Don’t Count on Avoiding a Redundancy Finding by Filing Multiple IPR Petitions

36457258_sFrom the very outset of inter partes review proceedings, the Board has helped to manage its docket by rejecting challenge grounds in petitions that are redundant to other grounds in the petition. See Liberty Mutual Ins. Co. v. Progressive Casualty Ins. Co., CBM2012-00003 (explaining vertical and horizontal redundancy). As a strategy to avoid this type of redundancy finding, Petitioners began to file multiple petitions directed to the same patent, hoping that by paying an extra $23,000+ filing fee, the Board would consider additional grounds against the same patent. That strategy is facing headwinds, however, as demonstrated in the case of LG Elec., Inc. v. ATI Techs., ULCIPR2015-00327, Paper 15 (Sept. 2, 2015) (denying request for rehearing). In that case, the Board (once again) denied a petition relying in part on 35 U.S.C. § 325(d), finding that the overlapping of arguments between two related petitions, and the institution of an IPR of the same claims in the related case, warranted a denial of the petition.

Of the reasons given by the Board for its decision, the one factor that might have tipped the Board’s decision in Petitioner’s favor relates to the purported overlap between the primary references cited in each of the two petitions at issue. If Petitioner had provided some rationale regarding why the primary references do not disclose substantially the same subject matter, the decision might have come out differently. And, of course, if the references really did disclose the same subject matter, a second petition was likely not necessary in the first place.

Regardless, a denial of a decision to institute is non-appealable, so this type of decision by the Board is, effectively, immune from challenge. 35 U.S.C. § 314(d).

PTAB Finds Copyright Notice is Inadmissible Hearsay – Denies Petition for IPR

6686163_sDifferent panels of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board have, for the most part, agreed with each other on many of the key issues that arise in inter partes review proceedings. There are, however, instances of disagreement and an example of this type of disagreement arose in ServiceNow, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard, Inc., IPR2015-00707, wherein this particular panel of PTAB judges decided that a copyright notice on a prior art reference did not suffice to establish that the reference was publicly available as of the date of the notice.

The prior art at issue included the date “July 2001” on their face and also included a copyright date of “2001.” The Board agreed with Patent Owner that the indications of the availability of the references is inadmissible hearsay to the extent Petitioner relies on the date for the truth of that information. Order at 16. Notable in the Board’s analysis was the fact that the references included a statement that restricted the use and dissemination of the references.

The Board noted that at least one other panel agreed that a copyright notice as evidence that a reference was a printed publication as of a particular date is inadmissible hearsay. Standard Innovation Corp. v. Lelo, Inc., IPR201400148, Paper 41, at 13-16. The Board also noted, however, that other panels have determined that a copyright notice is prima facie evidence of publication. Ford Motor Co. v. Cruise Control Techs. LLC, IPR2014-00291, Paper 44, at 7-8; FLIR Sys., Inc. v. Leak Surveys, Inc., IPR2014-00411, Paper 9, at 18-19.

Ultimately, on the basis of the facts mentioned above, the Board decided that Petitioner had failed to establish that the exhibits at issue were publicly available more than one year prior to the priority date of the patent-at-issue. Order at 17.

 

First One Gets Away from Bass-Backed Group

3119029_sMany in the pharmaceutical industry have been concerned about becoming a target of the Coalition for Affordable Drugs, the group backed by hedge fund manager Kyle Bass.  But yesterday the first target of Bass’s strategy, Acorda Therapeutics, scored a big win when the PTAB declined to institute review in the first two IPRs filed by Bass’s group.

In February Bass’s group filed IPR petitions against two Acorda patents, 8,007,826 and 8,663,685.  Both are listed in the Orange Book for Acorda’s Ampyra tablets used to treat walking difficulty in patients with MS; they are the last-expiring patents listed for that product.

The Board found that both petitions failed to established that the relied-upon art was in fact prior art.  In each IPR petition, the Coalition relied on two poster presentations, one from a conference in September/October 2001, and another from a conference in September 2002.  Each was before the priority date, but the Board agreed with Acorda that neither was established as a “printed publication.”  Because the Coalition did not show that the posters were distributed (rather than presented) or otherwise indexed, the Board considered the factors from In re Klopfenstein, 380 F.3d 1345, 1349 n.4 (Fed. Cir. 2004) to determine whether the presentations nonetheless qualified.  Those factors are:  [1] the length of time the display was exhibited, [2] the expertise of the target audience, [3] the existence (or lack thereof) of reasonable expectations that the material displayed would not be copied, and [4] the simplicity or ease with which the material displayed could have been copied.  According to the Board, the Petitioner failed to make a sufficient showing that these factors were met.

