“Capable of” Construction (Rather than “Configured to” Construction) Dooms Apparatus, but Not Method Claims

In Parkervision, Inc. v. Qualcomm Incorporated, [2017-2012, 2017-2013, 2017-2014, 2017-2074] (September 13, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s determination in related inter partes review proceedings, The certain apparatus claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,091,940, generally related to telecommunications devices,  were unpatentable as obvious under 35 U.S.C. § 103(a), and that certain method claims were not unpatentable.

The Federal Circuit rejected the argument that the Board erred by basing its
patentability decisions on theories and evidence regarding the phrase “plurality of harmonics” that Qualcomm did not present in its petitions.  The case came down to whether the claim language required the production of the “plurality of harmonics,” or simply the capability of producing the “plurality of harmonics” —  The Federal Circuit found the claim language merely required the capability of producing the plurality of harmonics, which was met by the prior art that was similarly capable.

The method claims presented a different story —  while Qualcomm was only required to identify a prior art reference that discloses an apparatus “capable of” performing
the recited functions to prove that the apparatus claims would have been obvious, more was required with respect to the method claims. Specifically, Qualcomm needed to present evidence and argument that a person of ordinary skill would have been motivated to operate the prior art in a manner that satisfied the “plurality of harmonics”
limitation, which Qualcomm failed to do.

Do Over — Different Evidence and Different Evidentiary Standard Allow IPR to Reach Different Conclusion of Validity than ITC

in Nobel Biocare Services AG v. Instradent USA, Inc., [2017-2256] (September 13, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s determination that claims 1-5 and 19 of U. S. Patent No. 8,714,977,directed to dental implants, were anticipated.

The undisputed critical date of the ‘977 patent was May 23, 2003, and Instradent alleged that the claims were anticipated by an ABT “Product Catalog” with the date
“March 2003” on the cover.  The ITC, applying a clear and convincing evidentiary standard, had previously determined that the claims were not anticipated, and the Federal Circuit affirmed.

Meanwhile, Instradent petitioned for IPR.  While the Board adopted the same claim construction as the ITC, and considered the same evidence presented to the ITC, the Board also considered new evidence not considered by the ITC, including the declarations and deposition testimony of Hantman and Chakir that the catalog was available to the industry in March 2003.  The Board determined that a preponderance of the evidence establishes that the ABT Catalog qualifies as a prior art printed publication under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b).

On appeal, the parties disputed whether the ABT Catalog qualifies
as a “printed publication” under § 102(b).  The Federal Circuit said that whether a reference qualifies as a “printed publication” is a legal conclusion based on underlying factual findings, including The parties dispute whether the ABT Catalog qualifies
as a “printed publication” under pre-AIA § 102(b). Whether a reference qualifies as a “printed publication” is a legal conclusion based on underlying factual findings, including whether a reference was publicly accessible. Public accessibility has been called the touchstone in determining whether a reference constitutes a “printed publication.”  A reference will be considered publicly accessible if it was disseminated or otherwise made available to the extent that persons interested and ordinarily skilled in the subject matter or art exercising reasonable diligence can locate it.

The Federal Circuit noted that it was not bound by its prior affirmance of the ITC’s holding that there was insufficient evidence to find pre-critical date public accessibility, observing that the evidentiary standard in IPRs, “preponderance of the evidence” is different from the higher standard applicable in ITC proceedings.  The Federal Circuit further noted that the Board also had more evidence on this issue than what was before the ITC.  Finally the Federal Circuit said that under the substantial evidence standard, the inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an administrative agency’s finding from being supported by substantial evidence.

The Federal Circuit agreed with Instradent that substantial evidence supported the Board’s finding that the ABT Catalog was publicly accessible prior to the critical date. The Board credited Chakir and Hantman’s testimony that Chakir obtained a copy of the ABT Catalog at the March 2003 IDS Conference and that Hantman retained that copy in
his records thereafter. Furthermore, Hantman’s declaration included excerpts of his copy of the ABT Catalog taken from his files. The Board found that Hantman’s copy of the ABT Catalog and the copy offered as prior art by Instradent in the IPR had identical pages except for some handwriting on the cover of Hantman’s copy.

