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.


Google and Waze Sued By Israeli Inventor

February 25, 2016

Waze

Waze is an Israeli company that developed an Application (App) for helping drivers choose optimal routes and for estimating arrival times. It uses crowd sourcing to detect and help avoid congestion. Google bought Waze in $1.15 billion back in 2013.

Now another Israeli company, ‎ ‎Makor Issues And Rights Ltd, is asserting two patents against Google: US 6,480,783 and US 6,615,130 both by David Myr.

Makor Issues And Rights Ltd have filed a patent infringement suit in the Federal Court of Delaware. They claim that Google Maps directly infringes the patents.


PCT Filing Fees to Drop in January 2016

December 17, 2015

wipo_pct_logo270

Israel applicants of the PCT can select the USPTO, the EPO or the ILPO for conducting International Searches and preliminary examinations, i.e. for generating the ISR and IPER and chapter 2.

As of January 1, 2016, most of the PCT prices will drop. For example, the International filing fee will drop from $1384 to $1363. That price is good for applications of up to 30 pages including forms and Figures. Additional pages currently cost a further $16, but this will drop $1 a page to $15 a page.

The International Search fees via the EPO will drop from the current $2125 to $2097. Preliminary Examination fees (for the IPER) will drop from $208 to $205 if the USPTO is used. The IPER fee via EPO will drop from 191 Euros to a mere 183 Euros.Backing the trend however, the Israel Patent Office (ILPO) will now charge 794 Shekels instead of 766 Shekels.

Users of PCT Safe save $205 per application, and if they file electronically, the discount is $307.

PC Tea

PC Tea

Extraordinary value for money is our PCTea bags which take away the stress of international filing. These are a blend of organic green tea and organic spearmint (nana) and are worth about $10 a box. Clients using our stress free PCT services are welcome to a free box.


J-Date swipes at J-Swipe

August 11, 2015

matchmaker
There are well-defined groups of Jewish singles looking for partners. In traditional society, the match-maker paired up potential partners, and made his/her living from so-doing. In the wider society, friends and acquaintances suggested that people who seemed compatible should meet. Depending on the perceptiveness of the match-maker, the date could be very successful or very tedious for both parties.
In 1997 J-Date offered a computerized match-making service to Jews. Apparently their questionnaires enable people to provide more details of who they are and what they are looking for. J-Date quickly grew to become a leading service provider.
If 1997 was the beginning of the Internet revolution, nearly 20 years later things have changed. J-Swipe is an application that lets those interested in dating discover the proximity of potentially suitable partners, to find out a little more about them, and to contact those of interest. It is apparently a circumcised ritually immersed version of Tinder, a similar application that is less tribal. Apparently J-Swipe is the #1 Jewish dating app with users in over 70 countries. They also claim 375,000+ JSwipe users from across the world (which compares nicely with the number of times this blog has been accessed, but my statistic includes repeat views, and the blog has been going for longer).
Both J-Date and J-Swipe target the same audience, i.e. single Jews, and offer similar services. So J-Date sued J-Swipe and also connected hosting sites and the like, threatening to sue them.
J-Date claims patent infringement and trademark infringement.
Their patent is US 5,950,200 to Sudai and Blumberg titled ” Method and apparatus for detection of reciprocal interests or feelings and subsequent notification”
The independent method claim is

1. A method that notifies people that they feel reciprocal interest for each other, comprising the steps, performed by a processor of a data processing system having a memory, of:
receiving input from a first user indicating a user ID of a specific person in whom the first user has an interest, the first user already being aware of the existence of the person whose ID they entered;
receiving input from a second user indicating a user ID of a specific person in whom the second user has an interest, the second user already being aware of the existence of the person whose ID they entered;
determining whether the user ID of the person in whom the first user has an interest matches a user ID of the second user;
determining whether the user ID of the person in whom the second user has an interest matches a user ID of the first user; and
if and only if a match occurs in both of the determining steps, notifying the first user and the second user that a match has occurred.

There is an independent apparatus claim as well:

28. An apparatus that notifies people that they feel reciprocal interest for each other, comprising:
a first input portion, configured to receive input from a first user indicating a user ID of a specific person in whom the first user has an interest, the first user already being aware of the existence of the person whose ID they entered;
a second input portion, configured to receive input from a second user indicating a user ID of a specific person in whom the second user has an interest, the second user already being aware of the existence of the person whose ID they entered;
a first determining portion, coupled to the first and second input portions, configured to determine whether the user ID of the person in whom the first user has an interest matches a user ID of the second user;
a first determining portion, coupled to the first and second input portions, configured to determine whether the user ID of the person in whom the second user has an interest matches a user ID of the first user; and
a notifying portion, coupled to the first and second determining portions, configured to notify the first user and the second user if and only if the first and second determining portions have detected a match.

