Patent Application for Jokes

April 1, 2017

101USSN 2006/0259,306 titled “Business method protecting jokes” has 25 claims and lists Timothy Roberts as the inventor.

Section 35 U.S.C. 101 is the part of US Patent Law that considers patentable subject matter. The Law states:

“Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”

Over time, the US Supreme Court has interpreted this statement to determine practical borders of what can and cannot be patented have changed.

For Example, in Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980), the Supreme Court Ruled that microbes for breaking down crude oil were patentable.

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger who wrote the decision, and had the support of the majority of the Supreme Court, including Justices Stewart, Blackmun, Rehnquist, and Stevens, wrote:

We have cautioned that courts “should not read into the patent laws limitations and conditions which the legislature has not expressed.” United States v. Dubilier Condenser Corp, 289 U.S. 178 (1933).

Regarding the scope of the original legislation, he wrote:

In choosing such expansive terms as “manufacture” and “composition of matter” modified by the comprehensive “any”, Congress plainly contemplated that the patent laws would be given wide scope.

Plagiarizing Ecclesiastes 1:9, Burger found that Congress had intended patentable subject matter to “include anything under the sun that is made by man,” he concluded:

Judged in this light, respondent’s micro-organism plainly qualifies as patentable subject matter. His claim is … to a non-naturally occurring manufacture or composition of matter—a product of human ingenuity.

In State Street Bank and Trust Company v. Signature Financial Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1998), the principle was established that any “useful, concrete, and tangible result” was patentable, opening the door to business method patents.

Since then, the pendulum has swung back and in 2008, in In re Bilski, the Federal Circuit decided to reconsider State Street en banc and jettisoned the “useful-concrete-tangible result” (UCTR) test stated in State Street, but it did not explicitly overrule State Street in its entirety. The court said that the UCTR test “is insufficient to determine whether a claim is patent-eligible under § 101,” and “is inadequate,” and it reaffirmed that “the machine-or-transformation test outlined by the Supreme Court is the proper test to apply” instead. As to State Street, the court said, “those portions of our opinions in State Street, relying on a ‘useful, concrete and tangible result’ analysis should not longer be relied on.

However, the Federal Circuit’s majority opinion did not hold that business methods are categorically patent ineligible.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of patent ineligibility in Bilski v. Kappos. It did not endorse the use of the machine-or-transformation test as the sole test, but said it was only a “useful clue” to making the determination.

The Court’s majority also declined to hold business methods categorically patent ineligible. Four Justices, however—Justice Stevens, concurring, joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor—would have held all business methods patent ineligible, on the basis of the historical background of the patent clause of the Constitution. In a separate concurring opinion by Justice Breyer, he listed points on which the Court unanimously agreed. One point was that the State Street Bank case was not a correct statement of the law.

The Supreme Court’s subsequent decisions in Mayo v. Prometheus and Alice v. CLS Bank further expanded on Bilski and substantially obliterated State Street. These decisions established a two-step inquiry in which, first, the court is to look to whether the claimed invention is directed to an abstract idea or natural principle; if it is, a second step follows in which the court must determine whether the claimed invention implements the abstract idea inventively or instead in a merely routine or conventional manner. Unless the implementation or application of the abstract idea embodies an “inventive concept,” the claimed invention is patent ineligible. (These concepts are explained further in the articles on the Mayo and Alice cases.) Under this test the State Street patent would be invalid.

Alice specifically holds that a generic computer implementation of an abstract idea is patent ineligible. In Alice, the Supreme Court held that a software-related invention on an existing business procedure could not be saved from patent ineligibility and be made patent eligible simply by saying, “Do it with a computer.” Instead, it would be necessary to implement the procedure in an inventive manner. This decision appears to have overruled State Street as called for in the eBay dissent.

Inventor’ Andrew Knight has several United States published patent applications for the storylines of movie plots. So far his portfolio includes four patent applications that variously published in November and December of last year. They are all entitled “Process of relaying a story having a unique plot”. The main claim of United States Patent Application Number US2005/0282140 reads as follows:

“A process of relaying a story having a timeline and a unique plot involving characters, comprising: indicating that a first character experiences de-ja-vu to mask an actual event.

