Patent Claim - Learn about patents

Patent Claims 101 – What is a Patent Claim?

What are Patent Claims?

Patent claims are for intellectual property what a property deed is for physical property. A property deed defines the physical boundaries of your real properly (real estate). Similarly, a Patent claim defines the ownership boundaries of your Intellectual Property.

Claims Determine If There Is Infringement

When a person crosses over your physical property line and enters onto your real property without your permission, they are trespassing and you can file a legal trespass action in the appropriate State court.

Likewise, when someone (who does not have your permission) attempts to use your patented Intellectual Property, you can file an infringement suit in the appropriate US District Court.

Are Patent Claims Complicated?

Because a Patent claim is a single sentence, the claim can be complex. Here are some Patent claim facts for you:

The Anatomy of a Patent Claim:

  • Since 1790, the US Patent Office has required that any Patent claim must be a single sentence
  • An independent claim is a Patent claim that does not reference or refer to another claim of the Patent
  • A dependent claim refers to another claim number in the preamble of the dependent claim
  • The words of the claim preceding “comprising” or “consisting” are the preamble
  • The words that follow “comprising” or “consisting” in a claim are the body of the claim

In Addition:

  • The body of the claim is used to determine patentability or infringement
  • A dependent claim can reference (depend on) an independent claim or another dependent claim
  • Dependent claims include all the structures/limitations of the claim (or claims) from which they depend

How Patent Claims Work

Below are examples of an independent Patent claim and three related dependent Patent claims. The parts of the independent claim (preamble and body) are labeled:

Independent Claim (#1)

[the preamble]         A transportation vehicle comprising:

[the body]                  a)  a frame supporting a surface area adapted to transport matter;

b) an axle attached to the frame; and

c) at least two wheels.

NOTE: A Patent Examiner could construe Independent Claim #1 to include: a bicycle, cart, motorcycle, wagon, trailer, automobile, truck, airplane, etc.

Dependent Claim (#2)

The transportation vehicle of  Independent Claim #1 further comprising a motor.

NOTE: A Patent Examiner could construe claim 2 to include: a motorcycle, automobile, truck, airplane, etc.

Dependent Claim (#3)

The transportation vehicle of Dependent Claim #2, wherein the surface area is adapted to carry at least 25 metric tons.

NOTE: A Patent Examiner could construe claim 3 to include a truck or an airplane.

Dependent Claim (#4)

The transportation vehicle of Dependent Claim #3 further comprising wings.

NOTE: A Patent Examiner could construe claim 4 to include an airplane.

Need Help With Your Patent or Patent Application?

If you need legal assistance preparing or managing Patent Applications, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Physician Sunshine Laws and Your Business

Physician Sunshine Laws And Your Business

Physician Sunshine Laws and Small Businesses

Does 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h, known commonly as the “Physician Sunshine Laws-Open Payments” apply to a small business?  Maybe. If Physician Sunshine Laws (Open Payments Laws) are applicable to your business, you may also be surprised how these laws can be applied to your company.

Some States have their own version of physician sunshine laws. In some cases, the State version may apply when the federal version does not.

Many Business Patent Law, PLLC’s clients are involved with the provision of medical devices, supplies, etc. For most Business Patent Law clients, the Physician Sunshine Laws apply to an “applicable manufacturer” that “provides payment or other transfer of value” to a “covered recipient.”

Who Administers Physician Sunshine Laws?

CMS.gov (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) is the Federal Agency that Administers Physician Sunshine Laws (Open Payments). 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h (b) sets forth penalties for failing to file a required report to CMS.gov.

Who Needs to Report to Under Physician Sunshine Laws?

Subchapter S Company Examples

Does a Subchapter S Company that Manufactures Surgical Sponges for Use in Operating Rooms and Gives Samples of the Surgical Sponges to Medical, Surgical and Dental Practices Need to Report to CMS.gov?

Yes, according to 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h (e) which reads:

(2) Applicable manufacturer

The term “applicable manufacturer” means a manufacturer of a covered drug, device, biological, or medical supply which is operating in the United States, or in a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States.

(4) Covered device

The term “covered device” means any device for which payment is available under subchapter XVIII [Medicare] or a State plan under subchapter XIX or XXI [federal or state plans for medical assistance] (or a waiver of such a plan).

(6) Covered recipient

(A) In general…“covered recipient” means the following: (i) A physician [is a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, a dentist, a doctor of podiatric medicine, a doctor of optometry or a chiropractor – as defined by 42 U.S.C. 1395x (r).] or

(ii) A teaching hospital.