There is also a means claim and a software claim.

Back in 1999 such patents issued. Nowadays they don’t.

The trouble is, as VOX put it, JDate claims to own the concept of connecting 2 people based on mutual attraction.

Now, J-Date denies that it against market competition:
“This is not about us discouraging market competition,” Michael Egan, CEO of the company behind JDate, wrote to the New York Observer’s Brady Dale. “Our case against JSwipe is about their theft of our technology.” I am not convinced.
Having an issued patent, there is a rebuttable assumption of validity and they cannot be accused of bad faith in attempting to assert their patent against infringers. However, I doubt that the patent would be upheld in court.

When considering validity, US courts are governed by current case law in their interpretation of concepts such as patentable subject matter, novelty and obviousness. Many patents issued at the turn of the millenium will not stand up in court.

In addition to patents, J-Date also claims trademark infringement. J-Date argues that J-Swipe infringes their mark. Back when I was a student in England, college Jewish Societies were known as J-Socs and presumably still are. The left leaning America-Israel pressure group J-Street uses a J for the same reason. The J indicates Jewish. It seems unlikely that the courts would recognize an individual company having rights in the letter J for dating services.
I doubt that the patent would stand up in court as most of the computerized service patents are voidable in light of recent decisions, and the patent in question doesn’t seem very exciting. I also doubt that the argument of trademark infringement will stand up. The thing is that J-Date have deep pockets and see a threat to their market dominance. They are suing because they can.

Yentl is using behavior more appropriate to a troll. Still all is fair in the business of love.

Matchmaker – Fiddler on the Roof (1971)


A lack of uniformity in unity of invention

July 20, 2015
UNity
As Israel’s leading IP blogger, I regularly get emails and phone calls from students, inventors, academics and professionals, both from Israel and abroad, about various aspects of patent and trademark practice.
Most recently, I received an interesting question on what constitutes unity of invention. The question is rather better than the answer.
All regimes require unity of invention. One is entitled to protect one invention in a single patent. There are separate issues regarding double patenting, i.e. protecting the same invention with more than one patent, but, how is a single invention determined?
The practice relates to claims and differs in different jurisdictions.
In the US, unity seems to depend on the main class that the Examiner classifies the invention as and has to search when evaluating novelty and non-obviousness. One can file up to three independent claims (regardless of type) for the same basic price. However, there is no limit on the number of independent claims in the same class, since the searching requires trawling the same material.
US Examiners love to issue restriction orders due to multiple inventions, and sometimes do this based on the figures. They may require a restriction to a product or process, but may also require an election of a preferred species where different figures show different embodiments. However, once a structure is allowed, corresponding and withdrawn method claims can be allowed and rejoined so long as the method requires using the allowed apparatus.
In Europe, the theory relates to the inventive concept to be searched. In practice one is entitled to one independent method claim and one independent apparatus claim. Anything else and the claims will be reject as ambiguous.
It will be appreciated therefore, that the same claims may be considered as having unity in US but not in Europe and vice-versus.  Indeed, with two independent method claims and two independent structure claims each with minor differences, I’d expect the USPTO examiner to want inventor to elect either method claims or structure claims, and EPO examiner to want one of each.
In Israel (and there is no logic to this – it was a circular from Previous Commissioner, Meir Noam), one is entitled for up to two claims of each type. this can be method, product, system, gene sequence (now no longer patentable anywhere else).
Examiners will require restrictions on unity considerations, but there is no clear definition of unity. If a foreign patent office allows a set of claims one can request allowance under Section 17c and the issue of unity is not a grounds for objection by examiner or in opposition. What this means is that something acceptable in the US or in Europe (or in UK, Austria, Australia and other jurisdictions recognized in Appendix B for purposes of Section 17c) is acceptable in Israel. Since US and Europe have different standards, it will be clear that there is no clear standard in Israel.
See https://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2010/02/03/israel-patent-office-to-allow-no-more-than-two-independent-claims-of-each-type/ for more information.

 


Israel Ranked 3rd in US Patent Filings

April 2, 2015

us patent3rd place

Israel originating patents filed in the US jumped 21 percent in 2014, according to a study by BdiCoface.

The study found that 3,555 Israel-based patents were filed in the US during 2014,which is nearly 389 patents per million Israeli inhabitants. Only Japan, with 445.6 patents per million, and Taiwan, with 524.4 patents per million, outranked Israel, which was ahead of South Korea, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland.

From 2009 to 2013, the companies filing the most US patents for Israeli inventions were IBM (674 patents), followed by Intel (435), Marvell (281), Sandisk (261) and HP (197). The top educational institutions in Israel filing US patents were Tel Aviv University (161), the Weizmann Institute (158), the Technion (137) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (116). These statistics are high compared to other universities abroad and is seems that Israel’s tech transfer policy is working.

