02 July 2013

Two interesting Decisions on Patent Eligibility of Software Inventions in the US

On the ksnh::law blog, two postings were recently published that comment on interesting decisions of US courts with respect to patent eligibility of software inventions under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

The posting "US Patent revoked as being non-technological and unpatentably abstract – But what is the Difference?" comments on the SAP v. Versata case decided by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board under the Covered Business Methods review program, while the posting "Business Method patentable as Claims show technological Advance – How would Europe decide?" relates to the Federal Cicuit's decision in the case Ultramerical v. Hulu.

Both cases relate to - from a European perspective pure - business method patents but with very different outcome. While the PTAB found that Versata's patent US 6,553,350 relates to an abstract idea as the claims can be implemented on a general-purpose computer hardware by merely adding insignificant, conventional and routine steps implicit in the abstract idea itself, the CAFC found Ultramerical's patent US 7,346,545 eligible since many of the claimed steps require intricate and complex computer programming which transforms a general-purpose into a special-purpose computer performing particular functions.

The diverging decisions both refer to something like the "technical character" or "technical implementation" of the claimed business principle. The respective grounds are very interesting as they seem to converge towards the European view on patent eligibility based on the notion of "technicality". Before the background of European patent law, however, it's safe to say that neither of the two patents would have survived, as their technical features are so trivial that they are notoriously known and cannot establish novelty and inventive step.

09 March 2013

Comparison of AIA and EPC as well as ante-AIA, post AIA and 'real' first-to-file prior art


In a new posting on the ksnh::law blog titled "10 aspects of the AIA that are (somehow) comparable to European provisions" we discuss the following new provisions of the America Invents Act and their link to European patent law:
  1. grace period
  2. prior public use
  3. intervening rights
  4. usurpation and derivation
  5. post grant review
  6. covered business method review
  7. third-party submissions
  8. supplemental examination
  9. prior use rights
  10. patent marking
Further to that, one of the most interesting aspects of the AIA is the way the conversion from first-to-invent to first-to-file is implemented and the impact on the definition of relevant prior art.

The two main changes to prior art can be found in 35 USC § 102 (a) and (b). While the former relates prior public use and intervening rights to the new notion of "effective filing date" (cf. 35 U.S.C. § 100(i)(1)), by that ending the Himer doctrine of 1966, the latter introduces an individual type of grace period combining elements of the ante-AIA first-to-invent and a classical first-to-file grace period. These issues have been discussed to some extent in sections 1 to 3 of this ksnh::law posting (English) and in this ksnh::jur posting (German).

Before this background it is worthwhile to not ony compare ante-AIA with post-AIA prior art, but also post-AIA prior art with the prior art in a classical first-to-file regime with grace period:

Post-AIA prior art versus classical first-to-file with grace period:
  • The post-AIA grace period excludes third-party disclosure of an invention published between an own disclosure of the inventor within the grace period and the actual filing date. In contrast thereto, the classical first-to-file grace period excluded only own disclosure of the inventor within the grace period while all third-party disclosure before the filing date is considered regular prior art.    
  • In the post-AIA era, intervening rights - i.e. patent applications filed before but published after the effective filing date of an invention under examination - are relevent for both novelty and obviousness, while, in a pure first-to-file scheme, such rights usually are only relevant for novelty but not for inventive step. 
Ante-AIA versus post-AIA prior art: 
  • prior public and commercial use are now relevant anywhere in the world (post-AIA) and not any more upon occurrance in the United States only (post-AIA).
  • the relevant date for determining as to whether or not a reference is regular prior art is the "effective filing date" of an application, i.e. either its filing date or its priority date independent on where the priority application has actually been filed. 
  • This new notion ends the Hilmer doctrine of 1966 and has the effect that in the post-AIA era intervening rights are independent on whether or not the priority application has been filed in the US, while in the ante-AIA era only US applications could qualify for an intervening right status. 


