Waitrose has agreed to stop producing “copycat” chocolate slabs following an ongoing dispute with Hotel Chocolat.
Hotel Chocolat accused Waitrose of infringing its intellectual property rights in its distinctive curved shaped chocolate slab. This was further reinforced when individuals were taking to Twitter to question whether Hotel Chocolat were actually producing the chocolate slabs for Waitrose. Hotel Chocolat requested that Waitrose removed the offending chocolate slabs from sale.
On Friday 9 February, the Federal Court handed down its highly anticipated decision in Meat & Livestock Australia Limited v Cargill, Inc  FCA 51. The matter has attracted substantial media attention in Australia and generated debate about whether patents claiming methods which use genetic information should be allowed.
The principal claims of the application in suit involve method claims for identifying a trait of a bovine subject from a nucleic acid sample. In particular, the invention made use of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).
Australia’s “grace period” provisions allow a patent applicant to disclose or use their invention within 12 months before filing a complete patent application in Australia. In an interesting interpretation of those provisions, the Australian Patent Office has found that the grace period applies to whole of contents citations published after a patent application has been filed.
The emergence of “plausibility” as a test for inventive step, sufficiency and industrial applicability represents a significant legal development in Europe in recent years. Now the concept of plausibility has reached Australian shores, with the Australian Patent Office applying it in a test for sufficiency.
On October 4, 2017, the Federal Circuit held en banc that the proper interpretation of 35 U.S.C. 316(d) and (e) requires the Petitioner in an inter partes review (IPR) to prove all propositions of unpatentability, including for amended claims. Aqua Prods., Inc. v. Matal, No. 2015-1177 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 4, 2017). The en banc Court further determined that the PTAB must consider the entirety of the record when assessing the patentability of amended claims under 318(a), not merely the face of a motion to amend.
The Aqua case resulted in five opinions totaling 148 pages, each presenting views on judgment and underlying rationale, ultimately leading to a narrowly tailored holding. In the decision, the Federal Circuit made clear that the burden of persuasion of patentability does not rest with the Patent Owner; instead, it is left to the Petitioner to establish that any proposed amended claims are not patentable.
The United Kingdom’s new Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Act 2017 (the Act) was recently granted royal assent and is set to come into force in October 2017. The Act should make it easier to advise clients, avoid litigation and facilitate the negotiation of settlements by outlining what types of threats are unjustified. The Act will also harmonise the UK law on unjustified threats across patents, trade marks and design rights.
Currently, the law allows those accused of infringing intellectual property to sue for damages if threats of legal action against them are revealed to be groundless. This can lead to rights-holders becoming wary of challenging perceived threats to their intellectual property because they do not want to risk their threats being perceived as groundless and, as a result, do not exercise full protection of their intellectual property rights.
On June 12, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Oil States Energy Services, LLC’s petition for a writ of certiorari to address the following question: “Whether inter partes review—an adversarial process used by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to analyze the validity of existing patents—violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury.” The Supreme Court declined to grant certiorari on Oil States’ remaining two questions presented, relating to amendment procedures and claim construction.
Oil States’ argument is that patents are private property rights that can only be revoked by an Article III court, not by an Article I agency. In particular, Oil States urges the Supreme Court to overturn the Federal Circuit’s decision in MCM Portfolio LLC v. Hewlett-Packard Co., which held that patents are public rights and that “Congress has the power to delegate disputes over public rights to non-Article III courts.” The Federal Circuit has already upheld the constitutionality of the PTO’s ex parte reexamination process in Patlex Corp. v. Mossinghoff. In doing so, consistent with MCM, the Federal Circuit affirmed the power of an Article I agency to adjudicate the validity of an issued patent in the first instance.
The Supreme Court previously rejected three other petitions challenging the constitutionality of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) proceedings. And, as recently as last month, the same issue was presented for en banc review to the Federal Circuit, which declined to review in a 10–2 vote. Accordingly, this case will present the first opportunity for the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of the immensely popular post-grant proceedings put in place by the America Invents Act. The case also presents interesting issues regarding a patentee’s right to a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment.
Updates to this alert will be provided as they become available. 812 F.3d 1284, 1289 (Fed. Cir. 2015).  758 F.2d 594 (Fed. Cir. 1985).  Id. at 604.  Cascades Projection LLC v. Epson Am., Inc., No. 2017-1517, slip op. at 2 (Fed. Cir. May 10, 2017).