USPTO Patent Examination and Procedure Training Coming Up

From the US Patent and Trademark Office:

The USPTO will host a three day training course on examination practice and procedure for members of the public as part of the Stakeholder Training on Examination Practice and Procedure (STEPP) program. The training will be held November 15 – 17 on the USPTO’s Alexandria, Virginia campus.  

This training is intended for those who have recently passed the Patent Bar for the purpose of practicing before the USPTO. The training will make use of statutes, rules, and guidelines relevant to practicing before the USPTO. The course is led by USPTO trainers and is based on material developed for training patent examiners and other employees. More information and a proposed upcoming course schedule is available on the USPTO STEPP program web page

 STEPP falls under the Excellence in Customer Service pillar of the USPTO Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI), which ensures that the agency continues to issue high-quality patents well into the future. EPQI is a set of initiatives with goals toward strengthening work products, processes, services, and how the USPTO measures patent quality at all stages of the patent process.

New Visitors at My Office

Pokémon Go came out a couple of weeks ago. The Pokémon are showing up at my office in droves. Apparently they want my help with the legal issues they encounter with battling other Pokémon. They need to set up franchises and businesses, they need to protect their battle rankings, and they certainly need to protect their good names in business.

JynxOnMyComputerOne of my earliest visitors was a Jynx; she arrived and sat on my computer a couple of days ago. She wanted an LLC set up. I of course told her I’d be happy to do that for her.

ParasIsHappyParas came by later and wanted a patent application filed. We got that done for it post haste. Paras is delighted.


What Is the DOJ Thinking?????!

The Department of Justice has basically denied songwriters a living wage from their hard work. 

Yuck. There is some light at the end of this tunnel, I don’t see a lot of it.

This is administrative law. Admin rulings like this can be appealed at the District Court level, but not for content per se; only for abuse of power. Since there is 60-year-old precedent in place, and since federal courts are all about precedent, it will (not “would”; “will”) take a really good litigator to convince the judge to rule against the DOJ (that’s not me; I’m a transactionalist). Once it’s in the court system, it can proceed through the appeals process like any other case.

Even though I am not a litigator, it’s always fun to do some backseat driving in cases like this. I’d do a bit of forum shopping before I would take this to the District Court. Whoever brings the admin appeal to the District Court should be sure to bring it in either the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (that court is king of copyright and performing arts) or in the US District Court that covers L.A. and Hollywood (that court is the other king of performing arts). That shouldn’t be a tough one; songwriters live in droves in those places. The lawyer would just need a local client to bring this to the attention of one (or both) of those two courts. If it gets brought in both places (two different plaintiffs), hope to God the rulings disagree with each other. That makes the appeal easier to get through the chinks, especially if they appeal to the 2nd and 9th Circuits and those rulings disagree. That could turn it into a SCOTUS case … if SCOTUS grants certiorari. That’s a big “if.”


Cuozzo v. Lee, 579 US ____ (2016)

I was present in the Courtroom for the announcement of the Cuozzo decision by SCOTUS. This decision makes it clear that inter partes review by the USPTO is not appealable, and that the USPTO can institute such review sua sponte (by its own initiative). It’s an interesting decision.

35 USC §314(d) says that the “determination by the [Patent Office] whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.” (Emphasis added.)

35 USC §312 says that petitions must be pleaded “with particularity.” Those words, in its view, mean that the petition should have specifically said that claims 10 and 14 are also obvious in light of this same prior art. Garmin’s petition, the Government replies, need not have mentioned claims 10 and 14 separately, for claims 10, 14, and 17 are all logically linked; the claims “rise and fall together,” and a petition need not simply repeat the same argument expressly when it is so obviously implied.

The “No Appeal” provision’s language must, at the least, forbid an appeal that attacks a “determination . . . whether to institute” review by raising this kind of legal question and little more. §314(d).

Moreover, a contrary holding would undercut the Patent Office’s significant power to revisit and revise earlier patent grants. Congress would not likely have granted the Patent Office this reexam authority if it had thought that the agency’s final decision could be unwound under some minor statutory technicality related to its preliminary decision to institute inter partes review. Congress has told the Patent Office to determine whether inter partes review should proceed, and it has made the agency’s decision “final” and “nonappealable.” §314(d). SCOTUS’s conclusion that courts may not revisit this initial determination gives effect to this statutory command.

However, the Court limits its green-lighting of the USPTO’s unappealable reviews: “… we need not, and do not, decide the precise effect of §314(d) on appeals that implicate constitutional questions, that depend on other less closely related statutes, or that present other questions of interpretation that reach, in terms of scope and impact, well beyond “this section.”” The Court does not “…categorically preclude review of a final decision where a petition fails to give “sufficient notice” such that there is a due process problem with the entire proceeding, [or] enable the agency to act outside its statutory limits by, for example, canceling a patent claim for “indefiniteness under §112” in inter partes review.”

