Key Takeaway: Key business considerations relevant for choosing between patents and trade secrets include: (1) Need for transfer of IP rights; (2) Life cycle of the product or service; (3) Cost of IP protection; and (4) Other business considerations.
Akin to the hype that surrounded the Internet during its early years in the 1990s, blockchain technologies and their associated cryptocurrencies have dominated the news cycle recently. Cryptocurrencies are a form of digital currency that use cryptography to enable financial transfers between two parties without an intermediary. By touting a new technology that could reshape the way transactions are performed, cryptocurrencies grew exponentially, attracting investors searching for “the next big thing.” The demand for cryptocurrencies has reached such a fever pitch in the past two years that cryptocurrency trading platforms have struggled to keep up with the demand for new accounts and trading services. Driven by media coverage of extravagant returns for investors in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple, among others, some of which have exhibited 100,000 percent or more annual growth in the last year alone, the cryptocurrency market, and the blockchain technologies by association, have received a tremendous amount of exposure for an industry that is still in its infancy. While the prevalence of the Internet and social media have greatly contributed to the explosive growth and popularity of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies, such growth so early in the lifecycle of a fledgling technology can have negative consequences, such as significantly impairing development despite an overwhelming number of new adopters entering the space daily.
In Part 1 of this post, I discussed various advantages of provisional patent applications, which are a growingly popular initial filing option for applicants seeking patent protection. These advantages include: establishing a filing date without starting the patent-term clock, obtaining additional time (e.g., to study the market, raise funds, etc.), delaying further costs associated with a regular application, delaying examination, and avoiding the need for immediate formalities, among others.
Yet, despite the numerous advantages of first filing provisional patent applications, there are also various disadvantages that companies and inventors should keep in mind when developing a patent filing strategy and deciding the role of provisional patent applications in that strategy. Some of these disadvantages are described below.
September 2017 marks the planned release of the first iteration of the eCommerce Modernization (eMod) Patent Center (“the Alpha Release”), as well as the introduction of new EFS-Web and PAIR features by the USPTO. Effective September 10, features of the recently concluded eMod Text Pilot Program will be rolled out to the public. EFS-Web and Private PAIR users will be able to file structured text via EFS-Web and access structured text submissions and Office Actions via Private PAIR. Additionally, the Alpha Release, which is the next phase of the USPTO’s eMod Project that seeks to improve “the electronic patent application process by modernizing USPTO’s application filing and viewing systems,” will be made available to Pilot Program enrollees. The Alpha Release will include a new user interface and introduce new functionality that the USPTO aims to roll into future iterations of the Patent Center.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit revisited the often unclear question of subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 in Visual Memory LLC. v. Nvidia Corp. In the 2-1 decision, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s determination that the claims at issue were directed to an abstract idea.
On June 12, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Oil States Energy Services LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC to decide whether the AIA (America Invents Act) patent review program for challenging the validity of issued patents is constitutional. Specifically, the Court will decide the question of “whether inter partes review – an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to analyze the validity of existing patents – violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury.”
Since 1995, the United States has allowed patent applicants to file provisional applications as an alternative to filing non-provisional utility patent applications (often referred to as “regular” or “conventional” applications). Provisional applications, which are typically less formal and therefore less expensive to prepare, have become a popular initial filing option for applicants seeking patent protection.1 Yet, despite their popularity, deciding whether to first file a provisional versus a regular, non-provisional application remains a dilemma for many companies and inventors. There is, indeed, more than just initial cost to consider in making that decision.
The following are several advantages you should keep in mind when developing your filing strategy and deciding the role to be played by provisional applications. Disadvantages of provisional applications will be covered in a separate, forthcoming post.
If you’ve filed for patents in any industry – be it biotech, high tech, manufacturing, or another sector altogether – you’ve likely been faced with a decision on whether to file a “continuation” application at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In simple terms, a “continuation” application is a new patent application allowing one to pursue additional claims based upon the same description and priority date(s) as a pending “parent” application. Continuation applications are a flexible tool, useful for furthering numerous business objectives.
Defendants in patent litigation frequently mount an invalidity defense under 35 U.S.C. § 101 by arguing that asserted claims are directed to abstract ideas, which are not eligible for patent protection under the first step of the Alice test. Often, these defendants fail to account for significant aspects of the asserted claims, resulting in an oversimplification that doesn’t accurately articulate what the claims are actually directed to. This was precisely the government’s error in Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States (Fed. Cir. 2017), where the Federal Circuit found, contrary to the government’s characterization of the claims (which the Claims Court adopted), the asserted claims were not directed to an abstract idea.
On February 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention qualifies as an infringing act under 35 USC §271(f)(1) of the U.S. Patent Act. In its decision in Life Technologies Corp. v. Promega Corp., the Court found that “a single component does not constitute a substantial portion of the components that can give rise to liability under §271(f)(1).” In doing so, the Court overturned the Federal Circuit’s prior holding that a single component could be sufficiently important to the invention to meet the criteria for being a “substantial portion.”
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.