26 February 2013

Intellectual Property Aspects of 3D Printing (German)

On the ksnh::jur blog, we recently posted the first two articles of a series on the IP aspects of the fascinating new technology of 3D printing which, according to our perception, has the potential to raise totally new questions and pose new challenges to the IP system. I will continue in German, the language of the two articles:
Das 3D-Printing hat das Potential einer Disruptive Technology, die bestehende Technologien, Produkt oder Dienstleistungen möglicherweise vollständig verdrängt - ähnlich wie die Transistortechnologie einstmals die Röhrens- und Relaisindustrie untergehen ließ. Es könnte nämlich sein, dass das 3D-Printing einen Übergang von teuren, zentralisierten Fertigungsstätten hin zu einer Vielzahl dezentraler Einrichtungen ermöglicht, analog der PC-Revolution, bei der die zuvor zentralisierte EDV ab den 1970er Jahren durch eine unüberschaubaren Landschaft von billigen, dezentral betriebenden Personal-Computern faktisch abgelöst wurde.



Ähnlich wie bei der Software für solche Computer wird es sich auch mit den beim 3D-Printing benötigten Datenmodellen verhalten, die über das Internet genau so ausgetauscht werden, wie heutzutage Software und audiovisuelle Digtalwerke - teilweise entgeltlich über reguläre Märkte und teilweise unentgeltlich über Tauschbörsen.

Daneben wird der Preisverfall bei 3D-Meßvorrichtungen fortschreiten, mit denen aus einem körperlichen Werkstück ein räumliches 3D-Datenmodell abgeleitet werden kann, so dass beispielsweise Kunststoff-Ersatzteile privat oder in einem 3D-Copyshop in ein Datenmodell umgesetzt und dann einfach nachzuproduziert werden können.

Dieses Szenario bringt eine Vielzahl rechtlicher Fragen mit sind, ähnlich dem Filesharing bei urheberrechtlich geschützen Software-, Audio- oder Videodateien heute. Neben dem Urheberrecht kommt aber auch das Patent- und Geschmacksmusterrecht ins Spiel. Hierbei sind Fragestellungen zu erwarten, die über das hinausgehen, was seit vielen Jahren im Bereich des Filesharing diskutiert wird.

So stellt sich beispielsweise die Frage, ob es Hersteller von Erstatzteilen hinnehmen müssen, wenn z.B. Brillengestelle, Smartphone-Gehäuseteile oder Rasenmähermotor-Abdeckungen privat in 3D-Datenmodelle umgesetzt und Dritten über das Internet frei zur Verfügung gestellt werden, z.B. im Rahmen einer öffetlichen Geometriedatenbank. Können solche Datenbanken frei verkäuflicher Artikel rechtlich unterbunden werden?

Die sich aus solchen Fragestellung im Zusammenhang mit dem Austausch von digitalen, technische und/oder ästhetische Produkte betreffenden Daten ergebenden patent- und geschmacksmusterrechtlichen Überlegungen machen deutlich, wie sehr die derzeitige begriffliche Ausgestaltung des Patent- und Geschmacksmusterrechtes noch in den Vorstellungen körperlicher industrieller Produktion des 20. Jahrhunderts verhaftet ist.


(Photo 2010 von Creative Tools via Flickr unter einer CC Lizenz)

21 February 2013

Representation before the Unified Patent Court from the point of view of the Rules of Procedure

In this earlier posting I sketched the contradictory positions of general lawyer associations (e.g. CCBE) and more patent-related organisations (e.g. epi and CEIPI) as to the authorisation rights before the Unified Patent Court (UPC), back then called European and EU Patents Court (EEPC).


