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PTAB May Reject Substitute Claims Under Any Basis of Patentability

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit considered for the first time whether a district court’s invalidity determination, when made final after all appeals are exhausted, divests the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of jurisdiction in a co-pending inter partes review (IPR) proceeding involving the same claims, and held that it does not. The Court also held that in an IPR proceeding, the PTAB is free to reject proposed substitute claims for failing to meet the subject matter eligibility requirements of § 101. Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Hulu, LLC, Case No. 19-1686 (Fed. Cir. July 22, 2020) (Wallach, J.) (Dyk, J., dissenting). Hulu filed an IPR petition challenging claims of Uniloc’s patent directed to adjustable software licensing for digital products. After the PTAB instituted review, Uniloc filed a motion for substitute claims, conditional on whether the PTAB found the original claims unpatentable. Before the PTAB issued its final determination and...

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Delicate Balance: Details of Parallel Proceeding Tip Scales for Discretionary Denial

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) designated two decisions informative as they relate to weighing factors for determining how a parallel district court proceeding may impact the Board’s determination of whether to discretionarily deny institution under § 314(a). In Apple Inc. v. Fintiv, Inc., Case No. IPR2020-00019, Paper 15 (USPTO May 13, 2020) (Horner, APJ) (designated informative on July 13, 2020), the Board had previously requested supplemental briefing in a pre-institution order in this case (itself now designated by the Board as precedential) regarding six factors for weighing the impact of the parallel district court proceeding on whether to discretionarily deny institution. As to factor (1), whether the district court action is stayed or evidence exists that a stay may be issued, the Board weighed this factor as neutral because neither party had requested a stay and the district court had given no indication as to whether it would entertain a...

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Joined Parties Have Rights Too

In vacating an unpatentability decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the rights of a joined party to an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding applies to the entirety of the proceedings and includes the right of appeal. Fitbit, Inc. v. Valencell, Inc., Case No. 19-1048 (Fed. Cir. July 8, 2020) (Newman, J.). Apple petitioned the Board for IPR of certain claims of a patent owned by Valencell. The Board granted the petition in part, instituting review of certain claims and denying review of other claims. After institution of the Apple IPR, Fitbit filed an IPR petition for the instituted claims and moved for joinder with Apple’s IPR. The Board granted Fitbit’s petition, granted the motion for joinder and terminated Fitbit’s separate proceeding. After the Apple/Fitbit IPR hearing, but before any Final Written Decision was issued, the Supreme Court decided SAS Institute v. Iancu (IP Update,...

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Stick to Your Guns: PTAB Should Rarely Issue New Grounds of Unpatentability

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) issued a precedential opinion in an inter partes review (IPR) to resolve two questions: May the PTAB raise a ground of unpatentability not developed by the petitioner? If it does so, must the PTAB provide the parties notice and an opportunity to respond to the new ground of unpatentability? Hunting Titan, Inc. v. DynaEnergetics Europe GmbH, Case No. IPR2018-00600 (USPTO July 6, 2020) (Boalick, CAPJ) (granting request for POP rehearing). The POP held that while the PTAB may raise new grounds of unpatentability, it should refrain from doing so except in rare instances. If it does raise new grounds of unpatentability, the PTAB must provide the parties notice and an opportunity to respond to the new grounds. Titan filed a petition requesting IPR of a patent owned by DynaEnergetics directed to a perforating gun assembly for wellbore tools. One of the grounds alleged anticipation by a prior...

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Reliance on Common Sense Permitted in Obviousness Analysis

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a final written decision from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) finding patent claims directed to aircraft lavatories obvious based on prior art because a skilled artisan would have used common sense to incorporate a missing limitation into the prior art. B/E Aerospace, Inc. v. C&D Zodiac, Inc., Case Nos. 19-1935, -1936 (Fed. Cir. June 26, 2020) (Reyna, J.). C&D Zodiac sought inter partes review of two patents owned by B/E Aerospace relating to space-saving technologies for aircraft lavatory enclosures. The challenged claims recited a “first recess” and a “second recess” associated with a lavatory unit. The PTAB found that the challenged claims were obvious over several prior art patents under separate “traditional” and “common sense” approaches. The PTAB based its traditional approach on Zodiac’s arguments and expert testimony. The PTAB’s common sense approach relied on the prior art in...