LLC Examples

Does a Limited Liability Company (LLC) Manufacturing and Selling Scalpels Need to Report to CMS.gov?

  1. If the LLC makes quid pro quo sales to dentists, physicians and hospitals? No. (There is no transfer of value or gift.)
  2. If the LLC supplies lunches for the surgical office and the employees? Yes. (The lunches were a transfer of value.)

Does an LLC (having one or more covered recipients holding a minority equity ownership interest) that manufactures radio frequency devices for treatment of the human body need to report equity ownership Interests to CMS.gov? 

It depends.

  1. If a dentist owns 5% equity in the LLC? Yes.
  2. When the wife of a surgeon owns 10% equity in the LLC? Yes. ***
  3. If a pharmacist owns 5% equity in the LLC? No.
  4. When a physician’s assistant owns 5% equity in the LLC? No.

***42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h (a) reads:

(2) Physician ownership

In addition to the requirement under paragraph (1)(A), on March 31, 2013, and on the 90th day of each calendar year beginning thereafter, any applicable manufacturer or applicable group purchasing organization shall submit to the Secretary, in such electronic form as the Secretary shall require, the following information regarding any ownership or investment interest (other than an ownership or investment interest in a publicly traded security and mutual fund, as described in section 1395nn (c) of this title) held by a physician (or an immediate family member of such physician ([immediate family member] as defined for purposes of section 1395nn (a) of this title)) in the applicable manufacturer or applicable group purchasing organization during the preceding year:…

Determining what you need to do in these situations, and what you are legally required to do, can be difficult. If you have questions about your whether your company needs to file reports with CMS.gov, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Patent Ownership Determination

Who Owns Patents – It Depends

Ownership – Patents

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution reads: [The Congress shall have power] “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” The Constitution does not, however, address who owns the Patent or Copyright.

When an inventor invents a novel and non-obvious composition, device or method, who owns the Patent?

That depends.

Patent Rights Are Federal, But Patent Ownership Rights…

Under the United States Constitution and Title 35 of the United States Code, the granting and enforcement of Patents are exclusively matters of federal jurisdiction. However, unless owned by a federal entity, the ownership of Patents is a matter of State Law. Intellectual property ownership rights flow from Patents and who owns property rights is usually a matter determined by State Law,

Who Owns The Patent?

The following examples show how different situations impact or can impact the determination of Patent ownership:

Illustration 1

The Inventor is self-employed, invents the invention and is domiciled in State A.

The Inventor owns the entire interest in the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights.

Illustration 2

The Inventor is an employee of Company B. The Inventor invents the invention while at work on the premises of Company B. Both Company B and Inventor are domiciled in State A.

In most jurisdictions, Company B owns the entire interest in the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights.

Illustration 3

The Inventor is an employee of Company B and Company B is domiciled in State A. In the Inventor’s garage located in State Z, the Inventor invents the item related to the products sold by Company B.

Some courts would hold that Company B owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights while other courts would hold that the Inventor owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights.

Illustration 4

The Inventor is an employee of Company B that is located in State A. In the Inventor’s garage located in State Z. The Inventor invents an item not related to the anything manufactured or distributed by Company B.

Most courts would hold that the Inventor owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights.

Illustration 5

The Inventor is an Independent Contractor who has worked onsite, on and off, at Company B’s plant located in State P for more than a year. Company B’s headquarters are located in State A. The Independent Contractor invented an improvement to Company B’s patented product in State J.

Some courts would hold that Company B owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights. Other courts would hold that the Independent Contractor owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights. Some States would not have any case law corresponding to this scenario.

Illustration 6

Company B is domiciled in State A and displays its patented product line at a trade show in State N. The chief engineer of Competitor X takes photographs/videos of Company B’s patented product line at the tradeshow. The chief engineer returns to Competitor X’s headquarters with the photos/videos. At the headquarters, located in State Q, Competitor X’s engineering staff invents several improvements to Company’s B patented product line which ultimately results in Improvement-Type Patents for Competitor X.

Courts would hold that Competitor X owns the Improvement-Type Patents – However, a federal court could also determine that Competitor X’s Improvement-Type Patents infringed Company B’s patented product line.

How to Control Ownership of Patents

What can a business do to limit its Intellectual Property from flying out in many different directions?  Next month’s blog will address some of these issues.

If you have questions about your company’s ownership of its Intellectual Properties, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and Intellectual Properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your Intellectual Property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Rental Property and Intellectual Rights

Real Estate Rental, Tangible Property and Intellectual Property Rights

Relationship Between Commercial Rental Property and Inventories

Landlords own the real property rented by tenants (rental property). Tenants have an interest in the use of that real property. A commercial landlord rents square footage to the tenant and grants the tenant permission to operate a business from the rented space. Under most commercial leases, inventory remains the personal property of the tenant. Landowners may also operate their own businesses from commercial real properties.

Real Property Cases: Traditionally Matters for State Courts, However…

For centuries, disputes involving real property and rental property contracts have fallen under the law of the jurisdiction where the real estate is located. Each State has its own version of its real property laws. However, in today’s world, federal laws can influence a State’s real property laws.

Intangible Patented Inventions as Tangible Personal Property

A Patentee can sell tangible widgets that include intangible patent rights for the circuitry, processor, and memory that cause the tangible widgets to operate differently from unpatented widgets. Patent infringement of the patented widget can result when someone who did not purchase the patented widget from the Patentee makes, uses, sells or offers to sell the patented widget without the permission of the Patentee.

Under United States law, Patent infringement cases have exclusive jurisdiction and venue in federal district courts.

When Patented Widgets are Offered for Sale on Consignment

Possible interactions between the real estate owner or the commercial tenant (hereinafter Commercial) and the Patented Widgets Owner (hereinafter PWO):

  • As long as Commercial and PWO meet the terms of the consignment agreement, both parties are probably happy.
  • When Commercial refuses to pay PWO according to the consignment agreement, the PWO could sue the Commercial for breach of contract in a State court.
  • When Commercial refuses to honor the consignment agreement and subsequently gives the patented widgets to a third party who thereafter uses the patented widgets in the third party’s plant. Under the Supreme Court’s Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., 581 US 1523 (2017) case, because there was no sale of the patented widgets by the Patentee, PWO can sue both the thirty party and Commercial in a federal district court for patent infringement. Any case by PWO for breach of contract by Commercial would likely be joined with the patent infringement case in federal court.

The commercial tenant (hereinafter Tenant) and the PWO:

  • When Tenant sublets a space for a booth to PWO and PWO fails to pay rent to Tenant, the Tenant can sue PWO in State court for collection of unpaid rent.
  • In a State that provides for commercial landlord lockouts and seizures of personal property, Tenant fails to pay rent and the landlord locks out and seizes all inventory including PWO’s patented widgets. Under the lease, Tenant did not have a right to sublet space to PWO and the landlord is unaware that PWO’s patented widgets are not part of Tenant’s inventory. After seizing PWO’s patented widgets, the landlord sells PWO’s patented widgets to a third party who resales the patented widgets to a fourth party who destroys the patented widgets and sells the junked parts to a recycler. Under Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., 581 US 1523 (2017), because there was no sale of the patented widgets by the Patentee, PWO could sue the commercial landlord, the third party and the fourth party for patent infringement in federal court. For the landlord, the third party and the fourth party, reliance solely on real estate law is insufficient to prevent a patent infringement lawsuit in federal court.

Have More Questions About Intellectual Property?

Contact Business Patent Law, PLLC  to get your questions answered and to discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Patent Maintenance Fees & Annuities

Patent Maintenance Fees and Annuities

In most jurisdictions, utility-type Patents require that periodic patent maintenance fees or annual annuities be paid to maintain the Patent. These payments are usually made to the appropriate governmental body. Most jurisdictions, other than the United States, also require the payment of annual annuities.

United States Patent Maintenance Fees

Title 15 of the United States Code requires the owner of a utility US Patent to pay maintenance fees at three and one-half, seven and one-half and eleven and one-half years subsequent to the issue date of the US Patent.

What Happens if the US Patent’s Maintenance Fee Is Not Paid?

The Patent will expire if the fee is not paid prior to the expiration of the fourth, eighth or twelfth year subsequent to the issue date of the Patent.

An Example Case: Unpaid Patent Maintenance Fees

Due to a Programmer’s Error, Company A did not Generate the Payment for the Seven and One-Half Year Maintenance Fee for Company A’s US Patent for “Gizmo.”

At this point, Company B approaches Company A regarding a license of the “Gizmo” Patent. Is it possible for Company A to enter into a Valid License Agreement with Company B?

