Cancellation Proceedings Against an Israel Patent for a Modular Support Bracket

April 6, 2017

Figs for ACMoshe Lavi registered Israel Patent No. 157035 titled “MODULAR SUPPORT BRACKET”. A competitor, Zach Oz Air Conditioning LTD and Zach Raz filed to have the patent cancelled on grounds of invalidity. They seem to have botched the attempt, but I think that this ruling is a poor one.

Background

In the past, Lavi has tried enforcing the patent against Zach Oz Air Conditioning LTD. (Back then, around 2004, I was engaged as an expert witness by Counsel of the Defence, Soroker Agmon. In my Expert Opinion, I argued what is known as ‘the Gilette Defense’ stating that the correct interpretation of the claims was much narrower than that which Lavi and his lawyers Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Bratz (Pearl-Cohen) was using and Zach Oz’ support bracket was not infringing. Furthermore, if one considered that Zach Oz’ brackets were within the ambit of the claims, the patent would not have issued in the light of the myriad of prior art shelf support brackets.  On the day of the trial, Lavi dropped the charges and Zach Oz agreed not to infringe the patent.

It was not the first time that Pearl-Cohen have tried to assert a patent against a competitor that was not infringing. They tried this in the US on behalf of Source Vagabond against Hydropak. In that instance, the New York District Court fined Pearl-Cohen and the lawyers actively handling the case $187,308.65. That ruling was then Appealed to and upheld by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals).

Frustrated by repeated bullying by Moshe Lavi and Pearl-Cohen, Zach Oz filed a cancellation proceeding against the Israel patent. Confusingly, their Attorney is called Pearl. It is not Zeev Pearl, but another practitioner.

Pearl-Cohen submitted a rather ambitious attempt to have the case thrown out as Zach Oz had not argued invalidity when accused of infringing, and Pearl-Cohen argued that this was a sort of in absentia estoppel since they could have raised the argument back then, and didn’t. The Commissioner threw that argument out, and allowed the cancellation proceeding to proceed.

The cancellation proceeding has now run its course and the following article Read the rest of this entry »


Applicant Successfully Has Allowance of Patent Application Cancelled, Following Initiation of Opposition Proceedings

September 12, 2016

reexaminationUsually an Opposition results in an allowed patent being either cancelled, upheld or having its claim-set narrowed. Apparently, not always!

Israel Patent Application No. 240684 titled “GLYCOPYRROLATE SALTS” was filed by Dermira Inc on 19 August 2015. It is the national phase entry of PCT/US2014/19552 and so the effective filing date is 28 February 2014. It claims priority from two provisional applications and from two regular US applications, but the earliest priority claimed was 28 February 2013.

On 18 October 2015, the Applicants petitioned to make special under Section 19(a)(a)(2) of the Patent Law 1967 and requested allowance under Section 17c based on US 9,004,462.

After the application was allowed and published for Opposition purposes, S0l-gel Technologies ltd. opposed the patent issuing. They noted that the case had been allowed under Section 17c, but this was incorrect since the two regular US applications from which priority was claimed were continuations-in-part of US 13/781,390 which published on 15 August 2013.

In the US, the earlier patent application to which material is added in a Continuation-in-Part cannot be cited against the Continuation-in-Part. It is a little like a Patent-of-Addition in Israel.

Since priority is NOT claimed from US 13/781,390 which published 15 August 2013, it is prior art to IL 240684 since its publication precedes the filing of PCT/US2014/19552 on 28 February 2014. Consequently, as far as Israel is concerned, US 13/781,390 could be cited as prior art against IL 240684 and so allowance under Section 17c was wrong, as there is presumption of validity since US 13/781,390 (now US 8,558,008) was not prior art in the US, but is prior art against the Israel application.

Here’s the odd thing. US 13/781,390 was itself filed on 28 February 2013, so the PCT could have claimed priority from it!

In their statement fo case, the Opposer requested that the allowance be cancelled and the case returned to the Examiner for examination on its merits in light of the prior art (including US 13/781,390). The Applicant (represented by Pearl Cohen) agreed with this suggestion.

In his ruling, the Commissioner, Asa Kling, noted that only rarely can an allowed patent be returned to the Examiner. Patent prosecution is a one way street, and after allowance, the Examiner is no longer part of the process. Generally, opposed patents are either invalidated as lacking novelty and inventiveness, or the scope of their claims is narrowed, or, the opposition is overcome or withdrawn and the patent as allowed, is granted.