United States Patent Application Number US2005/0272013 claims:

“A process of relaying a story having a timeline and a unique plot involving characters, comprising: indicating that a first character voluntarily enters a virtual reality; indicating a belief by said first character that said first character is not in virtual reality; and indicating that an interaction in virtual reality between said first character and a second character, while said first character has said belief, causes said first character to labor for, at most, a compensation substantially lower than a market value of said first character’s labor.”

So is USSN 2006/0259,306 titled “Business Method Protecting Jokes” patentable? Well it depends on the constitution of the Supreme Court and on guidelines provided by President Trump who seems determined to reverse the American Invents Act championed by O’bama.


Is claim construction a matter of Law or is it related to the Art claimed?

January 6, 2017

Elad Barkan owns Israel Patent No. 133671 titled “CRYPTANALYSIS METHOD AND SYSTEM” and Rontal Engineering Applications 2001 (LTD) is attempting to have this patent canceled.

There are corresponding US patents US9038192 (B2)  and  US8295477 (B2), however there are some claim differences.

One question that arose in the cancellation proceedings is how the claimed invention differs from that of the corresponding US patent.

Rontal Engineering’s representatives engaged veteran Israel Patent Attorney Sanford T Colb to explain this, which he did in an Affidavit. Barkan’s attorneys requested permission to submit an expert opinion of their own and this was duly allowed.

Elad Barkan wrote the expert opinion himself, challenging Colb’s competence in cryptoanalysis. Rontal Engineering’s lawyers then submitted to have Barkan’s affidavit thrown out as it raised new issues, and, according to them, despite his competence regarding the technical subject matter, the correct reading of claims is a matter of law that was outside his competence. They also noted that as a party to the proceedings he could hardly be considered an impartial expert witness.

After referring to different sections of the affidavit that showed that Barkan was indeed ignorant of claim construction, the Deputy Commissioner Ms Bracha had his Affidavit struck from the record, and announced that costs for this skirmish would be taken into account at the end of the main proceedings.

 

COMMENT

In Israel we do not have specialist IP courts and any District Judge or Supreme Court judge may be called upon to rule on IP cases. Sometimes, the judge has no scientific background and has never studied IP law and occasionally the decisions are plane wrong. See here  for an example of a very wrong decision. The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner are specialist IP judges. They have a team of Examiners that they can call on. they should therefore be able to construe the scope of protection of claims granted in Israel without the help of a practitioner in private practice, however experienced and competent.

I think that Luthi et al who represented Barkan should have understood or at least clarified what Ms Bracha wanted in a counter-opinion, and should know that clients are not impartial and generally make lousy witnesses.


Wet-wipes, The Issue of Inventorship and the Responsibilities of the Patent Attorney

September 22, 2016

wetnap-were-ready-for-any-messThis ruling concerns a product that resulting from the contributions of two people who were formerly friends. A patent application was filed that named both people as both inventors and applicants. Later, after powers-of-attorney signed by each of the named inventor – applicants had been filed, there was an attempt to ‘correct an office error’, to list one of them as an inventor only. The corresponding PCT application and the national phase entry applications, including two issued patents in the United States only bore the name of one inventor and applicant. In an Opposition ruling the Israel Patent Office has now accepted that the second named inventor is indeed an inventor and also an owner.

Apart from emphasizing the need to determine who is the inventor and who is the owner of an invention when the patent is filed, the need to put everything into writing, and the dangers of working with friends, the case raises interesting questions regarding what contribution to reducing a patent to practice entitles someone to recognition as an inventor and whether this standard is the same in all jurisdictions. It also raises interesting questions regarding the duties and responsibilities of the patent attorney to ascertain the facts, or at least to avoid signing on contradictory statements regarding ownership and invention in different jurisdictions.

BACKGROUND

IL 152867 titled “Tissue Container With Auxiliary Compartment”is a patent application for a package of wet-wipes
rc-chairswith an adjacent container for nappy cream. The Application was filed back in November 2002 and listed Boaz Krystal and Liat De-Vries as inventors and owners. The patent application was allowed at the end of June 2010.