The Federal Circuit noted that corroboration is required of any witness whose testimony alone is asserted to invalidate a patent, regardless of his or her level of interest.  Corroborating evidence may include documentary or testimonial evidence, and circumstantial evidence can be sufficient corroboration.  The Federal Circuit listed eight factors to be considered in evaluating corroboration:

(1) the relationship between the corroborating witness and the alleged prior user,
(2) the time period between the event and trial,
(3) the interest of the corroborating witness in the subject matter in suit,
(4) contradiction or impeachment of the witness’ testimony,
(5) the extent and details of the corroborating testimony,
(6) the witness’ familiarity with the subject matter of the patented invention and the prior use,
(7) probability that a prior use could occur considering the state of the art at the time,
(8) impact of the invention on the industry, and the commercial value of its practice.

Applying a “rule of reason” analysis to the corroboration requirement, which “involves an assessment of the totality of the circumstances including an evaluation of all pertinent evidence, the Federal Circuit held the corroboration to be sufficient, noting “there are no hard and fast rules as to what constitutes sufficient corroboration, and each case must be decided on its own facts.”

The Federal Circuit rejected the challenges to the claim construction, and affirmed the Board.

 

 

Change In Construction of Claims from Petition Required Board to Allow Petitioner to Respond

In Ericsson Inc. v. Intellectual Ventures I LLC, [2017-1521] (August 27, 2018), the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the PTAB did not consider portions of Ericsson’s Reply, and vacated and remanded the Final Written decision that claims 1–3, 6–9, and 12–14 of U.S. Patent No. 5,602,831 were not unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 103.

Under PTO regulations, the Board is entitled to strike arguments improperly raised for the first time in a reply. Such decisions related to compliance with the Board’s procedures are reviewed for an abuse of discretion.  An abuse of discretion is found if the decision: (1) is clearly unreasonable, arbitrary, or fanciful; (2) is based on an erroneous conclusion of law; (3) rests on clearly erroneous fact finding; or (4) involves a record that contains no evidence on which the Board could rationally base its decision.

Ericsson argued on pages 13 and 14 of its Reply that, given the admitted state of the art regarding interleaving disclosed in the patent at issue, the prior art’s teachings render obvious the claimed invention.  The Board characterized this portion of Ericsson’s Reply as raising a new theory of obviousness, one that was not addressed in the Petition or
responding to arguments raised in the Patent Owner Response, but the Federal Circuit disagreed, noting the portions of the Reply the Board declined to consider expressly follow from the contentions raised in the Petition.

The Federal Circuit found that the Board’s error was parsing Ericsson’s arguments
on reply with too fine of a filter. The error was exacerbated by the fact that the significance arose after the Petition was filed, in that the Board adopted a different
construction of the terms after the Petition instituting inter partes review was granted, and the issue was the essential basis of the Board’s decision in concluding that  the claim had not been shown unpatentable, Ericsson should have been given an opportunity to respond.  Undoubtedly, this was a special case in which Petitioner, Patent Owner, and the Board all initially applied the broadest reasonable interpretation claim construction standard (despite the fact that the patent had expired when it filed the petition), and only after institution applied Phillips instead. In light of these changed circumstances, the Board revisited its approach to the claims in light of this error, and Ericsson likewise deserved an opportunity to do the same.

The Federal Circuit said that its decision should not be viewed as changing or challenging the Board’s practice of limiting the scope of replies pursuant to its regulations; precedent supports the Board’s discretion to reject arguments raised for the first time in a reply.

What has been Served Cannot Be Unserved: §315(b) Time Bar Applies Even if the Suit is Subsequently Withdrawn

In Click-to-Call Technologies, LP v. Ingenio, Inc., [2015-1242] (August 16, 2018), the Federal Circuit concluded that the Board committed legal error in rendering its § 315(b) determination, and vacated the Board’s Final Written Decision and remanded with instructions to dismiss IPR2013-00312.

