Israel Patent Number 219586 to Fritz Collischan & Co. KG was allowed. The patent is titled “DEVICE FOR COUNTING OBJECTS FED AS BULK MATERIAL”and is the national phase entry into Israel of PCT/EP2010/067146 which published as WO2011/054974.
In a rather surprising move, Data Detection Technologies Inc, represented by Pearl Cohen Tzedek Latzer Brats requested that the allowance of the patent be cancelled. Actually this is not the first request of this type, for the present patent. Back on 9 March 2015, following a request to have the allowance withdrawn on grounds that the applicant did not provide a list of prior art as required to under Section 18 of the Law, the same third party requested that the patent be disallowed, and on that occasion, the Applicant agreed for it to be returned to a state of pending allowance. Following that episode, the now pending patent application was returned to the Examiner and eventually was allowed on 29 September 2016 and published for Opposition purposes under Section 26 of the Law. Data Detection Technologies Inc have again requested that the case be returned to the Examiner as they have found additional citations and video clips that they claim reveal the invention and which were sent by themselves to the Applicant some month before allowance.
Despite bringing the additional material to the Applicant’s attention, the Applicants did not make this art of record and the patent was eventually allowed under Section 17c, on the basis of a corresponding issued patent (which presumably itself issued without the Examiner thereof considering the video clips and publications submitted by Data Detection Technologies Inc. Data Detection Technologies Inc argued that this failure is sufficient to prevent the patent issuing under Section 18c of the Law. Alternatively, since the citations are central to the patentability of the invention, Data Detection Technologies Inc considers that minimally the patent be returned to the Examiner for further Examination.
Data Detection Technologies Inc considers it inappropriate for them to have to fight an expensive opposition proceedings which was caused by the applicant failing in their duty of disclosure.
The Applicant claims that the appropriate way to raise issues relating to the duty of disclosure is via an opposition proceedings, and the arguments submitted by Data Detection Technologies relate to grounds for Opposition under Section 31 of the Law. The Applicant posits that withdrawal of allowance is an appropriate measure only in those rare cases where the decision to allow was flawed, or where a letter of allowance was issued by mistake. The Applicant does not consider this to be such a case.
The Applicant notes that the additional material was collected in an opposition proceeding that Fritz Collischan is fighting against an allowed patent of Data Detection Technologies. In that proceeding, Data Detection Technologies Inc requested an extension to respond to the Opposition and to amend the specification. The Applicant submits that the extension was applied for in bad faith and with factual inaccuracies in the justifications given. The Applicant further submits that the Affidavit includes hearsay that is not acceptable as evidence.
The parties concur that the Commissioner may cancel a notice of allowance and return an application to the Examiner if there is a major flaw in the decision to allow the patent. This authority is derived from Section 15 of the Law of Interpretation 1981 and was adopted by the patent office in the previous ruling concerning Data Detection vs. Collischan from 9 March 2015 and also in the Cellular Dynamics vs. Christopher Reed ruling from 29 April 2014.
The argument is whether the current situation is one where it is appropriate for the Commissioner to exercise their authority and to withdraw the notice of allowance, or whether the appropriate action is for Data Detection Technologies Inc to file an Opposition under Section 31 of the Patent Law 1967?
The Deputy Commissioner, Ms Jacqueline Bracha considers that the choice of appropriate course of action is to be found in the purposes of the two courses, which are also derived from their different ways of being initiated. The authority under Section 15 of the Law of Interpretation is something initiated by the administrative body to correct a mistake that they made in an earlier decision or t as a result of a change of circumstances, as an exceptional course of action where there is no other appropriate recourse authorized by the law (See Y. Zamir, Government Authority (1996) pages 1003-1006. In contradistinction, the purpose of the Opposition proceeding is to critique the Examination and to continue the Examination of a patent application in an inter-partes procedure initiated by the third party (see the Israel Patent Office Ruling re IL 136482 Bromium Compounds Ltd vs Albermarle Corporation of 7 November 2010.
With all due respect, I consider that the courts approach has changed since then, and nowadays the Supreme Court considers the Opposition procedure as being complimentary to and a completion of the Examination since it is intended to serve the public interest and the accuracy of the register.
