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Absent Expressed Rationale of Obviousness, Federal Circuit Calls for Do-Over

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a ruling by the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) where, on appeal, the US Patent & Trademark Office’s (PTO) rationale for sustaining the Board’s obviousness rejection did not reflect “the reasoning or findings the Board actually invoked.” In Re Google, LLC, Case No. 22-1012 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 9, 2023) (Moore, C.J., Lourie, Prost, JJ.)

Google’s patent application covers a method of filtering search results to display age-appropriate results using a “content rating score” in combination with a predetermined threshold value to determine which results will be presented. The application discloses several ways that the threshold value can be calculated, including using the length of the search query as a proxy for the age of the user, with longer queries being associated with older users and leading to a lower threshold score (allowing more mature content to be shown).

The application received a final rejection from the examiner, who asserted that the claims would have been obvious under 35 U.S.C. § 103 based on two prior art references, Parthasarathy and Rose. Parthasarathy disclosed a method to determine a content score to use for ranking results, while Rose disclosed a method to assign result importance based on query length. The examiner argued that it would be obvious to combine Rose and Parthasarathy to achieve the claimed method that recited a “predetermined threshold value” based on the number of words in a query. The examiner acknowledged that Parthasarathy did not disclose a threshold based on a number of words but found that Rose did, citing Rose’s modified relevance-ranking algorithm. He reasoned that it would have been obvious to combine Rose and Parthasarathy to achieve the claimed threshold because “analyzing a query for determining the query length and using the query length as a threshold is very well known in the art and doing so would further provide for assigning weight to a long or a short query for retrieving documents.” Google appealed the examiner’s decision to the Board, which affirmed the examiner’s rejection and adopted the examiner’s findings. Google appealed to the Federal Circuit.

On appeal, the PTO argued that because there were only two ways a person of ordinary skill in the art could modify Parthasarathy’s threshold to incorporate Rose, either of the modifications would have been obvious. However, the Federal Circuit found that this argument was not supported by the Board’s decision. The Court explained that while the Board did conclude that modifying Parthasarathy’s threshold to take into account the length of the query would have been obvious, the Board did not provide any detail as to how that would be achieved. In the absence of specific fact-based findings by the Board, the Court explained that it could not adopt the PTO’s argument, which rested on facts not found in the Board’s decision. A ruling relying on these facts would have resulted in a violation of basic administrative law principles since a court may only uphold an agency action on [...]

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Swing and a Miss: Failed Interferences Don’t Affect Later Ones

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s (Board) interference decision finding that priority belonged to the junior party based on sufficiently corroborated reduction to practice. Dionex Softron GmbH v. Agilent Technologies Inc., Case No. 21-2372 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 6, 2023) (Reyna, Chen, Stark, JJ.)

Both parties attempted to instigate an interference by copying each other’s claims regarding a method of operating a liquid chromatography system. Agilent first substantially copied Dionex’s claims but failed to secure declaration of an interference and subsequently amended its claims. Dionex then copied verbatim Agilent’s amended claims, successfully provoking an interference. The Board identified Dionex as the senior party and Agilent as the junior, placing the burden for priority on Agilent.

At the interference, Dionex moved for judgment based on lack of written description for the relevant count language (emphasis added):

. . . determining a movement amount of the piston within the chamber from a first position to a second position to increase a pressure in the sample loop from an essentially atmospheric pressure to the pump pressure, based on the pump pressure […] wherein decreasing the volume includes forwarding the piston within the chamber by the determined movement amount from the first position to the second position.

Dionex contended that Agilent’s specification lacked written description for “determining a movement amount” and subsequently “forwarding the piston,” wherein the order of those two separate operations was important and lacking support. Dionex also contended that while the relevant specification was Dionex’s patent for a majority of count terms, some terms, such as “determining,” should be viewed in light of Agilent’s application. The Board disagreed and found that Agilent’s specification was controlling and contained adequate written description to support the count.

In finding Agilent’s written description adequate, the Board rejected Dionex’s contention that the claims required a determination of movement amount before forwarding the piston. Applying the broadest reasonable interpretation standard, the Board found that the count language permitted determination of movement amount while forwarding the piston and that consequently there was adequate support in the specification.