With respect to the § 315(b) issue, the Board acknowledged that Ingenio was served with a complaint alleging infringement of the ’836 patent on June 8, 2001.  The Board nonetheless concluded that Ingenio had not been served more than a year before the May 28, 2013, filing of the Petition because the Federal Circuit consistently has interpreted the effect of such dismissals as leaving the parties as though the action had never been brought.  The issue before the Federal Circuit was whether the Board
erred in interpreting the phrase “served with a complaint alleging infringement of [a] patent” recited in § 315(b) such that the voluntary dismissal without prejudice of the
civil action in which the complaint was served “does not trigger” the bar.

The Federal Circuit’s analysis began with the language of §315(b), noting that the plain and unambiguous language stated an IPR “may not be instituted if the petition
requesting the proceeding is filed more than 1 year after the date on which the petitioner, real party in interest, or privy of the petitioner is served with a complaint alleging infringement of the patent.  The Federal Circuit observed that the statute does not contain any exceptions or exemptions for complaints served in civil actions that are
subsequently dismissed, with or without prejudice. Further the statute does it contain any indication that the application of § 315(b) is subject to any subsequent act or ruling. Instead, the provision unambiguously precludes the Director from instituting an IPR if the petition seeking institution is filed more than one year after the petitioner, real party in interest, or privy of the petitioner “is served with a complaint” alleging patent infringement.  The Federal Circuit concluded: “Simply put, § 315(b)’s time bar is implicated once a party receives notice through official delivery of a complaint in a civil
action, irrespective of subsequent events.”

The Federal Circuit said that courts must avoid adding conditions to the applicability of a statute that do not appear in the provision’s text. The Federal Circuit noted that Congress specifically addressed the effect of a dismissal of an IPR petitioner’s district court action in § 315(a)(2), but did not include any similar language in § 315(b). Congress also demonstrated that it knew how to provide an exception to the time bar by
including a second sentence in the provision: “The time limitation set forth in the preceding sentence shall not apply to a request for joinder under subsection (c).” 35
U.S.C. § 315(b). Similarly, Congress could have chosen to include a variation of the phrase “unless the action in which the complaint was served was later dismissed
without prejudice,” but it did not do so. The Federal Circuit rejected the Board’s effort to graft this additional language into § 315(b).

The Federal Circuit further said that the legislative history of § 315(b) further supports the understanding that its time bar concerns only the date on which the complaint was formally served.

Considering Chevron deference, the Federal Circuit found that the text of the statute answers the question — § 315(b) clearly and unmistakably considers only the date
on which the petitioner, its privy, or a real party in interest was properly served with a complaint — there is no need to  proceed to Chevron’s second step.

The Federal Circuit rejected the Board’s interpretation of the text of § 315(b) for failing to recognize the statute was agnostic as to the “effect” of the service—i.e., what events
transpired after the defendant was served.

The Federal Circuit also rejected the Petitioner’s arguments that, because the claims of
the ’836 patent were materially changed during a subsequent ex parte reexamination, neither they nor any other entity was served with a complaint alleging infringement
of this patent more than one year before the IPR petition was filed.  The Federal Circuit pointing out that unlike reissue, reexamination does not result in the surrender of the original patent and the issuance of a new patent.

The Federal Circuit also rejected the Petitioner’s argument that some of the petitioners were not barred, noting four entities declared themselves as “the Petitioner” in their sole IPR petition, and certified that each was a “real party in interest.” The Federal Circuit said that under these circumstances, under current law, Petitioners are properly treated as an undifferentiated unit that filed an untimely petition.”

You Can’t Sidestep Nonappealability of Institution Decisions with Mandamus

In re: Power Integrations, Inc., [2018-144, 2018-145, 2018-146, 2018-147] (August 16, 2018), the Federal Circuit denied Power Integrations, Inc. petitions for writs of mandamus, challenging . The petitions challenge the decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board denying the institution of inter partes review of claims from three patents owned by Semiconductor Components Industries, LLC.