In this instance, both sides agree to the allowance being withdrawn and to the claims being (re)considered on their merits by the examiner in light of the prior art, including  US 13/781,390, thereby avoiding costly opposition proceedings.

The commissioner noted that agreement of the parties is not generally enough for odd solutions, due to their being a public interest. Generally one does not return an allowed patent application to the Examiners since the public is always third-party to such proceedings. See the ruling on request to cancel allowance of IL 219586 Fritz Collischan GMBH vs. Data Detection Technologies Inc., 9 March 2015, paragraphs 9 and 10 of the ruling.

However, it is clear that the Section 17c assumptions detailed in the Albermarle ruling do not apply here as inventiveness over US 13/781,390 was not considered by the US Examiner as it was not an issue in the States, and so the IPO cannot rely on the US Examiner’s ability, professionalism and integrity in this instance. In the circumstances, for the sake of efficiency, it was deemed appropriate to reexamine rather than to conduct an opposition. The Commissioner allowed the Section 17c allowance to be withdrawn and the case to be returned to the examiners for substantive examination on the merits.

The cancellation of the allowance now publishes for opposition purposes. Costs of 2500 Shekels are awarded to the Opposers; the low sum reflecting the early stage reached.

COMMENT

In this instance, the PCT application could and should have claimed priority from US 13/781,390. The  Opposers could have claimed both invalidity over US 13/781,390 and / or inequitable behaviour in requesting allowance under Section 17c from a continuation in part. There is a public interest in technologies remaining in the public domain. Thus I think this decision could be challenged in an opposition. Still, doing so takes resources and would incur costs. For the same reason that S0l-gel Technologies ltd seem happy with reexamination, I suspect that noone else will file an opposition to this ruling.


Can evidence submitted in an adversarial civil legal proceeding be kept confidential from the opposing party?

June 14, 2015

trade secretevidence

Israel Patent Number 132540 “System and Method for Direct Monetary Transfer Using Magnetic Cards” to Yehuda and Yigal Tsabari issued and then lapsed due to failure to pay the renewals.

Back on 24 July 2014 the Israel Patent Office agreed to the patent being reinstated. Generally, third parties who are utilizing the patented technology in good faith relying on the fact that the patent was abandoned are granted a non-transferable license that allows them to continue their business activities.  Nevertheless, the Israel Patent Office Decision to allow a patent to be reinstated is published for opposition purposes, giving third parties three months to oppose the lapsed patent being reinstated.

In the case of IL 132540, on 23 November 2014, Going Dutch LTD filed an opposition to the reinstatement. They claimed that the patent had not lapses unintentionally, but that Tsabari had knowingly abandoned the patent and that this was evident from the way Tsabari tried to enforce his patent.

Tsabari responded to these charges but requested that part of his response be kept confidential by the Patent Office and not made available to the opposer, claiming that the information constituted a Trade Secret. The documents to be kept secret included a document describing an enabling system, a draft contract with a credit card organization, a proposal for developing a system based on the patent, a contract with an investor and a letter from the investor, canceling the contract.

The patentee argued that these documents were confidential and for the parties themselves, and that their publication could compromise the patentee’s ability to compete in the relevant market. They were submitted as evidence that the invention had not been abandoned, but beyond that, their contents were not relevant to the issue in question, and so their contents should remain restricted.

The Opposer noted that the patentee had not provided sufficient evidence to prove that the documents in question were fairly described as trade secrets. This was particularly the case due to the fact that the documents apparently related to a failed business transaction from ten years previously. Furthermore, the patentee was not a side in the agreements in question and therefore could not claim that any trade secrets were his secrets.  Substantially, any documents used to support a legal claim should be available for public inspection. In addition, the opposer noted that the documents should have been supplied together with an affidavit and their dates and the parties thereof and the editor thereof should be identified.

 

Ruling

Section 23 of the Trade Related Torts Act 1999 give the courts (including the Patent Office) authority to prevent the publication of evidence considered as including trade-secrets and to allow only restricted access.

In recent Supreme Court Decision 2376/12 Rami Levi [a discount supermarket chain] vs. Moshe Dahan, July 8, 2013, Judge Amit ruled that there was a connection between the relevance of a document to a proceeding and the extent it could be kept confidential.

