Hyatt v. Hirshfeld, No. 18-2390 (Fed. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Until 1995, a patent’s term was 17 years from the date of issuance, which incentivized certain patentees to delay by abandoning applications and filing continuing applications in their place to obtain patents at a financially desirable time. In 1995, changes in the law triggered a patent application rush. Hyatt, the named inventor on 399 patent applications, bulk-filed 381 applications during that "bubble," each a photocopy of an earlier application. Four applications relate to computer technologies, claim priority to applications filed in the 1970s and 1980s, and are atypically long and complex. Hyatt filed multiple amendments. From 2003 to 2012, the PTO stayed the examination of many of Hyatt’s applications pending litigation. The Board of Patent Appeals affirmed the rejection of the four applications.
Hyatt filed suit under 35 U.S.C. 145. The district court ordered the PTO to issue the patents.
The Federal Circuit vacated. Prosecution laches may “render a patent unenforceable when it has issued only after an unreasonable and unexplained delay in prosecution that constitutes an egregious misuse of the statutory patent system under a totality of the circumstances” and is a defense available to the PTO in an action to obtain a patent. The district court erred in concluding that the PTO failed to prove prosecution laches. Rather than analyze the evidence of Hyatt’s conduct, the court repeatedly placed blame on the PTO. The court held the issues invalidity for anticipation and lack of written description.in abeyance.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on June 8, 2021.