Fighting Obviousness Rejections: Proposed Combination Changes Principle Operation of the Reference

When the USPTO rejects patent claims to an invention as being obvious, it often combines two or more prior art references to make the rejection. The rejection may be improper if the combination proposed by the USPTO changes the principle operation of the prior art reference being modified.

The case of Plas-Pak Indus. v. Sulzer Mixpac AG, 600 Fed. Appx. 755 (Fed. Cir 2015) provides an example of this principle. Sulzer asserted that the claims of Plas-Pak’s US Patent 7,815,384 (“Plas-Pak’s Patent”) were obvious in view of a combination of two references, U.S. Patent 4,745,011 (“Fukuta”) and U.S. Patent 3,989,228 (“Morris”). The Plas-Pak’s Patent was directed to a device and method for mixing and dispensing multi-component paints.

Fukuta disclosed a device for mixing two-component coatings but did not disclose …

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Trademark Ownership: The Risk of Owning a Trademark Personally

When a founder starts a business, he or she has many decisions to make. One of those is whether he or she should own assets of the business personally or whether he or she should form a corporation or LLC to own the assets of the business and bear the liabilities of a business. Founders are often quick to form a corporation or LLC to operate the business to shield themselves from personal liability arising from claims against the business.

But occasionally founders and business owners operating under a corporation or LLC seek to register and own trademarks personally rather than have them owned by the corporation or LLC. This is probably a mistake that increases their risk of being personally liable for products or services sold under the trademarks as …

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Overcoming Obviousness Rejections: Prior Art Teaching Away From Combination

When the USPTO rejects patent claims based on alleged obviousness, it often combines two or more prior art references to make the rejection. This combination may be challenged if one of the prior art references teaches away from the proposed combination.

For an example of this principle, consider the case of Depuy Spine, Inc. v. Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc., 567 F.3d 1314, 1328 (Fed. Cir. 2009). There, Depuy Spine sued Medtronic Sofamor Danek for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,207,678 (“the ‘678 patent”). The ‘678 patent is directed to a pedicle screw used in spinal surgeries. A jury determined that Medtronic infringed the patent and awarded $149.1 million in lost profits damages for the sale of pedicle screws.

As a defense, Medtronic argued that the asserted claims of the ‘678 patent …

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Is The Invention Obvious?

In order to obtain a patent on an invention, the invention must not be obvious in view of the prior art. This requirement is provided in 35 USC 103, which states:

A patent for a claimed invention may not be obtained, notwithstanding that the claimed invention is not identically disclosed as set forth in section 102, if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are such that the claimed invention as a whole would have been obvious before the effective filing date of the claimed invention to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains.

Obviousness determinations require a multifaceted consideration of the invention and the prior art.

The framework for obviousness determinations is provided by the Supreme Court in …

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How Long Does It Take to Get a US Trademark Registration

After a trademark application is filed, it will be placed in a queue to be examined by a trademark examining attorney at the USPTO. The current USPTO records show that it takes an average of 2.7 months between the time of filing and the time of first action on the application. The USPTO targets between 2.5 and 3.5 months for a first action. In other words, it will take about 2 or 3 months for the office to substantively consider your application.

Further, USPTO records also show the total pendency average to be 9.5 months. Total pendancy is measured from filing to abandonment, allowance, or registration. Currently, the USPTO targets total pendency to be at 12 months or less.

If your application receives an office action with a rejection or …

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The Problem with A Provisional Patent Application and How to Avoid It

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The problem with a provisional application is that it enables applicants to file patent applications that do not adequately describe the invention.

The USPTO does not examine or look at the content of the provisional application. So as long as you send a properly completed provisional coversheet, a document that purports to describe your invention, and pay the filing fee, the USPTO will probably not object to it. Whether your application described the invention in great detail or whether it is a “back of the napkin” submission, the USPTO will probably treat it the same. You will receive an official filing receipt and think you are protected.

But the difference between an adequate description and a back-of-the-napkin description may be the the difference between having a chance to obtain …

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Patent Drawings: How To Show Color Without Using Color

The patent rules provide that black and white line drawings are normally required for patent drawings. 37 CFR 1.84(a)(1). There is a rule for filing drawings in color, but it requires filing a petition to allow color drawings and paying a fee (for a utility patent application). MPEP 608.02(VIII). Instead of going that route, you can use certain back and white lining patterns to show color according a USPTO key, which is shown below.

 

USPTO_Line_For_Color

 

This key is provided from MPEP 608.02(IX). Providing the lining pattern on a surface or portion of an element of your drawings will indicate that surface or portion has the corresponding color. You will also want to provide a text description of the drawings indicating that the drawing is lined for color, …

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Patent Damages: Compensatory Damages From Sale of a Business with Infringing Products

Lost profits and royalties are not the only way to measure patent damages. In Minco Inc. v. Combustion Eng’g, Inc., 95 F.3d 1109, 1120 (Fed. Cir. 1996), the Federal Circuit recognized that a patent owner might have been entitled to damages resulting from a third parties’ purchase of the infringer’s business, if it had proven that the infringing products were an important factor in the sale.

Patent owner Minco sought damages arising from defendant infringer CE’s sale of its fused silica business to a third party. Minco sought as damages the difference between the sale price of CE’s Business and an expert valuation of CE’s business without the infringing kilns. Minco argued that if CE had not infringed, the third party would have purchased Minco’s business instead of CE’s.

The court recognized …

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Patent Damages: Reasonable Royalty

A reasonable royalty for the infringer’s use of the invention is one way to measure damages for patent infringement (others include lost profits and established royalties).

A reasonable royalty is a amount determined by a court to result from a hypothetical negotiation between the patent owner and the infringer. The hypothetical negotiation attempts to determine the royalty that the reasonable parties would have agreed to had they successfully negotiated an agreement just before infringement began. Wordtech Sys. v. Integrated Networks Sols., Inc., 609 F.3d 1308, 1319 (Fed. Cir. 2010).  This necessarily involves a degree of approximation and uncertainty.

Courts often consider the Georgia-Pacific factors in determining a reasonable royalty. Those factors are:

1. The royalties received by the patentee for the licensing of the patent in suit, proving …

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Patent Damages: Established Royalty

An established royalty is one way to measure damages for patent infringement (others include lost profits and reasonable royalties).

When the patent owner has licensed its patent for comparable acts to those engaged in by the infringer, those prior licenses may define an established royalty rate. The federal circuit has said “When the patentee has consistently licensed others to engage in conduct comparable to the defendant’s at a uniform royalty, that royalty is taken as established and indicates the terms upon which the patentee would have licensed the defendant’s use of the invention.” Monsanto Co. v. McFarling, 488 F.3d 973, 979 (Fed. Cir. 2007).

For prior negotiated royalties to provide an established royalties they need to be: (1) paid or secured before the present infringement, (2)  paid by …

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