The Federal Circuit rendered a decision in Novo Nordisk A/S v. Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Ltd. on June 18, 2013, finding that a Novo Nordisk diabetes treatment patent involving the combination of the drugs metformin and repaglinide was an obvious combination of known diabetes treatment drugs, despite certain factual findings of the combination’s unexpected results. Combination drugs, such as Novo Nordisk’s metformin-repaglinide treatment for diabetes, have been increasingly found to be effective for treating a variety of ailments, but their development is typically incredibly expensive and time-consuming. This Federal Circuit decision could adversely affect investment in developing combination drugs, which in turn would affect the availability of these often very effective treatments. The decision also highlights the deference (or lack thereof) given to patent examiner findings during prosecution.
Hiring patent agents—persons who do not hold a license to practice law but are licensed to practice in front of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)—can be an attractive alternative to more costly patent attorneys. Typically, patent agents can have all of the experience and skills necessary to prosecute patents at the USPTO, but often work at discounted rates in comparison to their attorney brethren. Thus, as companies continue to strive toward lean operation, patent agent hiring may increase. This practice, however, is not without risk. Notably, and as addressed in this article, attorney-client privilege may not attach to patent agent work, even when that work is solely related to representation at the USPTO.
Like everything else related to copyright in The Digital Millennium—which, let’s face it, we should start calling The Digital Eternity—the publishing concept of “out of print” (OOP) has been turned inside out (or maybe upside down, it is hard to say, maybe both).
In response to concerns about the stringency of unity of invention requirements, the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) released new examination guidelines on July 1, 2013, which expand the scope of claims that meet the unity of invention requirement and are therefore eligible for examination. The new guidelines provide for a less formalistic approach to assessing unity of invention and focus instead on the relation of a claim to the novel features of the invention. The guidelines will apply to applications filed on or after January 1, 2004, and will also affect examination of claims of an application filed on or after April 1, 2007, that have been amended in response to an Office Action.
While most of the changes resulting from the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) have been implemented, a few provisions that will save applicants money do not go into effect until January 1, 2014. These cost savings relate to post-issuance fees and electronically filed assignment fees for all patent applicants, and Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) patent applications for small entities and micro-entities. Patent applicants may want to consider delaying the payment of certain fees in order to take advantage of these cost savings. For example, patent applicants who can pay an issue fee for a utility patent on or after January 1, 2014 will save $1120 because the issue fee will be reduced from $1780 to $960 and the $300 publication fee will be eliminated. Small entities and micro-entities will also pay lower issue fees as of January 1, 2014, with the issue fee for small entities being $480 (previously $890) and the issue fee for micro-entities being $240 (previously $445). Further, any size applicant can electronically file an assignment on January 1, 2014 or later for free, rather than paying the current $40 fee. Finally, beginning January 1, 2014, certain PCT application fees, including transmittal and search fees, will be reduced for small and micro-entities. For example, while any applicant used to have to pay a search fee of $2080, small entities will only have to pay a search fee of $1040 and micro-entities will only have to pay a search fee of $520.
In June, the Federal Circuit decided Ultramercial, Inc. v. Hulu, LLC, where a three judge panel held that a claim for an internet and computer-based method was patent eligible subject matter. Chief Judge Rader authored the majority opinion, which provides valuable insight into his approach to patent eligible subject matter and highlights key factors considered for computer-implemented inventions. Judge Rader’s opinion makes clear that he views 35 U.S.C. § 101 as a “course filter” meant to provide only rare exceptions to patentable subject matter. Judge Rader’s analysis focused on the question of whether a claim is directed to a particular application of an idea (patentable) or the idea itself (not patentable). Despite this decision’s insight, questions remain regarding where the line is drawn between claiming an idea or an application thereof, and uncertainty still exists regarding the rest of the court, especially given the fractured nature of the recent CLS Bank Int’l v. Alice Corp. ruling.
Maximizing the protection and value of intellectual property assets is often the cornerstone of a business's success and even survival. In this blog, Nutter's Intellectual Property attorneys provide news updates and practical tips in patent portfolio development, IP litigation, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and licensing.