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New Patent Fees Coming

The US Patent and Trademark Office issued a proposed fee adjustment today. The large-entity fees are going up.

That, of course, impacts the small- and micro-entity fees, since those fees are expressed as a percentage of the large-entity fees (50% reduction for small entities, 75% reduction for micro entities). The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking won’t be officially published until Monday, 3 October, but the unofficial version is available now. The increases (and, of course, the fee adjustments are mostly increases) aren’t big, but they are there. It’s important for the patent applicant to be aware of them.

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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.
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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.”

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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.

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Patent Maintenance Fee Storefront Now Available from the USPTO

From the USPTO:

“The new Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront is now available. Customers can look up and pay patent maintenance fees using the patent number and patent application number, as in the retired system. We recommend reviewing the information here and on the Fee Payment Transition Resources page to learn more about the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront’s enhanced features.”