As analysed on the ksnh::law blog in an article titled Representation before the UPC: Are some Patent Attorneys authorised without Patent Litigation Certificate?, there are four groups of legal professionals defined in Article 48 UPCA and Rule 286 RoP that will be entitled to autonomously represent cases before the new court:
  1. lawyers authorised to practise before a court of a Contracting Member State,

  2. jurists authorised to practice in patent related matters before a court in a Contracting Member State, 
  3. European Patent Attorney having obtained the European Patent Litigation Certificate, and
  4. European Patent Attorney having an appropriate qualification.
While no 1 relates to attorneys-at-law, there are some good reasons that no 2 may cover legally trained patent professionals who are authorised to only practice in patent related matters before a court of a Contracting Member State, such as e.g. German or British patent attorneys.

Further, no 3 relates to European Patent Attorneys according to Art 134 EPC having obtained the European Patent Litigation Certificate which may be obtained by attending a course similar to the Patent Litigation in Europe program of CEIPI in Strassbourg, while no 4 might relate to European Patent Attorneys having alternative qualifications such as an LL.M.degree in IP law or practical litigation expertise proved by a case book.


19 February 2013

Unitary Patent Court agreement signed today by 24 of 27 EU member states

As announced in this press release, 24 EU member states have signed the Unified Patent Court agreement today in Brussels in an official signing ceremony.

The UPC signatories are in alphabetical order:
  • Austria
  • Belgium 
  • Czech Republic
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
Bulgaria is expected to sign in the coming days once internal procedures have been completed. Poland and Spain did not sign the agreement.

While Poland has become increasingly critical about signing the agreement (see here and here) and Italy still opposes the Unitary Patent due to language issues, Spain still rejects the whole package.

To enter into force, the Unified Patent Court Agreement needs to be ratified by at least 13 of the 24 signing states, including Germany, the United Kingdom, and France as mandatory parties of the agreement. 

As reported on ksnh.::law earlier this afterneen, the so called Friends of the Presidency Group will meet in Brussels on 27 February 2013 (see agenda) to exchange information on national ratification processes and the setting up of the Preparatory Committee.

(Photo: Council of the European Union)

UPC News: Signing Ceremony Today and Rules of Procedure

Today the Signing ceremony of the International Agreement on the establishment of the Unified Patent Court will be held at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels.

Apparently, only 21 of the originally 25 EU member states that supported the establishment of  a Unitary Patent by enhanced cooperation are prepared to sign, including the thee "mandatory" signers France, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia are reported to have technical problems, whatever that might mean. But at least in the case of Poland, there appear to be also political problems that will likely prevent the country from signing the UPC agreement for many years.

The 22nd signer will be Italy, which nevertheless is still opposing the Unitary Patent together with Spain for language issues. The effect for Italy will be that a European Patent granted by the EPO will still have to be separately validated in Italy (and translated into Italian) to take effect in this country, but can be centrally enforced and attacked before the Unified Patent Court together with a possibly existing parallel Unitary Patent.

Further issues recently reported on ksnh::law include the issuance of a nearly-final version of the Rules of Procedure for the Unified Patent Court, including some interesting observations as to the representation rights of patent attorneys before and the fully electronic procedure at the new court:

With the publication of the draft Rules of procedure, the main legal texts of the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court system are now available in a (pre-)final form:
  1. REGULATION (EU) No 1257/2012 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 17 December 2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection,

  2. COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 1260/2012 of 17 December 2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements,

  3. Agreement on a Unified Patent Court of 11 January 2013 (Council Doc 16351/12), and

  4. Rules of procedure of the Unified Patent Court, 14th draft of 31 January 2013.


(Photo: The Council of the European Union) 

07 February 2013

The Provisions of the 'America Invents Act' that will enter into force on March 16, 2013 (German)

Further to this recent posting on the Amendments in US patent law caused by the America Invents Act, by which I pointed to part 1 and part 2 of a series of three German postings on this subject on the ksnh::jur blog, I now can announce part 3 of the series, which relates to those important provisions that enter into force as early as March 16, 2013. For a short summary of this new posting, I again continue in German:

Nachdem die ersten beiden Beiträge unter der Überschrift "Änderungen im US Patentrecht duch den 'America Invents Act'" diejenigen neuen Regelungen betrafen, die am 16. September 2011 (Teil 1) und am 16 September 2012 (Teil 2) in Kraft traten, beleuchtet der dritte Beitrag die am 16. März 2013 anstehenden grundlegenden Änderungen:

  • Umstellung von 'first-to-invent' auf auf 'first-to-file'

  • Wirkungen der neuen US-Neuheitsschonfrist
    • die bisherige US-Neuheitsschonfrist (first-to-invent)
    • die Neuheitsschonfrist im Gebrauchsmusterrechtgemäß (first-to-file)
    • die neue US-Neuheitsschonfrist (fisrt-to-file)

  • Taktische Überlegungen zur Neuheitsschonfrist

  • Umfang des relevanten Standes der Technik
    • Abschaffung der Hilmer Doktrin
    • weltweite Vorbenutzung und anderweitig zugänglicher Stand der Technik gemäß §102 (a) (1)
    • nachveröffentlichte US-Anmeldungen/Patente gemäß §102 (a) (2)

  • Vergleich Stand-der-Technik Vorher/Nachher und USA/Europa

  • Derivation-Verfahren und widerrechtliche Entnahme

30 January 2013

Amendments in US patent law by the 'America Invents Act' (German)

 - 'Innovative Grounds' im US Patentamt - 
On the ksnh::jur blog we began a series of three postings dircted to the amendments in US patent law by the 'Amenrica Invents Act'. Already issued part 1 and part 2 relate to the changes that entered into force on September 16, 2011 and 2012, respectively.

As there are already so many excellent explanations and synopses on this complex topic out there on the internet, it was our  aim to present the US patent reform in German this time. For a short summary of the postings, I thus continue in German:

Die Artikelserie unter dem Titel Änderungen im US Patentrecht duch den 'America Invents Act' wird drei Beiträge umfassen. Die ersten beiden Beiträge beschäftigen sich mit den bereits am 16. September 2011 (Teil 1) und 16 September 2012 (Teil 2) in Kraft getretenen Änderungen, während der dritte Beitrag noch folgt und sich mit denjenigen Änderungen beschäftigen wird, die erst am 16. März 2013 in Kraft treten werden.

Die am 16.09.2011 in Kraft getretenden Änderungen betreffen:
  • Beschleunigte Prüfung (‘prioritized examination‘),
  • Patentierungsausschluss von Strategien zur Steuervermeidung (‘tax strategies‘),
  • Ausschluss von Patenten auf menschliche Organismen (‘human organisms‘),
  • Patentberühmung (‘false marking’, ’virtual marking‘),
  • Vorbenutzungsrechte als Verteidigung gegen Verletzungsklagen (‘prior user rights‘),
  • Abschaffung der Best-Mode-Verteidigung gegen Verletzungsklagen,
  • Abschaffung der ‘Inter-Partes-Reexamination’,
  • Gebührenänderungen (15% surcharge) und ‘micro entities’, und
  • Einschränkung von Mehrfach-Klagen.
Die am 16.09.2012 in Kraft getretenden Änderungen betreffen:

(Photo 2010 von cytech via Flickr unter einer CC Lizenz)




14 January 2013

Legal Texts Implementing the Unitary Patent Infrastructure Consolidated and Officially Available

As noted on the ksnh::law blog tonight, the final text of the Unitary Patent Court Agreement has been published on the server of the European Council today. This completes the troika of consolidated texts implementing the new European patent infrastructure:

The role of the EU Court of Justice in the future European post-grant patent infrastructure

In our yesterday's posting on the ksnh::law blog titled "Does Art 5 UPP Regulation enable CJEU Jurisdiction over Substantive Patent Law?", we attend to the role the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will play in the new European patent post-grant infrastructure.

This role is basically determined by Article 5.3 of the Unitary Patent Protection Regulation (UPPR), which provides a link to substantive patent law as codified by Articles 14f to 14i of the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA) via referring to the "national law [of that participating Member State being] applicable to the European patent with unitary effect as an object of property" according to Art 7 UPPR.

