COVID-19 has disrupted businesses and has wrought havoc with timelines and deadlines. Likely, it will continue to do so. Many government agencies, such as the IRS as we reported here, are reacting to COVID-19 by extending deadlines. For those with intellectual property-related deadlines in the near term, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) has recently made some policy changes in response to COVID-19.

Remote Appearances

While work goes on inside the USPTO, the building is closed to the public and any in-person business.  All previously scheduled meetings or hearings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) or Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) are to take place by video or teleconference.

Deadlines

With regard to deadlines to respond to USPTO actions, inquiries or other deadlines, those are set by statute and rule and the failure to timely respond to a deadline results in an abandonment of the underlying trademark or patent application or registration.


Continue Reading

The past ten years have seen amazing advances in technology and the next ten promise even more. How has the law kept up to ensure intellectual property rights are adequately protected and what are some major driving forces that will shape IP Law over the next decade.

2010-2020

  1. Globalization. With the rise of e-commerce and the Internet, falling borders and widening markets, businesses are now almost instantly global. No matter where a business is located, it must think beyond its borders and where its customers are and must take steps to protect their intellectual property across national boundaries. While only a select few businesses needed to worry about global IP protection during the 2000s, by 2020 the issue has become far more generally applicable. This has required businesses and their IP counsel to consider global issues at all phases of IP development and to devise appropriate global protection strategies.
  2. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA). This 2011 overhaul to the United States Patent Act altered the long-standing US rule that the “first to invent” had superior rights to a “first to file” rule. This significant change brought the US patent system in step with the majority global rule. The AIA implemented other changes in the patent system, but the “first to file” change was most significant and just one of several that updated an antiquated statutory regime.
  3. IP as a Business Asset. For decades, the value of a business was primarily represented by its tangible assets — property, equipment, inventories, etc. This has changed, however, and intangible assets, specifically intellectual property assets, now account for significant portions of business valuation. Indeed, according to the IP-oriented merchant bank Ocean Tomo over 84% of the value of the S&P 500 in 2015 was represented by intangible assets. Further, the USPTO has reported that in 2014, “IP intensive industries” accounted for approximately one third of US GDP. With intellectual property becoming such a major component of the value of a business and such a significant element in our national economy during the past decade, businesses have had to adapt and become much more proactive to protect those assets.
  4. Alice. In Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank International, the Supreme Court ruled that merely applying an abstract idea on a computer is not patent eligible. What this effectively meant was that computer software programs that simply took abstract ideas—like hedging currencies—and implemented those ideas electronically could not be protected by the patent laws. This led to invalidation of a significant number of software patents and made it extremely difficult for software designers to patent their software. Designers had to react by resulting to different means to protect their inventions. While very few software patents have been issued since Alice, courts are beginning to interpret the decision in ways that pave the way for at least some wider availability of patent protection for software.


Continue Reading

On June 21, 1788 the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It contains a clause in Article I, Section 8 providing that Congress shall have the power to

promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

This led to the Patent Act of 1790, signed into law by George Washington in April of that year. Since the founding, patent protection has been afforded to “new and useful” processes, machines, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter, ornamental designs and even plant strains. Patent protection provides inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing an invention throughout the United States without the inventor’s consent.


Continue Reading

BrexitBy a slim margin, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU) last week. Via the European Union Trademark System and the European Patent Convention a trademark or patent owner had the ability to secure protection across all EU member states by a single, unified registration. Of course, EU protection extended only to EU member states. So, with the UK on the way out of the EU, questions arise as to what protection will the owner of an EU right have in the UK once the BREXIT is complete? For companies that do business in Europe, this could have an impact on European Intellectual Property rights. Smart companies should start considering European options now.

Short Term

It will take at least two years for the UK to officially and fully withdraw from the EU. Until that time, all EU treaties and laws will continue to apply. So, for the near term, there does not appear to be any significant impact.

Long Term


Continue Reading

Audit checklist, with tick against "audit satisfactory",Businesses routinely conduct inventory audits to account for goods on hand, stocks of parts or components, equipment audits to account for machinery and its condition, and financial audits to locate and account for cash and business valuation. Businesses that do not conduct audits invariably run into problems.

