November 25 / Blogs, Other Intellectual Property

Telemedicine’s Opportunities and Risks: A Balancing Act

Abstract: The U.S. has recently undergone a significant shift in healthcare delivery for the 21st century, utilizing technology to deliver more efficient and effective care. Because the Affordable Care Ac
t
(ACA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) emphasizes healthcare to be preventative, to detect and care for patients before diseases or illness arise, technological innovation and standardization is critical in today’s healthcare world. If healthcare organizations can capitalize on innovation and standardization, the government will reimburse a substantial monetary reward for successful implementation of telemedicine.

Areas that healthcare organizations have taken in this preventative shift include lean management, more efficient primary care coordination and of particular interest, preventative care technology deemed under the umbrella term, “telemedicine.” Telemedicine isn’t singularly defined; some healthcare organizations interpret telemedicine as “the delivery of specialty care at a distance via telecommunications using applications that provide direct patient care.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also define “telemedicine” as the “provision of clinical services to patients by practitioners from a distance via electronic communications.” In essence, telemedicine can be thought of as applications that can aid patient care outside of a traditional healthcare setting, even treating patients in their homes.

Obstacles that can complicate successful implementation of telemedicine are the legal ramifications. Legal complications can include fraud and abuse, patient confidentiality, and compliance with state requirements. Violation of patient care can result in heavy fines, and in telemedicine, a recent case involving the Texas Medical Board and a Telemedicine company could heat up within the coming months. Because of these obstacles, healthcare organizations face an arduous journey to getting reimbursed for implementing telemedicine.

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November 12 / All Articles, Blogs, Computing

The Trans-Pacific Partnership on Internet Service Providers: Notice, Counter-Notice, and Liability Limitations

Abstract: With the recent release of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) intellectual property chapters, jurists and pundits have quickly begun to comb through the
language and pick apart the intriguing and possibly soon-to-be influential document. While many have focused on this document’s proposed changes to the way copyright holders and infringers interact with their governments, each other, and each other’s governments, it is very important to stop and try to understand the changes that are more ground level. More specifically, it is worthwhile to take a close look at the proposed changes in how copyright holders and infringers interact with Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as this interaction and the legal responsibilities ISPs have during this interaction will mostly define how the average citizen in TPP member states will experience the effects of the document.

Thankfully, ISP responsibilities regarding IP infringement does not seem to span many chapters, but rather are contained to their own sections labeled quite clearly. The system envisioned by the TPP is one of notice and counter-notice, where the ultimate end for an ISP is to gain limitations on liability (monetary or otherwise) as well as other non-defined incentives. The treaty notably states that not qualifying for liability limitation under the TPP does not per se mean they are in a liable position. It points out that the TPP section in question is “without prejudice” to any current limitations in liability for intellectual property infringement, and thus does not displace those exemptions, but rather sit beside and provide other avenues to liability exemptions.

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October 19 / All Articles, Copyright

The Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015: What’s At Stake and For Whom?

pdf version The United States Copyright Act is primed to take center stage during this current legislative session, as several members of Congress introduced comprehensive legislation earlier this year known as the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015 (FPFPA). This bill seeks to modify the Copyright Act in three key ways. First, it would create a terrestrial public performance right for recording artists and owners of master sound recordings. Second, it would eliminate the Copyright Act’s exemption against federal copyright protection for sound recordings fixed prior to February 15, 1972. Third, it would establish a process designed to allow for the setting of consistent fair market royalty rates paid in consideration of the public performance of all sound recordings.

By William W. Shields

July 16 / All Articles, Copyright

The Legal Lag Behind Emerging Technology: Aereo – Innovation or Exploit?

pdf version

The now defunct technology start-up Aereo was poised to revolutionize the live broadcast television model. However, after a three-year legal battle spanning several states that eventually led to the Supreme Court, Aereo was found in violation of the Copyright Act of 1976. Broadcasters applauded the decision, while technologists worried the Court had not only failed to understand the technology behind Aereo, but had also created a dangerous legal precedent for all future cloud computing technologies.

Aereo allowed users to stream and record broadcast television to any laptop or mobile device. Shortly after Aereo was announced, broadcasters filed for an injunction claiming Aereo was in fact a cable companSuy, and as such needed to pay retransmission fees.  The heart of broadcasters’ argument focused on the definition of “performance” and “to the public” under the Transmit Clause of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S. Code section 101.  Aereo contested, stating that its service was acceptable both legally and technically because it simply provided users an alternative means to access free, over-the-air broadcasts. Much of Aereo’s legal argument rested on Cartoon Network LP, LLLP v. CSC Holdings, Inc. (hereinafter “Cablevision”).

The Supreme Court ultimately held for broadcasters in a 6-3 decision favoring a legislative intent interpretation of the Copyright Act.  The Court agreed with the broadcasters’ argument that Aereo’s technology, though functionally legal, exploited a loophole created by the Cablevision decision. Therefore, Aereo was retransmitting to the public, and as such was in violation of the Copyright Act.

The decision has had a polarizing effect. Technologists fear that this decision may have unintended consequences in the ever-growing cloud computing space, whereas proponents argue that this decision is narrowly limited to cable companies. The decision has already played a role in challenging the launch of new services, most notably satellite television provider Dish’s release of Dish Anywhere – a service that allows users to stream cable television to any device. However, currently these ramifications are isolated to the broadcast industry and have yet to result in far reaching or significant consequences for the developing cloud computing technologies.

By Ruchir Patel

 

 

 

May 13 / Copyright

A Lesson from SpaceX: Dedicating Pictorial Works to the Public Domain

By: Elizabeth O’Brien

On March 21, 2015, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, announced that photos showcasing the company’s recent rocket launch were available on Flickr.[1] Though this act showed a great deal of good will, Musk caused some copyright controversy in the process. It was unclear to Internet users whether or not these images were in the public domain.[2] At the time, Flickr had limited options to upload images and required a minimum level of copyright protection. However, after receiving pressure from the Internet community; Flickr created new options for its users to identify how much protection exists, if any.[3] Flikr has now made it easy for users to dedicate works to the public domain and build on each other’s pictorial creativity.