Essentially, where a document is relevant to a proceeding but one side claims a trade secret, the court has to weigh up the opposing rights of the parties and also to be aware of the potential damage to further entities not party to the a proceedings.

As a general rule, in civil proceedings, documents are available to all and confidentiality is the exception – See 7598/14 Theopholus Johnopholus (Theopholus III), the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem vs. Hymnota LTD., albeit the precedent relating to religious confidentiality and not to trade confidentiality.

Firstly, therefore, the court has to assess the relevance of the documents in question, which is a function of the arguments between the parties. In this instance, the argument relates to the restoration of a patent under Section 61 of the Patent Law 1967:

Any person may oppose a patent being restored within three months of the publication of the restoration notice on the grounds that the Commissioner [or deputy in this case] did not have grounds to order the publication of the request [i.e. to oppose the decision to reinstate].

Consequently, the discussion regarding reinstatement should focus on the three grounds for reinstatement:

  • failure to pay the fees resulted from reasonable circumstances
  • the patentee did not intend the patent to lapse
  • the patentee requested reinstatement as soon he realized that the fee was not paid.

The opposer considers that the patentee’s behaviour over the years was unprofessional, surprising and irresponsible. In other words, the patentee either wanted the patent to lapse or at least was unconcerned about his rights.

In response to these claims, the patentee described his attempts to commercialize the invention and submitted the documents about which he requested a secrecy order. The documents in question date to the period 2007 and 2008 and are thus of little relevance to the opposition proceeding.

Due to their lack of relevance to reinstatement, it seems that the right for confidentiality outweighs the right of access. They were prepared for the patentee or for exclusive licensee and were not published after they were not successful. There is no reason why these documents should enter the public record. Based on the statement of cases, the documents are not relevant and should not be published.

As to the lack of an affidavit, i.e. a signed statement testifying to that claimed, in Patent IL 118045 AstraZenca AB from 16 Jan 2005, there was a ruling to the effect that a statement should have been submitted.  However, in the Rami Levy case the Supreme Court ruled that the affidavit requesting secrecy was sufficient and there is no need for an additional affidavit accompanying the submissions. In the present case, the documentation as supplied is sufficient since the content is clearly sensitive, rendering superfluous the need for an affidavit supporting this contention.

Furthermore, the Patentee decided to submit these appendices to his statement of case and not to later submit in the evidence stage as he could have done, relying on Section 93 of the Patent Regulations 1968. Consequently, at this stage of the proceedings, the patentee does not have automatic rights to view the documents.

Thus in the meantime, the documents shall remain confidential. Should the Opposer consider these documents relevantat a later date, he is entitled to request their publication. At this time, no costs are awarded.

Opposition to reinstatement of IL 132540 “System and Method for Direct Monetary Transfer Using Magnetic Cards” to Tsabari, opposed by Going Dutch LTD., interim ruling by Jacqueline Bracha, 7 May 2015.

Comment

I am a little confused here.  The adversarial system requires that evidence brought in a legal proceeding be available to opposing parties to examine and challenge the validity thereof.

In this instance, the Opposer is using his legal right to oppose a patent being reinstated on the grounds that the patent was willfully abandoned. The Patentee has countered that there was no willful abandonment and has substantiated this claim with various evidence that allegedly shows this to be the case. In the circumstances, the evidentiary documents are considered by the patentee to be pertinent. If the patentee does not want the opposer to see the documents, he should retract them and base his case on other evidence.

That said, the 2008 documents are irrelevant as the patent only went abandoned on 24 October 2013, presumably retroactively on 24 April 2014, when the six month grace period past.

This patent was ‘abandoned’ for less than three months. The issue is when Tsabari realized that the patent had gone abandoned and when he tried to have it reinstated. Reinstatement is thus unlikely to be difficult, and one suspects that the patentee would be better served if he had chosen to use professional counsel for the reinstatement.

money plany

I had a look at the patent in question. It is a variation of the hoary old wedding present patent for directly transferring money from a credit card to the celebrants at a wedding. This is what a call a hardy perennial as approximately once a year some inventor comes in with this great idea he’s had.

Ironically the patent appears to be eminently voidable due to both lack of novelty and obviousness in light of the prior art and also on the substantive grounds that it is a software implemented business method and the fact that it is hardware implemented is insufficient to change this characteristic.