Both parties moved for judgment on priority. The Board granted Agilent’s motion, finding that even as the junior party, Agilent proved conception and reduction to practice before Dionex’s earliest conception date. Applying the rule of reason, the Board found that the testimony of one of Agilent’s co-inventors was sufficiently corroborated by two coworkers to show successful reduction to practice by the critical date. The Board also credited Agilent’s coworker testimony in denying Dionex’s contention that Agilent’s reduction to practice lacked a pressure senor and credited testimony stating that a high-pressure pump with a built-in pressure system was used. The Board also declined Dionex’s request to draw a negative inference from the lack of testimony of the other co-inventor, crediting Agilent’s explanation that the testimony would have been cumulative. Dionex appealed.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit found that the Board had correctly treated Agilent’s specification as the “originating specification” because it was Dionex’s [...]

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Bad Connection: Claim Construction Argument without Explanation Given No Weight

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) obviousness decision after finding that the patent owner failed to explain how its cited extrinsic evidence supported its proposed claim construction. Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Netflix, Inc., Case No. 21-2085 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 15, 2022) (Dyk, Taranto, Hughes, JJ.) (nonprecedential).

Uniloc owns a patent directed to a “more efficient” method for encoding videos by only coding at the pixel level when necessary and, where possible, reusing code for macroblocks in the background area. Netflix petitioned for inter partes review of several claims in Uniloc’s patent. The Board ultimately found the claims unpatentable as obvious. Uniloc appealed.

Uniloc argued that the Board erred in its claim construction of a limitation that required “dividing the stationary background region and the object region from an inputted video in a macroblock-by-macroblock basis by using a difference between the previous frame and the current frame.” The dispute before the Federal Circuit was whether the “macroblock-by-macroblock basis” required that the act of dividing be done macroblock-by-macroblock, as urged by Uniloc, or whether the dividing resulted in separate macroblock-based regions, as urged by Netflix and found by the Board. The Court concluded that Netflix and the Board were correct.

The Federal Circuit first addressed the intrinsic record, finding that it was ambiguous as to the meaning of “macroblock-by-macroblock basis.” Although the claim language supported either interpretation, Uniloc’s argument would require the Court to read language into the claim that was “simply not there.” The specification did not clarify the claim construction issue either. Although Uniloc pointed to one example where the dividing step occurred one macroblock at a time, the Court stated that it did not limit claim language to examples used in the specification. Lastly, the Court explained that the portions of the specification describing the purpose of the invention and avoiding problems in the prior art also failed to clarify the meaning of the macroblock-by-macroblock basis. Because the purpose was merely to make coding more efficient and avoid dividing at the pixel level, either interpretation could apply.

Relatedly, the Federal Circuit rejected Netflix’s argument that Uniloc forfeited the arguments on appeal related to the portions of the specification explaining the purpose of the claimed invention and how it purportedly solved problems in the prior art. The Court explained that the forfeiture doctrine does not “preclude a party from proffering additional or new supporting arguments, based on evidence record, for its claim construction.” Here, Uniloc “merely cited additional support in the specification to support the same argument it had always made” related to the macroblock-by-macroblock basis.

The Federal Circuit next addressed the extrinsic evidence and agreed with the Board’s decision that a “macroblock-by-macroblock basis” required dividing results in separate macroblock-based regions. Uniloc’s only extrinsic evidence was a dictionary definition of “basis,” and Uniloc offered no additional expert evidence to explain technological facts or usage in the field that would support its interpretation. In contrast, Netflix provided expert testimony and [...]

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Applying Collateral Estoppel in IPRs

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit considered whether a dependent claim invalidated by collateral estoppel also invalidates its parental independent claim. Google LLC v. Hammond Devel. Int’l, Inc., Case No. 21-2218 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 8, 2022) (Moore, C.J.; Chen, Stoll, JJ.)

The dispute began when Hammond Development sued Google, alleging that Google infringed several of Hammond’s patents on automated voice response systems. In response, Google filed multiple inter partes reviews (IPRs), one of which targeted Hammond’s ’483 patent. In that proceeding, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) held that all claims of the ’483 patent were obvious. Hammond did not appeal the decision in this IPR, which then became final, but only after Google filed an IPR against another of Hammond’s patents—the ’816 patent. The ’816 and ’483 patents are in the same family and share the same specification. In the later-filed IPR, the Board found claims 14 through 19 of the ’816 patent nonobvious and patentable. Google appealed.

Claim 14 is an independent claim and claim 18 depends from it. The parties agreed that the patentability of both claims rose and fell together. On appeal to the Federal Circuit, Google argued that claim 18 was invalid under the doctrine of collateral estoppel based on the prior art that rendered claim 18 of the ’483 patent invalid.

A party seeking to invoke collateral estoppel must show the following:

  • The issue is identical to one decided in the first action.
  • The issue was actually litigated in the first action.
  • Resolution of the issue was essential to a final judgment in the first action.
  • The party against whom collateral estoppel is being asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the first action.