 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY AND BACKGROUND

The Copyright Act of 1976 extended federal copyright protection to all “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression,” including pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.[4] Thus, the author is given exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute copies of the work; to create new, derivative works; and to perform and display the work, for a period of time.[5] Others cannot reuse the copyrighted work without authorization.[6]

When a work is not protected by copyright; for example, if the copyright term expires, then the information becomes available in the public domain.[7] Once in the public domain, there is no need for others to obtain authorization, to reuse the work.[8] The work effectively becomes “public property.”[9]

The public domain provides three major benefits. First, it lowers the cost of creating new works because the information in the public domain provides authors with lots of “raw materials.”[10] For example, the popular musical “West Side Story” was actually based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”[11] Second, the public domain promotes artistic freedom because there are no restrictions on how others can use the original work.[12]

Lastly, the public domain increases market competition.[13] When a work is in the public domain, others do not need to obtain a license to copy or distribute the work.[14] This freedom lowers distribution costs for publishing companies. Moreover, different companies can set different prices, for the same copy. This variability generates market competition and ultimately, drives down prices for consumers.[15]

 

LICENSING SCHEMES

If the copyright term has not yet expired, it can be difficult for the owner to dedicate his/her work to the public domain. Dedication is a complex, legal process that varies among jurisdictions.[16]

A non-profit organization, Creative Commons, has created alternative licensing schemes to work alongside federal copyright law.[17] A Creative Commons License allows the owner to change the copyright restrictions from “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”[18]  The owner can set a range of restrictions based on future editing, commercial use, and derivative works.[19]

The Creative Commons License allows other people to use the work, e.g., in non-commercial ways, without worrying about infringement.[20]  This alternative is extremely appealing to Internet users, sharing information in the digital age.[21]

 

SPACEX ON FLICKR

Flickr is an online, photo-sharing platform which allows its users to upload, share, and view images.[22] Until recently, Flikr only provided three copyright-indicator options for users uploading images: U.S. Government Works, The Commons, and Creative Commons License.[23]

Flickr reserves the “U.S. Government Works” indicator for the White House and other governmental agencies. By law, government works are ineligible for copyright protection.[24] Therefore, any images uploaded by the government agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA,) are in the public domain. This indication means that anyone can use the NASA images, for any purpose.[25]

The indicator for “The Commons” is not related to the Creative Commons organization; instead, this indicator is used by cultural heritage organizations.[26]  Images uploaded by these registered, and approved, organizations have “no known copyright restrictions.”[27]

If the account is non-governmental, or non-cultural, Flickr will indicate if the author has a Creative Commons License with “some” restrictions.[28]  This default option establishes a minimum level of copyright protection on users’ images. Flickr has been hesitant to allow users to place images “in the public domain” because of the finality.[29]  Once a work is available in the public domain, it cannot be undone. There are also liability issues associated with proving the chain of title.[30]

In February 2015, SpaceX operated a mission for NASA; the company took pictures of its rocket launch and of the Earth, from space.[31]  Unlike NASA, SpaceX is a private company. Therefore, the SpaceX images were not in the public domain.[32]

On March 21, 2015, Musk decided to share the SpaceX images on Flickr, under a Creative Commons License.[33] There was no option available on Flickr to put the images in the public domain.[34]  With Musk’s Creative Commons License, there were restrictions for attribution and non-commercial use, meaning: “others [can] remix, tweak, and build upon [the] work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge [the author] and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.”[35]

Many viewers complained about the restrictions and Flickr quickly responded. On March 30, 2015, Flickr announced two new copyright indicators: Public Domain and Creative Commons-Zero.[36]  The copyright indicators can be changed under account settings.[37]

The Public Domain mark can be used for images already available, worldwide, without restrictions.[38]  The Creative Commons-Zero (CC0) waiver will remove any restrictions, including attribution. For example, when there are different copyright or database rights in different jurisdictions. The CC0 waiver means “no rights reserved.”[39]

Since Flickr has added the new copyright-indicator options, SpaceX has chosen to dedicate all of its images to the public domain.[40] Now, anyone can use the SpaceX images, for any purpose.[41]

Flickr is the largest online, photo-sharing platform for licensed images.[42] Now, internet-users have more licensing choices, making it easier to share, reuse, and remix images. This enablement encourages the creation of new works and satisfies the underlying purpose of copyright law.[43]

 


 

[1] Elon Musk, TWITTER (Apr. 17, 2015), https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/579197717970206720.

[2] See Jessamyn West, Elon Musk put SpaceX’s photos in the public domain: So why does Flickr say they’re licensed?, MEDIUM (Mar. 23, 2015), https://medium.com/message/why-spacex-s-photos-maybe-aren-t-public-domain-5c7f156572f5.

[3] See id.

[4] 17 U.S.C. §§ 101-102.

[5] 17 U.S.C. § 106.

[6] See 17 U.S.C. § 106.

[7] See, e.g., Niagra Mohawk Power Co. v. U.S. Department of Energy, 169 F.3d 16, 19 (D.C. Cir. 1999).

[8] Mayer v. Josiah Wedgwood & Sons, Ltd., 601 F. Supp. 1523, 1536 (S.D.N.Y. 1985).

[9] Id.

[10] “The Public Domain Manifesto,” available at http://publicdomainmanifesto.org/ (last visited Apr. 17, 2015).

[11] See Lethem, “The Ecstasy of Influence,” Harper’s Magazine, pp. 59-71 (Feb. 2007).

[12] Tufenkian Import/Export v. Einstein Moomjy, 338 F.3d 127, 132 (2d Cir. 2003).

[13] Heald, “Property Rights and the Efficient Exploitation of Copyrighted Works: An Empirical Analysis of Public Domain and Copyrighted Fiction Bestseller,” 92 Minn. L. Rev. 1031, 1052 (2008).

[14] See 17 U.S.C. § 106.

[15] Heald, supra at 1035.

[16] About, CREATIVE COMMONS (Apr. 17, 2015), http://creativecommons.org/about.

[17] About, CREATIVE COMMONS (Apr. 17, 2015), http://creativecommons.org/about.

[18] About, CREATIVE COMMONS (Apr. 17, 2015), http://creativecommons.org/about.

[19] See About the Licenses, CREATIVE COMMONS (Apr. 17, 2015), http://creativecommons.org/licenses/.

[20] About, CREATIVE COMMONS (Apr. 17, 2015), http://creativecommons.org/about.

[21] See About the Licenses, CREATIVE COMMONS (Apr. 17, 2015), http://creativecommons.org/licenses/.

[22] Rajiv Vaidyanathan, Flickr now offers Public Domain and CC0 designations, FLICKR BLOG (Mar. 30, 2015), http://blog.flickr.net/en/2015/03/30/flickr-now-offers-public-domain-and-cc0-designations/.

[23] See West, supra.

[24] See 17 U.S.C. § 102.

[25] See 17 U.S.C. § 106.

[26] See West, supra.

[27] See West, supra.

[28] See West, supra.

[29] Vaidyanathan, supra.

[30] Vaidyanathan, supra.

[31] See West, supra.

[32] See West, supra.

[33] Elon Musk, TWITTER (Apr. 17, 2015), https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/579197717970206720.

[34] Vaidyanathan, supra.

[35] See About the Licenses, CREATIVE COMMONS (Apr. 17, 2015), http://creativecommons.org/licenses/.

[36] Vaidyanathan, supra.

[37] Vaidyanathan, supra.

