Happy 209th Birthday President Lincoln

February 12 is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which not that long ago warranted its own holiday.  Abraham Lincoln is the only president to earn a patent — U.S. Patent No. 6469 on Buoying Vessels of Shoals:

Lincoln was also the author of one of the pithier quotes about the patent system, : “added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery and production of new and useful things.”

However this was not Lincoln’s only brush with the patent system, and he has been celebrated in several patents that are worth dusting off on his 209th Birthday:

U.S. Patent No. D2983 protects this sculpture of Abraham Lincoln with General Grant and Secretary Stanton:

U.S. Patent No. 9403 protects an embroidery pattern featuring Lincoln:

U.S. Patent No. 22304 protects this spoon design featuring Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, and his tomb:

U.S. Patent No. D12634 protects the design of this drinking vessel, on which Lincoln shares the limelight with Garfield, the second president to be assassinated:

Anda Your Patent is Not Infringed

In Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC, [2017-1560] (February 9, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court, finding that it did not abuse its discretion in denying Merck’s request for additional samples and a new trial, that it did not err in finding that Merck failed to demonstrate that Amneal’s ANDA product, which formed the basis for the district court’s noninfringement finding, was not representative of Amneal’s final commercial product, and that district court did not clearly err in finding that three Raman peaks were required to prove infringement.

On the denial of additional discovery issue, the Federal Circuit reviews a district court’s denial of additional discovery under regional circuit law, and the Third Circuit will not disturb a denial of additional discovery
absent an abuse of discretion and “a showing of actual and substantial prejudice.  The Federal Circuit found the question “a close one.” The Federal Circuit noted that Amneal’s failure to abide by the standing discovery order resulted in a trial situation that was “less than ideal.”  However the Federal Circuit concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the additional discovery, noting that the district court took adequate steps to ensure that proceeding with trial would not prejudice Merck.

The Federal Circuit said that the ultimate determination of infringement is a question of fact, which is reviewed for  clear error. The Federal Circuit rejected Merck’s argument that the district court improperly determined infringement of an intermediate product, rather than the final product, as imposing a heightened evidentiary standard in ANDA cases not supported by case law.  The Federal Circuit said that regardless of the type of sample (e.g., commercial or batch), the critical inquiry is
whether it is representative of what is likely to be approved and marketed.

Finally, the Federal Circuit discerne no clear error in the district court’s
fact-finding of noninfringement.  The district court found Amneal’s expert
evidence “at least as consistent and credible” as Merck’s expert and concluded that Merck failed to prove infringement by preponderant evidence.  Amneal’s expert testified that although a single peak can be used at times, three Raman peaks are typically used to absolutely confirm the presence of molecules in complex mixtures like MFM. Because the noninfringement finding was supported by this evidence in the record, the Federal Circuit concluded that the district court did not clearly err in its noninfringement finding.

Board’s Obvious Analysis Improperly Relied Upon Hindsight

In Polaris Industries, Inc. v, Arctic Cat, Inc., [2016-1807, 2016-2280] (February 9, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the PTAB’s determination in an IPR that claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,596,405 were invalid, and affirmed the PTAB’s determination is a separate IPR that the claims of the same patent were not invalid.

After being sued for infringing claims of the ’405 patent, Arctic Cat filed two petitions for inter partes review, challenging the patentability of claims 1–38 as obvious in view of combinations of certain prior
art references, including Denney, Furuhashi, and Hickey.  In one petition, Arctic Cat argued that all relevant claims were obvious in view of the combination of Denney and Furuhashi, and in the other that all of the claims were obvious in view of Hickey and at least one other reference.

Polaris attacked the invalidation of the claims on three grounds: First, that the Board’s obvious analysis was predicated on an improper claim
construction or was too cursory. Second, that the Board relied on impermissible hindsight in combining the prior art, failing to articulate a valid motivation to combine these references and applying a “subjective preferences” analysis that finds no basis in this court’s precedents. Third, it contends that the Board erred in rejecting the undisputed evidence that Polaris introduced regarding the commercial success.

On the first grounds, the Federal Circuit rejected Polaris’ claim construction, noting that claims are given their broadest reasonable interpretation, and finding Polaris’ construction too restrictive.  Regarding Polaris’ argument about the cursory nature of the Board’s analysis, the Federal Circuit noted that although the Board’s reasoning could have been more thorough, it did not find fault in the Board’s arguably limited treatment of Polaris’s arguments where the Board’s treatment “was at least commensurate with Polaris’s presentation of this issue.