So, the first decisions in the Bass-filed applications did not succeed, but it may not matter. If the speculation is correct, the Coalition already made its money in the stock market.

Board Dismisses Petition for Failure Name All Real Parties-In-Interest

14409517_s (1)Patent Owners get frustrated when they believe a petition fails to identify all real parties-in-interest.  This is understandable, given the difficulties in obtaining additional discovery on the issue.  However, sometimes Patent Owners get that discovery, and when a Patent Owner does get the evidence it needs, it has a kill shot.  This is again reflected in Corning Optical Comm’ns RF, LLC v. PPC Broadband, Inc., IPRs2014-00440, -00441, and 00736.

There, the Board instituted review of three patents.  The petitions were filed less than a year after a lawsuit was service against Petitioner.  Patent Owner’s argument, though, was that the petition was not entitled to the original filing date because not all real parties-in-interest were named.  Rather, Patent Owner argued, a new filing date would be set only upon submission of updated mandatory notices.  Because the one-year deadline (from service of the complaint) had passed, that would mean that the petitions would be barred under § 315(b).

After institution, the Board authorized a motion for additional discovery directed to whether the Petitioner (Corning) should have identified its parent (Corning Inc.) and sister (Corning Optical Comm. LLC) companies.  The issue was whether those companies funded or controlled the IPRs.  The Board first addressed the issue of whether Patent Owner waited too long in raising the issue.  The Board decided that Patent Owner’s argument was timely, because Patent Owner only gained notice of the issue shortly before alerting the Board, based on discovery in an underlying ITC investigation.  As to the substance of the issue, the Board noted the highly fact-specific nature of the real-party-in-interest analysis.  Here, there was evidence of commingling between the three Corning entities, including because common employees of each were involved in the IPR and because Corning Inc. payed the attorneys’ fees.  As the result, the Board found that “Petitioner’s actions have blurred sufficiently the lines of corporate separation” with Corning NC, such that Corning NC ‘could have controlled the filing and participation of the IPRs.’ Zoll, Case IPR2013-00606, slip op. at 10 (Paper 13). Furthermore, we determine that evidence sufficiently establishes that Corning Inc. funded these IPR proceedings, and also exercised or could have exercised control over Petitioner’s  participation in these proceedings. Trial Practice Guide, 77 Fed. Reg. at 48,759–60; Atlanta Gas,  Case IPR2013-00453, slip op. at 8–9 (Paper 88).”

The Board then determined that the petitions could not be afforded their original filing date because of the failure to name all real parties-in-interest.  Because it was then a year past service of the complaint, any new filing date would result in a bar under § 315(b).  The Board thus dismissed the petitions.

PTAB Addresses Antecedent Basis Issues in IPR

34108250_sClaims that have terms lacking antecedent basis can present an opportunity for defendants in litigation, including creating a potential invalidity defense under 35 USC §112. It is interesting, therefore, to review the Board’s treatment of these issues in the context of an inter partes review, such as its decision to institute in Google Inc. v. At Home Bondholders’ Liquidating Trust, IPR2015-00662, involving US Patent No. 6,014,698.

In the Decision to Institute Trial, the Board dealt with two antecedent basis issues. In the first instance, the Board considered a claim limitation that required “said banner location signal,” where the claim from which it depended only referred to a “location signal.” Because a person of ordinary skill in the art would read the claim in view of the specification, and the language was similar, the Board concluded that the person of skill would understand “said banner location signal” to refer to the “location signal” of the parent claim.

A later claim in the patent presented a tougher issue for the Board, however. In that case, the dependent claim required that “said banner includes an advertisement.” The parent claims, however, did not recite a “banner” at all. Petitioner suggested that perhaps the claim contained a drafting flaw, and should have depended from a different claim altogether. Alternatively, Petitioner assumed that the “banner” limitation corresponded to the “second portion of information” recited in the parent claim.

The Board declined to adopt either interpretation of the claim, deciding instead that the claim was indefinite and not susceptible to interpretation. Regarding the theory that the claim contained a drafting error, the Board found no basis on which to interpret it to depend from a different claim. Regarding the alternative theory, the Board was not persuaded that a person of skill would have understood the “banner” to refer to the “second portion of information.” In contrast to the above example involving “location signal,” here the terms were substantially different and the Board was unwilling to assume that they corresponded.

Because the Board was unable to determine the scope of the claim, it denied the Petition relative to that claim.

PTAB Denies Challenged Grounds as Redundant in View of Grounds in Different Petition

37975151_sThe Board has a well-established reputation for denying grounds in a petition that are deemed redundant to other instituted grounds. In view of that reputation, Petitioners are adapting, seeking to file multiple petitions, putting grounds that might otherwise be deemed redundant into a separate petition in the hopes that they will be considered in that context. The Board, however, is not backing down, finding on occasion that grounds in one petition may be denied as redundant in view of grounds in a separate petition. That situation arose in CoreLogic, Inc. v. Boundary Solutions, Inc., IPR2015-00219, wherein the Board denied certain grounds in the IPR petition as redundant in view of grounds that were instituted in a completely separate IPR.

In coming to this conclusion, the Board remarked that “Petitioner makes no attempt to distinguish the grounds asserted against the claims of the ‘352 patent in this case from those asserted in [the co-pending IPRs].” Id. at 11. Further, the Board pointed out that instituting a trial in an IPR proceeding is permissive, in the discretion of the Patent Office. In short, because Petitioner did not show, and the Board was not convinced, that any additional obviousness grounds add substantively to the already-instituted grounds (albeit from a different petition), the Board denied certain grounds in the ‘219 proceeding.

As such, Petitioners are warned that the redundancy rejections from the Board may not be overcome simply by placing the additional grounds in a separate petition. Instead, Petitioners must be diligent to explain why each additional ground is necessary and adds substantively to the grounds before the Board, even over grounds presented in completely different petitions.

Board Denies Petition For Failure to Identify All Real Parties-In-Interest

12104019_sMany Patent Owners have attempted to divert IPR challenges by arguing that all real parties-in-interest were not identified in the Petition. Almost all of those efforts have failed. That is what makes Paramount Home Entertainment Inc., et al. v. Nissim Corporation, (IPR2014-000962) an interesting case because the Board dismissed the Petition because Petitioner’s parent company was not named as a real-party-in-interest (“RPI”), when it should have been.

The two parties at issue were Petitioner Paramount Home Entertainment and its parent company, Paramount Pictures Corporation. In its Patent Owner Preliminary Response, Patent Owner presented arguments and evidence that supported a conclusion that Paramount Pictures was an RPI, including that:

(1) Paramount Pictures was a co-plaintiff with its subsidiary (Petitioner) in a co-pending declaratory judgment (“DJ”) lawsuit relative to the patent-in-suit;

(2) Paramount Pictures and the Petitioner shared the same counsel in the pending DJ action;

(3) Petitioner was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Paramount Pictures and both parties were listed in the “Notice of Interested Parties” filed in the DJ action and, per Patent Owner, this demonstrates that Paramount Pictures has “total financial control” over the Petitioner;

(4) Paramount Pictures has exercised control over the dispute with Patent Owner since it arose, including that:

a) Paramount Pictures responded to Patent Owner’s license offer letter without referring Patent Owner to the subsidiary (Petitioner);

b) Paramount Pictures indicated that it engaged in numerous communications with Patent Owner;

c) Paramount Pictures referred to the counsel providing representation in this proceeding and multiple declaratory judgment actions (involving same group of parties as the instant petition) as “my counsel”; and

d) Paramount Pictures traveled to the office of Patent Owner’s attorney to view Patent Owner’s settlement agreement with a third party.  Decision at 8-9.

The Board also noted that Petitioner had not taken any action regarding issues relating to this proceeding independent from its parent company, Paramount Pictures.

Petitioner countered by arguing that the parent, Paramount Pictures, could not have hypothetically infringed the ‘547 and therefore was not a RPI. The Board rejected this argument, noting that standard for whether an entity is an RPI is whether the entity exercises control over a party’s participation in the proceeding, not whether the entity could have hypothetically infringed.  Id. at 10.  Petitioner also argued that Paramount Pictures is already estopped from filing further petitions for IPR under 35 U.S.C. § 315(a)(1).  The Board also rejected this argument, noting that Section 312(a)(2) requires identification of all RPIs, not only ones not estopped from filing petitions. Id. at 10.

Concluding its analysis, the Board determined that substantial evidence supported a conclusion that Paramount Pictures was an RPI. Because Paramount Pictures was an RPI not identified in the Petition, the Petition was deemed non-compliant under 35 U.S.C. § 315(a)(2) (requiring identification of all RPIs) and denied. Id. at 11.

Toward a Bullet-Proof Petition – Motivation to Combine

white puzzle with one piece missing, on blueWhile 8 out of 10 Petitions seeking inter partes review are granted by the PTAB, there remain several key errors that unsuccessful Petitioners make. Among them is the failure to provide sufficient factual basis for a rationale to combine prior art references in an obviousness analysis. That issue arose, in an unsuccessful petition, in Kinetic Technologies, Inc. v. Skyworks Solutions, Inc., IPR2014-00529, where the Board found Petitioner’s motivation to combine arguments inadequate. The case involved US Pat. No. 7,921,320, directed to a single wire serial interface that may be used to control stand-alone power integrated circuits and other devices.  Decision at 3.

Petitioner, in arguing obviousness of the challenged claims, asserted that combining to two prior art references was a matter of combining know elements to yield predictable results, among other conclusory remarks. Petitioner did list several similarities in the circuits of the two references, and provided expert testimony, but did not provide much in the way of details. Id. at 14.

As such, the Board was unpersuaded by Petitioner’s argument for motivation to combine. First, the Board gave little or no weight to the expert testimony, since it was virtually identical in content to the arguments presented in the petition, and lacked facts or data to support the opinion of the expert. Specifically, the Board criticized the expert declaration as filing to “expain the ‘how,’ ‘what,’ and ‘why’ of the proposed combination of references.” Id. at 15. To that end, the Board found that the expert did not explain how the references could be combined, or how such combination would yield a predictable result.  In the final criticism of the expert testimony, the Board noted that the expert failed to explain why the ordinary artisan would have combined elements from the two references in the specific way the ‘320 invention does.

Accordingly, the Board reminded Petitioner that there must be reasoning supporting combination of references in an obviousness challenge, and rejected Petitioner’s argument for motivation to combine references, stating that the argument lacked articulated reasoning with rational underpinning. Id. at 16. As such, the Board determined that Petitioner failed to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that it would prevail in establishing the challenged claims as unpatentable.

IPR Obviousness Challenge of Design Patent Denied

7981714_sThrough two years of inter partes review practice, only 8 petitions were filed that were directed to design patents (out of 1773 total petitions). Given this limited number of petitions, lessons are going to be difficult to learn regarding the treatment of design patents in IPR proceedings. As such, we take a look at a failed petition, filed in Dorman Products v. Paccar, IPR2014-00555, wherein the Board had to consider the differences between functionality, pursuant to 35 USC § 171 and obviousness, pursuant to 35 USC § 103.

In determining whether a design patent claim is obvious, the parties agreed that the focus should be on the visual impression of the claimed design, as a whole. Order at 4. That is where the parties agreement, however, ended. In the Petition, Petitioner argued that certain functional elements of the design should not be considered part of the design patent claim. Patent Owner disagreed, arguing that, whether or not the elements are functional, they must still be considered as part of the visual impression created by the design as a whole. Id. 

In explaining its rational, the Board stated an ornamental design for an article of manufacture may not be patented if the design is “primarily functional” rather than “primarily ornamental.”  Order at 4. Further, of course, a design patent must not be obvious, pursuant to §103. Id. The inquiry into functionality, however, is separate and distinct from the obviousness analysis. Id. at 5. As such, the allegedly functional elements of a design patent must be considered in an obviousness analysis of the visual impression created by the patented design as a whole. Id.

After deciding that the “functional” characteristics issue, the Board turned to the obviousness analysis, citing Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., 678 F.3d 1314, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2012), for the proposition that, in an obviousness challenge to a design patent, the ultimate inquiry is “whether the claimed design would have been obvious to a designer of ordinary skill who designs articles of the type involved.” Order at 6.

Primarily because the functional characteristics of the design claim were considered in the obviousness analysis, the Board concluded that Petitioner failed to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that a designer of ordinary skill would have viewed the primary prior art reference to give the same visual impression as the challenged design patent. Id. at 21. As such, the Petition was denied.

Pyrrhic Victory: IPR Petition Denied Because Claims Indefinite

14253925_sPatent Owner won a Pyrrhic victory in Facebook v. TLI Communications, IPR2014-00566, wherein the Board denied the Petition, but for a reason that calls into question the future viability of the patent-in-suit. Namely, the Board found that it could not construe the means-plus-function claim limitation at issue and, as such, the claim is indefinite and not amenable to construction.

More specifically, the Board sought to construe “means for allocating classification information” from the patent-at-issue. Order at 7. Petitioner stated that the specification did not disclose any algorithm for performing the allocating function. Id. at 10. Of course, a lack of sufficient disclosure of structure, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 112, ¶ 6, renders a claim indefinite, and thus not amendable to construction. Id. 13. The Board quoted the Federal Circuit on this point: “If a claim is indefinite, the claim, by definition, cannot be construed.” Enzo Biochem, Inc. v. Applera Corp., 599 F.3d 1325, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2010). Because the claims were not amenable to construction, the Board was unable to conclude that there is a reasonable likelihood that Petitioner would prevail in its challenge of claim and dependent claims therefrom, and Institution was denied. Paper 14 at 18.  As such, Patent Owner’s patent survives…for now.