A mortal wounding of McKesson January 31, 2013Posted by Brian Schar in Federal Circuit, General, Patent prosecution.
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After the McKesson decision, many patent attorneys, including myself, thought the IDS armageddon would soon arrive. McKesson arguably required the applicant to submit in a particular application references from all related applications, as well as office actions from those cases if the claims therein were sufficiently similar to those in the particular application. At a minimum, related applications would include any case (US or foreign) that claims priority to the particular application at issue.
As time progressed, I was surprised to find that this particular rationale for finding inequitable conduct – failure to submit office actions from related applications – was not applied routinely by the Federal Circuit. My position evolved to one in which McKesson was limited to its facts.
Now, post-Therasense, last fall’s precedential Federal Circuit decision in 1st Media v. Electronic Arts may have slain McKesson without mentioning it by name. In 1st Media, the applicant’s attorney failed to submit art in a US application that had been cited as “Y” art (that is, obviousness art) in the corresponding application pending at the European Patent Office. The attorney also failed to cross-cite art among different pending US applications in the same family. The reason given was that the attorney had recently set up a solo practice out of his home, which was “very active,” and the citations were missed.
The Federal Circuit assumed that the art that was not cross-cited within the family was material. (p. 14). Turning to the second prong of Therasense, the Court then stated:
Knowledge of the reference and knowledge of materiality alone are insufficient after Therasense to show an intent to deceive. Moreover, it is not enough to argue careless-ness, lack of attention, poor docketing or cross-referencing, or anything else that might be considered negligent or even grossly negligent. To sustain a charge of inequitable conduct, ‘clear and convincing evidence must show that the applicant made a deliberate decision to withhold a known material reference.'” (pp. 12-13).
Thus, even under facts very similar to those of McKesson, absent proof of a deliberate decision to withhold a known material reference, the failure to cross-cite references and office actions within a family is not inequitable conduct.
While the Federal Circuit did not even mention McKesson, by addressing the second, intent prong of Therasense, 1st Media has declawed the fierce beast that McKesson used to be.
Hindsight is not 20/20 January 16, 2013Posted by Brian Schar in Patent prosecution, USPTO.
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The recently-decided PTAB appeal Ex parte Windsheimer is not precedential. However, at page 3 of the opinion, there is an excellent one-sentence summary of the state of the law as to hindsight and obviousness:
“The fact finder must be aware ‘of the distortion caused by hindsight bias and must be cautious of arguments reliant upon ex post reasoning.’ KSR, 550 U.S. at 421 (citing Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 36 (warning against a “temptation to read into the prior art the teachings of the invention in issue”)).”
I am inclined to cut and paste this very sentence into virtually every appeal brief I write, as I couldn’t have said it better myself.
2012 in review January 3, 2013Posted by Brian Schar in General.
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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.