On the issue of hindsight, the Federal Circuit agreed with Polaris, the Board failed to analyze whether the prior art taught away from the claim limitations.  The Federal Circuit noted that the Board said that “one of ordinary skill has the ability to weigh the various benefits  and disadvantages based on subjective preferences in an analysis largely unrelated to obviousness,” and said that it has never articulated a framework for analyzing whether claims would have been obvious that includes the phrase “subjective preference” or that permits a tribunal
to wholly disregard the significance of prior art teachings based on such a characterization.  The Federal Circuit identified three problems with the Board’s “subjective preference” analysis: First, by completely disregarding certain teachings as ill defined “subjective preferences,” the Board’s approach invited the “distortion caused by hindsight bias” into the fold.  The Federal Circuit also noted that the Board improperly focused on what a skilled artisan would have been able to do, rather than what a skilled artisan would have been motivated to do at the time of the
invention.  Finally, the Federal Circuit found that the Board’s analysis encourages the fact-finder to outright discard evidence relevant both to “teaching away” and to whether skilled artisans would have been
motivated to combine references.

Finally, the Federal Circuit agreed that the Board erred when it declined to accord substantive weight to the Polaris’ undisputed evidence that its product is the invention disclosed in certain claims because it characterized the Polaris’ evidence as “conclusory,” noting that Artic Cat presented no contrary evidence.  The Federal Circuit said that the Board must assess the import of this evidence after presuming
that a nexus between the claims and the commercial success exists, unless and until that presumption is adequately rebutted.



Walker Process Monopolization Claim Does not Depend upon Resolution of a Substantial Question of Federal Patent Law

In Xitronix Corp. v. Kla-Tehcor Corp., [2016-2746] (February 9, 2018), the Federal Circuit transferred an appeal of a Walker Process claim to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which has appellate jurisdiction over cases from the District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Xitronix raised a Walker Process monopolization claim under § 2 of the Sherman Act and §§ 4 and 6 of the Clayton Act based on the alleged fraudulent prosecution of a patent.

Xitronix asserted that the Federal Circuit had jurisdiction over the appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1), and KLA-Tencor did not dispute this assertion, but the Federal did.  The Federal Circuit said the question is whether the monopolization allegation necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal patent law, in that patent law is a necessary element of one of the well-pleaded claims.  Applying the well-pleaded complaint rule, in light of the Supreme Court’s guidance and rationale in Gunn, the Federal Circuit held that monopolization does not depend upon resolution of a substantial question of federal patent law.

The Federal Circuit said that there is nothing unique to patent law about allegations of false statements.  While a determination of the alleged misrepresentations to the PTO will almost certainly require some application of patent law, but consistency with the federal question jurisdiction statute requires more than mere resolution of a patent issue in a “case within a case.”  Something more is required to raise a substantial issue of patent law sufficient to invoke our jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1).

The underlying patent issue in this case, while important to the parties and necessary for resolution of the claims, does not present a substantial issue of patent law.  The Federal Circuit noted that patent claims will not be invalidated or revived based on the result of this case. Because Federal Circuit law applies to substantive questions involving its exclusive jurisdiction, the fact that at least some Walker Process claims may be appealed to the regional circuits will not undermine its uniform body of patent law.  The Federal Circuit noted that the fact that its law applies to Walker Process claims does not mean that it has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals of such claims.


Process Limitations are Presumed to Impart Structural Limitations, Even Where it is not Clear What those Limitations Are

In In re Nordt Development Co., LLC, [2017-1445] (February 8, 2018), the Federal Circuit rejected the Board’s claim construction of “injection
molded” as a process limitation with no patentable weight, vacated the Board’s finding of anticipation, and remanded.

The application was directed to an elastic knee brace.   The claims required “an injection molded strut component and injection molded first and second arm components” and “an elastically stretchable framework
injection molded about the strut and arm components of the hinge mechanism.”  The Examiner rejected the claims over as anticipated, and the Board affirmed, after finding that the applicant did not persuasively explain what structural limitation is imparted by “injection molded.”

The Federal Circuit said that when considering the patentability
of product claims that contain process limitations, claim scope is generally based on the product itself, not the process. The Federal Circuit noted that If the process limitation connotes specific structure and may be considered a structural limitation, however, that structure should be considered.