Camtek Invalidates another Orbotech Patent

May 25, 2015

Duck Shoot

IL 131283 titled ” Apparatus and methods for inspection of objects” was filed on 5 August 1999. After its eventual allowance it published for opposition purposes on 8 July 2008. On 7 October 2008 Camtek filed a notice of opposition and on 5 November 2008 they filed their Statement of Case.

Both sides submitted their evidence and on 28 March 2010, the Applicant requested to correct the specification, and submitted amended claims. On 24 May 2010 Camtek announced that they had no objections to the amendments, but reserved the right to raise further issues in the opposition itself. The parties submitted their statements and evidence regarding the amended claims, and, after a hearing back in March 2013, this ruling has now issued.

The patent in question relates to automated optical inspection and the main claim of the patent in question is as follows:

A method for image processing comprising:

generating representations of boundaries of known elements in the image;

identifying candidate defects in the image, in hardware, thereby to generate a hardware candidate defect identifier output including hardware candidate defect identifiers;

receiving the hardware candidate defect identifiers and said representations of boundaries;

generating a window of  interest surrounding at least some of said hardware candidate defect identifiers and said representations of boundaries;

identifying at least one false alarm within said window of interest, in software;

and identifying additional candidate defects in the image, in software.

There are a further 6 dependent claims.

The underlined parts were the result of the amendment during the opposition, which, since it is a narrowing restriction, is procedurally acceptable.

Opposer’s Case

In the Statement of Opposition, Camtek opposed the patent issuing on the basis of Sections 3, 4, 5, 12, 13 and 18 of the Law.

Re Section 3 – Camtek alleged that the patent isn’t directed to a device or process, and at best is an attempt to monopolize a computer process or algorithm per se.

Camtek considers the claimed invention to lack novelty as anticipated separately in three earlier publications:

  1. West at al, ‘The Automatic Visual Inspection of Printed Circuit Boards’ Circuit World Vo. 8 No.2 (1982)
  2. West, ‘A system for the Automatic Visual Inspection of Bare-Printed Circuit Boards’, IEER Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Vol. SMC -14, No.5 (1984)
  3. US 5,619,429; M. Aloni at al, Apr. 8 1997

These publications allegedly render the claimed invention obvious, whether considered separately or in combination.

Camtek further accused Orbotech of inequitable behavior in having not brought the existence of US 5,619,429 (which was assigned to Orbot Instruments) to the attention of the Examiner contrary to the duty of disclosure. Camtek also alleged that the amendments to claim 1 designed to attempt to distinguish the claimed invention from that of 5,619,429 did nothing to rectify the failure of Orbotech to bring this to the Examiner’s attention. Finally, Camtek argued that the claims lacked clarity and were not supported by the specification.

Orbotech’s Position

Orbotech denies all of Camtek’s allegations. According to Orbotech, the claimed invention differs from each of the cited art by including at least one element not described therein. In particular, none of the citations relates the step of:

“Generating a window of interest surrounding at least some of said hardware candidate defect identifiers and said representations of boundaries”

Orbotech did not consider it is required to address the issue of inventive step (obviousness) since Camtek had merely submitted a list of prior art references and had not shown how they can be combined to teach the claimed invention. Similarly, the lack of clarity and support issues were denied and Orbotech noted that they weren’t substantiated in Camtek’s statement of case.

Evidence

Camtek’s position was supported by an affidavit from Dr Shimon Koren, the director of Technology in the Microelectronics Division at Camtek. Koren considered that the claimed invention is a known methodology for image analysis that combines hardware and software stages and a standard way of defining areas of interest. He considers that using software or dedicated hardware was simply a design choice and the claimed elements were the foundation of software engineering in the field, and known to all persons of the art at the priority date. Specifically, any further image processing on a feature of interest requires the preliminary determination of a boundary to the region of interest, whether automated, by hardware or software, or manually, and there was nothing novel and certainly not inventive in this. [I find this argument compelling, as I have written up about a dozen patents for Siemens CAD vision for detecting lung and breast cancer by image analysis of XRay photographs, and everything starts with drawing a line around the field of interest].

Koren does not understand the relevance of “identifying at least one false alarm within said window of interest, in software; and identifying additional candidate defects in the image, in software.” And, as a person of the art, Korens considers that these claimed steps are simply confusing, hence the lack of clarity objection. Koren further expounded on the lack of novelty and inventiveness with respect to the prior art referenced above.

