Archive for March, 2018

The USPTO and access to experts

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

I thought it was interesting that during the recent en banc oral argument of NantKwest v. Iancu that the PTO acknowledged that it has access to experts for purposes of a §145 action in US district court.  That raises the question of whether an examiner at the USPTO similarly has access to experts for purposes of determining whether a prior art reference that the examiner is relying upon is enabling.

In In re Antor Media Corp., 689 F.3d 1282 (Fed. Cir. 2012) the Federal Circuit said that the burden is shifted to the Applicant to show that a reference is not enabling because an examiner does not have access to experts (or laboratories):

In discussing the theory of the rejection, the prior art basis for the rejection, and where each limitation of the rejected claims is shown in the prior art reference, an examiner has met his initial burden. Id. at 1363 (“[A]ll that is required of the office to meet its prima facie burden of production is to set forth the statutory basis of the rejection and the reference or references relied upon in a sufficiently articulate and informative manner as to meet the notice requirement of § 132.”). Indeed, as indicated with regard to unclaimed patent prior art, an examiner, who has no access to experts or laboratories, is not in a position to test each piece of prior art for enablement in citing it, and requiring him to do so would be onerous, if not impossible. An examiner, therefore, is not required to anticipate every possible response to a rejection, including showing that a cited reference is enabling.

Consistent with the statutory framework and our precedent, we therefore hold that, during patent prosecution, an examiner is entitled to reject claims as anticipated by a prior art publication or patent without conducting an inquiry into whether or not that prior art reference is enabling. As long as an examiner makes a proper prima facie case of anticipation by giving adequate notice under § 132, the burden shifts to the applicant to submit rebuttal evidence of nonenablement.


In re Antor Media Corp., 689 F.3d 1282, 1289 (Fed. Cir. 2012)(Judge Lourie writing for the court).

En Banc Oral Argument: NantKwest v. Iancu

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

The Federal Circuit sat en banc today and heard the oral argument in NantKwest v. Iancu.  The case concerns the issue of whether the USPTO can chill efforts by an applicant to seek review by a district court of a USPTO rejection, by requiring the applicant to pay the USPTO’s attorneys’ fees for the judicial review, regardless of whether the applicant prevails at the district court.

You can listen to the oral argument here:

Oral Argument of the Day: In re Nordt Development Co., LLC

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

The oral argument of the day is from IN RE NORDT DEVELOPMENT CO., LLC, No. 2017-1445 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2018).

The argument focuses on whether the term “injection molded” should have been treated as a structural limitation by the USPTO during prosecution.

In part, the Federal Circuit opinion states:

Moreover, as we have explained, “words of limitation that can connote with equal force a structural characteristic of the product or a process of manufacture are commonly and by default interpreted in their structural sense, unless the patentee has demonstrated otherwise.” 3M Innovative Props. Co. v. Avery Dennison Corp.,350 F.3d 1365, 1371-72 (Fed. Cir. 2003). Indeed, since Garnero, we have in numerous instances held such limitations to convey structure even when they also describe a process of manufacture. See, e.g., Hazani v. U.S. Int’l Trade Comm’n,126 F.3d 1473, 1479 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (concluding that “chemically engraved” was not a process term); Vanguard Prods. Corp. v. Parker Hannifin Corp., 234 F.3d 1370, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (holding that the claim term “integral” describes a structural requirement, not the particular manufacturing process discussed in the specification); 3M Innovative Props. Co., 350 F.3d at 1371 (finding “superimposed” to describe a structural relationship and not a process); SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Apotex Corp., 439 F.3d 1312, 1322 (Fed. Cir. 2006) (Newman, J., dissenting)(listing “a molded plastic” as an example of a process limitation that connotes structure). Here, not only does the specification itself convey a structural meaning to “injection molded,” Nordt has repeatedly represented that it does.

The court’s opinion is available [here].

The oral argument is available here:


Portrait of Judge Evan Wallach

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

The Court of International Trade commissioned a portrait of Judge Wallach a few years ago.  Judge Wallach served on the Court of International Trade for sixteen years before being appointed to the Federal Circuit.

From the portrait, it appears that Judge Wallach is quite a dog lover.*  You can see the portrait [here].


*I’m not entirely certain what breed of dog the dogs in the portrait are.  My best guess is English Springer Spaniel.  The American Kennel Club describes the personality of the English Springer Spaniel as “Friendly, playful, obedient at home; hardworking and steady in the field.”  And, the AKC describes the barking level as “Barks when necessary.”