getting the sense that the patent system is facing serious problems these days? When I got into this game in 1983, the then-newly-formed Federal Circuit was supposed to bring uniformity, predictability and even respectability to the patent system. And it did — for a while. Under former Chief Judge Markey, the Federal Circuit’s decisions made sense. They applied and relied on written statutes — you know, the kind actually passed by Congress and signed by the President and all. They addressed important issues of patent law and provided clear, practical answers that could be understood and applied in the future. (I didn’t always agree with them, but at least you could understand and apply them.) And, most importantly, the decisions appeared to be part of a genuine effort to build a consistent, workable and fair body of law that would resolve disputes justly and promote innovation as intended by the Constitution. Over the last several years, however, I’ve wondered whether we are going forward or backward. Is it just me, or is anyone else going crazy trying to figure out what the Federal Circuit is doing? The good news is that the Supreme Court has taken up the eBay case and granted cert. The question, as I understand it, is whether courts should automatically grant permanent injunctions when infringement is found. Personally, I think they should — exclusive use is the essence of any property right. But the real significance is the Supreme Court’s willingness to provide oversight over the Federal Circuit. Recently, too, a petition for cert was filed in the Phillips case. Dennis Crouch has a copy of the petition at his Patently-O blog. It’s interesting reading. I sincerely hope the Supreme Court takes the case. The reality that any three judge panel of the Federal Circuit can effectively overrule the factual findings of a lower court without any showing of clear error and simply because the panel wants a different result, runs counter to the idea that we are a nation of laws. The petition, in what I see as a courageous move, actually notes that, having appropriated for itself the sole power ultimately to decide what patent claims mean, the Federal Circuit is unlikely on its own to give up that power — hence the need for Supreme Court intervention. (I love it when other people have the courage to say what the rest of us are thinking!) The idea that claim construction is solely a matter of law devoid of factual underpinnings is a farce and a fraud and should be discarded. (In my view, it also runs counter to the Seventh Amendment but that’s another matter. And yes, I’m aware that the Supreme Court in Markman said otherwise.) Finally, in my own small way, I am, on behalf of one of clients, seeking en banc reconsideration [Download file] of an adverse ruling I received from the Federal Circuit last month. In that case, the Federal Circuit shot down one of our patent claims as lacking written description, even though the claim elements themselves were all indisputably described and the claim itself was an originally filed claim that was allowed and issued without amendment. I’m admittedly biased, but honestly think the Federal Circuit’s ruling simply can’t be reconciled with prior CCPA precedent holding that originally filed claims automatically satisfy the written description requirement and that “nothing more is necessary.” See In re Gardner, 475 F.2d 1389, 1391 (CCPA 1973). The good news is that the petition has not been denied summarily as usually happens. The Federal Circuit has requested and received a response from my worthy opponents. So far, there’s been no decision yet on whether to grant the petition. Given that the current law regarding the “written description” requirement is, to put it politely, confused, I am hopeful the Court will soon take the matter up en banc, preferably in my case, but if not, in another.

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Photo of Philip P. Mann Philip P. Mann

Philip P. Mann is a trial lawyer with over twenty years experience litigating patent, trademark, trade secret, and other intellectual property matters throughout the country.

Mann’s trial work has taken him to various federal and state courts where he’s tried both cases to…

Philip P. Mann is a trial lawyer with over twenty years experience litigating patent, trademark, trade secret, and other intellectual property matters throughout the country.

Mann’s trial work has taken him to various federal and state courts where he’s tried both cases to the court (a judge) as well as before juries. In addition to trial court work, Mann has performed appellate work before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Mann began his legal career in Chicago and Milwaukee before heading to Seattle where some of America’s most innovative companies were developing new technologies at breakneck speed. Before founding his own firm, he was a member of the Seattle Intellectual Property Law Firm, Christensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness.

Mann is an “AV” rated lawyer by Martindale Hubbell, indicative that he has reached the height of professional excellence and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity.

He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois (Urbana) and received his law degree from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri. He is admitted to practice in the States of Illinois and Washington, as well as before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and in various courts around the country.