Friday, 12 October 2018

USPTO Discards Broadest Reasonable Interpretation Standard

The USPTO has discarded the broadest reasonable interpretation standard.  This may lead to fewer patents held to be invalid during IPR, PGR, and CBM proceedings.  The announcement states: 
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published a final rule changing the claim construction standard applied during inter partes review (IPR), post-grant review (PGR), and the transitional program for covered business method patents (CBM) proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). 
The final rule replaces the “broadest reasonable interpretation” standard with the federal court claim construction standard that is used to construe a claim in a civil action under 35 U.S.C. § 282(b). This is the same claim construction standard articulated in Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc), and its progeny. Additionally, under the final rule, when construing a claim term in an IPR, PGR, or CBM, the PTAB will take into consideration any prior claim construction determination that has been made in a civil action, or a proceeding before the International Trade Commission (ITC), if that prior claim construction is timely made of record in that IPR, PGR, or CBM.
. . . As noted in the rule package, the change will lead, among other things, to greater consistency and harmonization with the federal courts and the ITC and lead to greater certainty and predictability in the patent system. . . .  Several comments questioned the proposed “retroactive” application of the rule. In response to these comments, the final rule will not be retroactively applied and instead will apply only to IPR, PGR, and CBM petitions filed on or after the effective date of the final rule, which is November 13, 2018.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

University of California Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Opens Liaison Office in Beijing


The University of California [UC] has opened a “liaison office” in Beijing to provide opportunities for UC startups to access China’s large market for products and services as well as its venture capital market.  The press release states, in part:


Office Opening

In June, 2018, UC’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) established a liaison office in Beijing at TusStar, a leading tech incubator and early-stage investment fund. The key objective of this liaison office is to provide business development and business-matching services as well as overall administrative support to UC startups looking to expand their business in China.

TusStar operates over 160 incubators globally; it has deployed over $2 billion in investment capital since 2001.  It is owned by Tus Holdings, a large integrated enterprise with 500+ subsidiaries and $15+ billion in investment capital.  

The new UC office will be located inside TusPark, the largest science park in Zhongguancun, the “Silicon Valley hub” of Beijing where multinational tech companies, such as Google, are based. 

Key Objective

The creation of this new office and relationship with TusStar will help UC startups connect with resources to market their products to Chinese customers, find additional sources of investor funding, connect with strategic manufacturing and distribution partners, and network with other UC alumni and UC entrepreneurs in China.

The Beijing office will also provide UC’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the necessary business network and program support to coordinate alumni events and other programs connecting with Chinese investors and industry partners, i.e., cross-border tours, pitch competitions, conferences, forums and symposiums.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

IP, Digital Trade and the New "NAFTA"


The United States Trade Representative has released a summary of some of the highlights concerning IP and the new “NAFTA” between the United States, Canada and Mexico.  The USMC agreement (United States Marine Corps or What We Say -- I'm making a joke.) summary states, in part:

UNITED STATES–MEXICO–CANADA TRADE FACT SHEET Modernizing NAFTA into a 21st Century Trade Agreement

The United States, Mexico, and Canada have reached an agreement to modernize the 24-year-old NAFTA into a 21st century, high-standard agreement. The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will support mutually beneficial trade leading to freer markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth in North America.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

The United States, Mexico, and Canada have reached an agreement on a modernized, high-standard Intellectual Property (IP) chapter that provides strong and effective protection and enforcement of IP rights critical to driving innovation, creating economic growth, and supporting American jobs.

Key Highlights: Protections for United States Innovators and Creators

The new IP Chapter will:

  • Include 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs and a robust scope of products eligible for protection.
  • Require full national treatment for copyright and related rights so United States creators are not deprived of the same protections that domestic creators receive in a foreign market.
  • Continue to provide strong patent protection for innovators by enshrining patentability standards and patent office best practices to ensure that United States innovators, including small- and medium-sized businesses, are able to protect their inventions with patents.
  • Include strong protection for pharmaceutical and agricultural innovators.
  • Require a minimum copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years, and for those works with a copyright term that is not based on the life of a person, a minimum of 75 years after first authorized publication.
  • Require strong standards against the circumvention of technological protection measures that often protect works such as digital music, movies, and books.
  • Establish appropriate copyright safe harbors to provide protection for IP and predictability for legitimate enterprises that do not directly benefit from the infringement, consistent with United States law.
  • Provide important procedural safeguards for recognition of new geographical indications (GIs), including strong standards for protection against issuances of GIs that would prevent United States producers from using common names, as well as establish a mechanism for consultation between the Parties on future GIs pursuant to international agreements.
  • Enhance provisions for protecting trademarks, including well-known marks, to help companies that have invested effort and resources into establishing goodwill for their brands.

