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06.05.18

Nationality and Sovereignty in AIA Era: Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Under Siege From Patent ‘Activists’

Posted in America, Courtroom, Law, Patents at 5:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

‘Activists’ as in greedy and mischievous law firms, whose reckless actions damage the image of the US patent system

Wanted poster

Summary: The gunslingers that shoot from the hip at tribunals which assess patent quality don’t quite seem to understand what the outside world thinks of them; aggressiveness against the government itself merely reinforces the belief that they — the law firms — are the outlaws or the people’s (not just the state’s) enemy

THE USPTO must obey or at least respect rulings from the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Otherwise it might grant patents in error, only to be ‘reprimanded’ (or at least embarrassed) by judges years down the line. The America Invents Act (AIA), introducing the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), helps assure that the USPTO more or less complies with SCOTUS, e.g. on § 101. It intervenes before and after patent grants, often thwarting application grants or voiding them after the grant.

AIA has been good, but it’s no good for law firms that are accustomed to lengthy (hence expensive) legal battles.

‘Activist’ law firms have decided to do something about it, even if they’re opposed by Federal courts and politicians, who generally accuse these firms of “shams”, “scams” and so on. Even the Federal Circuit got involved. The patent “scam” of Allergan and Mohawk Tribe is one such example; it is a threat to the very core of the patent system. The lawyers behind this “scam” are threatening me because they don’t like the negative publicity. Yesterday Bloomberg had this article by Susan Decker, who wrote the following:

Technology companies, banks and insurers say that allowing drugmaker Allergan Plc to use an American Indian tribe’s sovereign immunity to avoid competition from generics could undercut a system to weed out bad patents.

Industry groups filed arguments with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ahead of oral arguments Monday. The court is considering whether patents for the company’s blockbuster dry-eye drug Restasis can still be challenged despite being transferred to a tribe that claims sovereign immunity.

“If Allergan’s ‘rent-a-tribe’ strategy is ultimately successful, it could doom the entire” review process, said Brad Wright, a patent lawyer with Banner & Witcoff in Washington. “Patent owners of all types — not just pharmaceutical companies — would be able to circumvent the process by asserting sovereign immunity.”

[...]

The Mohawk tribe has since reached a similar agreement with another company, SRC LLC, and together they sued Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft over patents for high-speed computing. Apple Inc. was sued over a patent owned by three North Dakota tribes, though the case was settled.

The goal is to avoid a review of issued patents before the patent board, which has an easier legal standard to cancel issued patents and is a favorite among tech and financial companies. The U.S. Supreme Court in April rejected claims the administrative reviews were unconstitutional.

Don’t expect these “scams” to last. Thus far (and it has been going on for about a year) they lose at every turn. On their side they mostly have dishonest law firms and patent maximalists such as Watchtroll. The concept of covered business method review (CBM) — a part of the America Invents Act (AIA) — was recalled/mentioned by Dennis Crouch the other day in relation to patent maximalists who want to sue even their own government for patent infringement. In one instance they want the government to stay out of their business and here they suddenly care so much about the government? To quote:

The America Invents Act (AIA) allows for a “person” to file a covered business method review (CBM) to challenge an issued patent. See AIA Section 18 (because they it is a temporary program, the CBM provisions have not been codified in the United States Code).

[...]

The setup here is fairly limited because it is only focused on governmental use, but it is the type of questions likely to receive interest from the Supreme Court. In its decision in the case, the Federal Circuit ruled (over a dissent) that a Section 1498 action counts as an infringement lawsuit for the purposes of the AIA and that the U.S. Government counts as a “person” under the statute — writing that “The AIA does not appear to use the term ‘person’ to exclude the government in other provisions.”

As usual, Crouch hopes to solicit patent maximalists’ input for SCOTUS (and lawyers make money from any litigation, so why cares about laws anyway?). What these people don’t care to realise is that the reckless behaviour (as above) merely serves to discredit the patent system as a whole. They don’t want to play by the rules and in the process they just smash the underlying system (as happened at the EPO).

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