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Thursday Dec 03, 2020

PTAB’s Motion to Amend Pilot Program shows promising results

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO

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On March 15, 2019, the USPTO implemented a pilot program for motions to amend (MTAs) in AIA trials before the PTAB. In MTAs, patent owners may request to cancel challenged claims or propose substitute claims to replace challenged claims if they are found unpatentable. We have seen promising results for claim amendments made under this pilot program and want to share these with you.

Under the pilot program, a patent owner has two new options. First, the patent owner can request preliminary guidance from the Board on its MTA. Second, the patent owner may file a revised MTA in response to preliminary guidance (if requested) or to the petitioner’s opposition. In short, by providing for guidance and an opportunity to revise the MTA, the pilot program provides for back and forth between the Board and the patent owner that did not previously exist.

If a patent owner requests preliminary guidance, the Board will provide feedback on the statutory and regulatory requirements for an MTA, as well as on patentability of the proposed substitute claims based on the record at that time. The patent owner may then file a revised MTA in response to the preliminary guidance. Alternatively, if the patent owner does not request preliminary guidance, it may file a revised MTA in response to the petitioner’s opposition to the original MTA. Notably, if a patent owner does not choose either pilot option, then the MTA proceeds under effectively the same practice as before implementation of the pilot program.

The pilot program applies to all AIA trials instituted on or after March 15, 2019, and patent owners could start filing MTAs under the program in June of 2019. Between June 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, patent owners requested preliminary guidance in 76% of MTAs, or 78 out of 102 MTAs. Thereafter, 79% of patent owners filed a revised MTA.  From April 1, 2020 through September 30, 2020, the PTAB issued 31 Final Written Decisions addressing pilot-eligible MTAs. So far, the pilot program options are being used in the vast majority of MTAs. Moreover, early results suggest that patent owners who chose at least one of the pilot program options are more likely to have their MTAs granted for at least one proposed substitute claim as compared to MTAs that do not use the pilot program options. 

Specifically, out of the 31 Final Written Decisions with MTAs that were eligible for the pilot program, 22 elected at least one of the pilot program options. And out of the 22 MTAs in which patent owners elected at least one pilot program option, 36% had at least one proposed substitute claim granted. By contrast, of the nine MTAs where patent owners did not elect either pilot program option only 11% had at least one proposed substitute claim granted. Before the pilot program, only about 14% of MTAs had at least one proposed substitute claim granted. 

The USPTO implemented the MTA pilot program with the goal of providing a more robust amendment practice in AIA trials, in a manner that is fair and balanced for all parties and stakeholders. Through this practice, the aim is to ensure that patent owners have viable opportunities to amend claims challenged by third parties. Preliminary data indicates that the pilot program is working as intended.

We remain committed to monitoring and evaluating the effects of the MTA pilot program, and welcome all feedback

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