All in Patent Prosecution
As patent portfolios age, the core concept of the original claims can be used as a framework for later claims to track what competitors are doing. Using continuations, the core concept of the claims can be modified by broadening (removing aspects from the claims) and narrowing the claims (using the additional disclosure that was not initially the focus of claims in earlier patents). By doing this, numerous patents and claims of different scope can be drafted over time that are tailored to exactly what your competitors are doing. This can turn a single patent into a formidable patent portfolio that can be difficult and very expensive for your competitors to prevail against.
With a pending continuation, a patent owner is able to monitor and act on forward citations that surface over time. Forward citations are instances where later filed patent applications cite back to your patent specification. This is similar to a journal article citing to prior journal articles that are relevant or otherwise used for background information. If your patent is a forward citation and is cited as a 102 reference it means that a patent examiner has specifically determined that your patent is a "blocking patent" to the claims sought by the later applicant. This is powerful and actionable information.
Given that the first application only covers what is specifically called out in the Claims, it is my strong opinion that a continuation should be filed before the issuance of the patent to protect additional material not encompassed by the first set of Claims. A continuation is essentially a copy of the non-provisional application, that claims the benefit of the provisional and prior non-provisional applications. The continuation also contains new patent Claims. The continuation allows an inventor to continue to claim other inventions in the disclosure with the filing date of the original provisional application.
With the provisional on file, an inventor will have a year to convert the provisional application to a “non-provisional” application. This could occur any time during the year after filing the non-provisional, but the sooner the conversion to a non-provisional occurs the less likely issues will arise due to third-party filings within the year period.
Provisional patent applications cannot be converted into design patent applications. Thus, another form of protection an inventor should consider early in the patent process is whether design patent protection would be appropriate for any of its intellectual property. Design patents cover visual ornamental characteristics of an article of manufacture. For example, this could apply to the visual design of a product (or portion thereof) or mobile application user interfaces.
Given that the patent system is now a “first to file” system, a comprehensive provisional patent (or series of provisional patents) may be the best first step for starting to protect the IP for an inventor, a startup or new product at an established company, because it can be done relatively quickly and then converted into a full non-provisional filing.
When an inventor starts down the path of obtaining patent protection, it is important to understand that the process does not end with an issued patent. Unless superficial protection is desired (e.g., a piece of paper to hang on the wall), patenting an invention is an ongoing process. Inventors should keep at least one application in the patent portfolio pending at all times. When the portfolio is pending, it can adapt as an offensive and defensive tool as the market for the technology evolves. I call this ongoing process “proactive patent prosecution.”
A specification support chart is a two column chart with each element of the claim language in the left column, and the corresponding specification support from the specification and figures as filed in the right hand column.
The best contingent fee case will have many issued Patent claims, but among them, there should be a narrowly crafted claim with clear language that corresponds directly with the alleged infringement. The best "contingent fee" claims will also be unquestionably supported and enabled by the specification and be free of "means plus function" language.
It used to be that the law surrounding subject matter eligibility was clear-cut and well established. The Supreme Court's “Alice” decision has cast a shadow over the application of 35 USC 101. We discuss one way to make sense of the current case law. For now, patent owners should analyze the current law to outline, identify, and amplify the aspects of their invention that are not “abstract” or indicate an “inventive concept” such as new technological improvements and/or unconventional features that go against what has been done before.
YouTube is a fantastic source of information. There is seemingly a video on any topic you can imagine. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video can be worth millions of words. So how do you take a video and turn it into something that can be submitted as an NPL document as part of an information disclosure statement? It needs to be converted into a PDF document as I will show below.
In any patent case, it is important to make sure that all of the known art has been cited during prosecution across all of the patents in the portfolio. One tool that patent owners and lawyers can use to ensure that literature has been consistently and thoroughly cited across a patent family is an "art matrix." This post shows how to create an “art matrix” in Excel.
What are the types of information that need to be cataloged? Anything and everything. From the perspective of an Information Disclosure Statement filing, there three main types of “art”: U.S. Patent Documents, Foreign Patent Documents, and Non-Patent Literature. I will discuss what each of these categories includes and the citation of foreign language material.