Adding Evidence in a Patent Opposition Procedure

glass transition temperature late entries

DSM IP Assets LTD filed Israel Patent Application No. 168200 for “Process for the Manufacture of a Ballistic-Resistant Moulded Article”. PMS Migun LTD opposed the patent issuing.

On 4th and 6th February 2014, a hearing was held at the Israel Patent Office and then, on 19 May 2014, the parties filed a joint request to amend the protocol. In addition, on the same day, the Applicant requested permission to add a further piece of evidence.

The additional evidence related to the witness statements for both sides concerning the glass transition temperature of the matrix material Witcobond 737 which were already on file. It appears that following the hearing, the Applicant had done some research into the glass transition temperature and wished to submit this now, at the summation stage of the proceedings.

The request to add new evidence generated a spew of claims and counter claims and requests to admit statements into the record and to deny the opposing party from adding new material.

Arbitrator’s Ruling

Regulation 63 states that neither party can submit additional evidence without the Commissioner’s authorization. The courts and the Patent Office have ruled that evidence should be submitted at the correct junctures. When the arbitrator is presented with new evidence, her responsibility is to weigh up its importance in clarifying the outstanding issues, where the proceeding is up to and whether the party could have submitted the evidence earlier.

In the specific instance, the issue (according to MS Shoshani Caspi) is whether the party could and should have submitted the glass transition temperature of the Witcobond matrix during the evidence stage and how important this is anyway. Since the application does not relate to the glass transition temperature or indeed to the Witcobond matrix, the evidence was considered unnecessary to ensure a fair ruling. Ms Shoshani Caspi considers the disagreement between the parties concerning this issue as not relevant to the patentability of the invention as claimed. In this regard, she gave weight to statements from the patentee that the evidence was submitted out of concern to provide a full picture and not to create a lacuna in the evidence, whilst the opposer considered this a litigator’s trick to distract from the real issue. She was not convinced that the evidence was critical.

The Adjudicator of IP, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi who heard the case refused to allow the evidence to be submitted and awarded costs of 4000 Shekels against the Applicant. The Opposer was given 60 days to submit their summary, not to exceed 45 pages.

COMMENT

Funnily enough, in an earlier intermediate ruling, the Opposer was not allowed to submit evidence that was not referenced in the statement of case.

When submitting additional evidence, the guiding principle should be whether or not this affects the patentability of the invention. If as a result of the hearing, the patentee does additional laboratory work or literature searches to respond to a point raised, or, as in this case, checks things up with the R&D staff, I believe the party should be allowed to submit it. A patent should not be refused on procedural grounds. The opposing party can be awarded costs for any inconvenience. What is not allowed is to simply present evidence at late stages as a delaying tactic. This is something that opposers have an invested interest to do, since a patent under opposition cannot be enforced until the opposition is dismissed. The applicant has no advantage in delaying tactics and so it seems clear that the additional evidence wasn’t there earlier.
Preferring to relate to substantive issues affecting patentability rather than procedural issues regarding when material can be submitted appears to be the position of the court is clear from an Appeal against the Patent Office and Ms Shoshani Caspi to the Courts in an earlier opposition ruling between the same parties.  An ironic problem is that the present intermediate decision by Shoshani-Caspi issued on the 3 August 2014 and the court’s decision on appeal in the other case issued on the 18 August 2014. In the circumstances it might have been wise for the patent office to recall and correct the decision rather than publish it. We suspect that the patentee will appeal if, as a result of this new evidence not being considered, the patent is cancelled. No doubt the Opposer will then want the additional evidence that wasn’t allowed to be submitted to be considered.

Interestingly, the entire discussion, including the protocol of the hearing and the evidence is in the file wrapper which is available on the patent office website. As a materials scientist with both theoretical and lab experience in composite materials – I started a PhD in Applied Chemistry at Casali Hebrew University in polymer matrix composites, before eventually joining a coatings project managed by the propulsion physics laboratory of Soreq – NRC and doing a PhD in Applied Physics at the same institution – and having a client who is busy patenting anti-ballistic materials, it is tempting to discuss the evidence and the patentability of the claimed invention. As it is sub juris, I don’t think that would be appropriate.

As to submitting a 45 page summary, it is an art to cut down the volume of material without throwing something important out. This was something we practiced in High School in England. Patent Attorneys do it for PCT abstracts, and when I had columns in various IP magazines such as AIM, WIPR and MIP, I got quite competent at cutting down blog articles to a fixed number of words. We think that 45 pages is more than enough wordage to summarize the case, and to keep the Adjudicator focused on the real issues, the summation should be kept short and focused.

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