The importance of patent term, or the period of time during which the exclusive nature of a patent is in effect, cannot be overstated. The patent term for an issued patent, which is currently set at 20 years from the filing date of the earliest U.S. non-provisional application, can drive business and investment strategies, dictate allocation of technological resources, and impact financial valuations.
Decisions by the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit over the past decade have wrestled with the question that 35 U.S.C. §101 was intended to answer: What is eligible for patent protection? The text of §101 says a patent can be granted for “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” Though this text has changed very little since it was first written in 1793, the courts have established a number of judicially created exceptions, and exceptions to those exceptions. This has created a growing difficulty and uncertainty in applying §101 to modern technologies, especially those implemented by computer systems.
Bob Dylan famously sang that “[y]ou don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” and we don’t need a weatherman to tell us that the wind now blows differently at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). On January 7, 2019, the USPTO released revised subject matter eligibility examination guidance (“Guidance”), foreshadowed by USPTO Director Iancu last fall. The Guidance is noteworthy both for raising the bar in examination procedure and, we think, for signaling the Office’s intent to rein-in the application of subject matter ineligibility analysis (“lest it swallow all of patent law” – Alice). We anticipate a reduction in subject matter eligibility rejections because the Guidance makes it more difficult for examiners to reject claims as being directed to unpatentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. §101.
Earlier this week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) finalized a new rule, extending the attorney-client privilege to communications between clients and their non-attorney patent agents and foreign practitioners in proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The rule, which largely codifies the Federal Circuit’s 2016 decision in In re Queen’s University at Kingston, will go into effect on December 7, 2017.
The public comments have been considered and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board rule changes proposed in April 2016 and summarized in this blog post have been confirmed with only minor exceptions. The new rules will be effective on January 14, 2017, and will apply to all opposition and cancellation proceedings active on that date or subsequently filed.
The Post-Prosecution Pilot Program, dubbed “P3” by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), offers applicants a new, and arguably improved, path through the after-final landscape. P3 provides applicants the opportunity to orally present proposed amendments or arguments to a panel of examiners after a final rejection has been issued but before filing a notice of appeal. As the USPTO’s latest rollout under the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, P3 incorporates effective features of the existing Pre-Appeal Brief Conference Pilot program (Pre-Appeal) and the After Final Consideration Pilot 2.0 program (AFCP). Applicants should consider taking advantage of this no-fee program to make their case for allowance, propose non-broadening amendments, and receive feedback from a larger pool of examiners prior to filling a notice of appeal or Request for Continued Examination (RCE).
On April 4, 2016 the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that details proposed changes to the USPTO’s rules of practice for trademark application opposition and registration cancellation proceedings. Public comments are due by June 3, 2016. While it is possible that the rules will be modified further before being finalized based upon public comment, it is likely that the rules ultimately will take effect substantially in the form published.
On August 19, 2015, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released a set of proposed rule changes that affect the post-issuance patent review proceedings governed by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). As noted in a blog post announcing the release, this is the second iteration of rule changes concerning the America Invents Act (AIA)-created inter partes review (IPR), post-grant review (PGR), and transitional program for covered business method patents (CBM)—the first included a few “quick fixes” enacted earlier this year. While the proposed changes have no effect until a final rulemaking in the future, the USPTO encourages practitioners to review the developments and, if inspired, participate in the comment period that is open until October 19, 2015.
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.