McRO v. Bandai: Latest Federal Circuit § 101 Decision Breathes New Life into Software Patents

The Federal Circuit last week handed down the latest in a series of decisions finding computer-implemented inventions to be patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. In McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America, Inc. et al. (Fed. Cir. Sept. 13, 2016), the Federal Circuit held that claims directed to software for automatically animating lip synchronization and facial expressions of animated characters were not directed to an abstract idea under the first prong of the Alice test, and therefore recited patent-eligible subject matter. McRO joins a growing list of Federal Circuit cases that find computer-implemented inventions to be non-abstract, including DDR Holdings, Enfish, and BASCOM.

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A Common Cue Creates No Confusion

Car stereo

Cue, Inc. sells high-end home audio equipment (e.g., table radios and speakers). In 2007, it applied to register the trademark CUE ACOUSTICS, and in late 2009 the USPTO allowed its application. Cue’s CUE ACOUSTICS mark was registered in August 2012, and later that year, its application for a separate mark—CUE—was allowed. Cue filed a Statement of Use for the CUE mark in November 2015.

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Common Sense Is Not So Common-ly Obvious

Almost a decade has elapsed since the Supreme Court’s decision in KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex, Inc. altered the law of patent obviousness. In reversing the judgment of the Federal Circuit, the Court in KSR limited the “teaching, suggestion, motivation” test and loosened the standards that both courts and the USPTO use to assess validity under 35 U.S.C. § 103. In particular, the Court expressly rejected the application of any inflexible obviousness rule that excluded consideration of, among other things, common sense.

The Federal Circuit, however, recently confirmed that common sense alone cannot suffice to establish obviousness. In Arendi S.A.R.L. v. Apple, Inc., the court held that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (the PTAB) erred when it used common sense to supply a missing limitation in the prior art to arrive at the claimed invention. Not only is this case surprising in that factual findings of the PTAB are rarely overturned on appeal, but it also marks some constraints on the broad obviousness standard articulated in KSR. Continue reading

Time Is Now to Assess E.U. TM Registration Goods Wording in Advance of September Deadline

There is a September 23, 2016 deadline for clarifying product or service specification wording within European trademark registrations in certain situations where that is necessary.

Trademark registration products and services are categorized by almost all commercially relevant national trademark registries around the world, including the U.S. and the E.U., into 45 International Classes (Classes). These Classes are used for administrative (particularly fee-charging) purposes. Also, to varying degrees depending upon the jurisdiction, Classes play a role in defining the parameters of trademark rights. For years there had been an understanding under E.U. trademark law that where an E.U. trademark registration covers so-called “Class heading” language, i.e., brief language that roughly summarizes the subject matter of a given Class, the registration is deemed to cover all of the more specific subject matter of the Class.

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USPTO Offers a Fast Track to Cancer Immunotherapy Patents

The United States Patent Office (USPTO) is implementing a new program that provides prioritized examination of patent applications relating to cancer immunotherapy (Cancer Immunotherapy Pilot Program or Program). The new patent examination program, which will run June 29, 2016-2017, reinforces the White House’s $1 billion “National Cancer Moonshot” initiative and follows on the heels of recent significant advances in cancer treatment with a new class of drugs known as immune check point inhibitors, such as Keytruda® and Opdivo®.

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New USPTO P3 Program for After Final Office Actions Is Useful Hybrid of Pre-Appeal and AFCP Programs

Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, www.uspto.gov

The Post-Prosecution Pilot Program, dubbed “P3” by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), offers applicants a new, and arguably improved, path through the after-final landscape. P3 provides applicants the opportunity to orally present proposed amendments or arguments to a panel of examiners after a final rejection has been issued but before filing a notice of appeal. As the USPTO’s latest rollout under the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, P3 incorporates effective features of the existing Pre-Appeal Brief Conference Pilot program (Pre-Appeal) and the After Final Consideration Pilot 2.0 program (AFCP). Applicants should consider taking advantage of this no-fee program to make their case for allowance, propose non-broadening amendments, and receive feedback from a larger pool of examiners prior to filling a notice of appeal or Request for Continued Examination (RCE).

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Federal Circuit Finds BASCOM Internet Content Filtering Claims Patent Eligible

In another decision applying the two-step framework for determining patent eligible subject matter laid out in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit addressed the patent eligibility of claims to an Internet content filtering system. In BASCOM Global Internet Services, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, the Federal Circuit held that BASCOM’s U.S. Patent 5,987,606 (“the ‘606 patent) was not invalid as a matter of law, vacated a district court’s order to dismiss, and remanded for further proceedings.

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CardiAQ’s Inventorship Challenge Survives

CardiAQ Valve Techs., Inc. v. Neovasc Inc., No. 14-CV-12405-ADB, 2016 WL 1642573 (D. Mass. Apr. 25, 2016)

Neovasc began its business relationship with CardiAQ in June, 2009, by providing services and supplies for the development of CardiAQ’s TMVI heart valve device. Though the relationship lasted only 10 months, the parties exchanged hundreds of technical emails and had regular calls during that period. The parties met again in court when CardiAQ sued Neovasc in the District of Massachusetts before Judge Burroughs claiming, among other things, that Neovasc’s employees surreptitiously used CardiAQ’s confidential information to develop a competing valve device and to patent a related method.

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Steps Professional Services Firms Can Take to Protect a House Mark

Professional service firms at times seem to focus on protecting the names of their service offerings or platforms at the expense of their house marks. Pat Concannon, a partner in Nutter’s Intellectual Property and Business Departments, with over 20 years of experience devoted to helping businesses establish and protect their brands, analyzes why professional service firms need to safeguard their house marks in Nutter Insights.

In the piece, Pat discusses:

  • Why a house mark is important to a business;
  • What steps a professional service firm should take to protect its house marks;
  • If house marks are subject to copyright protection; and
  • If a company’s name is automatically considered a protectable house mark.

Computer Generated Prior Art

An old adage states that an infinite number of monkeys typing for an infinite amount of time will surely produce Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In a similar vein, the web site All Prior Art seeks to use computers and algorithms to create prior art. All Prior Art uses the existing U.S. patent database as source materials to create new “prior art.” The web site then publishes these new ideas under the Create Commons License, meaning the ideas are effectively dedicated to the public. While the algorithm is able to generate approximately 36,000 ideas a minute, the overwhelming majority are pure gibberish.

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