By Dennis Crouch PDF Version of the Article
This study provides an issue-by-issue analysis of decisions on ex parte appeals by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). All the cases in this study were appealed to the BPAI after one or more of the pending claims were rejected by a patent examiner.
In the study, I report that most BPAI appeals focus on two or more issues. Of those, the majority of issues (61%) are affirmed and the remainder reversed. When more issues are presented, the case as a whole becomes more likely to be affirmed-in-part. In addition, I find that the likelihood that a case is affirmed has increased over time (Jan 2008 - May 2009).
By far, the most common issue on appeal is obviousness. I find that 87% - 90% of ex parte BPAI decisions decide an issue of obviousness. Only 4% of appeals consider neither obviousness nor novelty. The major aberration of this trend is for cases involving biotechnology and organic chemistry (TC 1600). 18% of BPAI decisions arising from TC 1600 focus on issues other than obviousness and novelty.
In comparing results by issue, I find that obviousness rejections are more likely to be affirmed than are other types of rejections. Most cases (74%) that discuss neither obviousness nor novelty are reversed.
The BPAI is becoming increasingly important. Over the past several years, the BPAI has seen a dramatic rise in the number of appeals being filed. In addition every recent patent reform legislative proposal has included an increased role for the Board.