Intellectual Property (“IP”) represents an asset class that businesses should regularly audit for a variety of reasons, including:
Continue Reading

7122084695_11f7a0566e_zKimble v. Marvel Enterprises involved a device that allowed its user to shoot “webs” a la Spider-Man. Kimble invented and obtained a patent for this web-shooting device and tried to sell or license that patent to Marvel Entertainment, the creator/owner of Spider-Man. Marvel declined, but ultimately came to market with its own “Web Blaster,” which similarly allowed its user to shoot webs a la Spider-Man. Kimble brought an action for patent infringement which was settled by Marvel purchasing Kimble’s patent for a lump sum plus a royalty on future sales of the “Web Blaster.” The agreement was open ended as there was no termination to the royalty payment.

Are Royalties Due After Patent Expires?

Kimble’s patent expired in 2010. Thereafter, Marvel brought a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination that it was no longer required to pay royalties on an expired patent. Marvel’s position was based on Brulotte v. Thys Co., 379 U.S. 29 (1964), where the Supreme Court held that a licensor is not entitled to patent royalties from a licensee after expiration of the licensed patent. The district court agreed with Marvel, finding no distinction between the fact that Brulotte involved a patent license agreement where the party receiving royalties retained ownership of the patent at issue and the Kimble/Marvel relationship where the party receiving royalties no longer owned the patent at issue. Thus, Brulotte controlled and no further royalties were required after expiration of the Kimble patent. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed reluctantly, agreeing that Brulotte was controlling precedent but felt that the decision was “counterintuitive.”

Decision


Continue Reading

Gavel iconContinuing with our series reporting on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, today we will decipher the impact of the second patent case, Commil v. Cisco, and the claim of “induced infringement.”

Belief in Patent Invalidity is not a Defense

The Commil v. Cisco decision involved the issue of what knowledge is required by a defendant in a claim of induced patent infringement. Briefly, a party can be liable for directly infringing the patent of another, where it utilizes patented matter of another without authorization, or by inducing a third party to infringe a patent of another. Induced infringement often involves situations where a party may simply provide the means to third-parties and their use of those means result in infringement of a patent.

Facts of the Case


Continue Reading

FlickrLess than five years after passing the America Invents Act (“AIA”), both the House and Senate have introduced bills to further reform the Patent Act, specifically in response to addressing the issue of abusive litigation by “patent trolls.” In the House, “The Innovation Act,” H.R. 9, was introduced in February, 2015. This bipartisan bill largely parallels legislation the House passed during the last Congress that ultimately died in the Senate. The House will likely pass this bill in the very near future, sending it again to the Senate. In the Senate, in May, 2015, the “Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship Act,” or PATENT Act, S. 1137, was introduced. This bill also has bipartisan support and was recently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Overall, both bills are quite similar as they both have the same general intent: to limit baseless, abusive litigation by trolls. However, there are some significant substantive differences between the bills in how this goal is reached. These differences focus primarily on the areas of fee shifting and recovery; pre-litigation demand letters by patent owners; claim construction during AIA review proceedings; and venue.

Loser Pays


Continue Reading

Patent managementUsually, the first thing an alleged patent infringer will receive is some kind of demand or cease and desist letter from a third-party ostensibly describing that party’s claims. The practical reality is that most patent infringement demand letters, especially by those considered “trolls,” are often vague, misleading and incomplete. While short on substance and detailed allegations of infringement, many of these letters will, however, contain claims for lump-sum payments or warn a party can avoid litigation by entering a license agreement. On July 1, 2015, the Patent Troll Prevention Act, F.S. 501.991, went into effect. The law is intended to address patent infringement demand letters and bad-faith patent litigation.

Demand Letters


Continue Reading

Teva_logoWhile the 2014-2015 U.S. Supreme Court term might be most remembered for the groundbreaking Obergefell v. Hodges decision, it can also be remembered for taking on six intellectual property cases, including two trademark cases. While the Court’s IP docket has grown in recent years, decisions touching on the subject are still fairly rare. Thus, when the Court takes an IP case, it is usually one that will carry significant impact. We will offer a brief summary of all the Court’s IP decisions, beginning with one of the patent cases, Teva Pharmaceuticals v. Sandoz.

New Standard of Review in Claim Construction

Teva Pharmaceuticals v. Sandoz involved a suit over alleged infringement of a patent relating to the manufacture of a multiple sclerosis drug and, in particular, the definition of the term “molecular weight” as it appeared in the patent claims. The language used in patent claims dictate the baseline scope of the patent holder’s rights and therefore a defendant’s putative infringement. Per the Supreme Court’s Markman v. Westview Instruments decision, patent claim construction is a legal issue to be determined by the Judge. As a legal issue, therefore, all district court determinations regarding claim construction were subject to de novo review in the Appellate Court – until Teva.
Continue Reading