The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“the Board”) recently provided guidance to practitioners on its discretion to deny institution under 35 U.S.C. § 325(d) and § 314(a) by designating three decisions as informative or precedential. Under 35 U.S.C. § 325(d), the Board may deny institution of inter partes review (“IPR”) because “the same or substantially the same prior art or arguments previously were presented to the Office.” Advanced Bionics, LLC v. MED-EL Elektromedizinische Geräte GmbH, IPR2019-01469, Paper 6 (PTAB Feb. 13, 2020) (precedential), Oticon Med. AB v. Cochlear Ltd., IPR2019-00975, Paper 15 (PTAB Oct. 16, 2019) (precedential), and PUMA N. Am., Inc. v. NIKE, Inc., IPR2019-01042, Paper 10 (PTAB Oct. 31, 2019) (informative) all provide guidance related to § 325(d). Under 35 U.S.C. § 314(a), the Board may deny institution as an exercise of its discretion in certain circumstances, such as when parallel proceedings are underway. In Oticon, the Board also addressed the parallel proceedings issue under § 314(a).
In Advanced Bionics, the Board denied institution under § 325(d), set forth a two-part framework for applying § 325(d), and explained how the factors from Becton, Dickinson & Co. v. B. Braun Melsungen AG, IPR2017-01586, Paper 8 (Dec. 15, 2017) (precedential as to § III.C.5, first paragraph) (“Becton, Dickinson”) fit into the two-part framework.
In Oticon, however, the Board refused to exercise its discretion under § 325(d) and instituted the proceeding over similar arguments by a patent owner. While it did not characterize the § 325(d) inquiry as a two-part analysis, and it grouped the Becton, Dickinson factors into three categories, the Board focused on the same two issues: (1) whether the same or substantially similar prior art and arguments were previously considered, and (2) whether the Patent Office erred in its prior assessment of the art. The Board also rejected a request to deny institution under § 314(a) and distinguished an earlier precedential ruling, NHK Spring Co. v. Intri-Plex Techs., Inc., IPR2018-00752, slip op. at 19–20 (PTAB Sept. 12, 2018) (Paper 8) (precedential) (“NHK”), in which institution was denied because of a parallel district court proceeding.
In PUMA, the Board denied institution under § 325(d) after analyzing the Becton, Dickinson factors and finding the same prior art was previously considered and the petitioner did not persuasively demonstrate the examiner materially erred in evaluating the prior art during prosecution.
This is a longer read, but worthwhile, given the importance of the issues. As detailed in the following summaries, the rulings collectively show the fact-specific nature of the § 325(d) and § 314(a) inquiries. The Board will assess the prior-art teachings considered in prosecution and earlier Board proceedings, will compare those to the teachings asserted in the petition, will carefully compare the disclosures of supposedly duplicative prior art, and will assess the issues and progress of parallel district court cases. Litigants should be prepared for this level of scrutiny and establish the needed records on the prior art teachings and parallel district court cases.
Continue Reading Recent Precedential and Informative Decisions Clarify Standard for Discretionary Denials of Institution