Gone are the evenings when the AmeriKat had to activate her whiskers and night vision to illuminate the darkened journey from her office home. The days are getting longer, the afternoon sun is gliding through her Venetian blinds, and her outer garment of choice is a mere raincoat to guard against the unexpected shower. It is true, Spring may have finally graced London with her presence. However, with Spring has come the formidable western wind - Favonius (or Zephyrus)- that last week wreaked havoc on many a groomed fur coat (picture, left) and once-casually floating skirts -the winds of change have come. The winds of patent reform, first reported by the AmeriKat two years ago, have been the biggest news of the past few weeks, but the winds have also blown off the dust of some old issues and revealed some new issues.
Readers will recall that this case involves an epic battle between the two companies involving i4i’s US Patent No 5.787, 449 (“449 Patent”) which related to markup languages and Extensible Markup Language (“XML”) used in electronic documents. In 2007, i4i filed a patent infringement action against Microsoft in the Eastern District of Texas. Microsoft claimed that the '449 patent was invalid because an earlier version of i4i’s software had anticipated the claim. However, this earlier software, S4, had been destroyed ten years prior to the case so the USPTO Patent Examiners never had the opportunity to examine the i4i’s patent application in light of this alleged prior art. Because the S4 data had been destroyed, Microsoft argued that they never had an opportunity to provide “clear and convincing evidence” of invalidity. The trial jury found in i4i’s favor, Microsoft appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals who upheld the lower court’s finding and then appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The US Court of Appeals upheld the Circuit Court’s ruling and so Microsoft appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case November 2010.
As reported by the Amerikat, Microsoft is arguing that the evidential standard to invalidate a patent should be one of a “preponderance” and not of a “clear and convincing” standard (see previous posts here for Microsoft’s argument). The AmeriKat has worked her way through the i4i’s brief for a full two-parter AmeriKat post out this week, but i4i's main argument boils down to the suggestion that Section 282, the section that deals with the burden of establishing invalidity, is not silent on the burden of proof requirement. It uses language that has a settled meaning of a “clear and convincing” standard which is itself settled by Federal Circuit and Supreme Court case law history, i.e., section 282 codified the existing evidential standard. In addition, this heightened standard of proof has specifically been used in cases dealing with prior-use claims of invalidity, such as the case here. Most of i4i's argument is devoted to the stronger underlying public policy argument of maintaining the heighted evidential standard, i.e., promoting strong and stable patent rights to protect the incentives for innovation and investment. A weaker standard, such as the preponderance standard, would arguably have the counter-effect as well as weakening the powers and judgment of the USPTO.
"By allowing a law jury to second-guess the PTO's judgment even in close cases, the preponderance standard would diminish the expected value of patents and would reduce future inventors' incentives to innovate and to disclose their inventions to the public."
"reflects the better reading of Section 282 in light of that provision’s text, history, and purposes. Most importantly, the text of Section 282 does not suggest that the standard of proof governing questions of patent validity varies depending on the nature of the evidence that a challenger introduces. Such a variable-proof regime, moreover, would reflect a substantial departure from the way in which evidentiary burdens typically operate. Although juries routinely give different weight to different types of evidence, petitioner identifies no statute under which the standard of proof governing a particular determination depends on the type of evidence that the parties introduce. The Federal Circuit’s longstanding approach to the question presented here, under which evidence that was not before the PTO “may carry more weight and go further toward sustaining the attacker’s unchanging burden” ..."
More Unrest in US Patent Reform and AIA
"includes public-use and on-sale bars which have no counterpart exception for grace in proposed 102(b). This is a bad system part of which has been tried in the U.S. and was abandoned in the Patent Act of 1839, which established a grace period of such activity."
"Our whole aesthetical idea with this bag was to take the hardware off. And the attitude, the slouch of the bag - they got the weight really right."The numerous fashion blogs that look out for cheaper versions of the more desirable luxury products heralded Target's bag (picture, right - from the New York Times article) as the perfect affordable version of the much-coveted item. McCollough stated that although he can understand this thinking, such products are detrimental for small companies like Proenza. He stated "Yeah, why save up and buy ours when you can buy theirs right away?"