Guest Contributors


Katie Merriman

MicroSurgical Decision Reiterates PTAB’s ‘Wide Net’ Approach to Transition Applications Under the AIA

Posted 2 months ago

March 16, 2013 marked a watershed date in the practice of patent law as the effective date of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA). Per Section 3 of the AIA, patent applications having an effective filing date prior to the effective date of the AIA are subject to first-to-invent/ pre-AIA law, whereas applications claiming an effective filing date after the effective date of the AIA are subject to the first inventor-to-file provisions of the AIA, including post grant administrative challenges introduced as part of the AIA. Not surprisingly, there were a number of patent applications filed that bridged the March 16, 2013 AIA effective date. These so-called “transition applications” were filed after March 16, 2013 but claimed priority to an application filed before March 16, 2013. These applications would not be subject to the provisions of the AIA unless the application contained a claim that did not properly find support in the pre-AIA priority document(s). The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is taking aim at these transitional applications, and patents issuing therefrom, by casting a wide net with respect to eligibility under the AIA and closing apparent loopholes such that patent owners cannot reverse a finding that a patent is subject to AIA law, even if all of the claims of said patent are entitled to a pre-March 16, 2013 priority date.

Jennifer Lee Taylor

Curbing Cannabis Copycats: How to Protect Your Brand’s Reputation as Marijuana Companies Try to Make Their Mark

Posted 2 months ago

To capture attention in the crowded new field of cannabis-related goods and services, many companies are using other companies’ brands to promote their goods and services, including puns in the edibles space. Not surprisingly, brand owners are responding with lawsuits, alleging trademark infringement, dilution, and unfair competition among other claims. The focus of these lawsuits is generally quick injunctive relief to stop harm to the brand, rather than damages. This makes sense because of the uncertainty of collecting from companies who do not rely on the traditional finance services industry. But injunctive relief is not guaranteed without demonstrating the four preliminary injunction factors: (1) likelihood of success on the merits, (2) likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) the balance of equities, and (4) the public interest. This article focuses on the first two of these factors.

Bruce Gjovig

Government Must Reform the ITC to Keep Pace with Innovation and Curb Trolls

Posted 2 months ago

In 2001, six years before the iPhone appeared, a futurist named Ray Kurzweil wrote that humankind would cram 20,000 years of technological progress into the century that had just begun. There were skeptics, but today any of the world’s six billion smartphone subscribers can read his essay on their devices practically any time, any place they choose. As we move into an era of Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum computing, and 5G telecommunications that supports Kurzweil’s vision, we must make sure that our laws and federal agencies match the pace of invention and protect innovators from trolls who would game the legal system and government functions for their ill-gained profit. 

Mike Jones

What is a ‘Patent Waiver’ Anyway? Zooming Out on the TRIPS COVID IP Waiver Debate

Posted 2 months ago

Scientists, engineers, and everyday people have developed solutions for testing, preventing, and treating the COVID-19 disease. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t think twice about granting patents on these inventions. But, today, when COVID-19 is spreading all over the world and killing millions of people, some world leaders are questioning whether we should be granting the exclusionary rights of patent protection on inventions that help respond to the pandemic. Included in that group is the Biden-Harris Administration, which, in May, announced their support of an “IP waiver” on COVID 19 vaccines. 

Mario C. Cerilles, Jr.

Indigenizing the Intellectual Property System

Posted 2 months ago

On August 9, we once again observe the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Traditionally, international organizations take advantage of this time to promote the contributions of indigenous peoples across the globe. However, the day also presents an opportunity for States and international organizations to reflect on collective efforts to protect and preserve the culture and heritage of our indigenous communities. There are many threats to the rich cultures of our indigenous populations. These threats have remained widely unresolved despite the fact that indigenous peoples make up around 370-500 million of the world population. Included in these overlooked issues is the lack of protection given to the intellectual property (IP) of indigenous peoples. It is high time that we push for more accessible, effective, and durable protective measures for indigenous creations.

Tomi Herold

Humanizing Technology: Back to Basics on DABUS and AI as Inventors

Posted 2 months ago

With South Africa’s patent office having recently granted the first patent to an AI inventor, and an Australian court ruling in favor of AI inventorship, it’s time to review how we got here—and where we’re going. The number of artificial intelligence (AI) patent applications received annually by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grew from 30,000 in 2002 to more than 60,000 in 2018. Further, the USPTO has issued thousands of inventions that utilize AI. According to a 2020 study titled “AI Trends Based on the Patents Granted by the USPTO”, the total number of AI-related patents granted by the USPTO per year increased from 4,598 in 2008 to 20,639 in 2018. If AI-related patent applications and grants are on the uptick, what was the problem with DABUS?

Gau Bodepudi

We Have to Believe: Keeping an Open Mind on AI is Vital to the Future of Our Patent System

Posted 2 months ago

In response to articles on implementing AI into our patent system, and specifically to the suggestion that we should consider developing AI to replace some aspects of human decision making in the patent space, we have received a number of comments and even objections to the idea. A common objection: it is likely impossible and impractical for us to advance AI to the point where it can make reliable subjective decisions (e.g., infringement and obviousness), let alone reliably replace human decision making. At the outset, we challenge the presumption of this argument.  

Joseph Allen

Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole with the Foes of Bayh-Dole

Posted 2 months ago

Sensing an opening after the Biden Administration’s recent Executive Order put a hold on a pending regulation prohibiting the misuse of the march-in rights provision of the Bayh-Dole Act for price control, Congressional opponents of the law dusted off a ploy that failed in the Obama Administration to try their luck again. They’ve written to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra urging them to march in to control prices of drugs created from inventions arising from R&D their agencies supported. We likened that aspect of the Executive Order to shooting ourselves in the foot, and it seemed as though it would be a while before we would know if the Administration would pull the trigger or not. With the recent Congressional actions, the day of reckoning may not be far off.

Kelli Ovies

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee: The Gold Standard for Trademark Protection

Posted 2 months ago

Few events capture the attention of the world like the Olympic Games. Around the globe and across the country, people tune in nightly to watch their nation’s athletes compete for a spot on the medal stand. But behind the breathtaking gymnastics performances and thrilling swimming races is some of the most valuable intellectual property in sports. And the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC)—the organizing body in charge of the nation’s Olympic efforts—is just as serious about defending its trademarks as it is about bringing home the gold.

Bruce Berman

Investor Group Buys Half of Prince’s Tightly Controlled but Intellectual Property-Attractive Estate

Posted 2 months ago

With the value of his music catalogue still subject to an ongoing dispute between the trust managing his estate and the IRS, Prince, who died in 2016, has a new partner. Primary Wave, whose catalog includes songs by Nirvana, Bob Marley, Ray Charles and Smokey Robinson, has taken a roughly 50% stake in Prince’s estate, buying out the interests of three of the late musician’s siblings. Primary Wave is said to have $1.6 billion in investible assets. A highly creative and successful writer, producer and performer, Prince was also a savvy IP strategist, who sought to control his work, name and image. He was a fierce defender of his intellectual property rights, and was involved in a series of legal actions against businesses and individuals using his music and other IP without his authorization. He also railed against his record company, which sought to assert ownership rights over his catalogue and name.

Shoshana Marvin

Has Ex Parte Sauerberg Gutted the Patent Act’s Safe Harbor Provision?

Posted 2 months ago

This article concerns the impact of Ex Parte Sauerberg, a 2017 Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) decision, on the safe harbor provision of 35 U.S.C. § 121.  We address whether Sauerberg is consistent with Federal Circuit law and decades of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) practice, and discuss implications for practitioners. Section 121 is designed to address potential unfairness that may arise from the interplay of two common aspects of patent prosecution practice.

Kirk Hartung

How J.E.M. and Chakrabarty Make the Case for DABUS

Posted 2 months ago

Twenty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that plants could be protected with utility patents. J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc., v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. 534 U.S. 124 (2001). Forty-one years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that living organisms were patentable. Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (19080). Before these landmark cases, plants and living matter were not protectable with patents. The rationale of the Supreme Court in J.E.M. and Chakrabarty supports patent protection for inventions by non-humans, i.e., artificial intelligence inventors.

Sanjeev Mahanta, Ph.D., J.D.

Teaching Away, Commercial Success, and Blocking Patent Doctrines All Under the CAFC Spotlight

Posted 2 months ago

In The Chemours Company FC, LLC v. Daikin Industries, Ltd., Nos. 2020-1289, 2020-1290 (Fed. Cir. July 22, 2021) (“Chemours v. Daikin”), the Federal Circuit clarified three doctrines involved in the determination of obviousness: teaching away, commercial success, and blocking patents. While all three panel judges agreed that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) misapplied the commercial success and blocking patents doctrines, they disagreed as to the Board’s application of the teaching away doctrine. In contrast to the Board, the majority found evidence of teaching away in the prior art. But Judge Dyk, dissenting, found no such evidence and called the majority’s determination an impermissible expansion of the doctrine that now encompassed a reference’s mere preference for a particular alternative.

James Edwards

A Closer, Evidence-Based Look at ‘Patent Quality’ Advocacy

Posted 2 months ago

The Patent Infringer Lobby has ramped up banging the drum about “patent quality.” They dedicated a week-long campaign to questioning “patent quality,” which its constituents regard as a huge problem. Advocates have taken advantage of the vacuum left after U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Andrei Iancu left the building. Anti-patent advocates are exploiting the new dynamic of Senator Patrick Leahy, coauthor of the America Invents Act (AIA), who now chairs the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee. Leahy recently did the Infringer Lobby the favor of holding a hearing on this subject.

Jonathan Stroud

Patent Filings Roundup: Mystery NPEs File New Suits on Old IV Assets; PTAB Discretionarily Denies 14; Causam Enterprises Launches Major Campaign

Posted 2 months ago

In a relatively subdued week, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board) saw 35 challenges and the district courts 53 new patent filings. Those challenges included a slew against Centripetal Networks and Stratosaudio patents, as well as a number of memory authentication district court campaigns launched, including one major new non-practicing entity (NPE) suit by Causam Enterprises against Ecobee, Itron, Residio, and Alarm.com for patents related to power consumption.