Because the parties had agreed that all but the first of the elements of collateral estoppel were met, collateral estoppel would apply if the issues of patentability were identical between the adjudicated and unadjudicated claims. The Federal Circuit found that slight differences in the claim language of the involved patents were immaterial because they related only to the number of application servers, and Google’s expert had credibly testified that distributing software applications across multiple servers was well known in the art and obvious. Hammond did not mount a substantive challenge to the expert evidence. As the Court noted, “collateral estoppel may apply even if the patent claims ‘use slightly different language to describe substantially the same invention,’ so long as ‘the differences between the unadjudicated patent claims and adjudicated patent claims do not materially alter the question of invalidity.’”

Google also attacked the validity of independent claim 14 of the ’816 patent. Although Google’s attack against claim 14 was based on a different combination of references (as compared to claim 18), the Federal Circuit apparently applied collateral estoppel to find claim 14 invalid as well, citing an agreement between the parties that “if claim 18 is unpatentable, then independent claim 14 is as well.”

Finally, Google argued that dependent [...]

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No Mulligans Here: PTO Rewinds Reexamination Based on Estoppel

The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) terminated a pending ex parte reexamination after finding that the challenger was estopped because the prior art references could have been raised in a prior inter partes review (IPR). In re Tyler, Reexam. No. 90/014,950 (PTO Nov. 15, 2022).

In 2017, GITS Manufacturing filed two IPR petitions against a patent owned by G.W. Lisk after Lisk asserted the patent against GITS in district court. In 2018, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board issued final written decisions in each IPR, finding some claims unpatentable and maintaining the patentability of other claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed both IPR decisions in 2021.

In February 2022, the PTO initiated an ex parte reexamination of one of the patents based on a request filed by GITS. The reexamination proposed multiple grounds of unpatentability based on four prior art references that were not involved in the IPRs. GITS included a lengthy discussion and an expert declaration describing the prior art searches GITS performed in support of the certification that it was not estopped under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(l) from asserting the grounds in the reexamination. Lisk filed a petition to vacate the reexamination proceeding, alleging that GITS was estopped because the reexamination references reasonably could have been raised in the previous IPRs. Lisk’s petition was supported by its own expert declaration describing prior art searches that a skilled searcher would have conducted.

A party is estopped under § 315(e)(1) from requesting a reexamination proceeding based on grounds that the party “raised or reasonably could have raised” during an IPR. The legislative history of § 315(e) defines “reasonably could have raised” as “prior art which a skilled searcher conducting a diligent search reasonably could have been expected to discover.” The PTO cited legislative history stating that “reasonably could have raised” does not require a “scorched-earth search,” leaving open the possibility that a diligent search may not discover a particular reference. But the PTO also distinguished the search an examiner or lawyer may conduct from the more robust search that a skilled searcher is assumed to conduct prior to filing a petition for a IPR proceeding.

The PTO evaluated each of the four references in GITS’s reexamination grounds based on the criteria described above. Two of the references were patent documents available in commercial databases that a skilled searcher could be expected to find. The third reference was a “seminal textbook” that GITS itself stated was used in the field to train those of skill in the art. The textbook reference was also found through standard citation searching of the patent at issue. The fourth reference was provided by a publisher that GITS stated “was an established publisher that was well known to those interested in the field,” and which maintained an online searchable database of its publications. The PTO determined that the fourth reference would have been found by a reasonably diligent search, despite the fact that a subscription fee was required to search the database.

The PTO also weighed [...]

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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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PTO Requests Comments on Initiatives to Expand Board Opportunities, Registration to Practice Criteria

In a pair of notices, the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) announced on October 18, 2022, that it is seeking public input on proposed initiatives directed at expanding opportunities to appear before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board, (Board) and expanding admission criteria for registration to practice in patent cases before the PTO. PTO Director Kathi Vidal explained that “[t]hese proposals are part of our broader initiatives to improve quality and participation.”

