Patent Trial and Appeal Board Under Attack by Law Firms, Which Will Soon Infiltrate It in the Form of ‘Bar Association’
Summary: The vultures that are patent law firms keep circling around PTAB and hoping to destroy it, if not from the outside then from the inside, potentially regressing and ruining great progress for US patent quality since Mayo and Alice
THE Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) has been invaliding software patents in large numbers. It’s hardly surprising that proponents of such patents hate PTAB with a passion. They would destroy it if they could. They’re still trying.
Watch blowhard Watchtroll attacking his government for actually adding/embedding some quality control in the patent system, even insulting people in the process (his latest ‘masterpiece’ is titled “Happy Birthday AIA: Celebrating an Unmitigated Disaster and the Destruction of American Innovation”). The same site also attacks AIA right now. It’s America Invents Act (AIA) which brought PTAB into existence. Here is what the USPTO wrote about AIA the other day, under the title “Five Years of Patent Pro Bono Success”. The Director of the PTO praises or at least marks a milestone which gave birth to PTAB (a good thing), but not everyone agrees, especially greedy lawyers. Watch this new article titled “AIA at 5 Years: PTAB’s Tectonic Change in Patent Litigation”. Published in Wall Street media, the article quotes lawyers but not the people affected (programmers or scientists for instance). What a wonderful way to generate a one-sided sob story for law firms.
As we have noted here for a number of years, PTAB is crushing software patents and this is a good thing. Michael Loney has had some decent coverage about it and “Pondering four years of PTAB proceedings” is one of his latest articles about it. He notes that there will be a “bar association solely dedicated to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board,” but quite unfortunately it “has been formed by more than 45 law firms” (i.e. the wolves guarding sheep). Is that really necessary? Here is the press release about it and another article titled “New bar association focuses on US Patent Office’s PTAB” (from a rather decent news source, for a change).
Anyone who fails to see the sheer bias of patent law firms against the PTAB must not have paid attention. Here is a new example, this one from Michael Dever of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, where patent law firms basically call “trolls” people who crush invalid patents that should never have been granted in the first place. They reject the term trolls when it comes to abusive entities that are bullying small companies but happily use the term to refer to invalidation of invalid patents. They also, by connotation, blame this on PTAB (IPRs).
Well, after a lot of PTAB coverage Michael Loney managed to speak to the recently-appointed chief judge of PTAB. This judge, according to Loney, “believes his biggest challenge is taking the Board into a new introspective phase. He talks to Michael Loney about rule changes, PGRs’ potential, Cuozzo, motions to amend and ditching the death squad reputation” (a reputation created by nasty law firms in the first place, as we noted here many times before).
Does this judge, David Ruschke, care to see that patent law firms are his enemies? They’re trying to destroy AIA, PTAB, and even his own job. They compare people who assess patents and ensure quality to “death squads” (and those who petition for review “trolls”).
Now, watch this latest article from Loney. It sounds as though he tries to slow PTAB down. Managing IP just won’t let them bury those software patents without FUD, will it? “Much of the talk since the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) became active concerned how the Federal Circuit would deal with appeals of Board proceedings,” Managing IP says. That’s hardly a problem because in case of a backlog they can hire more staff or just proceed to more IPRs (in the interim). “The first question,” Managing IP says, “was would the appeals board be able to cope, given the unexpected popularity of PTAB filing. This is still an open question, with some strain beginning to show.”
That’s total nonsense. If they have growing demand for reviews (IPRs), then they should hire more people. It’s as simple as that. It’s a non-issue.
Holders of worthless software patents can run away to CAFC (which created software patents in the US) after PTAB does its work; that gives them no guarantees and that is absolutely fine. They don’t have this privilege carved in stone.
Here is Patently-O having a go at CAFC on PTAB initiation decision. It says that the “court also sided with the Board on Wi-Fi’s substantive argument – affirming the Board decision that the prior art anticipates.”
In other words, as one might expect, CAFC too decided that PTAB does the right thing.
One more article from Managing IP now speaks about the effect of PTAB on biotechnology/pharmaceutical patents — apparently a growth area of appeals. To quote:
Biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies were slow to use the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. This is now changing, though this patent type has lower institution and invalidation rates
The birth of the infamous “patent death squad,” (the PTAB, for those less inclined to dramatic flair), has had powerful effects on patent holders. But while the technology sector dove headfirst into the uncharted waters, biotech and pharmaceutical companies hung back for some time.
The PTAB was, at first, a mystery, and then was filled mostly with challenges against what some practitioners refer to as “junk patents”, so those seeking to invalidate valuable pharmaceutical patents were reluctant to try their luck before the Board. AIA petitions can also be high risk-high reward.
Putting aside the sob stories and the repeated use of the smear (“patent death squad,” as even Managing IP calls it), what we have here are unjust patents that were erroneously granted facing the axe, potentially saving many people’s lives (once invalided, opening the door to generics for instance). See this crude new rant from IAM, which is protesting the UN’s request that life should be put before patents. Also see this blog post about Teva’s recently-invalided patents (covered here last week). To quote: “In the last two weeks, the PTAB has invalidated three patents covering Copaxone®, a multiple sclerosis drug marketed by Teva with annual sales of over $3 billion. Challenged by generic manufacturers Mylan and Amneal, the patents specifically covered a long-acting form of Copaxone®, known as “3-times-a-week COPAXONE® 40 mg/ml,” which Teva developed when the original version of Copaxone® was coming off patent protection.”
So one rich company might enjoy fewer monopolies and poor people might enjoy better access to drugs they need to survive. How is that a bad thing given that these patents should never have been granted in the first place?
PTAB serves an important function and that’s why a patent reform (AIA) introduced it in the first place. If patent law firms get their way, they will ultimately destroy, diminish or reduce the capacity of PTAB. They’re no friends, they’re vultures. █