the ground that they were newly raised in a reply brief was not an abuse of discretion even though the Board went on to address the merits.”

Turning to the § 102(e) issue, the Federal Circuit first explained that an invention is anticipated under § 102(e) if the invention is described in a patent application filed “by another,” but a patent owner may overcome such anticipation by establishing that the relevant prior art disclosure describes the owner’s invention. Describing the history of the Tsang reference and the patent under review, the Court explained that the inventors originally submitted a Seagate Annual Report to Seagate, a UMN collaborator. Tsang, a Seagate employee, received the report and quickly filed a patent application for an improvement on the methods described in the report. This application listed only Tsang as inventor and made direct reference to the Seagate Annual Report.

The Federal Circuit then addressed whether LSI’s IPR petition relied on Tsang’s improvement to the inventors’ report or simply on Tsang’s summary of the inventors’ report. The Court explained that while LSI’s petition relied on both Tsang’s summary of the [...]

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