Nordt argued that the Board erred in presuming that “injection molded” was a product-by-process limitation, and the Federal Circuit agreed, stating that in presuming “injection molded” to be a process limitation, the Board confounded two somewhat distinct inquiries—the first being whether “injection molded” is a process or structural limitation, the second being the precise meaning of the limitation if structural.

As to the first inquiry, the Federal Circuit found that “injection molded”
connotes structure. Although the application describes “injection molded” as a process of manufacture, neither the Board nor the examiner disputed Nordt’s assertion that “there are clear structural differences” between a knee brace made with fabric components and a knee brace made with injection-molded components.  The Federal Circuit examined the specification and concluded that, at a minimum, the specification demonstrates that “injection molded” connotes an integral

The Federal Circuit also noted that a default rule that where words of limitation that can connote with equal force a structural characteristic
of the product or a process of manufacture, they are commonly
and by default interpreted in their structural sense, unless the patentee has demonstrated otherwise.  The Federal Circuit then cited numerous examples where such limitations to convey structure even when they also describe a process of manufacture.  The Federal Circuit that not only does the specification itself convey a structural meaning to “injection molded,” but the applicant has repeatedly represented that it does.

Acknowledging that Nordt failed to persuasively or precisely explain
what structural limitation is imparted by “injection molded,” the Federal Circuit nonetheless said that the failure to identify that structure,
does not affect the conclusion, as the structural nature of “injection molded” can be gleaned from the plain claim language and the specification itself.

The Federal Circuit remanded so that the Board could construe the “injection molded” limitation, noting that the specification supports an interpretation that requires an integral structure, and saying it is up to the Board to determine whether this claim language requires any additional structure.


Incorporation by Reference (May Have) Saved the Day

In Paice LLC v. Ford Motor Company, [2017-1387, 2017-1388, 2017-1390, 2017-1457, 2017-1458, 2017-1406](February 1, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded Final Written decisions of the PTAB in six IPR’s involving U.S. Patent Nos. 7,237,634 and 8,214,097.  In particular, the Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s obviousness determinations as they relate to the ’634 patent’s “electrical” claims and remanded for the Board to determine whether those claims find written description support in the priority applications and the references incorporated therein, but otherwise affirmed the Board’s obviousness determinations as to all other claims.

Paice raised two principal arguments on appeal — first that the prior art did not disclose the claim limitations, and second that one of the references was not prior art to the claims.  The Federal Circuit made quick work of the first argument, finding that the Board correctly determined that the reference met the claim limitation.  However, Paice’s second argument met with more success.  Paice argued that one of the references, the ’455 PCT publication, was not prior art to some of the electrical claims because they claim priority to an application (U.S. Patent Application No.
09/264,817)  that predates the ’455 PCT publication.

The Federal Circuit noted that the priority date for later-added patent claims depends
on when the claimed subject matter first appeared in the chain of patent applications from which the claims arose.  The Federal Circuit said that for claims to be entitled
to a priority date of an earlier-filed application, the application must provide adequate written description support for the later-claimed limitations.  Paice argued that the application incorporated by reference a prior application that provided the requisite written description support.  The Board disagreed, holding that the application did not adequately incorporate the prior application, and that the claim limitations lack written description support in the prior application.

The Federal Circuit said that incorporation by reference provides a method for integrating material from various documents into a host document by citing such material in a manner that makes clear that the material is effectively part of the
host document as if it were explicitly contained therein.  The Federal Circuit said that to incorporate material by reference, the host document must identify with detailed
particularity what specific material it incorporates and clearly indicate where that material is found in the cited document, which the Federal Circuit found Paice did with this language:

This application discloses a number of improvements over and enhancements to the hybrid vehicles disclosed in the inventor’s U.S. Pat. No. 5,343,970 (the “’970 patent”) [Severinsky], which is incorporated herein by this reference. Where differences are not mentioned, it is to be understood that the specifics of the vehicle design shown in the ’970 patent are applicable to the vehicles shown herein as well.

The Federal Circuit rejected the Board’s interpretation of the last sentence of incorporation phrase limited the scope of the incorporation.  The Federal Circuit said this sentence had no bearing on the extent of incorporation, finding that it only refers to the applicability of certain features of the disclosure, instructing that: “The applicability of a document’s disclosed features and the incorporation of the document itself are distinct
concepts, and one does not imply the other.”

However this did not end the saga for Paice.  The Federal Circuit said that to prevail on its argument that the ’455 PCT publication is not prior art to the claims, Paice must show that its ’817 application, with the incorporated material, provides sufficient written description support for those claims.  Because the Board improperly excluded the incorporated material, the Federal Circuit remanded the case for an initial Board determination.

