2016年10月26日 星期三

IPR程序中專利權人應證明修正後專利範圍具有專利性 - In re Aqua Products (PTAB, CAFC no.2015-1177)

老問題,本案例涉及在IPR程序中修正專利範圍的規範,IPR程序中修正專利範圍時,專利權人要自己證明這些專利範圍已經克服先前技術而具有非顯而易見性才能被接受

參考前案:
IPR程序中是否可修正的問題 - Veritas Tech v. Veeam Software (Fed. Cir. 2016)
http://enpan.blogspot.tw/2016/09/ipr-veritas-tech-v-veeam-software-fed.html

案件資訊:
IPR案號:IPR2013-00159(異議人:ZODIAC POOL SYSTEMS, INC.;專利權人:AQUA PRODUCTS, INC.
CAFC上訴案號:No. 2015-1177 (May 25, 2016)
上訴人:IN RE:  AQUA PRODUCTS, INC.
系爭專利:US8,273,183

PTAB階段:
本案例討論專利權人Aqua在IPR程序中提出修正請願(motion to amend),要求以claims 22-24取代claims 1, 8, 20。



Claim 22如下,界定一自動運行的水池、水槽的清潔裝置。
22. (Proposed substitute for original claim 1) A self-propelled cleaning apparatus for cleaning a submerged surface of a pool or tank, comprising:
a housing having a front portion as defined by the direction of movement of the apparatus when propelled by a water jet, an opposing rear portion and adjoining side portions defining the periphery of the apparatus, and a baseplate with at least one water inlet;
rotationally-mounted supports axially mounted transverse to a longitudinal axis of said apparatus and coupled proximate the front and rear portions of the housing to enable control the directional movement of said apparatus over the submerged surface;
a water pump mounted in the interior of said housing, said water pump being configured to draw water and debris from the pool or tank through the at least one water inlet for filtering; and
a stationary directional discharge conduit in fluid communication with the water pump and having at least one discharge opening through which a pressurized stream of water forming the water jet is directionally discharged at a predetermined angle that is acute with respect the surface over which the apparatus is moving,
wherein said predetermined angle is inclined upwardly with respect to the surface beneath the apparatus to produce a resultant force vector that is directed to a position that is proximate to and rearwardly displaced from a line passing through the transverse axial mountings of the front rotationally-mounted supports.

評斷修正請願時,引述37 C.F.R. § 42.121(a)(2),提出IPR程序中不得修正的情況:(1)擴大專利範圍;(2)產生新事物;(3)修正無法克服專利性問題

其實整個IPR討論的仍是103專利性問題,也就是系爭專利軸向與旋轉支撐結構以及產生合力的技術特徵的專利性,本次修正請願格式上符合規定,PTAB也不同意請願人提出的異議,卻因為專利權人沒有證明修正後專利範圍(應包括全部修正的部分)已經克服先前技術的阻礙而拒絕修正請願。
"We deny the Replacement Corrected Motion to Amend Claims because, for the reasons below, we are not persuaded that Patent Owner has demonstrated the patentability of the proposed substitute claims over a ground of unpatentability involving Henkin and Myers."

CAFC階段:
就以上修正議題,專利權人Aqua提出上訴。

CAFC決定中先回顧探討系爭專利修正後專利範圍是否可以超越先前技術阻礙的事實,並認同PTAB因為專利權人無法證明系爭專利修正後專利範圍超越已知前案否決修正請願的決定。


CAFC認為專利權人有責任證明系爭專利修正後專利範圍具有專利性,而專利權人Aqua並沒有說服PTAB修正後專利範圍可以克服先前技術的顯而亦見性核駁意見。


CAFC結論:


其實,系爭專利修正後專利範圍是否可以與已知前案區隔並沒有真正的答案,因為在程序上,專利權人並未針對全部修正的部分提出與已知前案比對具有非顯而易知的技術特徵的充分答辯,因此,PTAB可以否決這個修正請願,也導致IPR決定全盤皆墨的結果。

專利權人/上訴人顯然不服,提出聯席上訴,本案尚待CAFC聯席法庭的最終決定:Federal Circuit is In re Aqua Products (Appeal No. 15-1177),留下兩個待解問題:

(a)    When  the  patent  owner  moves  to  amend  its claims under 35 U.S.C. § 316(d), may the PTO require  the  patent  owner  to  bear  the  burden  of  persuasion,  or  a  burden  of  production,  regarding  patentability of the amended claims as a condition of  allowing  them?    Which  burdens  are  permitted  under 35 U.S.C. § 316(e)? 

(b)    When  the  petitioner  does  not  challenge  the patentability of a proposed amended claim, or the Board thinks the challenge is inadequate, may the Board sua sponte raise patentability challenges to such a claim?  If so, where would the burden of persuasion, or a burden of production, lie?

[相關法條]
AIA-IPR程序中修正規定在美國專利法35U.S.C.316(d):
35U.S.C.316(d) 
(d) AMENDMENT OF THE PATENT.--
(1) IN GENERAL.--During an inter partes review instituted under this chapter, the patent owner may file 1 motion to amend the patent in 1 or more of the following ways:
(A) Cancel any challenged patent claim.
(B) For each challenged claim, propose a reasonable number of substitute claims.
(2) ADDITIONAL MOTIONS.--Additional motions to amend may be permitted upon the joint request of the petitioner and the patent owner to materially advance the settlement of a proceeding under section 317, or as permitted by regulations prescribed by the Director.
(3) SCOPE OF CLAIMS.--An amendment under this subsection may not enlarge the scope of the claims of the patent or introduce new matter.


此段規定,進入IPR程序中,專利權人可以發出一次修正請求(1 motion),可以包括:
(A)刪除被IPR異議的專利範圍,以及
(B)對被IPR異議的專利範圍提出合理替代的請求項範圍(修正僅針對被異議範圍)。

如果是基於促進和解(35USC317),或是由審理官同意下,額外的修正請求可以被准許。
修正後的範疇 不能超過原領證請求項範圍,也不能產生新事物。

my two cents:
雖是一般常識的樣子,但在IPR程序中仍是應該注意,IPR提出motion to amend規定不同,可以修正,但應「限縮專利範圍」,且應達到「非顯而易見」的標準,而且這是專利權人的責任,否則不同意修正,這是連程序都不通的情況。

專利權人修正時應該提出充分證明專利範圍是可以克服依據已知前案的核駁意見,而是否已經充分,PTAB沒有責任通知,也不容易有再次機會讓專利權人提出更多意見,因此,當下要充分到PTAB可以接受。否則,會因為不同意修正而到最後Final decision了。

PTAB決定(備份):
https://app.box.com/s/3ssbd3hqh84ifoc9xz6od1t661djhu2n

CAFC判決文:
http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/15-1177.Opinion.5-23-2016.1.PDF
(備份:https://app.box.com/s/b1klklbzyxfj9tj4r94pcf01zxtcheac

參考資料:
http://patentlyo.com/patent/2016/10/amending-claims-grant.html

Ron

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