The Federal Circuit noted that the statute prohibits appeals of Board decisions not to institute, and said that Power Integrations was seeking to obtain review of the non-institution decisions through petitions for mandamus covering all four of the Board’s orders. However, a writ of mandamus is not intended to be simply an alternative means of obtaining appellate relief, particularly where relief by appeal has been specifically prohibited by Congress.  To obtain the remedy of mandamus, a party must show that its right to issuance of the writ is “clear and indisputable,” and that there are no adequate alternative legal channels through which it may obtain that relief. Moreover, “even if the first two prerequisites have been met, the issuing court, in the exercise of its discretion,
must be satisfied that the writ is appropriate under the circumstances.”

The Federal Circuit held that mandamus does not lie in this case, both because Power Integration has not shown a clear and indisputable right to issuance of the writ and because relief by way of mandamus would not be appropriate here. The statutory prohibition on appeals from decisions not to institute inter partes review cannot be sidestepped simply by styling the request for review as a petition for mandamus.

While Power Integration complained the Board did not explain itself well enough, the Federal Circuit said that Power Integration understands perfectly well what the Board did, but it regards the Board’s actions as legally and factually incorrect, and it seeks this
court’s intervention to overturn the Board’s decisions not to institute inter partes review. The Federal Circuit found what Power Integration ultimately wants is not just to be given a more complete explanation of the Board’s action, but for the Federal Circuit to review that decision on the merits.  The Federal Circuit said that the essence of Power Integration’s claim— that the Board’s analysis “is premised on an incorrect legal standard or a misapplication of that standard”—is nothing more than a challenge to the Board’s conclusion that the information presented in the petitions did not warrant review.

A disappointed petitioner cannot by-pass the statutory bar on appellate review simply by directing its challenge to asserted procedural irregularities rather than to the substance of the non-institution ruling.  This is not to say that mandamus will never lie in response to action by the agency relating to the noninstitution of inter partes review. The circumstances described by the Supreme Court in Cuozzo as illustrations of issues for which an appeal might be justified (e.g., constitutional issues, issues involving questions outside the scope of section 314(d), and actions by the agency beyond its statutory limits) would be potential candidates for mandamus review as well.  However this case involved no issues extraneous to the application of patent law principles of unpatentability based on printed publications, nor does it involve any “shenanigans” on the part of the Board that might justify appellate review or review by mandamus.

Federal Circuit Vacates Another IPR as Time-Barred

Luminara Worldwide, LLC v. Iancu, [2017-1629, 2017-1631, 2017-1633] (August 16, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s invalidation of claims of two of Luminara’s patent, and as to the third, it vacated the Final Written Decision, and remanding for dismissal of that IPR, because of the section §315(b) time-bar.

In instituting the IPR, the Board rejected the argument was untimely under §315(b) because the first action had been voluntarily dismissed without prejudice.  Because the section 315(b) time-bar applies when the underlying complaint alleging infringement has
been voluntarily dismissed without prejudice, the Federal Circuit said the Board erred in instituting the IPR challenging the ’319 patent, vacating the Board’s final written decision as to the ’319 IPR and remand for dismissal of that IPR.

As to the obviousness in the other two IPRs, the Federal Circuit found that these were supported by substantial evidence.

Distribution of Catalogs at a Tradeshow Was Accessible with Reasonable Diligence, and was a Printed Publication under 102(b)

In GoPro, Inc. v. Contour IP Holding LLC, [2017-1894, 2017-1936] (July 27, 2018), the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the PTAB’s decisions in IPR2015-01078 and IPR2015-01080 that U.S. Patent Nos. 8,890,954 and 8,896,694 relating to action sport video cameras or camcorders that are configured for remote image acquisition control and viewing.