[38] About CC0 – “No Rights Reserved”, CREATIVE COMMONS (Apr. 17, 2015), http://creativecommons.org/about/cc0.

[39] About CC0 – “No Rights Reserved”, CREATIVE COMMONS (Apr. 17, 2015), http://creativecommons.org/about/cc0.

[40] SpaceX Photos, FLICKR (Apr. 17, 2015), https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacexphotos.

[41] See 17 U.S.C. § 106.

[42] Vaidyanathan, supra.

[43] See 17 U.S.C. § 101.

May 6 / Patent

McRO v. Activision Blizzard: Software Patents in a Post-Alice World

By: Matt Wilk

 

Background: Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International.

Alice Corporation owned four patents disclosing a computer-implemented, electronic escrow service for facilitating financial transactions.  CLS Bank sued Alice, seeking a declaratory judgment that their patents were invalid, and therefore unenforceable, as they did not meet the requirements for patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. They further sought a declaratory judgment that they had not infringed Alice’s patents.

Section 101 allows any individual who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof,” to obtain a patent protecting that invention or discovery.[1]  In Bilski v. Kappos, the United States Supreme Court allowed business method patents to fall within the definition of a “process”, and stated that while not the exclusive test, the machine-or-transformation test could be a useful tool in determining the eligibility of process patents.[2]

In view of the above, the district court agreed with CLS Bank, stating that a method “directed to an abstract idea of employing an intermediary to facilitate simultaneous exchange of obligations in order to minimize risk” is a “basic business or financial concept,” and would not be patentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  Further, the court reasoned that a “computer system merely ‘configured’ to implement an abstract method is no more patentable than an abstract method that is simply ‘electronically’ implemented.”[3]

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit first reversed the lower court, stating that inventions like Alice’s are patentable under § 101 unless it is “manifestly evident” that the claims are about an abstract idea; that is, “the single most reasonable understanding is that a claim is directed to nothing more than a fundamental truth or disembodied concept, with no limitations in the claim attaching that idea to a specific application.”[4]  CLS Bank then petitioned for an en banc rehearing. Upon this rehearing, the Federal Circuit vacated the earlier decision with a plurality affirming the district court’s decision that Alice’s claims were unpatentable under § 101, but did not agree upon a standard for judging patentability of computer-implemented systems.  Alice then petitioned the Supreme Court to grant certiorari.

In 2014, in a unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court heard Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International and held Alice’s patents were invalid because they claimed unpatentable subject matter.[5] The Court reasoned that the patent claims at issue were drawn to an abstract idea and that implementing those claimed methods on a computer is unpatentable.[6] The Court’s relatively narrow holding essentially rendered so-called “business methods” unpatentable. However, the Court’s decision suggested that software-based inventions that “improve the functioning of the computer itself” or “effect an improvement in any other technology or technical field” would likely be patentable subject matter.[7]

In reaching their decision, the Supreme Court developed a two-step test to distinguish patents that claim laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas from those that claim patent-eligible applications of those concepts.[8]  The first step of the test is to determine whether the claims at issue are directed to one of the patent-ineligible concepts stated above.  If so, the court moves to the second step and asks “what else is there in the claims before us?”[9]  To answer this question, the court considers the elements of each claim both individually and “as an ordered combination” to determine whether the additional elements “transform the nature of the claim” into a patent-eligible claim.[10]

 

Current Case: McRO v. Activision Blizzard

McRO Corp. is the owner of two patents that describe a computerized process for “automated rules-based use of morph targets and delta sets for lip-synchronized three-dimensional animation” that was an improvement over methods previously used in the industry.[11]  McRO alleges that a group of defendants, including Activision Publishing, Inc., (hereinafter, “Activision defendants”) directly or indirectly infringed these two patents by employing automated lip-synchronization methods in developing computer and/or video games. Thus, McRO filed suit under 35 U.S.C. § 271.  The Activision defendants motioned for summary judgment, claiming that the McRO patents are directed to unpatentable subject matter, and are therefore invalid, citing Alice.  The Activision defendants argued that the McRO patents cover “the abstract idea of rules-based synchronization of animated mouth movement.”[12]

The United States District Court for the Central District of California began its analysis in stating, “facially, these claims do not seem directed to an abstract idea. They are tangible, each covering an approach to automated three-dimensional computer animation, which is a specific technological process.”[13]  However, the court went on to invalidate McRO’s patents because the claims “recite(d) tangible steps, but the only new part of the claim (was) an abstract idea.”[14]  Presently, McRO has appealed to the Federal Circuit because they believe the district court erred in holding that the claimed “method for automatically animating lip synchronization and facial expression of three- dimensional characters,” covers “abstract ideas” that are not patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. §101.[15]  They argue that the claims in question satisfy the two-step test for patent-eligibility under §101 set forth by the Supreme Court in Alice and that the district court deviated from this test and applied a novel one of its own creation.[16]

 

Analysis

Tim Molino, Policy Director for The Software Alliance, believes the Federal Circuit should reverse the district court’s decision because he believes that the district court reversed the steps of Alice and collapsed them into a single inquiry.[17] Instead of first determining if the claims were directed to abstract ideas and then assessing if the claims’ “additional elements” add significantly more to the idea, the court picked apart all of the elements that were known in the prior art to attempt to discover a “point of novelty” in the claims.[18] Molino believes that the McRO claims describe “(a) concrete, real-world innovation that solves the difficult problem of accurately replicating the human face and speech in CGI and animation,” and should therefore qualify as patentable subject matter.[19]

Molino also believes that the district court misinterpreted the second step of Alice.  Instead of analyzing all additional elements adding to the initial abstract idea, the court believed that only novel elements should be considered for the “significantly more” analysis.[20]  In using this standard, the court, unsurprisingly, read out the additional elements of the claims because they lacked novelty, leaving just the abstract idea that fails the “significantly more” test.[21]

Further, the district court’s holding appears to directly conflict with that of the United States Supreme Court in KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex, Inc.  In a unanimous decision, in KSR, the Supreme Court acknowledged that in certain situations, “a patent composed of several elements is not proved obvious merely by demonstrating that each of its elements was, independently, known in the prior art.”[22]  The Court implemented a new test to determine if such combination patents are obvious under 35 U.S.C. § 103, asking, from the point of view of one of ordinary skill in the art, if the combination is predictable, whether there is a reason to combine the components, or whether it was obvious to try the combination.[23]  In the present case, it appears that the district court ignored the aforementioned standard and simply held the claims at issue invalid because their individual components had been disclosed in the prior art.

