Hyatt v. USPTO – Procedural Limbo in the Patent Process?
(Photograph Courtesy of Gilbert P. Hyatt)
Gilbert P. Hyatt v. USPTO (D. Nevada 2014)
We recently had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Gil Hyatt. Gil is a well-known and prolific inventor in early computer technology, being named on more than 70 issued patents. Over the years, he has also been a successful litigant in many patent-related matters. As recently as 2012, Gil prevailed in a case at the U.S. Supreme Court against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
On January 3, 2014, Gil filed a complaint against the USPTO relating to two appealed patent applications. The appealed patent applications have been pending at the USPTO since the early 1970s, i.e., over 40 years. Gil alleges that the delay of the USPTO in these appealed patent applications is unreasonable under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701(1).
As a patent practitioner, the facts of this case are quite shocking. According to USPTO statistics, the typical amount of patent pendency is 28.3 months. This means that, if an inventor were to file a patent application today, the inventor would normally expect to receive a patent in about 2-1/2 years. Gil’s patent applications have been pending for 16x longer than is normal.
According to Gil’s complaint, the USPTO has engaged in “a deliberate strategy to deny him adjudication of his pending patent applications.” In both cases, the USPTO has apparently furnished no written answer to the filed appeal briefs, and no decision has been made by the Appeal Board. Many formal petitions for action on the merits and requests for status updates have purportedly been filed by Gil, also to no avail. A number of interviews with USPTO officials have also taken place, allegedly without resulting in any action.
These conversations with USPTO officials have also caused Gil to believe that the USPTO is intentionally refusing to grant any more patents to him. Indeed, no patent has issued to Gil since 1997. According to the complaint at paragraph 46:
During an in-person conference with the Director of the Technology Center responsible for examination of Mr. Hyatt’s patent applications – which is documented in the record of two of Mr. Hyatt’s patent applications – Mr. Hyatt pointed out “the scenario of applications going round and round from the examining groups to the Board and then back to the examining groups and then back to the Board.” The Director confirmed that this was the policy that the PTO was pursuing toward him.
The Hyatt patent applications apparently exist in a state of procedural limbo at the USPTO. There is no doubt that this situation is quite unusual. However, since his patent applications are not published, the “file wrappers” or official records of actions taken by both Gil and the USPTO remain secret at this time. There is also no way of knowing the importance of the inventions being claimed, or the general impact that the patents would have if they were to issue. We will be following this case closely, and are most interested in reading the USPTO’s answer to the complaint when filed.
For other articles on Mr. Gilbert P. Hyatt, and his actions in court and at the USPTO, see the following links: