obvIPat - Obviously Patentable

The blog for inventors, in-house counsel, & entrepreneurs.

Posts Tagged ‘patent prosecution’

An End to the Chicken and Egg Syndrome for Startups?

by Bruce Jobse and Orlando Lopez

What comes first the IP or the VC, the VC or the IP? Please tell me…. If you’ve ever been involved with a start up company, you know this version of the traditional chicken and egg song. At their inception, most startups need venture capital funding for product development and protection of any intellectual property derived during the product development process. Venture capitalists on the other hand, would like to see an intellectual property portfolio, including one or more patents, before investing. Patents provide a market-entry barrier which helps to protect the VC’s investment (which is usually short-term) from competitors of the startup.

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Patent It Without The Wait: Part 2

by Bruce Jobse

Notwithstanding Undersecretary of Commerce and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos’s recent announcement of a proposed Three Patent Processing Track system for patent examinations, we are continuing with the second part of our two-part post on the USPTO’s current Accelerated Examination (AE) option.

The premise of the AE process is simple.  The inventor and his or her attorney not only prepare the patent application, but also perform a preliminary or self-examination of the application, essentially performing the patent examiner’s role ahead of time.  Such self-examination requires the attorney to go through the same evaluation protocol as the patent examiner, including searching for similar prior patents and analyzing how obvious the invention is in light of similar prior patents from the same or related technical fields.  The results of the self-examination are then presented to the USPTO in the form of a petition at the time of application filing.  The petition is initially examined for compliance to ensure that the patentability search performed by the applicant was of proper scope and that the analysis adequately establishes grounds for patentability under the current patent laws. Read the rest of this entry »


Not Your Father’s Patent Application, Part 1

by Orlando Lopez

Today’s patent applications read significantly different from the patent applications written 10 – 15 years ago.  While in the 80’s researchers would review each issue of the Official Gazette and obtain the patents of interest in order to obtain a view of the background of the field, today’s patent applications are significantly less useful as technical documents.

From the legal point of view, while my mentors used to say that you could start by reading the summary and the claims and looking at the figures to analyze a patent, in today’s patents and patent applications that statement would not be accurate. The background section of today’s patent application typically does not include the references to other patents and publications, which were found in the patents and patent applications of 10 – 15 years ago.

In today’s patent applications, the references to patents and publications are found in the information disclosure statement (a required list of all the patents, patent applications and publications that may be relevant to the examination of the patent application). This change was brought about by the perceived practices in patent examination and also ensures that those references have been considered by the Patent Office during examination.  Therefore, you can obtain the same information as to what was included in the background by reading the background together with the information disclosure statement in a patent application or by reading the background and the references cited by the applicant in a patent.


The “Words Of Degree” Trilogy and More

by Orlando Lopez

The week of April 2nd brought three cases related to “words of degree” in the claims – one of those providing some insight also into obviousness, one case relating to when a claim of incorrect inventorship is a proper cause of action in the courts and one case relating to declaratory judgment.

The “words of degree” trilogy
While the three cases in the “words of degree” trilogy relate to very different technologies, the CAFC opinions have a great degree of commonality. Enzo Biochem et al.v. Applera et al. relates to patents for “labels” attached to DNA or RNA strands which allow detection of a “target” strand.  Power-One v. Artesyn Technologies relates to a patent, assigned to Power-One, for a power supply systems with multiple regulators.  Completing the trilogy, Hearing Components v. Shure relates to two patents directed to hearing aid ear pieces having a number of features including earphones with two different designs, straight and barbed nozzles.  Terms such as “substantially,” “about,” “near,” “adapted to” are referred to, in claim language, as “words of degree.” A common thread in all of the three decisions is the statement by the Court that even though reference to a precise numerical treatment is not given, if a person skilled in the art, when taking the term in the context of the specification, would understand the meaning of the term, the claim is not indefinite. This trilogy of opinions of this week that relate to “words of degree” provides some guidance, both in patent prosecution and patent litigation, as to how to indicate from the specification that the scope of the claim can be determined.

There are some other statements in the opinions, not related to “words of degree,” that are also of interest. In Power One, the Court stated, citing KSR, that merely finding one element of claim independently in one of the references, doing this for all the elements of the claim and combining all of those references is not sufficient to prove obviousness unless a plausible rationale as to why or the references work together is given. In Hearing Components, there is a discussion of the determination of equivalents for “means for” claims and a discussion of the defense of laches, both of which are of interest. Read the rest of this entry »


Mourning the First Action Interview Program

by Orlando Lopez

Today we mourn the termination of the First Action Interview Program.  The US Patent and Trademark Office’s First Action Interview Program, the best program from the USPTO that you never heard of, was terminated on April 1, 2010 (no, this is not an April Fool’s joke).

The First Action Interview Program allowed both a search and an interview before you received a formal examination from the Patent Office, which meant that you received an extra bite at the patent examination apple. In reality, this meant that you had an opportunity that the examiner would understand your invention before he/she started with the pesky rejections.  And, in the case where the examiner did understand your invention, the program allowed you to amend your claims before the first examination.  Consequently, you were able to move your patents faster through the Patent Office, saving yourself some time and probably some money.

We hope that this obituary is premature and that Director Kappos will revive the program as part of the quality initiative (for an example of use of the First Action Interview Program see the 12:01 Tuesday Blog of April 9, 2010).