In a recent en banc decision concerning the standard for assessing obviousness challenges to design patents, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit discarded its long-standing standard, known as the Rosen-Durling test and regarded by many as overly-rigid, and held that the standard for design patents should be the same as for utility patents.  The decision in LKQ Corporation v. GM Global Technology Operations LLC[1] will have significant implications for design patent applicants and owners going forward.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) issued guidance on February 13, 2024 (the “Guidance”) regarding the patentability of inventions created or developed with the assistance of artificial intelligence (“AI”), a novel issue on which the USPTO has been seeking input from various public and private stakeholders over the past few years.  President Biden mandated the issuance of such Guidance in his executive order on AI (see our prior alert here)[1] in October 2023.  The Guidance aims to clarify how patent applications involving AI-assisted inventions will be examined by patent examiners, and reaffirms the existing jurisprudence maintaining that only natural persons, not AI tools, can be listed as inventors.  However, the Guidance clarifies that AI-assisted inventions are not automatically ineligible for patent protection so long as one or more natural persons “significantly contributed” to the invention.  Overall, the Guidance underscores the need for a balanced approach to inventorship that acknowledges both technological advancements and human innovation.  The USPTO is seeking public feedback on the Guidance, which is due by May 13, 2024.

In an opinion issued December 4, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit[1] reversed a lower court’s denial of Intel Corporation’s (“Intel’s”) motion for leave to amend its answer to assert a new license defense in a patent infringement suit brought by VLSI Technology LLC (“VLSI”).  The decision paves the way for Intel to make the case that it received a license to VLSI’s patents when a company that Intel had an existing license with became affiliated with VLSI due to its acquisition by an investment management firm.

On June 6, 2023, New York Senate Bill S5640 / Assembly Bill A5295 (“S5640”) won near-unanimous final passage in the New York Assembly with a 147-1 vote, after being passed unanimously by the Senate the previous week.  If signed into law by Governor Hochul, the legislation would, effective immediately, add to New York labor law a new section 203-f that renders unenforceable provisions in employee agreements that require employees to assign certain inventions developed using the employee’s own property and time. 

In a unanimous decision published on May 18, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated two of Amgen’s patents for its cholesterol drug, Repatha, making it more difficult for patentees to obtain broadly worded patents.[1]  The case – Amgen Inc. v. Sanofi – involves a dispute between the two pharmaceutical companies over the “enablement” requirement of 35 U.S.C. Section 112,[2] specifically how much a patent must disclose in order to “enable” a skilled person to make and use the claimed invention without undue trial and error.  The Supreme Court held that Amgen failed to provide enough detail to recreate the full scope of its claimed invention, and that if a patent claims an entire class of processes, machines, manufactures or compositions of matter then the patent must include sufficient information that enables a person skilled in the art to make and use the entire class.

What You Need To Know

  1. From 1 June 2023, a new EU unitary patent system (UPS) will become fully effective. A unitary patent (UP) is a European patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) to which, at the patent owner’s request, unitary effect is given for the territory of the EU Member States that have ratified the Unified Patent Court Agreement – currently, 17 EU Member States. UPs give patent owners uniform protection across participating EU Member States, removing the need for national validation procedures as well as individual national enforcement in each EU Member State.