Striking a blow to patent applicants seeking to assert inventorship by artificial intelligence (“AI”) systems, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled on September 3, 2021 that an AI machine cannot qualify as an “inventor” under the Patent Act. The fight is now expected to move to the Federal Circuit on appeal.
The situation is familiar: an employee leaves one company to go work for another, or perhaps to found her own start-up. She may be working on the same problems that she faced at her former workplace, and in the same technological space.
The employee’s work at her new company results in the issuance of a patent, and the new company takes the lead in the marketplace. Based on the work done by the employee at the former employer, however, the former employer may believe that it has ownership rights in the new patent.
What rights might the former employer have? A recent Federal Circuit decision, Bio-Rad v ITC – CAFC, sheds some light on how courts may resolve this kind of dispute—and how thorny the issues may be. Key takeaways are summarized here.
On August 23rd, the Federal Circuit upheld in part and reversed in part a decision from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB or Board) concerning Ethicon’s patent on a robotic surgical tool, holding that the Board’s finding of no motivation to combine is not supported by substantial evidence. In doing so, the court determined the PTAB “went too far” in its holding of non-obviousness by requiring Intuitive to specifically identify a preexisting surgical device performing as many functions as required by the Ethicon patent; it was enough that the prior art established such a device was “at least possible.” Continue Reading Prior Art Showing An Invention To Be “At Least Possible” Found Sufficient To Invalidate Surgical Device Patent
On August 5, 2021, the Federal Circuit withdrew its October 2020 opinion in GSK v. Teva, summarized in this post on induced infringement of method-of-treatment claims, and issued an opinion that reiterated the prior holding but sought to clarify its reasoning. GlaxoSmithKline v. Teva. Specifically, the majority stated that a generic manufacturer’s touting of AB equivalence to a brand drug is generally not evidence of intent to induce infringement—but in the specific facts of this case it did support inducement, because the Court found ample evidence tying claim limitations to statements in Teva’s label even though the patented method was omitted as a distinct indication. The Court also found that Teva’s advertising statements regarding treating “heart failure” evidenced intent to induce physicians to prescribe the drug to treat CHF. Continue Reading GSK v. Teva: Federal Circuit Issues New Opinion Analyzing Induced Infringement
The question whether an artificial intelligence (“AI”) system can be named as an inventor in a patent application has obvious implications for the life science community, where AI’s presence is now well established and growing. For example, AI is currently used to predict biological targets of prospective drug molecules, identify candidates for drug design, decode genetic material of viruses in the context of vaccine development, determine three-dimensional structures of proteins, including their folding form, and many more potential therapeutic applications.
Over the last seven years there has been commotion in Obviousness-type Double Patenting (“ODP”) practice. One of the latest cases to spur a considerable amount of interest is Mitsubishi Tanabe Corp. v. Sandoz, Inc., which is currently on appeal to the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”). While a detailed review of this case is not the intent of this post, as a fair number of practitioners have provided insightful coverage, an historical overview is helpful for framing the decision and issues that need clarification from the CAFC.
On July 9, 2021, President Biden issued “Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy” (the “Executive Order”). The Executive Order was billed by the White House as “historic” and comparable to Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting and Franklin Roosevelt’s “supercharged antitrust enforcement”. Asserting that a “fair, open, and competitive marketplace has long been the cornerstone of the American economy,” the Executive Order sets forth 72 initiatives across over a dozen federal agencies.
Nearly seven years after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, subject matter eligibility for patent claims under 35 U.S.C § 101 remains a moving target. In Alice, the Court found claims for a computerized escrow arrangement ineligible for patenting because they were directed to the abstract idea of “intermediated settlement” and did not recite an inventive concept that could impart eligibility under Section 101. While the Alice case focused on a software invention, a few recent lower court decisions suggest that, in certain circumstances, medical device patents may not be immune from similar patent eligibility challenges.
Pharmaceutical drug development is expensive. One recent study estimates that the median cost to develop a new drug is $985 million, while the average is $1.3 billion. And those figures appear to be on the low end of a broad range. Others have estimated the average cost at approximately $2.5 to $3 billion, with costs increasing annually at a post-inflation rate of approximately 8.5%.
Allele v. Pfizer – The Basics. On April 23, 2021, Pfizer, Inc., BioNTechSE, and BioNTech US, Inc. (“Pfizer and BioNTech”) filed a joint reply supporting of their previously filed motion to dismiss a patent infringement complaint filed by Allele Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Allele”) in the Southern District of California. The patent at the center of the case is U.S. Pat. No. 10,221,221 (“the ’221 Patent”) which covers Allele’s mNeonGreen, a monomeric yellow-green fluorescent protein notable for its intense brightness. On May 4, 2021, the court denied the motion to dismiss, leaning heavily of the Federal Circuit’s 2008 decision Proveris Science Corp. v. Innovasystems, Inc. As this case continues to develop it could help shed light on an unsettled issue – are “research tools” categorically excluded from the 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(1) Safe Harbor?