Articles Posted in Litigation in the Patent Office

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The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s new post-grant proceedings, including Inter Partes Review, are akin to litigation proceedings in several respects. As a result, the PTO Rules provide for the pro hac vice admission of litigation lawyers not licensed to practice before the Patent Office. However, practitioners should be aware that the grant of admission is not automatic and the application represents more than a mere formality.

Pursuant to 37 C.F.R. 42.10(c):

(c) The Board may recognize counsel pro hac vice during a proceeding upon a showing of good cause, subject to the condition that lead counsel be a registered practitioner and to any other conditions as the Board may impose. For example, where the lead counsel is a registered practitioner, a motion to appear pro hac vice by counsel who is not a registered practitioner may be granted upon a showing that counsel is an experienced litigating attorney and has an established familiarity with the subject matter at issue in the proceeding.

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In IPR2012-00022, the Patent Trial and Appeals Board (“PTAB”) (A.P.J.s Tierney, Green and Robertson) issued a decision rejecting the Patent Owner Isis Innovation Limited’s (“Patent Owner”) motion for leave to challenge petitioner Arisoa Diagnostics’ (“Petitioner”) standing to file the petition for inter partes review. According to the Patent Owner, the Petitioner lacks standing because it raised the affirmative defense of invalidity as an affirmative defense to the Patent Owner’s counterclaim for infringement of the asserted patent in a Declaratory Judgment Action filed by the Petitioner seeking a declaration of non-infringement in the Northern District of California, Case No. 3:11-cv-06391.

The Patent Owner argued that allowing the Petitioner to file an inter partes review under such circumstances would violate Section 315(a)’s prohibition against filing an IPR when a petitioner has filed a civil action challenging the validity of a claim of the asserted patent before filing the petition for inter partes review. While Section 315(a)(3) provides an exception to this rule in the circumstance when the petitioner’s challenge to the patent’s validity is in the form of a counterclaim in a suit initiated by the patent owner, the Patent Owner argues that this exception does not apply to the circumstances present here.
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The America Invents Act (the “AIA”) includes a new inter partes review (“IPR”) procedure that takes the place of the old inter partes reexamination. The new IPR procedure, called a “trial” once the petition for review is granted by the Patent Office, permits declarations, limited discovery, including depositions, and potentially live testimony before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board at the hearing on the petition. This new litigation component is likely to drastically alter the strategy and potential outcomes from the old reexamination process.

Indeed, the litigation component of challenging the validity of a patent at the Patent Office is unlike anything in the old reexamination process. As a result of this shift from a patent prosecution-like proceeding to one incorporating adversarial elements of litigation, it will be important for companies contemplating filing IPRs to review the IPR process and the petitions themselves, including expert declarations, with a litigation mind set and with the help of seasoned litigators in combination with savvy patent prosecutors.

This is the first in a series of articles that focus on the new IPR process and the key provisions that bring litigation to the PTO.
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