The focus of the appeal was whether a Go Pro catalog, which disclosed a digital camera linked to a wireless viewfinder/controller that allows for a user preview before recording, was prior art.  While the PTAB considered the catalog to be prior art in its decision instituting the IPRs, Contour argued that the catalog was not a printed publication, and the PTAB agreed,  finding that that the GoPro had not shown that its Catalog was disseminated or otherwise made available to the extent that persons interested and ordinarily skilled in the subject matter or art and exercising reasonable diligence could have located it.

The Board found all the evidence presented by GoPro credible, but explained that GoPro did not provide evidence that the dealer show was advertised or announced to the public, such that a person interested and ordinarily skilled in the art from the public would have known about
it.  The Board found that a person of ordinary skill in the art would not be interested in the show where the catalogs were distributed because it was not an academic conference or camera industry conference, but
rather a dealer show for action sports vehicles like motorcycles,  motorbikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, and watercraft.

The Federal Circuit disagreed, saying that the case law regarding accessibility is not as narrow as the Board interpreted it. The Board focused on only one of several factors that are relevant to determining
public accessibility in the context of materials distributed at conferences or meetings, but cited no case where the Federal Circuit held that the the expertise of the target audience was dispositive.

The Federal Circuit said that the fact that the dealer show was focused on action sports vehicles was not preclusive of persons ordinarily skilled in the art from attending to see what POV digital cameras were being advertised and displayed. The Federal Circuit noted that a primary purpose of POV cameras is for use on vehicles in extreme action environments, such as the ones advertised at the show.  The Federal Circuit further noted that the The vendor list provided by Go Pro listed a number of vendors who likely sell, produce and/or have a professional interest in digital video cameras, and that the show was directed to action sports vehicles and accessories (emphasis in original).

The Federal Circuit said that the standard for public accessibility is one of “reasonable diligence” to locate the information by “interested members of the relevant public.”  A dealer show focused on extreme sports vehicles is an obvious forum for POV action sports cameras.  The Federal Circuit concluded that GoPro met its burden to show that its catalog is a printed publication under §102(b).  The Federal Circuit vacated vacate the Board’s decision that claims 1–20 of the
’694 patent and claims 1, 2, and 11–30 of the ’954 patent were not unpatentable and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Tribal Immunity Does Not Save Allegan’s Patents from IPR

In Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc., [2018-1638, 2018-1639, 2018-1640, 2018-1641, 2018-1642, 2018-1643] (July 20, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s denial of the Tribe’s motion to terminate on the basis of sovereign immunity.

In an attempt to shelter its patents from IPR attack, Allegan assigned them to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, who Allergan hoped could assert sovereign immunity to post grant challenges.

The Tribe argued that tribal sovereign immunity applies in IPR under FMC, because like the proceeding in FMC, an IPR is a contested, adjudicatory proceeding between private parties in which the petitioner, not the USPTO, defines the contours of the proceeding. Mylan argued that sovereign immunity does not apply to IPR proceedings because they are more like a traditional agency action — the Board is not adjudicating claims between parties but instead is reconsidering a grant of a government franchise. Mylan further argued that even if the Tribe
could otherwise assert sovereign immunity, its use here is an impermissible attempt to “market an exception” from the law and non-Indian companies have no legitimate interest in renting tribal immunity to circumvent the law.  Finally, Mylan argued that the assignment to the Tribe was a sham, and the Tribe waived sovereign immunity by suing on the patents.

The Federal Circuit said that an IPR is neither clearly a judicial proceeding instituted by a private party nor clearly an enforcement action brought by the federal government, noting that in Oil States the Supreme Court said IPR is “simply a reconsideration of” the
PTO’s original grant of a public franchise.

