proposed rulemaking
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Not Admitted to PTO Bar? No Problem.

On February 21, 2024, the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would give parties the option to designate a non-registered practitioner as lead counsel in proceedings before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board. 89 Fed. Reg. 13017 (Feb. 21, 2024) (to be codified at 37 C.F.R. pt. 42).

37 CFR 42.10(a) currently requires each party to designate a lead counsel and at least one back-up counsel. The lead counsel must be a registered practitioner. Non-registered practitioners can serve as back-up counsel pro hac vice, but only upon a showing that they are an experienced litigating lawyer serving as back-up counsel and that they possess significant familiarity with the subject matter at issue. Permission for back-up status requires grant of a pro hac vice motion filed by counsel presenting specific statements of fact showing good cause for admission, as well as an affidavit or declaration by counsel attesting to good standing before the courts, familiarity with the PTO’s Patent Trial Practice Guide and the Board’s Rules of Practice for Trial set forth in part 42 of 37 C.F.R., and familiarity with the subject matter at issue.

The proposed changes to 37 C.F.R. 42.10 would:

  • Permit non-registered practitioners to serve as lead counsel for a party in Board proceedings as long as at least one other counsel designated to appear on behalf of the party is a registered practitioner.
  • Permit parties to proceed without back-up counsel upon a showing of good cause. A party may show good cause by demonstrating that it lacks the financial resources to retain both lead and back-up counsel.
  • Create a new streamlined procedure for pro hac vice recognition of Board-recognized practitioners. This procedure applies to non-registered practitioners who have previously been admitted pro hac vice in a different Board proceeding and have not been subsequently denied pro hac vice recognition in a different Board proceeding.
  • Clarify that those recognized pro hac vice have a duty to inform the Board if the information presented in a request for pro hac vice recognition is no longer accurate or complete.

The PTO seeks public comments on the proposed rulemaking by May 21, 2024, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Enter docket number PTO-P-2023-00587 on the homepage and select “search.”

For further details, click here.

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PTO Will Transition to Electronic Issuance of Patents and Trademarks

The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) announced on December 10, 2021, that it intends to transition to electronic issuance of patents and trademarks in 2022. Under the current rule (37 C.F.R § 1.315), the PTO must deliver or mail a patent “upon issuance to the correspondence address of record.” The PTO will soon issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to seek public feedback on revising the rules of practice to issue patents electronically. Under the proposed changes, the PTO would no longer mail patents to the applicant. Instead, the PTO would issue patents electronically via the Patent Center and Patent Application Image Retrieval, from which the patents could be downloaded and printed.

While no changes to the trademark rules are necessary, the PTO will also issue a public request for comments on replacing paper registration certificates with digital versions.

The PTO believes that electronic issuance will reduce the time it takes for a patent or trademark to issue by about two weeks.

Once the transition is complete, applicants can still receive a paper copy of the issued patents and trademark registration certificates with an embossed gold seal and the director’s signature (i.e., a ribbon certificate) for a fee of $25 per copy.

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Copyright Claims Board’s Proposed Rulemaking: How to Initiate and Respond to a Claim

In January 2021, Congress enacted the Consolidated Appropriations Act. This legislation incorporates the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2020, which includes revisions to the Copyright Act with the goal of creating a new venue for copyright owners to enforce their rights without having to file an action in federal court. The new venue, called the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), is designed to serve as an alternative forum where parties may voluntarily seek to resolve certain copyright claims regarding any category of copyrighted work.

On September 29, 2021, the US Copyright Office issued proposed rules in the Federal Register to establish the initial stages of a proceeding before the CCB. The proposed rules prescribe how to file a complaint, a process that includes submitting claim and notice forms online and paying a $100 filing fee. The proposed rulemaking notes that the claim form will require less information than what is required under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12, as practice before the CCB will be less complex than practice in federal courts according to the Copyright Office.

After a claim is filed, a copyright claims attorney will review the claim to ensure compliance with applicable regulations. If the claim is approved, the claimant can proceed to serve the claim within 90 days. If the claim is not approved, the claimant has 30 days to file an amended claim. Counterclaims are subject to the same review process. To pass review muster, the claim must “clearly state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” § 224.1.3. Under the proposed rules, a copyright claims attorney must review the claim or counterclaim for unsuitability on the grounds set out in 17 U.S.C. § 1506(f)(3). If the copyright claims attorney concludes that the claim should be dismissed as unsuitable under CASE he or she shall recommend that the CCB dismiss the claim and set forth the basis for that conclusion. The proposed rulemaking notes that the CCB wants to avoid hearing overbroad or clearly implausible claims.

The respondent will have 60 days to opt out after receiving notice of the claim, or it will lose the opportunity to have the dispute decided in a federal court. The proposed rulemaking prescribes that the initial notice form, provided by the CCB, be similar to a summons and would require the claimant to identify the nature (i.e., infringement, noninfringement or misrepresentation) of the claims being asserted. If the respondent does not respond or opt out within 20 days after the claimant files a proof or waiver of service, then the CCB will send a second notice to supplement the initial notice by mail and email. A respondent can opt out online, using a CCB form or by mail.

All comments to the proposed rulemaking must be received no later than October 29, 2021, 11:59 pm EDT.

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