Patent Trial and Appeal Board
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Analogous Art Includes Reference a Skilled Artisan Would Reasonably Consult

Addressing the standard for determining whether a prior art reference constitutes analogous art for purposes of an obviousness analysis, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded a Patent Trial and Appeal Board decision that a reference was not analogous. The Court explained that the Board did not consider the purpose and problems to which the prior art and challenged patent relate. Donner Tech., LLC v. Pro Stage Gear, LLC, Case No. 20-1104 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 9, 2020) (Prost, C.J.) Pro Stage owns a patent directed to an improved guitar effects pedalboard. Guitar effects pedals are electronic devices that affect the amplified sound of a guitar. The pedals are controlled by foot operation switches in order to leave the user's hands free to play the instrument. When multiple pedals are used, they must be interconnected by cables, which are typically daisy-chained between each separate pedal. Once interconnected, the pedals are placed on a...

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Emmy Award to the Rescue – Secondary Considerations Overcome Prior Art

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board), in a decision designated as precedential, found that a Patent Owner’s substitute claims were patentable in view of evidence of secondary considerations even though the prior art weighed in favor of obviousness. Lectronics, Inc. v. Zaxcom, Inc., Case No. IPR2018-01129 (PTAB Jan. 24, 2020) (Deshpande, APJ.) (designated precedential on Apr. 14, 2020). This dispute began when Lectronics filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) on six claims for one of Zaxcom’s patents. After institution, Zaxcom filed its Patent Owner Response and a Contingent Motion to Amend, where it proposed six substitute claims in the event the board found the original patent claims invalid. The patent at issue was related to wireless recording technology. Of particular significance, Zaxcom submitted evidence that the claims at issue were incorporated into “products for which the inventors . . . received the Emmy Award, the Technical...

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Exercise of Institution Discretion During Parallel AIA and District Court Challenges

The Patent and Trial Appeal Board (PTAB) Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) refused to revisit an earlier PTAB panel decision, reiterating that it remains within the discretion of a PTAB panel to deny institution on a patent challenge because of a pending trial in federal district court. Sand Revolution II, LLC v. Continental Intermodal Group – Trucking LLC, Case No. IPR2019-01393, Paper 18 (PTAB Apr. 6, 2020) (Iancu, Dir.; Hirshfeld, Comm’r; Boalick, CAPJ, sitting as POP); Sand Revolution II, LLC v. Continental Intermodal Group – Trucking LLC, Case No. IPR2019-01393, Paper 19 (PTAB Apr. 7, 2020). After Sand Revolution petitioned for inter partes review (IPR) of Continental Intermodal Group’s (CIG’s) patent, CIG filed a preliminary response raising the issue of potential interference between any IPR proceeding and a pending district court proceeding. In a divided decision, a PTAB panel reasoned that the precedential PTAB decision NHK Spring (which permits...

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PTAB Sets Double Standard for Qualifying Reference as “Printed Publication”

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) designated an appeal decision as precedential, holding that an examiner may apply a lower standard for establishing public availability of a prior art reference as compared to a petitioner in an inter partes review (IPR). Ex parte Grillo-López, Appeal No. 2018-006082 (USPTO Jan. 31, 2020) (Chang, APJ) (denying request for rehearing) (designated as precedential on April 7, 2020). The PTAB determined that the examiner had sufficiently established a prima facie case that a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) transcript qualified as a printed publication, even though the PTAB had previously found that a petitioner in an IPR proceeding had failed to qualify the same FDA transcript as a printed publication. The PTAB held that during prosecution, the examiner must establish only a prima facie case, and the burden then shifts to the applicant to come forward with rebuttal evidence to overcome the prima facie case. This...

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PTAB Designates Two Opinions Precedential and One Opinion Informative, Further Clarifying the Scope of the Board’s Discretion under § 325(d) to Decline Institution

Addressing the scope of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board's ("Board") discretion under 35 U.S.C. § 325(d) to deny institution, the Board designated three opinions as precedential or informative. Precedential Opinions: In Advanced Bionics, LLC v. MED-EL Elektromedizinische Geräte GmbH, Case No. IPR2019-01469 (USPTO Feb. 13, 2020) (Deshpande, APJ) (designated precedential on Mar. 24, 2020), the Board set forth a framework for evaluating whether "the same or substantially the same prior art or arguments previously were presented to the Office." The two-part test is: (1) whether the same or substantially the same (a) art or (b) arguments previously were presented to the Office; and (2) if either condition of the first part of the framework is satisfied, whether the petitioner has demonstrated that the Office erred in a manner material to the patentability of challenged claims. The Board's decision reiterated its commitment to deferring to previous Office...

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No Disclaimer, No Problem – Terms Limited by Consistent Statements

In an appeal from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found claim construction error and reversed the PTAB’s finding that all instituted claims were unpatentable. Personalized Media Commc’ns, LLC v. Apple Inc., Case No. 18-1936 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 13, 2020) (Stoll, J.). The dispute began when Apple filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) challenging certain claims of a patent owned by Personalized Media Communications (PMC). The construction of the phrase “an encrypted digital information transmission including encrypted information” was of particular import in the ensuing IPR proceeding. Under the broadest reasonable interpretation standard, PMC argued that the phrase was limited to digital transmissions, whereas Apple argued that the phrase “may also include transmissions with information that is not encrypted or digital.” The PTAB adopted Apple’s construction and found the claims invalid. PMC...

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Administrative Patent Judges – You’re Fired (At Will and Without Cause)

The en banc US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit declined to review its October 2019 panel decision holding the appointment of administrative patent judges (APJs) at the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) unconstitutional because APJs are appointed as if they are “inferior officers” but vested with authority that is reserved for Senate-confirmed “principal officers” under the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., Case No. 18-2140 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 23, 2020) (per curiam) (Moore, J., joined by O’Malley, Reyna and Chen, JJ., concurring) (Dyk, J., joined by Newman, Wallach and Hughes, JJ., dissenting). In its panel decision, the Federal Circuit judicially severed a portion of the America Invents Act (AIA), codified in 35 USC § 3(c), that affords APJs with job security benefits under 5 USC § 7513(a) by limiting their removal from office “only for such cause as will promote the efficiency of the service” (IP Update,...

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PTAB Issues Updated Trial Practice Guide: Yearly Updates Expected

On November 20, 2019, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued updated guidance for trial procedures in inter partes review (IPR) and post grant review (PGR) proceedings at the US Patent and Trademark Office in the new edition of the Trial Practice Guide. For easier reading and greater consistency, the new edition incorporates the prior updates released in August 2018 (IP Update, Vol. 21, No. 9) and July 2019 (IP Update, Vol. 22, No.8) into the original August 2012 Practice Guide. The new edition provides updated guidance on the impact of SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu on the institution of trial. The new guide also replaces the prior “observations” practice with procedures for a more fulsome sur-reply. In addition, the PTAB has provided more opportunities to contact the PTAB to request an initial conference call, and it has updated the way word counts apply to specific filings. The PTAB has also updated the expected scheduling order for derivation...

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