Second and Third Bites at the Apple; Subsequent IPR Losses undo IPR Win

In Maxlinear, Inc. v. CF Crespe LLC, [2017-1039] (January 25, 2018), the Federal Circuit we vacated and remanded the PTAB’s determination that dependent claims were not unpatentable  in view of the Federal Circuit’s intervening affirmance of a second IPR that claims 1 and 17 unpatentable.

The case involved U.S. Patent No. 7,075,585 on a broadband television signal
receiver for receiving multi-standard analog television signals, digital television signals and data channels.  The Board found the only two independent claims 1 and 17 were not shown to be unpatentable, and thus did not reach the patentability of the dependent claims.

The Federal Circuit held that the two IPR’s that found claims 1 and 17 unpatentable, were binding “as a matter of collateral estoppel” in this case.  The fact that the other IPR’s became final while this case was pending on appeal is irrelevant.  The preclusive effect of the prior adjudications, and subsequent affirmations, has finally resolved the issue of the unpatentability of independent claims 1 and 17 and dependent claim 20 in this proceeding. Thus, the sole
remaining question at issue is whether the dependent claims 4, 6-9, and 21, not addressed in the earlier IPRs, are unpatentable.

Since the patentability of claims 1 and 17 was the sole basis for the Board’s decision in this IPR, and the Board had not separately addressed the dependent claims, the Federal Circuit set aside the decision as to the dependent claims and remanded for further consideration.


Computer Interface Was Not an Abstract Idea

In Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Electronics, Inc., [2016-2684, 2017-1922](January 25, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of summary judgment that claims 8 and 9 of U.S. Patent No. 8,713,476 and claims 11 and 13 of U.S. Patent No. 8,434,020 are directed to patent ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101; (2) the denial of JMOL that Blanchard anticipates the asserted claims under 35 U.S.C. § 102; and (3) the denial of JMOL that the claims are not infringed.

The  patents disclose improved display interfaces, particularly for electronic devices with small screens like mobile telephones, which allow a user to more quickly access desired data stored in, and functions of applications included in, the electronic devices.  Claim 1 was representative of the claims of the ‘476 patent:

1. A computing device comprising a display screen, the computing device being configured to display on the screen a menu listing one or more applications, and additionally being configured to display on the screen an application summary
that can be reached directly from the menu, wherein the application summary displays a limited list of data offered within the one or more applications, each of the data in the list being selectable to launch the respective application and enable the selected data to be seen within the respective application, and wherein the application summary is displayed while the one or more applications are in an un-launched state.

LG moved for summary judgment of invalidity of the asserted claims under 35 U.S.C. § 101, which the court denied, finding that crediting LG’s characterization of the claims as directed to “displaying an application summary window while the application is in an unlaunched state,” the concepts of “application,” “summary window,” and “unlaunched state” are specific to devices like computers and cell phones, and explaining that LG identified no analog to these concepts outside the context of such devices, and further alternatively finding claim 1 patent eligible at least because it passes the machine-or-transformation test.

The Federal Circuit conducted the Alice two-step analysis, noting that at step one it must “articulate what the claims are directed to with enough specificity to ensure the step one inquiry is meaningful.  The Federal Circuit pointed out the difficulty inherent in delineating the contours of an abstract idea, and observing that all inventions at some level embody, use, reflect, rest upon, or apply laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas.” The Federal Circuit also considered whether the claims are directed to a specific improvement in the capabilities of computing devices, or, instead, a process that qualifies as an abstract idea for which computers are invoked merely as a

The Federal Circuit asserted claims in this case are directed to an improved user interface for computing devices, not to the abstract idea of an index, as argued by LG. Although the generic idea of summarizing information certainly existed prior to the invention, these claims are directed to a particular manner of summarizing and
presenting information in electronic devices.   The Federal Circuit disclosed invention improves the efficiency of using the electronic device by bringing together a limited
list of common functions and commonly accessed stored data ,” which can be accessed directly from the main menu. The Federal Circuit found that the this language clearly indicates that the claims are directed to an improvement in the functioning of
computers, particularly those with small screens.  Referring to the language of the specification, the Federal Circuit found that it the claims were directed to an improvement in the functioning of computers, particularly those with small screens.

Having determined that the claims were not directed to an abstract idea, the Federal Circuit did not reach the second part of the Alice test.

