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Black Gold: Patent Battle Royale Moving From Silicon Valley to Midland, Texas? | Intellectual Property in the Oil & Gas Industry

We have all heard of the patent battles between tech giants Apple and Samsung.  It is easy to imagine the countless patents that protect the new iPhone and Galaxy smart phones.  However, intellectual property is not limited to the Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.  A huge amount of intellectual property is being developed, and protected, in the oil field.  In fact, the next major patent dispute is more likely to involve a method of fracking than a processor on a smart phone.  The reason, in part, is that as “easy oil” reserves become more and more rare, oil and gas companies are developing incredible technological solutions in order to harness oil, which was previously believed unreachable.  In solving these complex problems, they are developing vast amounts of intellectual property.  Oil and gas companies of all sizes need to begin protecting their intellectual property because their competitors are. …

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The Proposed Unified European Union Patent System

by James H. Ortega The European Patent Organization has been developing a unified European Union (EU) patent system, which will include both a unitary EU patent, issued from the European Patent Office (EPO), as well as a Unified Patent Court (UPC) system for harmonized enforcement of unitary EU patents. Although a specific date for implementation of the proposed UPC system has not yet been established, the unitary patent process will go into effect January 14, 2014, with the UPC system likely following sometime in later 2014 or 2015. Thus, despite the complaints regarding both of the new systems, the upcoming implementation of at least the unitary EU patent system requires patent practitioners involved in European patent practice to become familiar with the system in order to properly advise their clients.

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Prior Art Recapture Under the AIA – What You Don’t Know Can’t Help You

by Colin P. Cahoon Often overlooked when discussing the myriad changes wrought by the America Invents Act (AIA), 35 USC Section 102(b)(2)(C) deserves close scrutiny by any company that hires potential inventors or that enters into joint development agreements with third parties. This new provision created by the AIA provides such companies with a powerful tool for removing potentially harmful prior art from consideration by the USPTO against patent applications that such companies might file in the future. To work properly, though, 102(b)(2)(C) needs to be considered when negotiating a joint development agreement and when first hiring any new potential inventor employees.

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The Federal Circuit’s En Banc Opinion on Patentability Under Section 101 – It’s Splitsville!

by Gregory Perrone This past Spring, in CLS Bank International, CLS Services Ltd. v. Alice Corp, Pty Ltd. 2011-1301 (Fed. Cir. May 10, 2013), a splintered en banc panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated its three-member panel’s reversal of the district court’s judgment and affirmed a grant of summary judgment of invalidity. The en banc panel held that a patent claiming a computerized system and methods for eliminating settlement risk are not eligible for patent protection under 35 U.S.C. Section 101. While the panel’s six opinions and 127 pages provide a menagerie of commentary on why subject matter may or may not be patent eligible, little guidance is offered to inventors, patent counsel or the courts on how to determine whether subject matter is patentable.

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Myriad Gene Patent Decision: A New Era in DNA Diagnostic Testing?

by Shaukat A. Karjeker In the race to map the human genome, many of the organizations involved obtained patents on gene sequences that they identified.  These patents were granted regardless of whether the applicant had determined any role or function of the sequence.  As a consequence, other researchers were effectively “blocked out” of research and development on the patented DNA sequences, unless they were able to negotiate a license. The unanimous opinion by Hon. J. Clarence Thomas, in Association for Molecular Pathology, et al v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., et al. completely changes the biotech and medical research landscape: DNA is a naturally-occurring composition and therefore not patentable.  With a single stroke, the Court has opened the flood gates for the development of customized gene-based medicine.  All issued patent claims to DNA sequences are now invalid, the DNA sequences are effectively “in the public domain,” and the sequences may be used in…

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Judicial Profile: Magistrate Judge Renee Harris Toliver

by Vincent J. Allen A profile on Magistrate Judge Renee Harris Toliver, the first African-American to sit on the federal magistrate bench in the Northern District of Texas, as published in the May 2013 issue of the Dallas Bar Association’s Headnotes.

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Trademark Infringement: Can I Bid on My Competitors’ Trademarks as Adwords?

