U.S. District Judge Alan Albright Provides Informative Update at the 2021 IPO Annual Meeting

Judge Alan Albright assumed the bench in September of 2018 and has quickly made the Western District of Texas a premier venue for patent litigation. 24% of all patent cases filed so far in 2021 were filed in the WDTX, up from just 3% of patent cases filed in 2018. This significant increase in filings is mainly due to the unique rules Judge Albright implements in all his patent cases.

In a speech this morning to the annual meeting of the Intellectual Property Owners Association, Judge Albright emphasized his firm belief that intellectual property is a vital component of our country, and that he therefore has a personal duty to be a fair judge. Judge Albright believes he can accomplish this by providing clear rules which lead to efficient resolutions, thus saving valuable time and costs for all parties to a dispute. Lawyers and their clients can both benefit from Judge Albright’s process which provides certainty and predictability to what can otherwise be lengthy and expensive trials.

Judge Albright prides himself on creating a patent dispute resolution system where a Markman hearing is typically reached within 8 months and a trial 14-16 months after that. Judge Albright has had twice as many Markman hearings as any other Texas division- including 40 in just this past summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not diminished WDTX’s efficiency. Instead, Judge Albright took advantage of the flexibility and transparency of Zoom. Hearings taking place over Zoom save time and money for both parties and can also give the public immediate access to the hearing. Anyone can listen to a patent trial in Judge Albright’s court (except for certain confidential portions, such as during the damages stage). Access to the Judge’s hearings can provide a major insight to understanding how the Judge will handle certain issues, providing even more predictability for the parties as well as useful strategies to take advantage of.

The Maier & Maier litigation team is well equipped to take advantage of Judge Albright’s procedures, which allowed us to settle a recent case in just 43 days from the filing of the complaint. By monitoring Judge Albright’s cases and other trends in the case law, Maier & Maier continues its track record of successful patent cases in the Western District of Texas.

 


Introduction of New Patent Legislation in Congress Looms Over PTAB Litigation Practice

Two new pieces of legislation were introduced in the past few weeks, one each in the House and the Senate, and both could have drastic implications for PTAB practice. The PACED Act, introduced in the Senate, would eliminate Tribal Immunity as a defense for all Patent Owners in proceedings before the Patent Office. The STRONGER Patents Act, introduced to the House as the counter part to the previous iteration in the senate, would make a number of changes to patent enforcement, including the reversal of the Supreme Court by making the validity standard in the PTAB match the standard in District Court.

The PACED Act

The ongoing Allergan appeal in the Federal Circuit on Tribal Immunity in an IPR is the apparent inspiration for the PACED Act, which would explicitly remove Tribal Sovereign Immunity as an option for defense in IPR’s. The PACED (“Preserving Access to Cost Effective Drugs”) Act, introduced by Senator Tom Cotton, abrogates sovereign immunity in all derivations, reexams, IPRs, post-grant reviews, and in federal reviews of the aforementioned proceedings.[1]

Cotton makes the motivation behind the bill clear, explaining that “This bill will make sure unscrupulous patent holders can’t game the system and block their competitors from entering the market”[2] referring to the ongoing appeal by Saint Regis and Allergan described here. The bill seeks to remove Allergan’s strongest argument, that Sovereign Immunity exists unless the Tribe has waived it or congress has specifically permitted the suit, as outlined by the Supreme Court.[3]

It should be noted that the proposed bill specifically limits the scope of these exceptions to Sovereign Immunity, explicitly stating that “shall apply only to the extent permitted under the 11th amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Whether the PACED Act successfully passes through the Senate and on to the House will be something to watch moving forward, though it is possible the Allergan appeal may resolve the issue without legislative intervention.

The STRONGER Patents Act

The STRONGER (“Support Technology & Research for Our Nation’s Growth and Economic Resilience”) Patents Act is the House version of the act introduced to the Senate with the same name last June, co-sponsored by senators Chris Coons, Tom Cotton, Mazie Hirono, and Dick Durbin. The House bill was introduced by the bipartisan duo of Steve Stivers and Bill Foster, and would represent the biggest overhaul of the U.S. patent system since the AIA in 2011[4].

Most of the notable changes proposed for the PTAB involve the relationship between the PTAB and federal District Court, with a goal of increasing efficiency and limiting litigation. Specifically, the bill would align the PTAB’s invalidity standards with the District Court’s, require the PTAB to consider District Court claim constructions along with prosecution history, and preclude institution if validity on § 102 or § 103 grounds had already been decided by a Federal Court or by the ITC.

Additional language weighing the scales in Patent Owners’ favor would require petitioners to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood of being sued for infringement of the patent or competitive harm from the validity of the patent and allow Patent Owners access to an expedited amendment process before a patent examiner during IPR and PGR proceedings. Conversely, the bill would also empower the ITC and state attorneys to curb bad faith demand letters for misleading language about their right to enforce a patent against the recipient.

With the bill now being introduced in both houses of Congress by bipartisan sponsors, and gaining considerable support, it will be worth monitoring moving forward.


[1] https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s2514/text

[2] https://www.cotton.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=901

[3] Kiowa Tribe of Okla. v. Mfg. Techs., Inc., 523 U.S. 751, 754 (1998).

[4] https://stivers.house.gov/uploadedfiles/stronger_patents_act.pdf


Maier & Maier Secures IPR Victory for Foxrun Development before the PTAB

The internationally recognized Maier & Maier PLLC law firm won a major IPR victory for Foxrun Development securing a non-institution decision from the PTAB, overcoming 4 challenges to their network security patent asserted by Terralink in IPR2017-02102.

The patent reviewed (9,460,319 B1) relates to enhancing computer network security by physically blocking unused computer ports with “linear actuators” and a “securing member”. Terralink challenged the patent on two counts of obviousness, one count of anticipation and one count under 35 U.S.C. § 112(f) by referencing two patent applications (US 2016/0294098 and US 2015/0020189 A1), which also related to physically blocking unused computer ports.

In response to the September 13, 2017 Petition by Terralink, Maier & Maier argued that the § 112(f) ground was invalid for an IPR proceeding, while the other three grounds failed to meet the statutory standard. As the PTAB decision explained, Terralink neglected to explain “where each element of the claim is found in the prior art patents or printed publications relied upon” by failing to identify both corresponding components and corresponding functionality.

Maier & Maier successfully argued that none of the asserted grounds for unpatentability demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success as discussed above, and obtained the PTAB’s non-institution decision for Foxrun Developments on March 6, 2018-less than six months after the petition was filed.