If the district court’s decision is affirmed, it would create a tremendous problem for future patent applications.  Advances in software technology generally arise from building upon what is known in the prior art.[24]  If patent examiners are allowed to disregard every element that has been previously disclosed in the prior art when assessing patentability under § 101, it will be nearly impossible to patent any software inventions, as the only elements remaining in the claims will be abstract ideas, which will be rejected as unpatentable.  Molino urges the Federal Circuit to nip this problem in the bud by overruling the district court’s erroneous conclusion and providing guidance regarding the correct application of the Alice test.[25]

Affirming the district court’s decision could create severe consequences for software patent owners and future applicants. Patents with claims related to implementing abstract ideas appear to be unsafe.  Additionally, it is foreseeable that the ramifications of this decision could spread outside of the software industry and, for example, into biotechnology, where abstract algorithms are frequently used in pharmaceuticals to optimize drug delivery effectiveness. This would unpatentable in light of the current state of McRO.

In conclusion, the district court’s decision incorrectly applied the Alice test. In doing so, the court created a higher bar of patentability under § 101 for software patents than intended in Alice. Additionally, the district court’s conclusion seems to contradict the Supreme Court’s obviousness test described in KSR.  For these reasons, I expect the Federal Circuit to reverse the current holding in McRO v. Activision Blizzard.

 


 

[1] 35 U.S.C. § 101

[2] Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593, 607-12 (2010).

[3] CLS Bank Int’l v. Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd, 768 F. Supp. 2d 221, 242-255 (D.D.C. 2011), rev’d, 685 F.3d 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2012) reh’g en banc granted, opinion vacated, 484 F. App’x 559 (Fed. Cir. 2012) and aff’d, 717 F.3d 1269 (Fed. Cir. 2013) aff’d, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 189 L. Ed. 2d 296 (2014).

[4] CLS Bank Int’l v. Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd, 685 F.3d 1341, 1352 (Fed. Cir. 2012) reh’g en banc granted, opinion vacated, 484 F. App’x 559 (Fed. Cir. 2012).

[5] Alice Corp. Pty. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2355 (2014).

[6] Id.

[7] Tim Molino, Despite Alice Corp, McRO’s Software Patents Should be Seen as Eligible under Section 101

[8] Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l

[9] Alice Corp. Pty., 134 S. Ct. at 2355.

[10] Id.

[11] Molino, supra.

[12] Ruling on Defendant’s Motion for Judgment, 12.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Brief for Plaintiff-Appellant McRO, Inc., 1.

[16] Id. 28-32.

[17] Molino, supra.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398, 418 (2007)

[23] Id. 417, 421.

[24] Molino, supra.

[25] Id.

May 1 / Patent

Patent Reissue: Uses and Strategy (Part III)

By: Steve Petkovsek

This is the final post of a three-part series on patent reissue. Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here.

Part 1 of this series gives a basic overview of recapture, its statutory basis, and notes some of the changes to the treatment of inequitable conduct post-AIA (America Invents Act). [1]  Part 2 discusses how the court has interpreted limitations such as recapture doctrine and intervening rights. It also covers some general strategies on how to use reissue effectively. Part 3 compares patent reissue to other post-grant proceedings a prosecutor may have in his or her arsenal in both a legal and practical context.

 

PART 3-  REISSUE, REEXAMINATION, AND SUPPLEMENTAL EXAMINATION

Part 3 compares patent reissue to other post-grant proceedings a prosecutor may have in his or her arsenal  in both a legal and practical context. It focuses on reissue, reexamination, and supplemental examination.

Reissue vs. Reexamination

There are several major differences between reexamination and reissue. As a patent holder, the only kinds of post-grant proceedings available are reissue, ex parte reexamination, or supplemental examination. As a third party wishing to challenge a patent, reissue is not an option. However, there are some circumstances in which a third party may get involved in reissue proceeding or try to prevent it entirely by initiating other kinds of reexamination, such as inter partes review or post-grant review. Each type of proceeding has a different scope, potentially different consequences, and can vary in length and cost.

The closest analogue to reissue is ex parte reexamination. Both types of proceeding cover any patent and can be initiated by the patent holder, though a third party can also force an ex parte reexamination. While reissue can only be filed before the patent expires, it is possible to have an ex parte reexamination within six years after the patent expires due to past damages.[2] However, ex parte reexamination may only occur when a substantial new question of patentability is presented, or what a “reasonable examiner would find important in determining the patentability of the claims,” regarding 35 U.S.C. §§ 102 and 103 issues.[3] This question can only arise based on patents and publications. Thus, the patentee may only amend claims in an ex parte reexamination, though it is possible to broaden claims. Reissue is far broader and allows the patentee to cure a wider range of defects, as long as the patent is considered at least partly invalid though error. Neither proceeding creates estoppel concerns, though prosecution evidence from either proceeding may later be used in litigation. Interestingly, the same examiner who handled the original patent must handle the reissue proceeding, but a different examiner handles the ex parte proceeding. Reissue can also cause a stay in litigation, while an ex parte proceeding will probably have no effect on litigation, as it can be filed anonymously. In both cases, intervening rights can occur if claims are broadened.

Reissue thus has several advantages to an ex parte proceeding. It is the only way to cleanse a patent of defects other than prior art defects. Inconsistent or troublesome language can be clarified, even in the specification, which allows the patentee to clean up a patent in preparation for a particular litigation. Since errors no longer must be without deceptive intent, a patentee may attempt to make changes which may have not been considered errors at the time of the original issuance. For example, a patentee may wish to tweak the scope of the original claims and specification to more closely cover the new product of a competitor before seeking to extract a license. More prior art can be considered in reissue (and thus be subject to a presumption of validity) than during ex parte reexamination, which is limited to review of patents and printed publications. A patentee may also file continuations, divisional applications, or requests for continued examination during a reissue proceeding, none of which are available in an ex parte proceeding. A patentee can abandon the reissue proceeding if he or she does not like the outcome, while ex parte proceedings cannot be abandoned.[4] Finally, reissue is more predictable than ex parte review, where the examiner may find entirely new prior art and force an unexpected narrowing of the claims.[5]

However, reissue does have several disadvantages to ex parte reexamination for a patentee. Aside from admitting a defect in the patent, the biggest disadvantage is that the entire patent is reopened to prosecution; this means that there is no limited review, and it is possible to lose a battle which had been already won. For example, the original claims will not be examined for compliance with 35 U.S.C. §112, though new and amended claims are anyway. This is mitigated by the fact that the same examiner who allowed the original claims will review the reissue application. Second, ex parte proceedings are more nimble; it is more appropriate to use ex parte proceedings when trying to only gain a presumption of validity over new prior art, possibly without having to change the claims. No oath is required from inventors, which may be a large savings in time and money, as defective oaths have plagued a large majority of reissue applications (upwards of 70%) and can delay the proceedings a year or more.[6] A savvy patentee can keep ex parte proceedings private from competitors, and convince an examiner to allow claims over new prior art without creating additional prosecution history.[7] In this way, a favorable certificate of reexamination can buttress a patent’s presumption of validity in later litigation. Notably, a prior advantage to ex parte reexamination was that there did not need to be an admission of error without deceptive intent, but this advantage has disappeared post-AIA. Thus, ex parte reexamination is the best tool for preempting prior art issues which would otherwise be addressed during litigation.