Probably due to the relatively high cost, there has been a drop in European Patent Applications for Israeli inventions.

We note that the US is a preferred location for Israel inventors who may not bother filing in Israel. For fast moving industries such as telecommunications, it may make sense only filing in the US. For methods of medical treatments or after the inventor has published or presented his invention in public, there may be no alternatives. Nevertheless, we consider not filing in Israel may be a costly mistake. Often Israel has more than one company in the same technology area. Current employees may become competitors. Enforcing a patent in Israel is much cheaper than enforcement in the US and the costs of also filing and prosecuting in Israel may be minimal. Finally, with the PPH (Patent Prosecution Highway) first filing in Israel may speed up the process of obtaining a patent in the US.

We also note that patents and patent applications are not apples and oranges. The absolute numbers and even numbers per capita are statistics of doubtful value as some patents are worth billions and most aren’t worth the cost of obtaining them. That is true even if they are exceptionally well written, simply because some technologies are implemented and others are obsolete when filed.

I do recommend that my Israel based clients seriously consider filing in Israel. Apart from odd Judaica related inventions and other niche products, most file in the US.  China is taking over from Europe as a primary destination, but Europe, Korea and Japan are all popular. Australia and India are also on the patent map.

The correct strategy of where to file and indeed of what to file is very case specific and depends on a number of variables including but not limited to budget, business plan, technology field, the centrality of the patent to the company, the size of potential and actual markets and where competitors are domiciled.

 


PCZL (Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer LLP) Appeals Source Vagabond Decision Sanctioning the Law firm for bringing Frivolous Law Suit.

January 21, 2015

shlooker

Background

Source Vagabond is one of a number of companies making personal portable water supplies that are known in Israel as Shlookers – a shlook being slang Hebrew for a sip.

On August 2, 2011, Source Vagabond sued Hydrapak for, inter alia, infringing “at least claim of the US 7,648,276 patent, either literally, or under the doctrine of equivalents.” On September 16, 2011, Hydrapak served a sanctions motion under Rule 11 which provides that, before a motion for sanctions is filed, the party against whom the sanctions will be sought must be notified of the potential Rule 11 violation and given a twenty-one-day period to withdraw the offending claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2). Source declined to withdraw. On October 6, 2011, Source filed an Amended Complaint, and on October 12, 2011, Hydrapak served an amended Rule 11 motion.

The court of first instance ruled that granted Hydrapak’s motions for summary judgment and Rule 11 sanctions on April 11, 2012.

Regarding claim construction, the court said there was “nothing complicated or technical” about the claim limitation “slot being narrower than the diameter of the rod,” and that none of the words of this limitation “requires definition or interpretation beyond its plain and ordinary meaning.” Accordingly, the court gave “slot being narrower than the diameter of the rod” its“plain and ordinary meaning.”

The district court stated that Source’s proposed claim interpretation “violates all the relevant canons of claim construction” and that even under Source’s own construction, Hydrapak did not infringe. It also found the literal infringement claim “lacked evidentiary support no matter how the claim was construed” and “the difference is apparent to the naked eye, and the tape measure leaves no room for doubt.”

Specifically, the district court determined that in Hydrapak’s products the slot is larger than the diameter of the rod, even under Source’s proposed construction. The original decision ruling that the case was frivolous and fining attorneys PCZL is reported here.

Source Vagabond and Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer appealed the ruling.

The Appeal

On appeal, judge Cott determined that the sanctions were bases on two grounds:

“Source made frivolous legal claims in its submissions to the Court, in violation of Rule 11(b)(2); and Source failed to conduct an adequate investigation before filing this lawsuit, in violation of Rule 11(b)(3).”. He recommended Source’s counsel (i.e. Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer pay $187,308.65 in partial attorney’s fees, but that Source not be sanctioned.

The logic, explained by the district court was “Given counsel’s sole responsibility, as a matter of law, for the violations of Rule 11(b)(2), and counsel’s additional responsibility for the failure to investigate under Rule 11(b)(3), I recommend that Yonay and Shuman be held responsible for any monetary sanction. I further recommend Yonay and Shuman’s law firm, Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer LLP be held jointly and severally liable in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(1).

Hydropak successfully argued that it should receive legal fees for defending against te reconsideration motion, and the court concurred, raising the damages to $200,054.

The decision was appealed to the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit.

Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit Ruling

In patent lawsuits, defending against baseless claims of infringement subjects the alleged infringer to undue costs, and this is precisely the scenario that Rule 11 contemplates.

