While a line of argument in an IPR may seem promising to a patent owner addressing one particular ground of rejection, it is critical for the patent owner to analyze how the argument may impact other grounds of rejections. A seemingly necessary position against one ground may result in substantially limited options for the patent owner with respect to other rejections. While IPR proceedings are limited by statute to prior art challenges (novelty and obviousness), contingent amendments (substitute claims) are also subject to further analysis (such as scope and written description support). In a recent decision, the PTAB rejected a patent owner’s §§ 102 and 103 arguments relating to substitute claims, and then proceeded to perform an alternative analysis under § 112 (written description), finding that the outcome would not change, in part, because of the patent owner’s own § 102 argument.
In IPRs, secondary considerations such as unexpected results can play a determinative role in evaluating obviousness, particularly when there is a clear nexus with the claimed invention. In general, ‘differences in degree’ of a known and expected property are not as persuasive in rebutting obviousness as ‘differences in kind’ (for example, a new property dissimilar to the known property). Such was the case in Coalition for Affordable Drugs v. Pozen, Inc. (IPR2015-01718), in a decision that may leave some feeling queasy.