Orbotech submitted an Affidavit of the Director of their Core Technology Algorithm Group, a Dr Rippa, who is a coinventor of the claimed invention.

Dr Rippa stated that the present invention claims a process for identifying and segmenting candidate defects or preselected areas of interest, whereas the prior art merely describes a process for identifying and segmenting candidate defects. Dr Rippa concedes that the hierarchical examinations where each stage filters through candidate defects picked up by the proceeding stage were known to persons of the art. However, the present invention is not necessarily hierarchical in that the areas of interest with their generated boundaries are not necessarily subjected to additional filtering steps. Furthermore, algorithms per se. are not claimed, but rather a process ran on a physical system [so the invention is to be considered as patentable subject matter].

Additionally, Dr Rippa denied the allegations of lack of clarity, claiming that repeated indications provide greater certainty. [I can’t see how this jells with previous statement about the method not necessarily being hierarchical, nor can I see how the wording of the claim supports this interpretation].

Furthermore Dr Rippa also considers that there are significant differences between hardware and software and using hardware where the claimed invention specifies software will be inefficient.

Finally, Dr Rippa related to the cited art and opined that they do not render the claimed invention known or obvious.

The Ruling

Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi considered that the invention related to the ‘window’ which was not properly described in the application. She found Dr Koren’s explanation convincing, whereas she found Dr Rippa’s explanation incoherent. She also noted that Dr Rippa, as an inventor and witness for the defendant, was more likely to provide misleading testimony. [The ‘defendant’ is the applicant. The issue is an opposition. Both sides have financial interests or the patent would not be opposed. Camtek are not acting out of respect for the integrity of the register].

It seems that during cross-examination, Dr Rippa changed his story, and didn’t seem able to make up his mind whether candidates were segmented or whether also previously defined areas were segmented.

Camtek and their witness, Dr Koren argued that once an area is selected, it requires to be segmented and the window drawing exercise is the same regardless. The point of novelty was, in their opinion, a question of semantics and not  one of substance. The issue is not one of terminology but whether Orbotech was describing something new or not.

It seems that Dr Rippa retracted his original statement and accepted that once a window was drawn, the enclosed space was checked as to whether it fulfilled the criteria of defects or not. Dr Koren argued convincingly that the examination of predetermined windows was for calibration purposes, to help recognize defects. Since Orbotech failed to convincingly argue that hardware was advantageous over software for this purpose, the argument that hardware was chosen specifically was not given any weight. The upshot of the above is that Orbotech was claiming to segment candidate flaws and then to examine them and the adjudicator did not consider this novel or inventive. The additional step  of finding additional candidates was not considered clear and could not, therefore, be used as saving grace. In this regard, the adjudicator noted a dissonance between the claim, the representative figure and the affidavit.

Ms Shoshani-Caspi, did, however, find that the although directed to an algorithm, since the algorithm was for use on a machine having certain functionality, the invention should be considered technological and not software per se or a thought process.

Having defined the invention as segmenting candidate flaws and then examining them, the adjudicator found that each of the publications:

  • West at al, ‘The Automatic Visual Inspection of Printed Circuit Boards’ Circuit World Vo. 8 No.2 (1982)
  • West, ‘A system for the Automatic Visual Inspection of Bare-Printed Circuit Boards’, IEER Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Vol. SMC -14, No.5 (1984)
  •  US 5,619,429; M. Aloni at al, Apr. 8 1997

Separately anticipates  the claimed invention, rendering it known in contradistinction to Section 4 of the Patent Law 1967. Being known, the claimed invention could not be considered inventive in contradistinction to Section 5 of the Patent Law 1967.

That said, the adjudicator did not find the claims unsupported or evidence of inequitable behavior.

Despite the Opposer failing to specify the flaws of the dependent claims, the adjudicator did not find redeeming features in any of these. The patent was found to be invalidated and costs of 15000 Shekels were awarded to Camtek.

Comment

Once again, Camtek, represented by Adv.Adi Levit, has successfully invalidated an Orbotech patent. However, unlike the recent case where Camtek invalidated Orbotech’s IL 179995 patent and the Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha ruled costs of 296,895 Shekels.as Orbotech forgot to appeal Camtek’s detailed costs submission, the costs awarded in this case were a mere 15000 Shekels which does not seem to be a lot for a case that has been dragging on for 7 years.