A third party has limited involvement in both reissue and ex parte reexamination, but still has some options during each proceeding. A third party can anonymously initiate an ex parte proceeding by sending a requester to the USPTO containing relevant prior art and arguments for invalidity. This can be a useful way to preempt a full reissue by a patentee and can force the patentee to narrow claims in a forum where the patentee cannot adjust the specification or request continued examination. Ex parte reexamination can also create intervening rights for a client. It also puts the patentee in front of a fresh examiner. However, the scope of review is limited to prior art issues, and, other than introducing the issue, a third party has no further involvement. This is still more involvement than a third party can achieve during a reissue process, where the third party’s only involvement is via a protest under 37 C.F.R. § 1.291. However, both these strategies may (but do not necessarily) result in an estoppel which can prevent the issue from being raised again during litigation.[8] Courts will even look with disfavor on issues that could have been raised during reexamination by a third party but were not, so the strategy of saving relevant prior art for subsequent litigation might not succeed.[9] A third party (or patent owner) may find himself bound by the findings and limitations of the USPTO without further changes by the court in both reissue protests and ex parte reexamination.

Reissue vs. Supplemental Examination

A second alternative to reissue is supplemental examination under 35 U.S.C. § 257. This can also only be initiated by the patent owner, and can be requested at any time after issuance or any patent.[10] This type of reexamination invites the USPTO to consider or reconsider or correct information relevant to the patent which was missed entirely or improperly reviewed during prosecution. After doing so, this information cannot subsequently be used to invalidate the patent and the patent cannot be rendered unenforceable based on the reviewed information.[11] This covers any issue of patentability, including issues of 35 U.S.C. §§ 101, 112, or inequitable conduct. A supplemental examination can cover any information relevant to the patent, so it has a larger scope than either reissue or ex parte reexamination; the AIA does not put a limit on the kind of information which can be reviewed. It can be initiated any time before a patent expires.[12] This gives the patent holder a quick way (three months timeframe) to clarify information regarding her patent and prepare for litigation.

Supplemental examination holds several advantages over reissue. First, the AIA specifically states that supplemental examination cannot render a patent invalid or unenforceable. The worst case scenario, if the relevant information is a substantially new question of patentability, is an ex parte reexamination considering the specified references or material. Second, since the rules on inequitable conduct have yet to be fully tested in court, supplemental examination can be used to cure information that would otherwise bring up issues of inequitable conduct.  Third, a patent owner need not admit a defect in the patent itself. Fourth, if no new issues of patentability are raised, the examination ends and the patentee is fully immune from any of the reviewed information. Thus, supplemental review works well when the patentee is confident that no new issue of patentability will be raised. It is quick and can be used to narrow issues during enforcement.[13]

However, reissue is preferable when the patentee is aware of a defect or is unsure about the effect on patentability of the new information. If issues of patentability or validity of claims do occur, reissue allows the patentee to access the full suite of prosecution options, such as requests for continued examination or the ability to file divisional applications. Supplemental examination is more expensive than reissue, even when no ex parte proceeding results. The patent owner cannot stop ex parte examination if supplemental review finds a substantial new question of patentability, wherease the patent owner can abandon reissue at any time. Thus, reissue, though much slower than supplemental examination, is far more flexible and it allows the patentee to make changes that the patentee knows are necessary.[14] It is a better avenue to take to cure a patent of known defects before asserting it.

Conclusion

As stated above, reissue is useful mostly when there is a clear problem with an issued patent. It is a longer, but safer route to make changes to a patent than other forms of post issue reexamination. Since a patentee no longer must declare that an error occurred without deceptive intent, reissue has been opened to cure a wider array of problems which might otherwise have required an admission of inequitable conduct. However, this area has yet to be tested by a court in issues other than disclosing known prior art, so it is wise to use other methods, such as supplemental examination, to cure other defects where inequitable conduct may have arisen.

 


 

[1] Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, Pub. L. No. 112–29, 125 Stat. 28.

[2] Perez, Eugene T., Chart Summarizing Different Post-Grant Proceedings (2014)   http://www.postgrantproceedings.com/tools/PGR_Chart.html

[3] Emery, David P., Reissue and Reexamination of Patents, 15-21 (2008).

[4] Emery at 15-21.

[5] Id. at 15-27.

[6] McKeown, Scott A., Defective Oaths Plague Patent Reissue Filings, (November 24, 2010),  http://www.patentspostgrant.com/lang/en/2010/11/defective-oaths-plague-patent-reissue-filings

[7] Emery at 15-10.

[8] Emery at 15-26.

[9] Id.

[10] Matlis, Naphtali Y., Reissue v. Supplemental Examination (2014), http://www.postgrantproceedings.com/topics/Article-NYM_Reissue_v_Supplemental_Exam.html.

[11] See 35 U.S.C. § 257(a),(c).

[12]Perez, Eugene T., Chart Summarizing Different Post-Grant Proceedings (2014), http://www.postgrantproceedings.com/tools/PGR_Chart.html

[13] Matlis, Naphtali Y., Reissue v. Supplemental Examination (2014), http://www.postgrantproceedings.com/topics/Article-NYM_Reissue_v_Supplemental_Exam.html.

[14] Id.

April 29 / Patent

Patent Reissue: Uses and Strategy (Part II)

By: Steve Petkovsek

This is the second post of a three-part series on patent reissue. Part 1 can be found here. Part 3 can be found here.

Part 1 of this series gives a basic overview of recapture, its statutory basis, and notes some of the changes to the treatment of inequitable conduct post-AIA (America Invents Act).[1]  Part 2 discusses how the court has interpreted limitations such as recapture doctrine and intervening rights. It also covers some general strategies on how to use reissue effectively. Part 3 compares patent reissue to other post-grant proceedings a prosecutor may have in his or her arsenal in both a legal and practical context.

 

PART 2- LIMITATIONS ON REISSUE: RECAPTURE DOCTRINE AND INTERVENING RIGHTS

Part 2 discusses how the court has interpreted limitations such as recapture doctrine and intervening rights. It also covers some general strategies on how to use reissue effectively.

The language of the original claims and original prosecution record limit to what extent a patent’s claims can be changed during reissue, which is a doctrine known as recapture. There is a three-step approach taken by courts to analyze recapture, which has not been changed by the AIA.[2] If the answer to a question is no, then recapture is not present and the analysis ends. The approach is as follows:

  1. Is the proposed reissue claim broader than the underlying patent claim?
  2. Are the broader aspects related to the surrendered subject matter?
  3. Has surrendered subject matter crept into the reissue claim?