Subsequently, an Opposition was filed by WET-NAPS LTD and Liat De-Vries on 4 October 2010 under Section 31(3) of the Israel Patent Law 1967 on the grounds that Boaz Krystal was not in fact an owner, and that the patent was exclusively owned by Ms Liat De-Vries.
affidavitsMr Boaz Krystal and his wife Mrs Dorit Krystal each submitted affidavits. Mrs Liat De-Vries submitted a primary affidavit and a supplementary one in response to Mr Boaz Krystal’s affidavit. Wet-Naps Ltd. is owned by Mr Ilan De-Vries, who is Mrs Liat De-Vries’ husband. He also submitted an affidavit on behalf of the company.  Mr David De-Vries, a patent attorney at Reinhold Cohn & Partners who drafted and filed the application and is a cousin of Mr Ilan De-Vries, Ms Ronit Tal who is an acquaintance of Liat De-Vries and Mr Yoram Hadar who is an industrial designer, also submitted affidavits. A hearing was held and the parties submitted their summaries.

wetnapWet-Nap Ltd manufactures, exports and markets wet-wipes. The company had a business relationship with Packtop Ltd., a company directed by Mr Boaz Krystal that distributes wet-wipes amongst other things.   At the time of filing, both the Krystals and the De-Vries couple were good friends.

roobarbs-shedThere is no argument that Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries met at the Wet-Nap Ltd factory, where Mr Boaz Krystal heard the idea of including baby ointment together with a package of wet-wipes from Mrs Liat De-Vries. There is also no argument that Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries had some kind of collaboration, to develop and improve this invention and to file a patent application for it. Eventually a joint application was filed in both Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries names. However, the parties disagree regarding Mr Krystal’s contribution to the development of the invention and consequently disagree regarding whether he is to be considered an inventor and owner of the patent.

The Main Documents in the Prosecution File Wrapper

roobard-and-custard-friendsThe Application was filed in November 2002 by Reinhold Cohn Patent Attorneys. The Application form lists both Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries as joint owners due to them being inventions. Both parties filed Powers of Attorney, and the Filing Certificate gives both names.

On 10 December 2002, Adv. David De-Vries of Reinhold Cohn Patent Attorneys submitted a notice stating:

office-error“Due to an office error, the name of the inventor, Mr Boaz Krystal was inserted as an Applicant. With our apologies for this, we are submitting a new cover sheet and application form in duplicate, listing Mr Boaz Krystal and Mrs Liat De-Vries as joint inventors, but Mrs Liat De-Vries as the sole owner.”

On 10 December 2002, Adv. Edna Haruti, now Mr Krystal’s representative, submitted a letter in which it was stated that Mr Krystal was a joint owner together with Mrs Liat De-Vries as he had invented the tissue container with auxiliary compartment together with her.  Adv. Edna Haruti also noted that registration of the patent in the name of Mrs Liat De-Vries only was contrary to the agreement between the parties.

shimon-shalitOn 2 February 2003 Patent Attorney Shimon Shalit, then Senior Examiner in charge of formalities at the Israel Patent Office, responded to both Reinhold Cohn and to Mr Krystal that Mr Krystal could not be removed as an owner in the application as filed, since there was no indication that he had assigned his invention to Mrs Liat De-Vries prior to the application being filed. In absence of such proof, since Mr Krystal was not an employee of Mrs De-Vries, by virtue of being a co-inventor, he was also a co-owner.

(As an aside – On 12 March 2006 Mrs De-Vries submitted a divisional application of IL 152867 for certain applications of the invention. This divisional application (IL 174309) was examined, allowed and issued as a patent. On 1 December 2010 IL 174309 lapsed due to failure to pay the renewal fees. That patent is not directly relevant to this Opposition, but Wet-Naps Ltd and Liat De-Vries related to it in their claims).

procrastinateIn the protocol of a hearing held on 5 February 2007 before then Deputy Commissioner Noah Smulevezh it was decided to defer the issue of ownership until the examination of the application was completed. It was further ruled that Reinhold Cohn would be address of record, but would update Mr Krystal or his representative regarding actions taken to get his input before responding to office actions. The patent application was eventually allowed and published for opposition purposes, resulting in this opposition proceeding.

The Opposers’ (Wet-Naps Ltd and Mrs Liat De-Vries) Main Claims
wetnap

Mrs De-Vries and Wet-Naps Ltd claimed to have thought of the idea and developed the invention whereas Mr Krystal had merely provided technical drawings and a business plan for commercializing the product. They alleged that during the period in question, Mr Krystal provided technical and consultancy services to the company as almost an in-house service provider and as such, was exposed to the invention. They further claimed that Mr Yoram Hadar (industrial designer) and Patent Attorney David De-Vries provided sketches for the product that eventually evolved into the patent application. They further alleged that Mr Krystal had suggested a specific implementation (embodiment?) – storing the cream in a blister pack or sachets, which developed into  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.


