Volume 10 Issue 1 | January 2013
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY REPORt
The AIA’s Extra Judicial Review Kicks In*
The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (“AIA”) provided the most comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. patent statute since it was enacted in 1952. On September 16, 2012, several provisions of the AIA became effective, with certain parties already taking advantage of the Act’s extra judicial review options. This article addresses these provisions, and the new regulations issued recently (in August, 2012) for implementing them. This article also addresses recent Federal Circuit case law, and specifically Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks,1 which changed the law related to induced infringement.
I. The AIA
The AIA essentially provided for three (3) effective dates for its various provisions: September 16, 2011, September 16, 2012, and March 16, 2013. On September 16, 2011, the date the Act was signed, the law was changed: (1) to eliminate the best mode defense in litigations commenced on or after that date (35 U.S.C. § 282(3)(A)); (2) to allow for virtual marking enabling companies to “mark” their products by referencing their websites (35 U.S.C. § 287); (3) to prohibit suit against multiple defendants unless the claim arises out of the same transaction or occurrence and questions of fact common to all will arise in the action (allegations of infringing the same patent is insufficient) (35 U.S.C. § 299); and (4) to expand availability of the prior use defense (except against Universities).
Effective starting September 16, 2012, and addressed below are:
B. Inventor’s Oath or Declaration (AIA, Section 4)
C. Supplemental Examination (AIA, Section 12)
D. Citation of Prior Art and Written Statements (AIA, Section 6)
E. Extrajudicial Review, Trials (AIA, Sections 6, 18), including:
F. Failure to Obtain Advice of Counsel
A. Pre-Issuance Submissions (AIA, Section 8) (Only For Applications, Not Patents)
The AIA provides for allowing any non-party to submit (but not anonymously) to the Patent office, during the pendency of a patent application, printed materials having potential relevance to the patentability of the application. The submission must include a concise description of the relevance each document has to the examination, and it must be submitted before the earlier of (1) the date of the notice of allowance; and (2) the later of (i) 6 months after publication or (ii) date of first rejection.
B. Inventor’s Oath or Declaration (AIA, Section 4)
Under the new rules, effective September 16, 2012, the applicant is no longer restricted to inventors; rather, applicants may include assignees, obligated assignees, or entities that otherwise show a proprietary interest in the application. The oath need not name all inventors, identify citizenship, declare the inventor to be the first, or include a priority claim, although an Application Data Sheet must name all the inventors and the priority claim. The Rules also allow for a substitute statement in lieu of an oath or declaration in certain circumstances (i.e., when the inventor is deceased, legally incapacitated, cannot be located or refuses to sign even though obligated).
C. Supplemental Examination (AIA, Section 12) (Only For Issued Patents)
Since Sunday, September 16, 2012, a patent owner - after a patent has issued - may now request a “supplemental examination” (“SER”) “to consider, reconsider, or correct information believed to be relevant to the patent.” The main purpose: to “inoculate” the patentee against a subsequent charge of inequitable conduct:
A patent shall not be held unenforceable on the basis of conduct relating to information that had not been considered, was inadequately considered, or was incorrect in a prior examination of the patent if the information was considered, reconsidered, or corrected during a supplemental examination of the patent.
Significantly, the patent owner will be unable to avoid an inequitable conduct charge if the SER is made AFTER unenforceability is pled with particularity in a civil action. And, no inoculation can result for an ITC action filed before the completion of an SER and any subsequent reexam.
D. Citation of Prior Art and Written Statements (AIA, Section 6) (Only For Issued Patents)
The AIA further provides for the submission - at any time after issuance, even anonymously - by any party, including the patent owner, any prior art consisting of patents or printed publications or any statements made by the patent owner in a court proceeding. The latter statements shall only be considered by the PTO to determine “the proper meaning of a patent claim” in a post-grant review proceeding. 35 U.S.C. § 301.
E. Extrajudicial Review/PTAB Trials
Currently, a non-party may challenge an improperly issued patent within the PTO in two ways: ex parte reexamination and inter partes reexamination. The first is available against any patent, the non-party cannot participate after the initial filing, the non-party can be anonymous, and no judicial estoppel occurs. Inter-partes was available only for patents filed after November, 1999, but the non-party may participate, the actual party of interest must be disclosed, and judicial estoppel applies. Inter-partes was only available for challenges based on novelty and obviousness over prior art consisting of patents or publications. The AIA transforms most non-party challenges into administrative trials, although ex parte reexamination is mostly unchanged.
F. Failure To Obtain Advice of Counsel
Only for patents issuing on or after September 16, 2012, an accused infringer’s failure to obtain an opinion of counsel will no longer be used to infer willful infringement or an intent to induce infringement of the patent. (35 U.S.C. § 298).
II. Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc.
On August 31, 2012, the Federal Circuit (“Federal Circuit”) decided en banc that a party who knowingly induces others to engage in acts that collectively practice all of the steps of a patented method, or who performs some of those steps itself and induces others to perform the remaining steps, can be held liable for induced infringement. In doing so, the court overruled BMC Resourdes, Inc. v. Paymentech, L.P., 498 F.3d 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2007), which held that in order for a party to be liable for induced infringement, some other single party (as opposed to multiple parties performing different steps) must be liable of direct infringement. More specifically, a six judge majority of the court held that “all of the steps of a claimed method must be performed in order to find induced infringement, but that it is not necessary to prove that all the steps were committed by a single entity.” (slip op. at 10).
The court acknowledged that it is well settled that there can be no indirect infringement without direct infringement. The court also acknowledged that liability for direct infringement requires that a single party commit all the acts necessary to constitute infringement. But, the court stated that “[r]equiring proof that there has been direct infringement is not the same as requiring proof that a single party would be liable as a direct infringer.” Id. 16. Thus, divided infringement can support a finding of inducement, even though the divided infringers may not be liable for direct infringement. The court explained:
If a party has knowingly induced others to commit the acts necessary to infringe the plaintiff’s patent and those other commit those acts, there is no reason to immunize the inducer from liability for direct infringement simply because the parties have structured their conduct so that no single defendant has committed all the acts necessary to give rise to liability for direct infringement.
Id. As such, the court ruled that “Epic can be held liable for inducing infringement if it can be shown that (1) it knew of McKesson’s patent, (2) it induced the performance of the steps of the method claimed in the patent, and (3) those steps were performed.” Id. at 35. Similarly, “Limelight would be liable for inducing infringement if the patentee could show that (1) Limelight knew of Akamai’s patent, (2) it performed all but one of the steps of the method claimed in the patent, (3) it induced the content providers to perform the final step of the method claim, and (4) the content providers in fact performed that final step.” Id. at 36
Much is happening in the development of patent law as Congress and the courts try to keep up with advances in technology and the sophistication of, and at times manipulation by, patent litigants. It remains to be seen whether our new extra judicial proceedings relieve the courts of workload, reduce the cost burdens on litigants and/or achieve efficient and effective justice, but no one can legitimately criticize the generally fine objectives of the AIA.
1 2012 WL 3764695 (Fed. Cir. 2012).
*This article first appeared in the New York Law Journal's September 2012 issue.
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