reduction to practice
Subscribe to reduction to practice's Posts

Uncle Sam Can March In: Government Licenses Under Bayh-Dole Aren’t Subject to “Strict Timing Requirements”

In an appeal from the US Court of Federal Claims, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a determination that 35 U.S.C. § 202(c)(4), a provision of the Bayh-Dole Act, operates to provide a license to the government for federally funded research based on work that occurred prior to the effective date of a funding agreement. University of South Fl. Board of Trustees v. United States, Case No. 22-2248 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 9, 2024) (Reyna, Taranto, Stoll, JJ.)

University of South Florida (USF) owns a now-expired patent directed to transgenic mice expressing a certain gene causing an accelerated pathology for Alzheimer’s disease. The patent’s subject matter was conceived while the two named inventors worked at USF, but both inventors transitioned their work to the Mayo Clinic prior to the first actual reduction to practice of the claimed invention. The mice remained at USF, under the care of USF professors, while the named inventors continued to oversee the project from Mayo. The first actual reduction to practice occurred while the inventors were at Mayo.

While the named inventors were still at USF, one inventor submitted a grant application to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH awarded the inventors (while they were still at USF) a grant covering the mouse project. After the inventors moved to Mayo but prior to the award grant, the designated grantee changed from USF to Mayo. In November 1997, Mayo and USF entered into a subcontract whereby Mayo would pay USF for grant-covered work occurring at USF.

USF sued the United States alleging infringement of the mouse patent by a third party with the government’s authorization and consent. The third party was producing and using mice covered by the patent for the government. The US asserted a license defense under the Bayh-Dole Act, which gives the government a license to practice certain federally funded inventions. The Claims Court granted judgment to the US under its license defense, determining that USF operated pursuant to an implied contract with Mayo based on the understanding that Mayo would use funding from the NIH grant to pay USF for work done there. The Claims Court therefore determined that USF was a contactor with an implied subcontract that was a funding agreement under Bayh-Dole. Since the invention was therefore invented by a government contractor operating under a funding agreement, it was a “subject invention” that was first actually reduced to practice under a government contract. Therefore, under Bayh-Dole, the government was entitled to a license. USF appealed, arguing that the invention was not a “subject invention” within the meaning of § 202(c)(4) of Bayh-Dole.

USF argued that to trigger § 202(c)(4), a funding agreement must be in place at the time of the relevant work and there was no implied agreement in April 1997, the time the work that led to the reduction to practice commenced. The Federal Circuit determined that the November 1997 subcontract was adequate to support entitlement to claim a government license under § [...]

Continue Reading

read more

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 [...]

Continue Reading

read more