Key Achievement: Most Comprehensive Enforcement Provisions of Any Trade Agreement

For the first time, a trade agreement will require all of the following:

  • Ex officio authority for law enforcement officials to stop suspected counterfeit or pirated goods at every phase of entering, exiting, and transiting through the territory of any Party.
  • Express recognition that IP enforcement procedures must be available for the digital environment for trademark and copyright or related rights infringement.
  • Meaningful criminal procedures and penalties for unauthorized camcording of movies, which is a significant source of pirated movies online.
  • Civil and criminal penalties for satellite and cable signal theft.
  • Broad protection against trade secret theft, including against state-owned enterprises.

Key Achievement: Strongest Standards of Protection for Trade Secrets of Any Prior FTA

In particular, the Chapter has the most robust protection for trade secrets of any prior United States trade agreement.  It includes all of the following protections against misappropriation of trade secrets, including by state-owned enterprises: civil procedures and remedies, criminal procedures and penalties, prohibitions against impeding licensing of trade secrets, judicial procedures to prevent disclosure of trade secrets during the litigation process, and penalties for government officials for the unauthorized disclosure of trade secrets. 

DIGITAL TRADE

The new Digital Trade chapter contains the strongest disciplines on digital trade of any international agreement, providing a firm foundation for the expansion of trade and investment in the innovative products and services where the United States has a competitive advantage. 

Key Highlights of the Digital Trade Chapter

The new Digital Trade chapter will:

  • Prohibit customs duties and other discriminatory measures from being applied to digital products distributed electronically (e-books, videos, music, software, games, etc.).
  • Ensure that data can be transferred cross-border, and that limits on where data can be stored and processed are minimized, thereby enhancing and protecting the global digital ecosystem.
  • Ensure that suppliers are not restricted in their use of electronic authentication or electronic signatures, thereby facilitating digital transactions.
  • Guarantee that enforceable consumer protections, including for privacy and unsolicited communications, apply to the digital marketplace.
  • Limit governments’ ability to require disclosure of proprietary computer source code and algorithms, to better protect the competitiveness of digital suppliers.
  • Promote collaboration in tackling cybersecurity challenges while seeking to promote industry best practices to keep networks and services secure.
  • Promote open access to government-generated public data, to enhance innovative use in commercial applications and services.
  • Limit the civil liability of Internet platforms for third-party content that such platforms host or process, outside of the realm of intellectual property enforcement, thereby enhancing the economic viability of these engines of growth that depend on user interaction and user content.


New Collaboration Between University of California, Irvine and Beckman Coulter Diagnostics


Beckman Coulter Diagnostics and the University of California, Irvine have issued a press release announcing their new collaboration.  The press release states, in part:

"We are honored that Beckman Coulter Diagnostics has selected UCI as a strategic innovation partner," said Richard Sudek, Ph.D., chief innovation officer and executive director at UCI Applied Innovation. "This is a new type of industry collaboration which aims to significantly change how industry and universities partner together. We look forward to teaming up with Beckman Coulter to increase the speed and quality of how UCI discoveries make it to market."

"We are excited to tap into the broad expertise of UCI researchers as we focus on identifying innovative solutions to clinical unmet needs," said Fiona Adair, Ph.D., vice president of strategy and innovation at Beckman Coulter Diagnostics. "We believe this type of academic-industry partnership can lead to development of innovative diagnostic technologies to improve healthcare. UCI Applied Innovation is a place where valuable new ideas are incubated. In turn, we can provide promising students, researchers, and entrepreneurs industry-specific feedback and mentorship opportunities. We will have a Beckman Coulter office at the Cove @ UCI Applied Innovation for seamless collaboration with academic units as well as to integrate into the innovation ecosystem."

This level of collaboration is an industry model of synthesizing research, commercial expertise and clinical needs to produce beneficial results. As a first step, Beckman Coulter will fund Proof of Product grants to help UCI innovations bridge the gap between the lab and early commercialization. Through these grants, Beckman Coulter will determine a specific focus area for university entrepreneurial teams. 

Additionally, Beckman Coulter will also seek eligible UCI graduate students to enter its competitive talent onboarding program, in which they'll get the opportunity to work across multiple divisions of the company. 

"The partnership with UCI represents a landmark in Beckman Coulter's strategic initiative to drive translational innovation and extend the company's leadership in clinical diagnostics." said John Blackwood, senior vice president and general manager of products and services at Beckman Coulter. "Beckman Coulter is engaging with academic partners that excel in applying the latest technology to develop superior solutions for better patient outcomes. UCI maintains an ecosystem of innovation that facilitates academic-industry partnerships and we are excited about the opportunity to leverage UCI's research expertise for the benefit of patients around the world."

