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Archived updates for Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Improper Revival No Defense to Patent Infringement

In Aritocrat Technologies Australia PTY Lmtd. v. International Game Tech. (September 22, 2008), the Federal Circuit held that "improper revival" may not be raised as a defense in an action involving the validity or infringement of a patent.

IGT alleged that the USPTO "improperly revived" the patent application by requiring Aristocrat only to show "unintentional delay." The district court concluded that the Patent Act permitted revival of an abandoned patent application only upon a showing of
"unavoidable delay." Aristocrat Techs. Austl. Pty, Ltd. v. Int’l Game Tech., 491 F. Supp. 2d 916, 924-29 (N.D. Cal. 2008). Next, the district court found that IGT was permitted, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 282, to raise the PTO’s alleged improper revival as a defense to infringement.

According to the decision by Circuit Judge Linn,

The salient question, then, is whether improper revival is "made a defense" by title 35. We think that it is not. Congress made it clear in various provisions of the statute when it intended to create a defense of invalidity or noninfringement, but indicated no such intention in the statutes pertaining to revival of abandoned applications. For example, 35 U.S.C. § 273 is entitled "Defense to infringement based on earliest inventor" and expressly provides that the provision "shall be a defense to an action for infringement." Similarly, 35 U.S.C. § 185 states that a patent issued to a
person who has violated the secrecy provisions of section 184 "shall be invalid," except under certain circumstances. Section 272 of title 35 provides that the temporary presence of a patented invention in the United States, if used exclusively for the needs of a vessel, aircraft, or vehicle, "shall not constitute infringement." The list goes on. What is important to note is simply that sections 133 and 371, relied upon by IGT, provide none of the signals that Congress has given in other circumstances to indicate that these sections provide a defense to an accused infringer. Rather, these provisions merely spell out under what circumstances a
patent application is deemed abandoned during prosecution and under what circumstances it may be revived. See 35 U.S.C. § 133 ("Upon failure of the applicant to prosecute the application within six months . . ., the application shall be regarded as abandoned . . . ."); id. § 371 ("Failure to comply with these requirements shall be regarded as abandonment of the application . . . ."). Because the proper revival of an abandoned application is neither a fact or act made a defense by title 35 nor a ground specified in part I patentability, we hold that improper revival may not be asserted as a defense in an action involving the validity or infringement of a patent.

Our conclusion that improper revival is not a defense comports with the approach we took in Magnivision, Inc. v. Bonneau Co., 115 F.3d 956 (Fed. Cir. 1997), which we continue to believe is a sound one. In that case, we concluded that "[p]rocedural lapses during examination, should they occur, do not provide grounds of invalidity. Absent proof of inequitable conduct, the examiner’s or the applicant’s absolute compliance with the internal rules of patent examination becomes irrelevant after the patent has issued." Id. at 960; see also id. ("Imperfection in patent examination, whether by the examiner or the applicant does not create a new defense called 'prosecution irregularities' amd does not rplace the experience-based criteria of Kingsdown, 863 F.2d 867 (Fed. Cir. 1988)]."). There is good reason not to permit procedural irregularities4

[footnote 4: We take this opportunity to point out that "prosecution irregularities" is distinct from "prosecution laches." Prosecution laches stems not from any procedural lapse or irregularity during prosecution, but rather from an abuse of statutory provisions that results, as a matter of equity, in "an unreasonable and unexplained delay in prosecution." Symbol Techs., Inc. v. Lemelson Med., Educ. & Research Found., 422 F.3d 1378, 1385 (Fed. Cir. 2005). Moreover, the legislative history of 35 U.S.C. § 282 suggests that it was intended to incorporate preexisting equitable defenses, including prosecution laches. Symbol Techs., Inc. v. Lemelson Med., Educ. & Research Found., 277 F.3d 1361, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2002).]

during prosecution, such as the one at issue here, to provide a basis for invalidity. Once a patent has issued, the procedural minutiae of prosecution have little relevance to the metes and bounds of the patentee’s right to exclude. If any prosecution irregularity or procedural lapse, however minor, became grist for a later assertion of invalidity, accused infringers would inundate the courts with arguments relating to every minor transgression they could comb from the file wrapper. This deluge would only detract focus from the important legal issues to be resolved—primarily, infringement and invalidity. We wish to stress, however, as we did in Magnivision, that where the procedural irregularity involves an "affirmative misrepresentation of a material fact, failure to disclose material information, or submission of false material information, coupled with an intent to deceive," it may rise to the level of inequitable conduct, and is redressible under that framework. See Innogenetics, N.V. v. Abbott Labs.the applicant, does not create a new defense called ‘prosecution irregularities’ and does not displace the experience-based criteria of Kingsdown[ Medical Consultants, Ltd. v. Hollister, Inc.4 , 512 F.3d 1363, 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (citations omitted); cf. Ferguson Beauregard/Logic Controls v. Mega Sys., LLC, 350 F.3d 1327, 1343-44 (Fed. Cir. 2003) .

Once a patent has issued, the procedural minutiae of prosecution have little relevance to the metes and bounds of the patentee’s right to exclude. If any prosecution irregularity or procedural lapse, however minor, became grist for a later assertion of invalidity, accused infringers would inundate the courts with arguments relating to every minor transgression they could comb from the file wrapper. This deluge would only detract focus from the important legal issues to be resolved—primarily, infringement and invalidity. We wish to stress, however, as we did in Magnivision, that where the procedural irregularity involves an "affirmative misrepresentation of a material fact, failure to disclose material information, or submission of false material information, coupled with an intent to deceive," it may rise to the level of inequitable conduct, and is redressible under that framework. See Innogenetics, N.V. v. Abbott Labs. . . .

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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