Scenario 1

Seven years and nine months subsequent to the issue date of the Gizmo Patent, Company A discovers the maintenance fee was not paid:

  • Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.362(e), by paying the maintenance fee and the surcharge during the “grace period,” Company A and Company B can enter into a license for the Gizmo.

Scenario 2

Nine years subsequent to the issue date of the Gizmo Patent, Company A discovers the maintenance fee was not paid:

  • Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.378, by filing a petition with the Director of Patents stating that the failure to pay the maintenance fee was unintentional, paying the USPTO fee for the petition and the required maintenance fee, the Director may reinstate the expired Gizmo Patent. As a general rule, the Director usually reinstates an expired Patent as long as these above mentioned conditions are met before two years subsequent to the expiration of the Patent.  Subject to any intervening rights, Company A and Company B can enter into a license for the Gizmo.

Scenario 3

Ten and one-half years subsequent to the issue date of the Gizmo Patent, Company A discovers the maintenance fee was not paid:

  • Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.378, by filing a petition with the Director of Patents stating that the failure to pay the maintenance fee was unintentional, paying the USPTO fee for the petition and the required maintenance fee, the Director may reinstate the expired Gizmo Patent. As a general rule, after two years subsequent the expiration of a Patent, the Director exercises more discretion in reinstating any expired Patent. Subject to favorable decision by the Director to reinstate the Patent and any intervening rights, Company A and Company B can enter into a license for the Gizmo.

If you have questions about your company’s Patent maintenance fees or annuities, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Multijurisdictional Patent Infringement World Patents

Multijurisdictional Patent Infringement

Patent Cooperation Treaty Patent Applications have the potential to mature into Patents in most nations, but currently, there is no enforceable World Patent. Unaddressed Patent infringement can reduce your company’s profits.

Patent Rights in Multiple Jurisdictions

Many companies own patent rights in at least some of the jurisdictions in which they conduct business.

What If We Don’t Own Patent Rights in Jurisdictions Where We Do Business?

A frequent multijurisdictional situation is:

My Company owns ten US Patents, three European Patents, five Chinese Patents and three Japanese Patents. The Patents cover the company’s fifth most profitable product.

At a tradeshow in Singapore, our regional vice president discovers that a Vietnamese company has duplicated our invention and is exporting the duplicated invention to Australia, Canada and Japan. Further, the Vietnamese company intends to export the invention to Germany and the United States.

What Can You Do About “Knock offs” of Your Product Overseas?

As a general rule, Patent rights are only enforceable in the jurisdiction that granted the Patent.

  • In Australia and Canada, your company owns no Patent Rights and cannot stop the importation and use of the knock off in those jurisdictions
  • If Germany is one of the European nations covered by the European Patents, then your company can utilize European counsel to assert its Patent rights in Germany
  • In Japan, your company can use Japanese counsel to enforce its Japanese Patent rights
  • In the United States, your company can utilize US counsel to enforce its Patent rights that can include a court order to stop the knock offs at the port of entry

In the global economy, when another determines that your Company’s product is profitable, it is almost inevitable that someone will attempt to “bend the rules” and trade on your Company’s market share and goodwill for their own financial gain. Without Patent rights, you have little to no recourse in most jurisdictions.

What Should My Company Do To Prevent Patent Problems?

It is astute to procure Patent rights in all jurisdictions where your business plan, business model, actual and projected market forces justify the procurement of intellectual property.

A small front-end investment in intellectual property can reap increased future multijurisdictional sales.

If you have questions about your company’s multijurisdictional intellectual properties, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Foreign Jurisdictions for Patents

Patent Applications – Foreign Jurisdictions

How To Select the Best Path for Patent Applications in Foreign Jurisdictions

My company is contemplating filing Patent Applications in foreign jurisdictions. Is the use of the Patent Cooperation Treaty or the Paris Convention Treaty the better route?

Patent Cooperation Treaty vs. Paris Convention Treaty

Your business model and judgement determine the best course for the filing of Patent Applications in foreign jurisdictions. Both the Paris Convention Treaty and the Patent Cooperation Treaty routes have advantages and disadvantages.

Under each Treaty, the Applicant makes a claim to the priority application (document) that was filed in a jurisdiction other than the jurisdiction (country/region/union) which you desire to file the new Patent Application. The priority document can be a non-provisional, a provisional or an international Patent Application.