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Lights Out for Light-Up Shoe Patent, Thanks to Non-Limiting Preamble

Finding that a patent’s preamble was not limiting and the patent owner’s secondary considerations of non-obviousness were weak, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a finding of obviousness by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Shoes By Firebug LLC v. Stride Rite Children’s Grp., LLC, Case Nos. 19-1622, -1623 (Fed. Cir. June 25, 2020) (Lourie, J.). Stride Rite filed two inter partes review petitions challenging the patentability of two of Firebug’s patents directed to illuminated footwear. The patents describe footwear with light sources imbedded between multiple layers of upper portions of the footwear. The PTAB found the challenged claims unpatentable as obvious in view of the prior art references, concluding that the preambles of both Firebug patents did not limit the claims and Firebug’s evidence of secondary considerations of non-obviousness did not offset the disclosure of the references. Firebug appealed Firebug asserted that...

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“Seams” Like Activity Giving Rise to Infringement Risk Supports Appellate Jurisdiction

Adding to its body of jurisprudence on standing to challenge an adverse final written opinion in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found a petitioner had constitutional standing to appeal where it showed it engaged in activity that would give rise to a possible infringement suit. Adidas AG v. Nike, Inc., Case Nos. 19-1787; -1788 (Fed. Cir. June 25, 2020) (Newman, J.). Nike owns two patents which are generally directed to methods of manufacturing an article of footwear with a textile upper and which cover Nike’s Flyknit product. Five months after Nike announced Flyknit, Adidas announced a similar product that it called Primeknit. Adidas filed petitions for IPR challenging Nike’s patents. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) found that Adidas had not demonstrated the challenged claims as unpatentable. Adidas appealed. On appeal, Nike challenged appellate jurisdiction, claiming Adidas had not suffered an...

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USPTO Proposes New Rules for Post-Grant Proceedings

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) proposed changes to the rules of practice for instituting review on all challenged claims or none in inter partes review (IPR), post-grant review (PGR) and the transitional program for covered business method patents (CBM) proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in accordance with the 2018 Supreme Court decision in SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu, IP Update, Vol. 21, No. 5 (SAS). Additionally, the USPTO proposed changes to the rules to conform to the current standard practice of providing sur-replies to principal briefs and providing that a Patent Owner response and reply may respond to a decision on institution. The USPTO further proposed a change to eliminate the presumption that a genuine issue of material fact created by the Patent Owner’s testimonial evidence filed with a preliminary response will be viewed in the light most favorable to the petitioner for purposes of deciding whether...

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Arthrex Extended to Inter Partes Re-examination

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied a petition for panel rehearing regarding the constitutionality of decisions issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), holding that its decision in Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc. (IP Update, Vol. 22, No. 11) also applies to final decisions issued by administrative patent judges (APJs) in inter partes re-examinations. Virnetx v. Cisco Systems, Inc., Case No. 19-1671 (Fed. Cir. May 13, 2020) (O'Malley, J.). The Court also denied (per curiam) a concurrently filed petition for rehearing en banc. Arthrex had addressed—in the context of inter partes review (IPR) proceedings—whether APJs had been appointed unconstitutionally by the director of the USPTO, where the director did not have unfettered discretion to remove an APJ. As a result, the Federal Circuit partially invalidated the statutory removal protections of the America Invents Act...

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“Waive” Goodbye to Belated Argument that Administrative Patent Judges’ Appointment is Unconstitutional

Addressing whether a party can waive a challenge to the constitutionality of Administrative Patent Judges' (APJs’) appointment, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the issue is non-jurisdictional and therefore waivable. Ciena Corp. v. Oyster Optics, LLC, Case No. 19-2117 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 28, 2020) (O’Malley, J.) (reissued as precedential May 5, 2020). Oyster filed an infringement action against Ciena in district court. In response, Ciena filed an inter partes review (IPR) petition challenging the asserted claims of Oyster's patent. In May 2018, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) instituted review on Ciena's Petition, and Ciena moved for and received a stay of the district court action pending resolution of the IPR proceeding. Ultimately, the PTAB issued a final written decision finding that Ciena had failed to demonstrate that any of the challenged claims was unpatentable. Ciena appealed. Shortly after Ciena filed its appeal, the...

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