Ultimately, several factors convinced the Federal Circuit that IPR is more like an agency enforcement action than a civil suit brought by a private party, and and thus tribal immunity is not implicated. First, although the Director’s discretion in how he conducts IPR is significantly constrained, he possesses broad discretion in deciding whether
to institute review.  Although this is only one decision, it embraces the entirety of the proceeding. If the Director decides to institute, review occurs. If the Director decides not to institute, for whatever reason, there is no review. In making this decision, the Director has complete discretion to decide not to institute review. The Director bears the political responsibility of determining which cases should proceed. While he has the authority not to institute review on the merits of the petition, he could deny review for other reasons such as administrative
efficiency or based on a party’s status as a sovereign.  Therefore, if IPR proceeds on patents owned by a tribe, it is because a politically accountable, federal official has authorized the institution of
that proceeding.  In this way, IPR is more like cases in which an agency chooses whether to institute a proceeding on information supplied by a private party. According to FMC, immunity would not apply in such a proceeding.

The Federal Circuit added that the role of the parties in IPR suggests immunity does not apply in these proceedings. Once an IPR has been initiated, the Board may choose to continue review even if the petitioner chooses not to participate, which reinforces the view that IPR is an act by the agency in reconsidering its own grant of a public franchise.

The Federal Circuit also pointed out that although there are certain
similarities with the FRCP, the differences are substantial.  Further a patent owner can seek to amend its patent claims during the proceedings, an option not available in civil litigation.

Finally, while the USPTO has the authority to conduct reexamination proceedings that are more inquisitorial and less adjudicatory than IPR, this does not mean that IPR is thus necessarily a proceeding in which Congress contemplated tribal immunity to apply.  The mere existence of more inquisitorial proceedings in which immunity does not apply does not mean that immunity applies in a different type of proceeding
before the same agency.

Because it concluded that tribal sovereign immunity cannot be asserted in IPR, the Federal Circuit did not reach the parties’ other arguments.

Adidas and Nike Race Back to PTAB to Address Non-Instituted Grounds

In Adidas AG v. Nike, Inc., [2018-1180, 2018-1181] (July 2, 2018), the Federal Circuit granted Adidas’ motion to remand the appeal back to the PTAB to consider the non-instituted grounds in Adidas’ Petitions for inter partes review against Nike’s U.S. Patent Nos. 7,814,598 and  8,266,749.

The PTAB’s final written decision found that Nike’s patent were not unpatentable on the instituted grounds, but did not reach a second, non-instituted grounds.  After the Supreme Court’s decision in SAS, Adidas promptly moved to remand for the Board to consider the non-instituted ground.  The Federal Circuit agreed, as it had in several other cases, that remand was appropriate without first deciding the appeal of the claims and grounds already before it.

No-Harm, No-Foul: Board Denies Sanctions Where Patent Owner Suffered No Harm from Alleged Cross Examination Overreach

In Apple Inc. v. California Institute of Technology, IPR2017-00297, Paper 66, (June 29, 2018), the PTAB, en route to finding claims 19-21 of U.S. Patent No. 7,916,781 invalid, also denied the Patent Owner’s Motion for Sanctions.  Patent Owner’s Motion (Paper 40) complained that “[d][uring cross-examination of Caltech’s witnesses, Dr.
Mitzenmacher and Dr. Divsalar, Petitioner repeatedly failed to stay within the
proper scope” which “violated numerous Board rules and orders, and was an abuse of the discovery process.” The Patent Owner noted that the cross examination of Dr. Divsalar’s 16-page declaration generated over 280 pages, and a wide range of topics.  In sign of excellent witness preparation, “Dr. Divsalar reminded counsel over 100 times that questions were being directed to subject matter not discussed in his declaration.”  Patent Owner had similar, but not as extensive complaints about the cross examination of Dr. Mitzenmacher, who was Patent Owner’s primary witness and submitted four declarations.

The Board during a conference call, indicated that “a typical remedy is to give no weight to such improperly elicited testimony,” but Patent Owner correctly pointed out in its motion that without further sanctions, “future parties will not be deterred from flouting the Board’s rules when the only risk is not gaining an advantage.”

In its Final Written Decision, the Board found that sanctions were not warranted because petitioner’s attempts to elicit testimony “while inartful” did not rise to the level of sanctionable conduct because they were reasonably related to the direct testimony. Ultimately, the Board adopted a no-harm, no-foul policy, finding sanctions unwarranted because patent owner suffered no harm.