The recent decision in General Plastic Industrial Co. v. Canon Kabushiki Kaisha denying the petitioner’s requests for a rehearing provided a “baseline” of factors to be considered as to the limited circumstances when second — or “follow-on” — petitions are likely to be successful in Patent Trial and Appeal Board trials.

The petitioner in General Plastic filed two inter partes review petitions, each challenging one patent. The PTAB denied institution on the merits. The petitioner then sought rehearing, which was denied. The petitioner filed further petitions several months later with newly discovered art, challenging the same two patents based in part on the new references.

The decision, rendered by an “expanded” panel including Chief Judge David P. Ruschke, is significant both procedurally — because the decision was rendered by an expanded panel — and substantively — because it provided greater clarity to all parties in an area of PTAB trials processes that had previously been somewhat inconsistent, and recently was designated “precedential,” a rare status indicating it is binding on future PTAB decisions unless replaced or undone.

To date, less than half of follow-on petitions have been instituted, showing the PTAB’s reservations about them. However, there was great disparity in the prior PTAB decisions on this topic, including whether all seven factors laid out in NVIDIA v. Samsung Electronics were addressed. The varied outcomes led commentators and practitioners alike to wonder whether initiation of a given follow-on petition was dependent on the particular panel drawn by petitioner.

Thus, the decision to render the decision via an expanded panel and label the case as precedential likely represents a recognition of the inconsistency of the PTAB decisions in follow-on petitions, and stands as a statement that the analysis in the General Plastic decision should be followed by the PTAB on a going-forward basis.


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During the first three years of implementing the America Invents Act (AIA), Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) decision-making created a perception that a patent owner’s ability to amend claims during a post-grant proceeding was limited, at best. In 2015, legislative activity began to address this perceived problem with draft amendments to the patent statute.

While specific proposals varied, the concept of one approach was that a patent owner seeking to amend claims during a PTAB trial, could prosecute its proposed amendments like ordinary examination (or reexamination) in parallel with the underlying PTAB trial. This amendment examination process, termed an “off ramp” by some, has raised a number of policy and administrative issues.
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