USPTO’s New STEPP Program

From the USPTO’s website:

“The Stakeholder Training on Examination Practice and Procedure (STEPP) program is administered by the Office of Patent Training (OPT) under the third pillar (Pillar 3, Excellence in Customer Service), of the  Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI) and is a new and important part of the USPTO’s mission to deliver intellectual property information and education to external stakeholders.

Training delivered through STEPP is designed to provide external stakeholders with a better understanding of how and why an examiner makes decisions while examining a patent application. In person courses are led by USPTO trainers and based on material developed for training employees of the USPTO.  

Currently, it is anticipated that courses provided through STEPP will be free to attend.  In addition, the USPTO is in the process of determining the applicability of providing CLE credits for attending STEPP courses; however, CLE credit cannot be earned for the first scheduled training session.”

The first scheduled training session is July 12-14 at the USPTO’s campus in Alexandria, VA.

For more information, see the USPTO’s website.

Apple v. Samsung at the Federal Circuit

Apple, Inc. has some pretty cool stuff. They came up with the Macintosh in 1986. They very intelligently niched out of the World of Microsoft Windows. They now give us music, videos, computers, phones, tablets, watches that we can use as phones and all kinds of tekkie goodies. More specifically, they have this nifty slide-to-unlock mechanism on their touchscreen devices (iPhones, iPads; I don’t know about the watch, since I don’t have one). They have the ever-annoying spell correction, and they have an automated data-structure detection system. And, of course, they have patents on their tekkie goodies. The slide-to-unlock mechanism, the spell correction and the automated data-structure detection system have been the subject of litigation between Apple and Samsung.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”) has just invalidated two of Apple’s iPhone patents based on that litigation; one for the slide-to-unlock mechanism, the other for the spell correction, both on obviousness grounds. This is a big deal for Apple; after a jury trial, the District Court had held these patents infringed and awarded damages to Apple amounting to $119,625,000 in damages and ongoing royalties for infringement of the three patents. Oh well; Apple can bid goodbye to nearly $120M in damages and royalties, unless the Nine (currently eight) Wise Ones who sit on the SCOTUS bench decide to grant certiorari on what will almost certainly be Apple’s appeal to them..

BigLaw vs SmallLaw

BigLaw is charging $1,500 per hour for partners’ time.

I won’t raise my rates; I’m happy with them, I live decently with them, my cats live like the royalty they are with them, and I don’t need to raise them. Geez … $1,500.00 per hour … that’s absurd.

I invite any BigLaw clients who don’t want to pay those rates to reach out and try working with smaller, more cost-effective firms. Our work is every bit as good as that you get from BigLaw firms, our lawyers graduated from top-tier law schools (my law school was #3 in the nation in IP the year I graduated), we handle your matters personally and promptly, and at least I would never even THINK of charging you $1,500 per hour.

We don’t have mahogany offices; our conference room may, in fact, be borrowed from another law firm or even from the public library. That cuts down on the overhead you pay for at $1,500 per hour with a BigLaw firm. We might not be located in midtown Manhattan, but that’s what phones and email are for, and Schenectady office space is WAY less expensive than is office space in midtown Manhattan. And we can often come see you at YOUR offices (yeah … you don’t have to come see us). Have laptop, will travel!

The one potential downside is that smaller law firms tend to concentrate in one or two areas rather than working in every aspect of the law; that’s simply because we have a smaller stable of attorneys in the firm. However, when needed, we can quickly and efficiently put together a dream team to handle any particular matter (I often work with other lawyers and their clients who need IP counsel or business law counsel or even just transactional counsel). We know how to quickly and effectively put together a team of attorneys whose skills are targeted to your needs — and we’re not bound by the borders of our own firm for that.

Think about it.

AVVO Gets Sued for Using a Lawyer’s Professional Information Without Consent

According to the ABA Journal, a Chicago lawyer is suing the lawyer review and ranking site Avvo “…contending that the company’s online lawyer directory is violating a[n Illinois] state statute by using professional information on the site without permission.”

It’s an odd suit. Evidently, this Chicago lawyer is aggrieved that Avvo compiles data, including her name, from publicly available sources, then uses that compiled information to market its attorney marketing services to lawyers. She sees this as Avvo profiting from her personal information. She hasn’t paid Avvo for its services and doesn’t want them to be able to use her information for their own benefit. Since lots of other lawyers in Illinois have also not paid Avvo for their services but have their personal information used in this same way, this complaint is filed as a class action suit.

It’ll be interesting to see what Avvo’s response to this complaint is. I suspect they’ll basically tell the plaintiff that her suit is a bunch of hogwash, but we’ll see.


My mother died in January of this year; she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year before she went. Pneumonia took her while she still remembered me and still had many of her long-term memories intact; I thank goodness that she was spared the living hell that she would have gone through with the total degeneration of her once-active mind.

Her diagnosis, of course, got me interested in this horrible condition. In the course of my research, I came across an HBO special on the progress of the disease. It’s beautifully done, which is why I post it here.

Another resource that I found very useful was a novel entitled Still Alice by Lisa Genovia. This was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore in her first Oscar performance.