By Vincent Allen and PJ Putnam With the use of search engines by consumers to find products and websites becoming more prominent, search engine optimization has become an important part of the marketing plan for large and small businesses alike. For those companies that do not want to take the time or put in the effort to improve their SEO for certain keywords organically, purchasing keywords, also known as Adwords, from Google or other search engines can put a website on the first page of search results for a particular keyword overnight. By “purchasing,” we mean the submission of the high bid for the use of a keyword or campaign for a specific time period and geographic location.

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Rudy, Rudy, Rudy!: Reducing Patent Fees for the Little Guy

by Bobby W. Braxton It’s easy to root for the little guy.  Whether we are rooting for Rudy Ruettiger to take the field in Rudy, or for inventor Robert Kearns when he takes on Big Auto in the movie Flash of Genius (the Rudy equivalent for patent attorneys), we root for success stories.  A truly American success story is an invention that allows the smallest inventor to compete with the largest corporation.  Unfortunately, while individual inventors dream about inventing the next big thing, the costs and fees involved in filing a patent application often make these dreams prohibitively expensive.  According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), less than 20% of the patents granted in 2011 were awarded to so-called small entities, individuals or businesses with less than 500 employees.  How is the little guy supposed to compete?  The USPTO and the American Invents Act (“AIA”) have offered a few avenues to make…

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Trademark Basics: What’s in a Name?

by Mandy K. Jenkins Is the name of a new business or product really that important to its success?  As Shakespeare would say, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  No offense to Shakespeare, but most people would agree that when starting a new business or launching a new product, the name is very important.  The name gives people a first impression and is associated with the product or business forever.  So choosing the right name is paramount.  When deciding upon the name for a new company or product, you want to select a name that can be protected as a trademark, ensure your chosen name will not infringe another’s trademark, and take the proper steps to protect your trademark.

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Patent Filers: No More Swearing

By Yon S. Sohn, as featured in The Texas Lawbook New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. But on March 16, the America Invents Act (AIA) will come to aid inventors and corporate R&D departments to keep their resolution to not swear anymore. Of course, we are not talking about profanity but rather the practice known as “swearing behind” or antedating the date of invention when procuring a U.S. patent. But first, let us cover a little background before further discussing this no-more-swearing law.

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Willfulness? Enhanced Damages? It’s a Judge-ment Call

By Shaukat A. Karjeker Depending upon where you stand, on June 14, 2012, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals either executed a “bloodless” coup d’état, or brought order to the issue of enhanced damages in patent cases.  In Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc. et al. v. W. L. Gore and Associates, Inc. ((Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc. v. W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc., No. 03-CV-0597, slip op (Fed. Cir. June 14, 2012); 2012 LEXIS 13561. Bard has been followed in several cases, including: Highmark, Inc. v. Allcare Health Mgmt. Sys., (Fed Cir 2012), 701 F.3d 1351; 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 25054;  Sargent Mfg. Co. v. Cal-Royal Prods., (D Con), 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105260;  Tomita Techs. United States, LLC v. Nintendo Co., (SD NY), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8111; and Carnegie Mellon Univ. v. Marvell Tech. Group, LTD., (WD Pa), 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157337 (noting that mixed questions of law and fact may be resolved by submitting special…

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Use Unlicensed Music in Wedding Films at Your Peril

by Vincent J. Allen Quantum leaps have been made in both the quality and popularity of wedding films over the past 10 years. The advances are a result of technology improvements in post-production editing systems and the introduction of low profile cameras that rival the production quality of movie sets. Most recently, the availability of relatively low cost DSLR cameras has added a cinematic element to event film productions that previously was not available. Event filmmakers have begun creating works of art that capture the emotions of the wedding day. So it is no surprise that wedding films are often set to music selected to create the desired mood. Historically, event filmmakers have not given much thought to obtaining permission to use a popular song in a wedding film, and some have even operated under the erroneous belief that purchasing the song on a CD or iTunes will avoid a…

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USPTO Announces Dallas Satellite Office Location

By Yon S. Sohn Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced the site of its Dallas Regional Satellite Office. (See the official press release here.) It is to be located in the Terminal Annex Federal Building on Houston Street, south of the Dealey Plaza, and it will be in the heart of the Dallas’s legal epicenter with George Allen Courthouse as its next-door neighbor.

