On June 30, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the addition of ".com" to a generic term can create a protectable trademark. Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V., 591 U.S. ___ (2020). In affirming the Fourth Circuit's decision, the Court rejected the PTO's "nearly per se rule" that when a generic term is combined with a generic top-level domain the resulting combination is generic. Full text of the opinion is available here.
1. On May 8, 2020, PTO announced a new Prioritized Examination Pilot Program for small and micro entities without payment of the typical fees associated with other prioritized examination.
2. On May 8, 2020, PTO allowed filing of plant patent applications via EFS.
3. On May 6, 2020, PTO launched a web-based platform to identify patents that may be useful in technologies to combat COVD-19.
4. On May 5, 2020, PTO released a form to assist with making a statement of delay due to COVID-19.
On April 27, 2020, the PTO denied a request by Stephen Thaler to name DABUS, an artificial intelligence (AI) system that "invents", as the sole inventor in a patent application filing. In denying the request, the PTO relied on the statutory text ("whoever invents or discovers...may obtain a patent") and a court decision holding that only natural persons could be inventors under U.S. law.
On November 20, 2019, the USPTO published a new, consolidated edition of the AIA Trial Practice Guide. The updates include--institution of trial after SAS; use of sur-replies in lieu of observations; use of word counts; default protective order; sample scheduling order for derivation proceedings; and how parties may contact the Board to request an initial conference call.
Consolidated Edition is available here.
On January 4, 2019, the USPTO announced revised examination guidelines on Sections 101 and 112, evaluating subject matter eligibility and application of Section 112 to computer-implemented inventions, respectively. The guidelines go into effect on Jan. 7, 2019.
Under the guidelines, examiners are instructed to determine whether a patent claim is directed to a judicial exception under the first step of the U.S. Supreme Court's Alice/Mayo test and whether the abstract idea can be grouped as mathematical concepts, certain methods of organizing human activity, or mental processes. Examiners are to determine whether a claim recites a judicial exception and if the exception is integrated into a practical application. A claim that meets these conditions will be determined to be not directed to a judicial exception. On the other hand, a claim that recites a judicial exception, but is not integrated into a practical application, will be evaluated for inventive concept (Step 2B) to determine subject matter eligibility.
The abstract idea grouping includes: (1) mathematical concepts--mathematical relationships, mathematical formulas/equations, mathematical calculations; (2) certain methods of organizing human activity--fundamental economic principles or practices (hedging, insurance, mitigating risk), commercial or legal interactions (agreements in the form of contracts, legal obligations, advertising, marketing/sales activities/behaviors, business relations), managing personal behavior/relationships/interactions between people (social activities, teaching, following rules/instructions); (3) mental processes--concepts performed in human mind (observation, evaluation, judgment, opinion)
The practical application may be shown as: (1) an improvement in the functioning of a computer or improvement to other technology or technical field; (2) effect a particular treatment or prophylaxis for a disease or medical condition; (3) implements a judicial exception in conjunction with a particular machine or manufacture that is integral to claim; (4) effects a transformation or reduction of particular article to a different state or thing; and (5) applies or uses the judicial exception in some other meaningful way beyond linking the use of the judicial exception to a particular technological environment.
The Section 112 guidance emphasizes various issues with regard to 112 analysis as it relates to computer-implemented inventions. Specifically, it addresses proper application of means-plus-function claiming under 112(f), of the definiteness requirement under 112(b), and of the written description and enablement requirements under 112(a).
Full texts of the guidelines are available here--Section 101, Section 112
Effective 11/13/18, the PTAB's claim construction standard changes to Phillips from the broadest reasonable interpretation (BRI) for all IPR, PGR and CBM petitions filed on or after 11/13/18.
On August 20, 2018, a Federal Circuit panel, in a unanimous decision regarding a design patent application for a shoe bottom design, ruled that Section 112 requirements of enablement and definiteness may be satisfied by a single, 2D plan-view drawing as the ornamental design is capable of being disclosed and judged from such 2D view. In re Maatita, No. 17-2037 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 20, 2018). Applicant Ron Maatita filed a design patent application covering the design of an athletic shoe bottom with two figures showing a plan view of the claimed design. Examiner objected that the two figures were identical except for the unclaimed surrounding environment and rejected the single claim for failing to satisfy the enablement and definiteness requirements of 35 USC 112. Applicant responded that the figures represented the same embodiment and that the omission of certain design elements only affected the breadth of the claim. The examiner again rejected the claim reasoning that the examiner prepared four 3D rendering show different implementation of the 2D view and therefore, the claim failed to satisfy Section 112. The Board affirmed the examiner's decision. In reversing the Board decision, the Federal Circuit reasoned that the shoe design is similar to that of a rug, which is capable of being viewed and understood in two-dimensions through a plan-view illustration.
Full text of the opinion is available here.
On July 27, 2018, in a 7-4 decision the en banc court of the Federal Circuit held that the American Rule prohibits courts from shifting attorneys' fees from one party to another absent Congress' specific and explicit directive and that the USPTO is not entitled to such fees under 35 USC 145. Nantkwest, Inc. v. Iancu, No. 16-1764 (Fed. Cir. July 27, 2018) (en banc).
In this case, the Examiner rejected an application directed to a method of treating cancer based on obviousness and the Board affirmed the decision. The applicant sought review in the district court (E.D. Va.) under 35 USC 145 and the court issued a summary judgment in favor of the USPTO. USPTO then sought reimbursement of expenses for the district court proceeding under Section 145 including attorneys fees of over $78,000. The district court denied the fees citing the American rule which requires each litigant to pay for his/her attorney's fees. On appeal, a Federal Circuit panel reversed the decision and the en banc court ordered review sua sponte.
The en banc court affirmed the district court's decision in a 7-4 decision. Writing for the majority, Judge Stoll reasoned that the word "expenses" does not include an implicit authorization to award attorneys fees under Section 145. According to the Court, the existence of several Patent Act provisions awarding attorneys fees demonstrates Congress' use of "specific and explicit" language in the Patent Act to shift fees when it so desired. Judge Prost, in her dissent joined by Judges Dyk, Reyna and Hughes, argued that the text of Section 145 imposing "all expenses" on the applicant displaces the American Rule.
Full text of the opinion is available here.
On July 1, 2018, USPTO, EPO, JPO, KIPO, and SIPO (collectively, the "IP5") launched a new PCT Collaboration Search and Examination Pilot that allows examiners from all five offices to collaborate on the search and examination of a single international application. The result is an international search report and written opinion from the chosen international searching authority based on contributions from all participating offices. Applicants will have the benefit of search conducted by multiple examiners in different languages with no extra cost.
On May 30, 2018, the USPTO proposed rules to mandate e-filing of trademark applications based on Section 1 and Section 44 of the Lanham Act, and to require the designation of an e-mail address for receiving USPTO correspondence. The proposed rule also requires e-filing of all submissions including responses to Office Actions, maintenance declarations, renewal applications, international applications, subsequent designations, and direct filings with the USPTO relating to extensions of protection through the international registration system. More details are available here.
Disclaimer: The content in this blog is solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.