Copaxone patents invalidated by the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)

August 27, 2016
copaxone 2

Following an inter-partes review brought by Mylan against two patents protecting Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ Copaxone, a drug for treating multiple sclerosis, the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) has invalidated all claims of the ‘250 and ‘413 patents for double-dose 40 mg Copaxone (glatiramer acetate injection) multiple sclerosis treatment. However, on 24 August 2016, TEVA announced that it plans to appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Erez Vigodman, president and CEO of Teva, said: “We remain confident in the strength of our intellectual property surrounding Copaxone.”

“We are prepared to defend the full suite of our intellectual property through the PTAB and US courts regardless of the time required.”

copaxone 3“We believe patients, physicians and payers will continue to value the efficacy, safety and tolerability of Copaxone and that it will remain a proprietary, global market-leading product for the reduction of relapses in RRMS patients.”

Teva have also announced that the PTAB had declined a request for a post-grant review on an additional Copaxone patent.

Copaxone represents 20% of TEVA’s income and the invalidation sent shares plummeting by 3%.


Goodness, Gracious…

August 8, 2016

family jewels

 AC/DC – Big Balls Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The Lanham Act forbids the registration of trademarks in the US that consist of immoral or scandalous matter, or that disparage people, institutions, beliefs or national symbols. Other countries have similar rules.

Back in 2014 a Norwegian company applied for a trademark for underpants that are particularly comfortable due to providing cooling of the groin area. The USPTO refused the mark on the grounds of vulgarity since they considered that the word “balls” could relate to male genitalia. In contrast, the European Patent Office allowed the mark.

Apparently Comfyballs’s underwear incorporates a design called PackageFront, which claims to increase comfort by “reducing heat transfer and restricting movement”.  One wonders why reducing heat transfer is a good idea. I always thought that testes hung in an external scrotum to keep them cool and so artificial fibers and the like, with reduced heat transfer (insulating properties) could adversely affect  sperm generation.

Apparently in politically correct circles gender is now apparently considered to be a matter of personal choice rather than physiology, one could argue that there is no longer a link between testicles and men. More seriously, the mark could be considered descriptive and thus generic. That as may be, in the latest development of this exciting saga, the applicants have managed to have the mark allowed for women’s underwear. However, why women would choose knickers branded as Comfyballs is beyond me.

Seems like a load of #$%^^&$?!


David Kappos

May 10, 2016

200px-David_Kappos_official_photo

Kim Lindy has managed to persuade David Kappos to speak at the IPR’s Fourth Annual Best Practices in Intellectual Property conference.

David, who I have met, is a pleasant fellow who, as can be seen from this photograph, bears an uncanny resemblance to Howard Poliner, the IP Law draftsman at the Israel Ministry of Justice.

With no disrespect to Howard or to the Israel Patent Office, I think that David Kappos, who served as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) from 2009 to 2013 is possibly even more eminent.  Prior to being confirmed to this post by the U.S. Senate on August 7, 2009, Kappos was the vice president and assistant general counsel, intellectual property law, for IBM Corporation. Nowadays David who works for the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, handles corporate mergers and acquisitions and litigation in the private section.

There was the rather erroneously called American Invents Act and there has been a series of important Supreme Court rulings that have resulted in the  US Patent Law and the USPTO undergoing major changes, particularly with regard to statutory patentable matter, with patents directed to genes, business method methods and software patents becoming more difficult to obtain and enforce. To my mind, the Supreme Court has clipped the wings of the Federal Circle Court of Appeal and I am not sure that their eminences necessarily knew what they were doing.  In other respects, US patent Law has become closer to that of the rest of the world.

I have no doubt that David Kappos will have a lot of insights into what is happening and where it might end and I applaud Kim for bringing him over. The conference is at an international level but is held here in Israel, and though I hate coommuting to Tel Aviv, it is much more convenient than Orlando or even Milan, and this conference is directed to practical issues.  For reports of previous Best Practices in IP Conferences see here, here andhere. For more details of this conference and to register, contact Kim Lindy.