The District Court found that Source had an obligation to demonstrate why they believed they had a reasonable chance of proving infringement, and that Source failed to show either literal infringement or infringement under the doctrine of equivalents. The issue revolved around the meaning of “slot being narrower than the diameter of the rod”. The district court dismissed Source’s construction stating, “an ‘analysis’ that adds words to the claim language [without support in the intrinsic evidence] in order to support a claim of infringement” does not follow “standard canons of claim construction.” Additionally, the surrounding claim language demonstrates that the “the slot,” “the rod, and “the portion of the container . . . folded over the rod” are distinct from each other. The claim language does not compare the size of the slot to the size of the rod together with the folded over container. Source had the ability to draft the claim that way but did not. It cannot correct that failure by adding words to otherwise unambiguous claim language. In other words, there is a limit to what one can argue a claim means.

Finally, Source argues that Hydrapak’s proposed construction “would render the entirety of claim 1 nonsensical.” This is a fascinating admission that not only does the scope of the claim as prosecuted by PCZL not include the product fabricated by Hydrapak, but that the claim is actually meaningless.

On Appeal, the Federal Circuit stated that “The district court properly determined that “claim construction is a function of the words of the claim not the ‘purpose’ of the invention,” and that Source’s construction “violates nearly every tenet of claim construction and amounts to a wholesale judicial rewriting of the claim.” Source was required to “perform an objective evaluation of the claim terms” to satisfy its obligation to conduct a reasonable pre-suit evaluation. Eon-Net LP v. Flagstar Bancorp, 653 F.3d 1314, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2011). By proposing a definition that ignores the canons of claim construction, Source did not meet that standard. The district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing Rule 11(b)(2) sanctions based upon Source’s frivolous claim construction arguments.

Regarding the doctrine of equivalents:

(“[N]either the attorney’s affidavit nor plaintiff’s ‘pre-suit analysis’ . . .[ever] mentioned, let alone analyzed, how Hydrapak’s product infringed Source’s patent under the doctrine of equivalents.”). Counsel was obligated to come forward with a showing of exactly why, prior to filing suit, they believed their claim of infringement under the doctrine of equivalents was reasonable. See View Eng’g, 208 F.3d at 986. Source did not comply with this requirement below. Under these circumstances, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding a Rule 11 violation. The cost of $200,054 against Guy Yonay and against Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer was affirmed.

Court of Appeals Federal Circuit, SOURCE VAGABOND SYSTEMS and Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer LLP v. HYDRAPAK, INC., decided June 5, 2014

COMMENTS

I apologize to readers for being tardy in reporting this decision from June 2014. It has only recently come to my attention. Guy Yonay accused me of unfair reporting of the original decision and argued that the judge was clearly wrong, and Zev Pearl accused me of publishing lies. I think this decision, which may be found in full here appeal PCZL vindicates my reporting.

The court is correct that the attorneys are responsible for filing the frivolous law-suit. Why did this happen?

Well, the decision states that “Guy Yonay and Clyde Shuman are partners in the law firm Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer LLP. Prior to the present action, Mr. Yonay prosecuted the ’276 patent application. In the underlying district court litigation, Mr. Yonay signed the original Complaint on behalf of Source, and Mr. Shuman signed the Amended Complaint.”

I would suggest that the first problem is that Yonay apparently prosecuted the claim before the patent office (and may have drafted the application) and then went on to litigate it. This is never good practice. Before litigating one should seek an independent opinion of the chances of prevailing. Yonay could not objectively review the claims he’d prosecuted. He appears to be confused between the purpose of the product and the claimed structure. With mechanical patents one cannot, by obtaining a patent for a specific device, prevent third parties from competing with devices having different structures that are well beyond the ambit of the claims, by arguing that they achieve the desired aim and are thus functional equivalents.

In general, it is ill-advised for the prosecutor of the patent to litigate it in court. Indeed, it is ill-advised for the prosecutor and litigator to belong to the same firm. At least on Appeal, Pearl Cohen took an external counsel, Jenks.

The managing partner of PCZL, Zev Pearl is not licensed to practice in the US. There is, however, a senior partner, Mark Cohen, who is US licensed. Both these gentlemen could and should have prevented the frivolous case being filed. Their failure to do so explains why the courts find the firm responsible and not just Yonay and Shuman.

In a newspaper article on trolls that originated in PCZL was published in the Jerusalem Post and also appears on the Pearl Cohen website, it is implied that only under new Obama legislation, can non-practicing entities be sued for costs in unsuccessful law suits. The implication is that prior to the proposed legislation trolls had nothing to lose by filing frivolous lawsuits and that practicing entities have nothing to lose as they are not trolls. This decision shows the error in this approach. Any entity, whether practicing or otherwise, must have reasonable grounds of validity and infringement to bring a case against a third-party to court. The courts have the authority to sanction the plaintiff and their legal counsel for filing frivolous cases. Pearl Cohen should have known that the interpretation they were giving to the claim was untenable. It was not infringed. The courts were therefore correct in fining PCZL.

 


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