A claim is broadening under the first inquiry if any limitation present in the original claims is no longer required, even if the claim is narrower in other respects.[3] Thus, if the new claims cover any conceivable product, process, etc. which would have not infringed the original patent, the claims are broadening. A new claim must be broader than each and every original claim of the patent to be broadening during reissue.[4] A new category of invention is generally broadening but not necessarily so if the new category contains all of the limitations of the original claim. Finally, broadening subject matter can be added within two years of original issuance only.

If broadening is present, it must be related to surrendered subject matter for recapture to apply. Subject matter is considered “surrendered” if a limitation was relied upon for allowance. Evidence can be from anywhere in the prosecution history, including amendments or even argument. If no limitation was necessary for allowance, there is no surrender and no recapture. If surrender does exist, the examiner must determine that the broadening occurred in the same area of subject matter. Importantly, the focus of analysis of this second step is on the subject matter surrendered during the original application in the context of the original claims and not subsequent amendments.

The third question determines whether the reissued claims are materially narrowed in other respects to compensate for the broadening in the area of surrender. This analysis takes place in two parts. First, the reissue claim is compared to any claims canceled or amended during prosecution of the original application, and if the claim is as broad as or broader than a claim which was cancelled or amended to define over the art, recapture applies. Second, if a reissue claim omits any limitation which was added or argued during the original prosecution to overcome prior art, recapture applies, even if the claim is accompanied by other limitations making the reissue claim narrower than the patent claim in other aspects.[5] However, recapture does not always apply if the limitation is merely broadened; if it materially narrows relative to the original claim, recapture does not apply.[6] This approach ensures that a patentee is unable to reclaim what was deliberately surrendered while allowing room for error.[7] Thus recapture doctrine allows for some flexibility in broadening claims, allowing patentees to recoup what should have been claimed while still preventing them from arguing identical issues a second time.

The second half of the reissue statue is in 35 U.S.C. § 252, which describes what rights a reissued patent gives with respect to the original patent and where these rights are limited. The original patent is surrendered, and the reissued patent takes its place with the same expiration date as the original. The reissue is treated as if it were the original patent in its amended form for any causes of action after the date of reissuance. Pending causes of action based on substantially unchanged claims are also not affected, and damages can be collected from as early as the original date of issuance. Thus, reissuance is a valid way to shore up a patent’s claims for litigation without running the risk of losing damages.

However, if a claim has been substantially changed, it is possible that a potential infringer has gained intervening rights. These rights, known as absolute intervening rights, allow the infringer to continue to sell, offer for sale, use, or purchase the product without a license despite the new claims, but do not allow the infringer to continue to make or import the infringing product. Intervening rights usually occur where a reissue claims are broader in some respect than the original claims. The rights may be granted to one who did not infringe the original claims but has become an infringer due to the reissue. They may not occur where the language of a claim has not been amended.[8] Intervening rights may also be granted if an intentional infringer knew of the patent but had a good defense to infringement under the original claims, such as a piece of invalidating prior art.[9] This question is settled in litigation, and reissue prosecution history may be a factor if the prior art in question was addressed. Since intervening rights work on reliance rationale, if an infringer has made substantial preparations prior to the reissuance, the infringer might be granted not only the basic intervening rights but also equitable intervening rights, which include the ability to make and import the infringing product. This is the case as long as there was actual reliance on the scope of the original claims, and the term is determined as a matter of equity on a case-by-case basis.[10]

Strategies of Reissue Generally

Reissue is best used to cure a substantial error in a patent which might cause it to be invalid, and thus it should be used either when it is the only option available or when a patentee wishes to make multiple corrections to a patent at the same time. This is because the patentee must necessarily admit a defect in the patent and put the entire issued patent at risk for a second time. However, it is the only way to change the specification or drawings of a patent after it has issued. All prosecution options are on the table, so a patentee can file divisional applications and request for continued examination, a less limited appeal than through reexamination proceedings. The reissue application can be abandoned at any time.

One strategic way to use reissue is to add claims of narrower scope in order to hedge against invalidity. This practice was expressly allowed by the Federal Circuit in In Re Tanaka.[11] There is no need to amend the broader claims of the originally issued patent; especially if the claims are added within two years of the original issue date, there will be no need to argue that they are not broadening.[12] Adding narrower claims also avoids the possibility of creating intervening rights to a competitor. However, an error in conduct must still be demonstrated in addition to the error in the patent. In Tanaka, the error was a misunderstanding of U.S claiming process by the foreign attorney.[13] However, under the AIA, the USPTO will not make an inquiry into the origin of the error other than its sufficiency, so the patentee has an increased amount of flexibility in this respect as compared to prior cases.[14]

Other strategic reasons to file for reissue include attempting to tailor claims to a new invention of a competitor or, for pre-AIA patents, attempting to provoke an interference with a third party patent holder.[15]  The patentee must be careful not to create intervening rights if attempting to broaden claims. If the only issue is a potentially invalidating piece of prior art, a patentee should forgo reissue and either wait for litigation on the issue or attempt to resolve it via an ex parte reexamination proceeding, as described below.

Patent reissue can sometimes be a great mechanism to prepare for litigation, licensing negotiations, or other assertions of a patent. But patent reissue, of course, is not the only option. Practical concerns like cost or time constraints may require that other post-grant avenues are pursued. Part 3 will compare patent reissue to other post-grant proceedings a prosecutor may have in her arsenal both in a legal and practical context.

 

Appendix[16]

Patent Reissue Pic

 


 

[1] Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, Pub. L. No. 112–29, 125 Stat. 28.

[2] MPEP § 1412.02.

[3] See MPEP § 1412.03

[4] There is a special case for biological claims which qualify for pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 103(b) in this regard. See MPEP § 1412.02 II for details.

[5] MPEP § 1412.02.

[6] See In re Youman, 679 F.3d 1335, 102 USPQ2d 1862 (Fed. Cir. 2012)).

[7] See id.

[8] See Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc. v. HemCon, Inc., No. 2010-1548, slip op. at 26 (Fed Cir. March 15, 2012) (en banc).

[9] Emery, David P., Reissue and Reexamination of Patents, 15-19 (2008).

[10] In re Slimfold Mfg. Co. v. Kinkead Industries, Inc., 1 USPQ2d 1563 (Fed. Cir. 1987).

[11] See In re Tanaka, 640 F.3d 1246, 1250 (Fed. Cir. 2011).

[12] Marion, Michael B., In Re Tanaka (2014), http://www.postgrantproceedings.com/patent_modification/Article-In_re_Tanaka.html.

[13] See In re Tanaka, 640 F.3d at 1247-48.