The Paris Convention Treaty

  • The non-provisional Patent Application must be filed before the expiration of one year following the filing of the priority document
  • For US businesses, the priority document is usually a US provisional or non-provisional Patent Application
  • If you are only filing in a few foreign jurisdictions, the Paris Convention will likely be the least expensive route to file the foreign Patent Application
  • Most foreign jurisdictions require annual maintenance fees to perpetuate pendency of the Patent Application/Patent

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

  • The non-provisional Patent Application must be filed before the expiration of thirty months (some jurisdictions allow thirty-one months) following the filing of the priority document
  • For US businesses, the priority document is usually a US provisional or non-provisional Patent Application
  • The PCT Application can be filed as the original and priority document
  • An International Search Report is generated by the International Searching Authority of the World Intellectual Property Organization
  • When needed, the International Search Report can provide a basis for amending the claims of the PCT Application prior to entry into the national stage of a foreign jurisdiction’s Patent Office or the United States Patent Office.
  • Amendment of the claims of a PCT Application prior to entry into the national stage can result in a speedier and more cost-effective issuance of a Patent in the United States or a foreign jurisdiction
  • Most foreign jurisdictions require annual maintenance fees to perpetuate pendency of the Patent Application/Patent

If you have questions about filing Patent Applications under the Paris Convention Treaty or the Patent Cooperation Treaty, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Blue Sky Laws Securities and Smooth Sailing

Securities Laws: State Blue Sky Laws and Smooth Sailing

What Are Blue Sky Laws?

Blue Sky laws are another name for State Securities Laws. The first use of the term is unknown, but the first well-known use of the term was in 1917 by Supreme Court Justice Joseph McKenna. Justice McKenna wrote the Court’s opinion in Hall vs. Geiger-Jones Co., 242 U.S. 539 (1917), which upheld the rights of states to regulate securities. He wrote:

“The name that is given to the law indicates the evil at which it is aimed, that is, to use the language of a cited case, “speculative schemes which have no more basis than so many feet of ‘blue sky'”; or, as stated by counsel in another case, “to stop the sale of stock in fly-by-night concerns, visionary oil wells, distant gold mines and other like fraudulent exploitations.”

State Securities Laws

Unless preempted by federal law, each State regulates the securities of a company that are held by a citizen of the State. By way of example, unless preempted by federal law, the shares of an Ohio small business that are held by a citizen of Kentucky can be the subject of both the Ohio and the Kentucky Blue Sky Laws.

For a small business that has shareholders in several States it is wise to utilize a federal preemption to the registration requirements of the States’ Blue Sky Laws when possible.

Is My Small Business Exempt?

If your business has an exemption from the federal securities laws, you may be unclear on whether or not it is automatically exempted from a State’s securities laws.  Security laws are complex. Whether your securities are exempt depends on which federal exemption you use.

A Federal Preemption Strategy for Securities

When circumstances permit, Business Patent Law, PLLC prefers to utilize Rule 506(b) of Regulation D to obtain and exemption from the “Blue Sky” laws.  Use of Rule 506(b):

  • Provides an exemption from the registration requirements of the federal securities laws
  • Provides an exemption from the registration requirements of one or more States’ “Blue Sky” laws
  • Does not limit the amount of capital that can be raised from the private offering
  • Allows your company to offer a single class of stock to an unlimited number of “accredited” investors
  • Reduces governmental and attorneys’ costs associated with your company’s private stock offering

Rule 506 (b) is not the only federal preemption to the Blue Sky Laws, but it is probably a more cost-effective strategy for your small business.

If you have questions about the securities laws, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Leahy-Smith America Invents Act changes Patent Law

America Invents Act (AIA) Celebrates 5th Anniversary

What is the America Invents Act?

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act was signed into law five years ago today. This legislation changed the legal landscape of patent system in the United States.

Prior to the America Invents Act, the United States was “first to invent” nation – meaning that the first person to invent the invention was presumed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to be the inventor.

What is the Significance of the America Invents Act?

Pursuant to the America Invents Act, the United States is now a “first to file” nation – meaning that the first person to file the necessary documents in the USPTO is presumed by the USPTO to be the inventor.

How Does This Change My Intellectual Property Needs?

Because of the Leahy-Smith American Invents Act, more and more of my clients are opting to file Provisional Patent Applications.  Under the America Invents Act, filing Provisional Applications eliminates some of the pitfalls that were not a problem for Applicants prior to 2011.

Proponents of the Act say this law streamlines the process and encourages an increase in domestic innovation. Opponents of the Act have claimed that the changes favor large business over micro-businesses and the individual inventor.

To learn more general information about the changes implemented by this law, contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss how these rules apply to your inventions.

If you would like to stay abreast of changes and other news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.