By Matthew L. Cutler, Principal
Patent Owners finally received some good news after a string of pro-Petitioner rulings by the PTAB that saw all challenged claims wiped out in the first 8 Final Written Decisions by the Board. In Microsoft Corp. v. Proxyconn, Inc., IPR 2012-00026 and 2013-00109, Paper 73, and Synopsis, Inc. v. Mentor Graphics Corp., IPR2012-00042, Paper 60, the Board let the first claims stand after an IPR challenge. Harness Dickey represented Patent Owner in the Microsoft case, so we will not comment further on that proceeding, but instead, we take a deeper look at what went right for Patent Owner in the Synopsis case.
The first interesting issues from the Synopsis decision were procedural in nature. First, the Board considered Patent Owner’s argument that the petition was barred because, after the filing of the Petition, Petitioner purchased a company that had been sued by Mentor Graphics more than one year prior to the filing of the Petition. The Board denied this argument, finding that privity is only relevant up until the time a petition is filed — later-acquired privities are irrelevant. Order at 12.
The second procedural issue of interest relates to the doctrine of assignor estoppel. This panel of the PTAB agreed with previous panels who have found that the equitable doctrine of assignor estoppel does not provide an exception to the statutory mandate that any person, not the owner of a patent, may file a petition seeking inter partes review.
After those procedural setbacks, however, Patent Owner ultimately prevailed on nine out of 12 challenged claims. Regarding the Board’s substantive analysis, it is interesting to note that the Board switched in its position regarding the construction of a relevant claim term. The term, “instrumentation signal,” was not addressed in either Petition or Preliminary Response from a claim construction perspective. The Board adopted a construction in its Decision to Institute of the term, but then changed its mind in view of Patent Owner’s arguments in its Patent Owner Response. Order at 18-27.
Ultimately, however, key to the Board’s decision was the fact that Mentor Graphics provided persuasive expert testimony in its Patent Owner Response, and Petitioner had not provided expert testimony. That imbalance in evidence was a deciding factor in the Board finding that the claims that contained “instrumentation signal” were confirmed as patentable.
As a final note, Patent Owner’s Motion to Amend was denied by the Board because Patent Owner “had not met its burden.” We will stay tuned to learn whether a Patent Owner can successfully navigate the seemingly insurmountable hurdles to a successful Motion to Amend.