[14] See Hewlett-Packard Co. v. Bausch & Lomb, Inc., 882 F.2d 1556, 1564 (Fed. Cir. 1989).

[15] Emery, David P., Reissue and Reexamination of Patents, 15-21(2008).

[16] MPEP § 1412.02

April 27 / Patent

Patent Reissue: Uses and Strategy (Part I)

By: Steve Petkovsek

This is first post of a three-part series on patent reissue. Part 2 can be found here. Part 3 can be found here.

Part 1 of this series gives a basic overview of recapture, its statutory basis, and notes some of the changes to the treatment of inequitable conduct post-AIA (America Invents Act). [1]  Part 2 discusses how the court has interpreted limitations such as recapture doctrine and intervening rights. It also covers some general strategies on how to use reissue effectively. Part 3 compares patent reissue to other post-grant proceedings a prosecutor may have in his or her arsenal in both a legal and practical context.

 

PART 1: INTRODUCTION TO REISSUE- STATUTORY BASIS

This is Part 1 of a three-part series on patent reissue. It will introduce the reissue statute, discuss some basic uses, and cover some limitations to reissue use. It will also cover post-AIA (America Invents Act) treatment of inequitable conduct in the reissue context. [2]

Introduction

After a U.S. Patent has issued, the patentee gains legally enforceable exclusive rights as defined by the claims in the patent. However, though the allowed claims enjoy a presumption of validity in subsequent litigation, a patentee should carefully scrutinize his or her patent for defects before attempting to assert those claims via litigation or offers to license. While a patentee surely puts forth the best efforts to find prior art and properly draft a patent during initial prosecution, it is simply cost prohibitive to be absolutely thorough in this regard, particularly since many patents will never be asserted. Furthermore, it is possible that a new understanding of the invention or simply a misunderstanding by the drafting attorney come to light post-issuance, which may result in an improperly defined invention and invalid claims. One method to address these concerns is through patent reissue.

Patent reissue allows the patentee to re-prosecute his or her patent and cure any defects that have been found post-issuance in the claims or specification. This can be done to: gain a presumption of validity over new prior art, correct inconsistencies in claim language, fix inventorship or drawing errors, or broaden or narrow claims. However, there are drawbacks; an owner must admit his or her patent has a defect and the entire patent is reopened for prosecution, not just the desired amendments.  Also, prior to the America Invents Act (AIA), reissue was limited to cases where the patent owner had acted without deceptive intent in prosecution. [3] The AIA eliminated all deceptive intent requirements from the Patent Statute and thus reissue, opening reissue as an avenue to cure prosecution defects even (arguably) if they were a result of admittedly deceptive intent (for example, non-disclosure of known prior art).[4] In this three part series, I will analyze the patent reissue statute, illustrate how subsequent court decisions have interpreted it, and give strategic suggestions on when to use patent reissue instead of other types of post-grant reexamination, such as inter partes and ex parte review.

Patent Reissue Statute: 35 U.S.C. §§251-52

The statutory basis for patent reissue is found in 35 U.S.C. §§251 and 252, the Rules of Practice in 37 CFR §1.171 et seq. and §1.291, and Chapter 1400 of the MPEP.[5] A patent owner has a right to file for a reissuance; the USPTO does not have discretion to reject such a filing if statutory conditions under Section 251 are met. Since reissue is essentially an agreement to re-prosecute an erroneous patent, the same procedures are used as for regular examination under 35 U.S.C. §§132 and 133. The patent owner can also appeal under 35 U.S.C. §134 or seek court review under 35 U.S.C. §§141-145. Protest by third parties is still allowed under 37 C.F.R. § 1.291, and a third party can submit a protest but, unlike other forms of reexamination, a third party has no right to participate in consideration or appeal decisions made by the USPTO during reissue.

Section 251 describes when patent reissue is appropriate. First, it describes what kinds of errors are correctable with reissue proceedings.  Also, a patentee may request several reissued patents for distinct and separate parts of the thing patented.  However, claims in any reissued patent must be directed toward the same invention as the original patent, and some indication must exist in the original patent specification that the patentee considered the subject matter claimed in the reissue patent application to be his or her invention.[6] This is a factual inquiry confined to objective intent manifested by the original patent.[7]  Merely finding that the subject matter was not an object of the original patent, not in the drawings, or not claimed is not sufficient for rejection under the “original patent” clause of Section251.[8] A person having ordinary skill in the art (PHOSITA) must determine that the disclosure of the original patent was an insufficient basis for the new claims absent a showing of intent by the patentee to otherwise narrow the invention. Additionally, Section 251 allows either the inventors or the assignee of the entire interest to file for reissue, but if the application seeks to enlarge the scope of the claims of the original patent, the reissue must be filed in the name of the inventors only. This is because only the inventors can declare a broader concept to actually be their invention.  The reissue application must contain the entire original patent with changes notated properly and claims appropriately numbered.[9] Each claim amendment must have an explanation supporting it. Last, 35 U.S.C. §251 only allows the broadening of claims of the original patent within two years of its issuance.

Only certain types of errors in a patent are correctable under Section 251, and the USPTO has required strict adherence to the literal wording of the statute in this regard.[10] Section 251 requires that:

“the patent, through error, [be] deemed wholly or partly inoperative or invalid by reason of a defective specification or drawing or by the patentee claiming more or less than he had a right to claim.”[11]

Thus, errors must be substantive in nature. The most common reason to reissue is to amend claims. This may be necessary when additional prior art is discovered, prior art is misunderstood, a claim is ambiguous and difficult to enforce, a claim reads upon an excessive number of inoperative embodiments, the invention scope is misunderstood by a drafting attorney, an element of the invention is missing from the claims, or other errors of this sort.[12] Other common errors which can be corrected via reissue are inaccuracies discovered in the disclosure (such as a mistake in the specification or drawings), a mistake or failure in claiming foreign priority or priority of an earlier filed U.S. application, or a mistake regarding inventorship. In essence, reissue was designed to give patentees some maneuverability if a mistake was made in good faith while drafting the patent which went overlooked by the examiner and patentee. Furthermore, the changes made to reissue by the AIA have increased the utility of reissue.