Whether or not this link is strong enough to authorise the CJEU to hand down preliminary rulings according to Art 267 TFEU in the area of substantive patent law will be subject to interpretation by ... the CJEU itself. And there are some indications that the CJEU might not let such an opportunity slip through its fingers, such as espressed in opinion 1/09 on the compatibility of a predecessor of the UPCA - the EEUPC agreement - with EU law.

Before this background, it might be interesting to consider this tweet on @ksnhlaw in view of the observations of A Dimopoulos and P Vantsiouri as presented in their paper "Of Trips and Traps: The Interpretative Jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU Over Patent" in June 2012.

According to their study, the CJEU can, regardless of the concrete wording of the UPPR and UPCA, anyway acquire a stronger role in the application of patent law by using its jurisdiction over the patent provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, such as the substantive provisions of Art 28, since Art 208 TFEU provides the EU and its highest court with exclusive competence over "commercial aspects of intellectual property", which would incorporate the TRIPS agreement into the body of EU law (see also here).

02 January 2013

The Unitary Patent - After the Game is before the Game (updated)

Sepp Herberger was the manager of the German nation soccer team that won the 1954 World Cup by a miraculous 3-2 final win over Hungay, the undisputed favourite and unbeaten for nearly 5 years. This match, in Germany renowned as the "miracle of Bern", not only has a solid position among national myths and legends but has also been considered the birth of the Federal Republic of Germany and an ignition spark of the West German "Wirtschaftswunder", e.g. by historian Joachim Fest.

Herberger became a national hero and famous for his down-to-earth but cunning quotes like "the next opponent is the toughest" and "after the game is before the game". The latter quote - maybe in the form of "after the endorsement is before the ratification" - seems to perfectly characterise the somewhat ambivalent situation the Unitary Patent is in at the beginning of the year: Important steps have been achieved in December (especially the approval by the EU Parliament and Council), but the rest will not be an easy challenge either.

On the ksnh::law blog we have followed the advances in recent weeks, as well as some side aspects:
The texts approved are the following:
The UPC Agreement will have to be signed by the 25 contracting states at the Competitiveness Council Meeting on 18 February 2013 and then be ratified by at least 13 contracting states states, including mandatory ratifications by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The EU Council expects this process to be finished already until November 2013 so that the first Unitary Patents can be issued by the EPO and the first cases can be accepted by the Unified Patent Court as of April 2014.

As sketched in our yesterday's posting "The Prospect of the Unitary Patent in 2013 – Some Thoughts on Ratification" on ksnh::law, for a number of reasons the ratification process may not run through as smoothly as expected, as the requirement of national ratification, either pariamentary or by poular vote, opens the doos for all kinds of national intests again.

The biggest element of uncertainty, however, may be the United Kingdom and the anti-EU movement in the ruling Conservative Party [1]. But also the general eurosceptic atmoshere on the British isles where the public already began to discuss an exit from the European Union at all [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] may endanger the project, as the so called referendum lock may require a totally unpredictable popular vote in the UK on this question.

Update (04.01.13): I just recognised that the two above Regulations have already been properly published in the Official Journal of the European Union, L 361, Vol. 55, 31 Dec 2012:
  • REGULATION (EU) No 1257/2012 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 17 December 2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection.

  • COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 1260/2012 of 17 December 2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection with regard to the applicable translation arrangements.
Note that Article 5 of Reg. No. 1257/2012 represents the controversial Article 5a that was introduced by  COREPER on 19 Nov 2012 (see here) in order to replace former Articles 6 to 9 that have been deleted on the European Council summit of 28/29 June 2012 (see here).

By the way, do we have to call this legislation (together with the UPC Agreement) now the Nicosia Convention in tribute of the Cyprus Presidency, according to a premature idea of the Polish Presidency in late 2011?


(Photo 1956 by Beyer via Bundesarchiv under a CC license)