Photo of Audrey A Millemann

Audrey Millemann is a shareholder with Weintraub Tobin and practices in the Intellectual Property and Litigation sections. She is a litigator and a registered patent attorney.  Audrey advises clients on all issues of intellectual property law, including infringement, validity, and ownership of patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

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

An inter partes review (IPR) is a procedure to challenge a patent in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The IPR procedure was established by the American Invents Act, and was intended to be an improvement on the existing inter partes reexamination procedure. An IPR is brought before the PTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which handles the proceeding and decides the outcome.

Any person can file a petition requesting an IPR of an issued patent. The petition must show that at least one claim of the patent is unpatentable on the grounds of anticipation (35 U.S.C. §102) or obviousness (35 U.S.C. §103). The petitioner must prove unpatentability by a preponderance of the evidence. The PTO decides whether to grant the petition.
Continue Reading PTAB May Decide Patentability Under Section 101 in Inter Partes Reviews

A new temporary pilot program in the US PTO will speed up appeals in patent applications before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The program, which went into effect on July 2, 2020, is called the “Fast Track Appeals Pilot Program.” The program is limited to 125 appeals per quarter.

The PTO instituted the pilot program because of the popularity of its Track I Prioritized Examination Program for patent applications. Under that program, an applicant can petition the PTO for expedited prosecution when filing a new application by paying an extra fee and limiting the number of claims. The Track I program is limited to 12,000 applications per year, and has been very successful. In 2019, 2.7% of the applications filed were under the Track I program.
Continue Reading New Fast Track for Patent Appeals

An unpublished decision from the Northern District of California emphasizes how important it is for attorneys to follow patent local rules.

Patent local rules are rules that many federal district courts have for patent infringement cases. These rules supplement the regular local rules for that court and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and allow the courts that have a lot of patent infringement cases to more efficiently manage those cases. Patent local rules are also helpful to the parties and their counsel, as they provide a standard structure and some certainty to the litigation process.
Continue Reading Make Sure You Follow the Patent Local Rules!