Not all errors which render a patent invalid can be corrected via reissue. This includes errors that could not be corrected in the original patent application, such as a lack of enablement, improper derivation, or a failure to disclose and claim 35 U.S.C. §101 patentable subject matter. Reissue cannot be used to simply reword claims which have the same scope as the originals; the change must be substantive. Procedural mistakes made during prosecution are also beyond the scope of reissue. For example, a failure to file a divisional application directed to nonelected claims has been repeatedly held not to be correctable by reissue.[13]

Finally, post AIA, the patentee no longer needs to declare in the accompanying oath that the error occurred without deceptive intent.[14] The oath still requires sound reasoning for filing a reissuance, i.e. that the patentee believes the original patent to be wholly or partially inoperative for a correctable reason, but no justification must be given as to why the error arose. This opens the door for a more strategic use of reissue without worrying about accusations of inequitable conduct.  Inequitable conduct, which remains a defense against patent infringement, has been defined as a failure to submit known prior art, a failure to explain references in a foreign language, misstatements of fact, and mis-description of inventorship.[15] Inequitable conduct was recently made harder to show in Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., and now must be established as but-for materiality as to the patentability of the application.[16] A patent owner may now admit a defect in a patent that would have previously been an admission of inequitable conduct, which in this case was including an omitted prior art reference. However, since the reference is considered in reissue, according to Therasesne, the previous omission is not but-for materiality if the claims in question survive reissue.[17] The Federal Circuit has not addressed other kinds of inequitable conduct yet, so it is wise to avoid attempting to cure such defects with reissue until a ruling has been made. Until then, a better choice might be supplemental examination.[18]

The purpose and statutory limitations of patent reissue are fairly straightforward. However, as the court has interpreted these rules, it has imposed other limits. Part 2 will discuss how the court has interpreted limitations such as recapture doctrine and intervening rights.

 


 

[1] Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, Pub. L. No. 112–29, 125 Stat. 28.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Emery, David P., Reissue and Reexamination of Patents, 15-3 (2008).

[6] Id..

[7] In re Amos, 953 F.2d 613, 618, 21 USPQ2d 1271, 1274 (Fed. Cir. 1991) (quoting In re Rowand, 526 F.2d 558, 560, 187 USPQ 487, 489 (CCPA 1975)).

[8] MPEP §1412.01.

[9] See 37 C.F.R. § 1.173(b).

[10] Emery at 15-4.

[11] 35 U.S.C. § 251(a).

[12] Emery, David P., Reissue and Reexamination of Patents, 15-5 (2008).

[13] MPEP § 1412.01 I.

[14] See 37 C.F.R. § 1.175.

[15] Matlis, Naphtali Y., Reissue v. Supplemental Examination (2014), http://www.postgrantproceedings.com/topics/Article-NYM_Reissue_v_Supplemental_Exam.html.

[16] See Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 99 U.S.P.Q.2d 1065 (Fed. Cir. 2011).

[17] Matlis, Naphtali Y., Reissue v. Supplemental Examination (2014), http://www.postgrantproceedings.com/topics/Article-NYM_Reissue_v_Supplemental_Exam.html.

[18] See Reissue v. Reexamination, supra at 11.

April 13 / Computing

Net Neutrality Rules: Title II and its Implications

By: Alexa Esposito 

 

Introduction:

On February 26th, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) voted to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility, proposing a series of “strong, sustainable rules” intended to protect the Open Internet from the threats of broadband Internet Service Providers’ (“ISPs”) economic incentives.

The new rules proposed by the FCC prohibit ISPs from (1) blocking content, (2) throttling or impeding Internet traffic, and (3) offering faster Internet services to those who can afford such services and slower Internet services to everyone else.[1] The FCC also imposes a new standard for future conduct of ISPs, mandating against unreasonable interferences and practices that would inhibit either (1) the ability of consumers to select and use services or devices of their choice or (2) the ability of edge providers, such as website and application developers, to make lawful content, services, applications or devices available to consumers.[2] Through these prohibitions and new standards for ISP conduct, the FCC seeks to ensure that America’s broadband networks be fair, fast, and open today and in the future.[3]

As the bedrock of its authority to regulate the Internet in this manner, the FCC primarily cites Sections 201 and 202 of Title II of the Communications Act. Although Title II was once seen as precluding broadband Internet, the FCC notes that Title II is very much applicable to the present status of broadband Internet service access as a transmission platform. The remainder of this article will be dedicated to examining the core provisions of Title II of the Communications Act, Sections 201 and 202; how these sections give rise to the FCC’s power to regulate the Open Internet; and the implications of this regulatory power.

 

Regulatory Power under Title II and its Implications:

Title II of the Communications Act, enacted in 1934, gave the FCC the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce in communication by radio and wire and make available a “rapid, efficient, Nationwide and world-wide radio communication service” to all Americans.[4] Sections 201 and 202 are at the core of the FCC’s order. Section 201 requires that common carriers engaged in interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio must furnish such services “upon reasonable request therefor” and in accordance with the public interest. They must also charge reasonable rates and charges for such services.[5] The second core section of Title II to the FCC’s order is Section 202, which makes unreasonably discriminatory rates, services, or any other discriminatory practices in relation to the communication service unlawful.[6]

The FCC has decided to reclassify ISPs as common carriers and the broadband Internet access services they provide as telecommunications services under Title II in light of two factors: (1) The Internet is presently used as a transmission platform for third-party content and services like other traditional Title II utilities such as the radio, and (2.) ISPs, now more than ever, have economic incentives that may impede the speed and equality of the Internet services provided to consumers.[7] By reclassifying the broadband Internet access providers as common carriers and the Internet services they provide as telecommunications services under Title II, the FCC has broader regulatory power to ensure that the Internet is open, fair, and in accordance with the “public interest”.

What is unclear right now is at what cost the FCC’s broader regulatory power to promote fair and fast Internet services will come. Will the FCC also regulate the rates at which Internet services can be charged and thus define what is considered a “reasonable” rate for Internet services under Title II? This seems likely in light of the fact that the FCC makes a point to note what rate-regulation will not be. The FCC states that the Order will not apply outdated, utility-style rate regulation under Title II to the regulation of the Open Internet in the 21st century but stops short of indicating what kind of rate regulation will be applied.[8] Therefore, how great of an economic burden the FCC’s broader regulatory power will impose on ISPs and how much of this burden will be transferred to consumers through higher service prices remains to be seen.

 


 

[1] Press Release, Federal Communications Commission, FCC Adopts Strong, Sustainable Rules to Protect the Open Internet (Feb. 26, 2015); Rebecca R. Ruiz and Steve Lohr, FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules, Classifying Broadband Internet Service as a Utility, N.Y. Times (Feb. 26, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/technology/net-neutrality-fcc-vote-internet-utility.html?_r=1.

[2] Press Release, Federal Communications Commission, FCC Adopts Strong, Sustainable Rules to Protect the Open Internet (Feb. 26, 2015).

[3] See id.

[4] See 47 U.S.C. § 151(a).

[5] According to 47 U.S.C. § 153(11), the term “common carrier” or “carrier” means any person engaged as a common carrier for hire, in interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio or interstate or foreign radio transmission of energy, except where reference is made to common carriers not subject to this chapter; but a person engaged in radio broadcasting shall not, insofar as such person is so engaged, be deemed a common carrier.

[6] See 47 U.S.C. § 202(a).

[7] Federal Communications Commission, supra note 1.

[8] See id.