In the framework of cancellation of an allowance the amount that the public would have relied on the notice of allowance and the type of mistake that resulted in the allowance are to be considered. However, it should be appreciated that not ALL mistakes justify the cancellation of an administrative decision. A mistaken decision based on consideration of the facts and simply reaching the wrong conclusion, will not, in general, justify changing an administrative decision (see Zamir on page 1006). The Authority will generally reach this result in cases where there is a suspicion that someone has been awarded more than he deserves. Such a suspicion is not sufficient to justify cancelling the benefit by the government body (see Zamir on Page 1007).
In contradistinction to the civil proceeding to cancel an administrative decision, the Opposition is an adversarial judicial proceeding or sub-judicial proceeding that allows the parties to bring evidence in accordance with the law of evidence, allows opposing counsel to cross-examine witnesses and enables the patent office to come to a reasoned decision. In such a proceeding, the Patent Authority is not limited by the administrative decision and he can reexamine the patentability of the invention in light of the evidence and claims before it, even apart from the considerations that the Examiner used in reaching the decision of allowance.
From the above it is clear that where a mistake in a decision is not self-evident and requires substantive clarification, the administrative decision to cancel the allowance is inappropriate.
In this instance, to determine whether the applicant is required to alert the Examiner about the publications that Data Detection mention, one has to see whether the publications “relate directly to the invention” as required by Section 19(a)2 of the Patent Law. To do this, it is necessary to listen to the claims and evidence of the parties regarding the nature of the invention.
Even if a decision is reached that the Applicant should indeed have made these publications of record under the duty of disclosure, it is necessary to consider if a failure to have done so can be dealt with by the alternatives in Section 18 or if the decision to allow the patent [to proceed for opposition purposes] should be cancelled. In this regard, to the extent that a publication allegedly shows the patent being demonstrated or implemented, the Examiner is not duty bound to consider it. Section 17b of the Law states that:
(a) an Examiner will consider if the Examination answers all the following:
(1) is for an invention considered patentable under Chapter 2;
(b) despite section (a)(1), there is no obligation to examine patentability in accordance with Section 4(2).
In summary, the Deputy Commissioner Ms Bracha does not consider that the present case is a mistake that warrants cancellation of the Notice of Allowance and does not see how the legal and factual issues can be considered in a decision to cancel the allowance and how this advances the case to a final decision on patentability.
The final claim of Data Detection Technologies Inc, that Applicant’s failure to make art of record should not oblige them to enter a lengthy and costly opposition proceeding. It is true that oppositions are lengthy and the regulations provide at least 16 months from initiation of an opposition until a hearing is scheduled. The parties may request extensions and interim decisions, to correct the specification and more. Nevertheless, the Opposer can submit their evidence on filing their statement of case, thereby significantly shortening the procedure. Furthermore, on conclusion of the opposition, the prevailing party is awarded actual costs, if they are essential, reasonable and proportional See Bagatz 891/05 Tnuva Agricultural Cooperative vs. the Authority for Granting Import licenses, p/d/ 60(a) 600. From here it is clear that if Data Detection Technologies Inc are right, they can expense appropriate compensation.
Therefore it is not considered that the decision to allow the patent was clearly erroneous, justifying its cancellation without a factual inquiry, and it is precisely the anticipated costs that are incurred by an opposer for conducting an opposition that tilts the balance towards holding an opposition proceeding.
As an afterword, it is noted that this is not the place to consider the behavior of Data Detection Technologies in a separate opposition before the Patent Office.
Data Detection Technologies are ordered to pay 4000 Shekels + VAT in legal fees to Fritz Collischan.
This decision is a correct one. Since, nowadays pending applications publish 18 months from priority and the whole file wrapper is available for examination prior to allowance, maybe Israel should formally allow third party prior art submissions.
It seems that Data Detection Technologies Inc is trying to delay issuance without formally filing an opposition. I think that this decision, not allowing this is correct.
Previous opposition rulings that relate to failure to submit art generally did not invalidate the patent on this ground alone, but it is within the authority of the patent office to do so.