Regarding the expansion of opportunities to appear before the Board, the PTO requested comments on the following six questions:

  1. Are there any changes to Board rules or procedures that the PTO or the Board should make to increase opportunities to appear and/or serve as counsel and/or the lead counsel in America Invents Act (AIA) proceedings?
    1. If “yes” to question 1 as to the lead counsel, should the rules require that a non-registered practitioner have prior experience in AIA proceedings and/or have completed training before being designated as the lead counsel? What level of experience and/or type of training should be required?
  2. Should any rule or procedure revised by the PTO that permits a non-registered practitioner to be designated as the lead counsel in an AIA proceeding also require that any such non-registered practitioner be accompanied by a registered practitioner as backup counsel? If not, are there any circumstances or events that might occur during an AIA proceeding (g., the contemplated or actual filing of a motion to amend) that might warrant requiring a registered practitioner to then appear as backup counsel?
  3. Would a rule requiring that the lead counsel or backup counsel in an AIA proceeding be a registered practitioner have a significant impact on the cost of such a proceeding? If so, what would the impact be and would the impact be justified?
  4. Should any of the changes discussed above, if adopted, be implemented as a pilot program?
  5. Are there additional training and/or development programs the PTO should offer to increase opportunities for less experienced practitioners to appear as counsel and/or serve as the lead counsel in AIA proceedings?
  6. Are there any changes to the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) that the PTO should make to increase opportunities to appear and/or serve as the lead counsel in AIA proceedings?

Regarding expanding the admission requirements to practice in patent matters before the PTO, comments on the following five topics were requested:

  1. The General Requirements Bulletin (GRB) lists three categories of scientific and technical qualifications typically used for eligibility for admission to the registration examination: (1) Category A, for specified bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees; (2) Category B, for other bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees with technical and scientific training; and (3) Category C, for individuals who rely on practical engineering or scientific experience and have passed the Fundamentals of Engineering test. The PTO is seeking comments as to acceptable degrees and whether it should add Category B degrees on a predetermined timeframe (g., every three years).
  2. Should the PTO accept [...]

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For Inherent Anticipation, How Many Is Too Many?

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) decision that prior art disclosing a class of 957 salts could not inherently anticipate claims to a salt within the class because a skilled artisan could not “at once envisage” every class member. Mylan Pharms. Inc. v. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., Case No. 21-2121 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 29, 2022) (Lourie, Reyna, Stoll, JJ.)

In the underlying inter partes review, Mylan alleged that Merck’s patent claims to sitagliptin dihydrogen phosphate (DHP) with 1:1 stoichiometry were anticipated by two similar Merck publications (collectively, Edmondson). Edmondson listed 33 enzyme inhibitors (including sitagliptin) and eight preferred acids for forming salts with the inhibitors. Mylan argued that the 1:1 stoichiometry between sitagliptin and DHP (which was required by the claims) was the only possible result when sitagliptin and phosphate were reacted.

In response, Merck experts declared that Edmondson did not expressly disclose any 1:1 sitagliptin DHP salts. They also declared that non-1:1 sitagliptin phosphate salts existed and had been created using conventional protocols, and that Edmondson encompassed approximately 957 predicted salts of DP-IV inhibitors.

The Board held that Edmondson did not expressly anticipate because it did not literally disclose the 1:1 sitagliptin DHP salt and Mylan could not attempt to fill in the missing claim limitation by arguing that a person of ordinary skill in the art (POSA) could “at once envisage” the “950+” salts. Merck’s evidence convinced the Board that non-1:1 sitagliptin phosphate salts “do exist and can form.”

Mylan tried to circumvent Merck’s antedation of Edmondson by asserting that it disclosed hydrates of 1:1 sitagliptin DHP, which Merck had not synthesized until months after Edmondson was published. The Board rejected this argument, noting that Edmondson only generically referred to hydrates. Since Mylan had not contested Merck’s common ownership of Edmondson’s subject matter, § 103(c)(1) applied and Edmondson became unavailable as an obviousness reference. The remaining claims to specific enantiomers and hydrates of sitagliptin DHP were deemed nonobvious because Mylan had not presented sufficient evidence to show motivation to make or reasonable expectation of success.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit found that substantial evidence supported the Board’s determinations with respect to explicit and inherent anticipation and obviousness. Mylan’s own expert had admitted that nothing in Edmondson directed a POSA to sitagliptin or to any phosphate salt. Edmondson’s disclosure of 957 potential salts was “a far cry” from the facts in the 1962 Court of Customs and Patents Appeals case In re Peterson, where a reference disclosing only 20 compounds was deemed inherently anticipatory. The Federal Circuit rejected Mylan’s antedation argument, noting that if Edmondson did not explicitly disclose 1:1 sitagliptin DHP, it could not disclose any hydrates of that compound either.

Finally, the Federal Circuit agreed with the Board that the claims to specific enantiomers or hydrates of sitagliptin DHP were nonobvious because Mylan had not shown any expected benefit to making the specific enantiomers claimed, the literature and experts for both sides reported many downsides [...]

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