On the anticipation issue, the Federal Circuit found that LG failed to carry its burden to show the claims anticipated.  On the infringement issue, the Federal Circuit found that because the claim language, specification, and prosecution
history all support the district court’s construction, that this construction was correct. Further, the Federal Circuit found substantial evidence supports the jury’s verdict of infringement based. While LG argued no reasonable
jury could find the accused devices satisfy this claims the Federal Circuit disagreed.

Posted in 101

Drag things out? Disclaimer creates estoppel.

In Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., [2017-1239] (January 24, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s entry of an adverse judgment pursuant to 37 C.F.R. § 42.73(b) in an IPR, after patent owner Arthrex disclaimed all claims that were the subject of the petition, despite Arthrex’s express request that no adverse judgment be entered.

After first considering and concluding that the adverse judgment was appealable, the Federal Circuit then considered whether the entry of adverse judgment was proper.  Although Arthrex specifically stated that it was not requesting an adverse judgment, the Federal Circuit found that the application of the rule on its face does not turn on the patentee’s characterization of its own request.  The rule gives the Board authority to construe a patent owner’s actions as a request for an adverse judgment, suggesting the Board’s characterization of the action rather than the patent owner’s characterization is

The Federal Circuit held that 37 C.F.R. § 42.73(b) permits the Board to enter an adverse judgment when a patent owner cancels all claims at issue after an IPR petition has been filed, but before an institution decision.

How this affects Arthrex remains to be seen.  The Federal Circuit noted that at  the time of the adverse judgment, Arthrex had two pending continuation
patent applications that the estoppel provision would impact, and that those two applications have since issued as patents. However, Arthrex recently filed another continuation application, which remains in prosecution and therefore is
affected by the adverse judgment.  The Federal Circuit is indicating that the current prosecution is complicated by the adverse judgment, although it did not comment on the effect on the patents that issued from the applications that were pending at the time of the adverse judgment.

The estoppel provisions prevent a patentee “from taking action inconsistent
with the adverse judgment, including obtaining in any patent . . . [a] claim that is not patentably distinct from a finally refused or canceled claim.”  The estoppel provision prevents a patent owner from obtaining a patent on a pending application, but does it also prevent a patent owner from defending a claim an issued patent?  If not, then Arthrex erred by doing the right thing and disclaiming unpatentable claims; instead it should have dragged out the proceedings while rushing to get its pending applications to issue.


A C-I-P Application is not Entitled to the Section 121 Safe Harbor from Double Patenting; and Cannot Retroactively be Turned into a Divisional Application

In In re: Janssen Biotech, Inc., [2017-1257] (January 23, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the rejection during reexamination of claims 1-7 of U.S. Patent No. 6,284,471 for obviousness-type double patenting.

The doctrine of obviousness-type double patenting is intended to prevent the extension of the term of a patent by prohibiting the issuance of the claims of a second patent that are not patentably distinct from the claims of the first patent.  Janssen argued that obviousness-type double patenting is not applicable because the safe-harbor provision of 35 U.S.C. § 121 protects the ’471 patent claims, so double-patenting turned on whether §121 applied, which in turn depended upon an interpretation of the prosecution history of the ’471 patent and that patent’s relationship to application to its parent application.

In that prosecution history, Janssen filed an application and received a 5-way restriction requirement with Group I drawn to antibodies, pharmaceutical compositions, and assay methods, and Group IV drawn to methods for treating an animal.  Rather responding to the restriction, Janssen expressly abandoned that application and filed two continuation-in-part application, one of which resulted in the patent under reexamination.

During reexamination, the Board found no reason to permit Janssen by amendment, to acquire the benefit of the safe harbor when Janssen  voluntarily and deliberately filed a continuation-in-part application with claims directed to subject matter absent from the parent application and outside the scope of its restriction.  Applying the one-way test for double patenting because it found that there were at least four instances where Janssen’s actions constituted deliberate and unnecessary actions that lengthened the prosecution time of the application.

The Federal Circuit agreed that the §121 safe harbor, by its literal terms, protects only divisional applications (or the original application) and patents issued on such applications.  Accordingly, the Federal Circuit said that patents issued on CIP applications or continuation applications are not within the scope of §121. The Federal Circuit said that its precedent was clear: aside from the original application and the original patent, the protection afforded by §121 is limited to divisional applications and patents issued on divisional applications.

Further, the Federal Circuit said that a patent owner cannot retroactively bring its challenged patent within the scope of the safe-harbor provision by amendment in a reexamination proceeding.