Monday, 8 October 2018

The Tide Turns: Rising Legal Services Employment in the United States


The legal services market in the United States contracted since the Great Recession.  However, there have been reports of a rebound.  CBRE, a commercial real estate firm, has released a report concerning legal services and real estate in the United States.  Part of the report concerns rethinking how square footage in law firms can be used more efficiently, including increasing collaboration space.  Another part of the report examines legal services employment—attorney employment--across the United States. 

The top five major legal services employment markets are 1) New York City; 2) Los Angeles; 3) Miami; 4) Chicago; and 5) Washington DC.  San Francisco is ninth.  The report states that there has not been much growth in most of the top ten major legal services employment markets except for Los Angeles (experiencing low double digit growth between 2015 and 2017) and San Francisco.  The report states that this is likely due to the growth in the media and tech industries.  In the highest growth markets category, Austin and Atlanta were the leaders in attorney growth.  Austin added more than 10%.  Austin is well-known for its tech industry.  According to the report, the cities of Austin, Atlanta and Kansas City added 10% or more growth in attorney positions since 2015.  The report also discusses the cities with largest decline in law degrees awarded. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Morse on Using Tax Transfer Prices to Inform Patent Damages


In a recent essay titled, "Seeking Comparable Transactions in Patent and Tax," in the University of Texas Law School Review of Litigation, Professor Susan C. Morse discusses the merits of whether tax transfer prices can help inform patent damages.  The introduction of her article states:

Most business firms do not go around licensing their crown jewel intellectual property to unrelated third parties.  This presents a problem for both patent law and tax law.  In patent litigation, setting damages for a reasonable royalty under Georgia Pacific[1] invites the use of a benchmark royalty rate that would have been agreed to had the litigating parties negotiated a market rate in advance.  This counterfactual analysis repeats in tax law when firms allocate taxable income among affiliates located in different tax jurisdictions.  Transfer pricing rules similarly seek a price, such as a royalty, that would have been agreed to had the related affiliates negotiated a market rate as adverse, or “arm’s length,” parties.[2]

In their article, Tax Solutions to Patent Damages, Jennifer Blouin and Melissa Wasserman argue that tax transfer prices can provide some of the data needed to set patent litigation damages.[3]  One could also ask the converse, which is whether patent litigation outcomes can provide some data that tax transfer pricing needs. If patent law looks to tax transfer prices, it sees the advantage that the tax transfer prices are set ex ante when IP developed by one affiliate was first used by another affiliate.  This roughly aligns with patent law’s touchstone of a “hypothetical negotiation” that produces an “ex ante” license.[4]   If tax law looks to patent law, it sees the advantage that patent damages emerge from an adversarial process.  Patent damages may be set ex post, but their validity is bolstered by the fact that they are contested.

Blouin and Wasserman argue that parties and courts should make use of the large body of tax transfer price information to help support reasonable royalty calculations in patent damages cases.  Perhaps so.  But transfer pricing data is messy.  Using tax transfer prices sets for parties and courts the challenging task of understanding the prices in context.[5]  The risk exists that the analysis will fail because of the weight of its own complexity.

She concludes:

Tax transfer prices are imperfect. They are motivated by the incentive to reduce tax, not by the incentive to get the prices right.  Theory, doctrine, and constrained administrative resources limit the quality or truth of transfer prices.  But this does not mean that tax transfer prices are irrelevant to the problem of patent damages.  It means that the prices are contextual.  If they are used, they should be used with attention to comparability of terms, taxpayer incentives, and government enforcement. Patent litigants may have ample incentive to engage with questions of comparability, but understanding the interaction between the complex tax system and the complex patent system as applied to transfer pricing data would not be easy.  It could be so hard that the transaction costs would exceed the benefit of any increase in the quality of patent damages awards.

The essay can be found, here. A draft of the Professor Blouin and Professor Wasserman paper, titled, "Tax Solutions to Patent Damages," is available, here.  

Trump Requests Comments for Joint Strategic Plan on IP Enforcement


The President Trump's U.S. Office of Management and Budget has released a Federal Register request for comments from the public to help develop the U.S. 3-year Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement.  A summary of the request states:

The Federal Government is starting the process to develop a new 3-year Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement. By committing to common goals, the U.S. Government will more effectively and efficiently promote and protect our intellectual property. In this request for comments, the Executive Office of the President (``EOP''), Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator invites public input and participation in shaping the Administration's intellectual property enforcement strategy. The Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (``IPEC'') is charged with developing, with certain Federal departments and agencies, the Administration's Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement for submission to Congress every three years. The previous 3-year Joint Strategic Plans were issued in 2010, 2013, and 2016. To assist IPEC and Federal agencies in our preparation of the fourth 3-year plan, IPEC requests input and recommendations from the public for improving the U.S. Government's intellectual property enforcement efforts, along the lines of this Administration's four-part strategic approach, described in greater detail below.

The prior 3-year joint strategic plan can be found, here.  We previously discussed the 2013 plan, here.  The complete Federal Register request can be found, here.