In The Sherwin-Williams Company v. PPG Industries, Inc., 2-17-cv-01023 (WDPA 2021-01-21, Order), the court had to decide whether Plaintiff The Sherwin-Williams Co. (“Sherwin”) should be bound by its prior admission to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) during vacated reexamination proceedings.  

During one of the reexamination proceedings, Sherwin admitted that certain prior art (“Perez”) disclosed a BPA-free coating, although it contended that its patents were valid for other reasons.  Subsequently, the entire reexamination proceeding was terminated without any action on the merits.  
Continue Reading District Court Finds Patentee’s Prior Statement Regarding Prior Art A Binding Admission

In my last column, I discussed the first argument that should be made in overcoming an obviousness rejection made by the patent examiner in a patent application.  If possible, the applicant should argue that the examiner has failed to establish a prima facie case of obviousness because the examiner did not make the required factual findings.  However, there are several additional arguments that may be applicable.

First, in relying on prior art references for the rejection, the examiner cannot pick and choose only one aspect of a prior art reference and exclude other aspects of the reference or ignore the central teaching of the reference.  “It is impermissible within the framework of section 103 to pick and choose from any one reference only so much of it as will support a given position, to the exclusion of other parts necessary to the full appreciation of what such reference fairly suggests to one of ordinary skill in the art.”  In re Wesslau, 353 F.2d 238 (CCPA 1965).
Continue Reading More Ways to Overcome Obviousness

Most patent applications are initially rejected on obviousness grounds by the patent examiner in the US Patent and Trademark Office.  That means that the examiner believes that the invention, as set forth in the claims in the application, would have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time the application was filed.   Usually, the rejection is based on one or more prior art references – documents that are publicly available as of the application’s filing date.  In making such a rejection, the examiner states that a person skilled in the art would have found it obvious to modify the teachings of the cited prior art references to achieve the claimed invention.

There are several ways to overcome this type of obviousness rejection.  The applicant can argue that the examiner is incorrect in the interpretation of the prior art references, and that those references do not teach or disclose what the examiner contends.  The applicant can also argue that, although the examiner may be correct in interpreting the prior art references, the examiner is incorrect in concluding that a person skilled in the art would have found the claimed invention obvious based on those  references.  Or, the applicant can amend the claims to add an element that is not taught or disclosed in the references.
Continue Reading Arguing Obviousness with the Patent Examiner

One way to challenge the validity of a patent at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) is through a petition for inter partes review (“IPR”).  The USPTO Director has delegated responsibility to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) to evaluate such petitions to determine whether to institute review of the challenged patent.  The PTAB will only institute review of petitions that show a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits.  However, even if the petition meets that threshold for review, the PTAB may still deny institution.  In fact, the PTAB did just that when denying Cisco Systems Inc.’s (“Cisco”) petitions for IPR challenging the validity of two U.S. Patents owned by Ramot at Tel Aviv University (“Ramot”).  Cisco appealed the denial to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In June 2019, Ramot sued Cisco in the Eastern District of Texas for allegedly infringing its patents.  The case is set to go to trial in December 2020.  Cisco filed petitions for IPR of the asserted patents in November 2019.
Continue Reading No Right to Appeal Even When IPR Institution Denied on Non-Substantive Grounds

In Impact Engine, Inc. v. Google LLC, 3-19-cv-01301 (SDCA 2020-10-20, Order) (Cathy Ann Bencivengo), the District Court for the Southern District of California recently considered whether litigation funding documents could be withheld from production by plaintiff Impact Engine because the documents were work product protected.  In the case, defendant Google had propounded a request on Impact Engine for the production of “[all] Documents Regarding any contracts or agreements between Plaintiff and any Third Party concerning (1) This Litigation and/or (2) any Asserted Patent or Related Patent.”  Impact Engine indicated it would produce non-privileged responsive documents except for potential agreements related to litigation funding because Impact Engine asserted work product protection over the documents.
Continue Reading District Court Finds Documents Related to Litigation Funding Protected by Work Product Doctrine