Friday, October 14, 2016

GW Design Law conference: current state of the law

Morning Session 2: The Current State of the Law Under 35 U.S.C. § 102, 103 and 112

Moderator: Daniel Gajewski, Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox: Issues include continuation practice; maybe new rules coming.  Skechers sought invalidation of a Nike patent, alleging noncompliance w/ the written description requirement in 112 by the introduction of new matter.  Nike changed a photo to a line drawing, and dotted some lines out.  IPR case.  Changing certain lines, and changing lines to dotted lines claimed new matter.  Board found 112 satisfied despite relatively minor differences in way line drawing represented photo—Skechers went into too great detail rather than looking at it like an ordinary designer.  “Range of reasonableness” enough to provide sufficient written description via photos.  “Show and delineate” requirement—the shoe upper was reduced to broken lines; Skechers argued that one wouldn’t have recognized the design from the disclosure. Board disagreed.  We aren’t persuaded that the photos fail to clearly show and delineate the claimed midsole elements of the design in addition to the upper and outsole elements, showing that the inventor had possession of the invention.

Perry J. Saidman, Saidman DesignLaw Group: Black letter: must disclose every element. To anticipate a claim, the disclosure must anticipate each element of the claim.  1997: Anticipation requires the earlier design to be identical in all material respects to the claimed design.  Int’l Seaway v. Walgreens, Fed. Cir. 2009: the worst decision from the Fed. Cir.  What happened to the law of anticipation: ordinary observer test must logically be the sole test for anticipation.  If two designs are substantially the same there’s infringement; thus if the prior art is substantially the same as the design, the design is anticipated by prior art.  No longer required to be identical. But these are not the same things. 

Some people say this is no big deal.  Actual 102 rejections by the PTO show appalling consequence where prior art has an extra element that the design doesn’t.  Net effect: more anticipation rejections than ever before. Very subjective: no analysis necessary.  102 rejections w/o 103 rejections: Alice in Wonderland effect.  The PTO is now in the business of deciding infringement, if the anticipation test and the infringement test are the same. [Shouldn’t there be the possibility of 102 rejections w/o 103 if they are in fact separate bases?]  By focusing on 102, PTO avoids the rigorous test of 103 for primary and secondary references.  [Note that if vagueness is a First Amendment problem for TMs, design patent might have the same problems.]  Egyptian Goddess says you look at patented design and accused design in the context of the prior art.  This is now not being done, so if you get a 102 reference you should tell the PTO to evaluate the prior art in light of its prior art.

What is the basis for Int’l Seaway?  Peters v. Active, 1889 SCt case.  Maxim: that which infringes, if later, would anticipate, if earlier.  Graver Tank, 1950, created doctrine of equivalents for utility patents: substantially the same function in substantially the same way to produce the same result.  Fed. Cir. said in Lewmar, 1987, said that Peters v. Active had to be adjusted to take doctrine of equivalents into account. That which would literally infringe if later in time would anticipate if earlier.  Lee v. Dayton-Hudson, Fed. Cir. 1988, Gorham test inherently makes doctrine of equivalents inherent in infringement test.  The problem: the test for design patent infringement is doctrine of equivalents, but only in cases of literal infringement is there anticipation.  So infringement isn’t the same as anticipation.

Elizabeth Ferrill, Finnegan: Examples of obviousness from recent PTAB decisions. Design patent prosecution isn’t public unless the patent issues. Affirmance of rejection: we never see that unless there’s an appeal to the Fed. Cir.  PTAB heard about 15 appeals in design cases last year; ½ never become public.  PTAB cases also create bigger chances for argument—long briefs, long explanations of decisions.

Obviousness is not as simple as anticipation. Primary reference, from perspective of ordinary designer: design characteristics have to be basically the same as the claimed design: (1) does it discern the correct visual impression created by the patented design as a whole; (2) is the secondary reference creating “basically the same” visual impression.  Secondary reference can modify the primary reference to create a design that has the “same overall visual appearance” of the claimed design.  Appearance of certain ornamental features in one reference would suggest the application of another.  Even if one side looks very similar, other views might not.

Caterpillar v. Miller: Design is a warning triangle applied to a curved surface of a coupler for an excavator. Invalidated for obviousness. The appearance of the prior art doesn’t have to be identical to the claimed design.  Basically the same, but not exactly.  Secondary reference was another type of coupler which did show a curved surface.  Coupler manual + curved surface = motivation to combine. 

Premier Gem v. Wing Yee Gems: picking and choosing secondary references. Petitioner wasn’t successful in challenging registration of jewelry design; petitioner shouldn’t choose certain features from secondary references while ignoring others – hindsight bias.

William LaMarca, USPTO, Office of the Solicitor: We still apply the same test from the perspective of the ordinary skilled designer/artisan.  Int’l Seaway impacted anticipation, not obviousness. 

Ferrill: how could Int’l Seaway override a previous panel decision? 

LaMarca: previous SCt precedent controls. PTO is correctly following statute in applying ordinary skilled artisan for 103 obviousness; also following the Fed. Cir. We think we’re consistent even if there are problems.  Examiner can’t just ignore the legal standard. 

Ferrill: if the test is the same, you should have to apply it the way the courts should apply it.

LaMarca: MPEP does discuss and give examples of how they apply anticipation; they do say it doesn’t have to be identical. There is the further point that close but slight differences = view it in context of prior art; if you feel the examiner hasn’t done that you should argue it to the examiner and in your appeal.

Saidman: expresses doubt that an examiner taking the perspective of an ordinary observer would behave/react differently than an examiner taking the perspective of an ordinary designer.

Ferrill: depends on the degree of crowding in the art, but probably applied very similarly.

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