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Aon & RPX Unveil Non-Practicing Entity Patent Litigation Insurance Coverage

by Vincent J. Allen It is becoming more and more common for technology business owners to be faced with patent infringement suits filed by a non-practicing entity (NPE), an entity that does not manufacture or sell the product covered by the patent.  Defending a patent infringement suit can be very expensive, and for a small company, can threaten its very existence.  Historically, patent litigation insurance has not been readily available.  But now, patent aggregator RPX and insurance company Aon Risk Solutions have teamed up to offer patent litigation insurance for suits brought by non-practicing entities

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Implications of New First-To-File Rule

By James R. Gourley The patent regime of the United States was set up by Congress to enable innovators to protect their ideas through monopoly ownership for a limited period of time. Because there are almost always many different individuals and groups working on solutions to problems that exist in the marketplace, it is not uncommon for several different people to independently arrive at the solution around the same time. In this scenario, under the “first-to-invent” system currently used by the United States, the patent monopoly will generally be granted to the first inventor, even if a later inventor was the first inventor to file a patent application. Such an outcome is unique to the United States, as every other industrialized country uses a “first-to-file” system in which the patent monopoly is awarded to the first inventor to file.

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Procedures for Opposing Issuance of Patents

By Yon S. Sohn One of the new features of the AIA is the Post-Grant Review (PGR), often referred to as a third-party opposition. PGR allows any party to challenge any new or reissue patent. Starting with patents issued having a filing date on or after March 16, 2013, an opposer will have a nine-month window to submit to the Director of the Patent Office a petition to cancel one or more claims on the basis of invalidity. Compared to ex parte or inter partes reexaminations previously available, PGR allows a broader scope of information to be used as evidence, including patents, printed publications, commercial sales, and public use.

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Prior Commercial Use Defense

By Vincent J. Allen The America Invents Act significantly expands the “prior commercial use” defense for patent infringement cases.  The defense allows a defendant to avoid patent infringement by proving that the defendant used the patented subject matter at least one year before the earlier of a) the effective filing date of the patent-in-suit or b) the date the invention was disclosed to the public as envisioned under the new Section 102(b).  The defense previously only applied to business methods, but now includes the entire gamut of patentable subject matter.

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Need for Speed? – Think Prioritized Examination

By Bobby W. Braxton If asked how quickly would you like obtain a patent, most inventors would reply “now.”  Unfortunately, due to a large back-log at the USPTO, applications often wait two or more years before they are even examined by an Examiner. The America Invents Act now provides for Prioritized Examination (“P.E.”), which can significantly reduce the wait.

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AIA Rolls Out New “Virtual” Patent Marking Provision

By Zach W. Hilton U.S. patent law has long required that patent owners and any licensees mark products they sell with the patent number of any patents covering such products in order to recover pre-suit damages resulting from infringement.  Until the passage of the America Invents Act (“AIA”), compliance with the patent marking statute required that a list of patents appear on a covered product itself, although it was sometimes sufficient to mark the product packaging.  In either case, compliance with the marking statute led to increased manufacturing costs as it was often necessary to retool product molds and/or redesign packaging as additional patents were deemed to cover a product or as patents expired.  The end result was that patent owners were placed at a competitive disadvantage.

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New Joinder Rule May Curb Filings in Eastern District of Texas

By Vincent J. Allen A few years ago, a plaintiff could file suit for patent infringement in any jurisdiction where infringing products were sold.  Because of its short time to trial and plaintiff-friendly jury pools, the Eastern District of Texas became the forum of choice for many plaintiffs.  But in recent years, the courts have clamped down on the liberal venue rules by requiring the transfer to a forum that is “clearly more convenient” in cases where the only connection to the venue is the fact that infringing products are sold there.

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