SHARE

November 29, 2022

Delayed Disclaimer: Patent Owner Arguments Made during IPR Not a Claim Limiting Disclaimer in That Proceeding

You've Reached Your
Free Article Limit This Month
Register for free to get unlimited access to all Law.com OnPractice content.
Register Now

Repeating a conclusion from an earlier non-precedential opinion in VirnetX, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) need not accept a patent owner's arguments as a disclaimer in the very same inter partes review (IPR) proceeding in which those arguments are made. CUPP Computing AS v. Trend Micro Inc., Case Nos. 2020-2262, 2020-2263, 2020-2264, at *11 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 16, 2022) (Dyk, Taranto, Stark, JJ.)

CUPP Computing is the owner of three related patents each entitled "systems and methods for providing security services during power management mode." After CUPP sued Trend Micro for patent infringement, Trend Micro filed petitions for IPR against all three patents, asserting that several claims of CUPP's patents were obvious over two prior art references. The Board instituted all three IPR and found all challenged claims unpatentable as obvious. CUPP appealed.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board's conclusions. The principal issue concerned CUPP's argument that the Board erred in claim construction. In CUPP's view, all of the evidence required the claimed "security system processor" be remote from a "mobile device processor." The Court rejected CUPP's arguments. Starting with the claims, the Court found that they simply required that the two processors be different. Although some claims required the security system to send a wake signal to or communicate with the mobile device, that language did not support CUPP's remoteness construction. As the Court explained, just as an individual can send a note to oneself via email, a unit of the mobile device can send signals to and communicate with the same device. Indeed, some of the claims teach communication via an internal port of the mobile device, which was consistent with a preferred embodiment disclosed in the specification in which the two processors could be within the same mobile device.

The Federal Circuit then addressed CUPP's disclaimer arguments. The Court agreed with the Board that CUPP's statements made during the original prosecution were far from clear and unmistakable, being susceptible to several reasonable interpretations that are contrary to CUPP's construction. The Court also agreed with the Board that CUPP's arguments during the Trend Micro IPRs do not qualify as a disclaimer for purposes of claim construction. While a disclaimer made during an IPR proceeding is binding in subsequent proceedings, the "Board is not required to accept a patent owner's arguments as disclaimer when deciding the merits of those arguments."

As the Federal Circuit explained, expanding the application of disclaimers to the proceedings in which they are made—as CUPP proposed—is rife with problems. IPR proceedings are more similar to district court litigation than they are to initial examination, and it is well established that disclaimers in litigation are not binding in the proceeding in which they are made. Further, CUPP's proposal would effectively render IPR claim amendments unnecessary, as patent owners would be free to change the scope of their claims retrospectively without regard to the protections provided by the IPR claim amendment process, such as ensuring that amended claims comply with the requirements of patentability and have only prospective effect by giving accused infringers "intervening rights" when a patent owner substantively amends its claims. As the Court concluded, patent owner scope disclaimers cannot be used to replace the IPR claim amendment process.

Finally, the Federal Circuit rejected CUPP's argument that the Board lacked substantial evidence to support its conclusion of obviousness. CUPP contended that the "security agent" limitation, as recited in the claims in one of the challenged patents, was not disclosed by either reference. However, like the "security agent" in CUPP's patent that performs security services upon a wake-up call from another entity, a host agent in the prior art performed security services after being woken up by a security module. Because the Board's findings were supported by substantial evidence, the Court affirmed the Board's conclusion that the challenged claims were unpatentable as obvious.

Practice Note: Even though narrowing arguments made during IPRs remain a powerful tool for patent owners, they cannot be used as a back door to introduce substantive claim limitations by disclaimer. Patent owners are well advised to consider other options during an IPR proceeding, including contingent motions to amend claims consistent with a patent owner's narrowing arguments.

ALM expressly disclaims any express or implied warranty regarding the OnPractice Content, including any implied warranty that the OnPractice Content is accurate, has been corrected or is otherwise free from errors.

More From McDermott Will & Emery

Oil License Corruption Charges Don't Stick In Milan Court Of Appeal

By McDermott Will & Emery attorneys McDermott Will & Emery January 27 , 2023

In 2011, global oil company Shell and Italian state-owned oil company ENI struck a deal with the Nigerian government to jointly acquire the license to one of the most valuable oil blocks in Nigeria, known as Oil Prospecting License 245 (OPL 245).

This Week in 340B: January 17 - 23, 2023

By Emily Jane Cook McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

This weekly series provides brief summaries to help you stay in the know on how 340B cases are developing across the country.

IRS Releases Memorandum on Deducting Cryptocurrency Losses

By Andrew M. Granek McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

On January 13, 2023, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a Chief Counsel Advice Memorandum (CCA 202302011) concluding that taxpayers cannot claim a deduction for cryptocurrency losses that have, absent a sale or other taxable disposition, substantially declined in value if such cryptocurrency continues to trade on at least one cryptocurrency exchange and has a value that is greater than zero.

More From Intellectual Property

Your Gang Did What!? No Matter—No Forfeiture of IP

By Kat Lynch McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

In a unique case blending intellectual property and criminal law, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed that a district court properly exercised jurisdiction over a motorcycle club and upheld the lower court’s finding that the club did not have to forfeit its collective membership marks.

Deleting Goods from Registration Subject to Cancellation During Audit May Result in Adverse Judgment

By Eleanor B. Atkins McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

The Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) addressed, for the first time, whether the deletion of goods and services as a result of a post-registration audit during a cancellation proceeding triggers Trademark Rule 2.134 and found that it does.

Bursting the Bubble on Prosecution Delays

By Christopher M. Bruno McDermott Will & Emery January 26 , 2023

Addressing a case where a patent owner filed hundreds of applications as part of a strategy to maintain extraordinarily lengthy patent coverage, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s determination that the patent owner had engaged in a calculated and unreasonable scheme to delay patent issuance.

Featured Stories
Closeclose
Search
Menu

Working...