Huntington v. U.S. Department of Commerce

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA R. DANNY HUNTINGTON, Plaintiff, v. Civil Action No. 15-2249 (JEB) U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, Defendant. MEMORANDUM OPINION Plaintiff R. Danny Huntington has been on a quest to uncover everything he can about a confidential U.S. Patent and Trademark Office program called the Sensitive Application Warning System (SAWS). The program, which the USPTO recently abandoned, was used to flag certain patent applications involving particularly sensitive subject matter. Seeking to learn more about SAWS, Plaintiff filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests with the USPTO, a component of Defendant U.S. Department of Commerce. After a search and the production of some, but not all, relevant documents, Huntington brought this suit. In the second of two prior Opinions, this Court ordered Defendant to resolve one remaining area of deficiency in its search. Commerce has now filed a Second Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment claiming that it has adequately done so. The Court agrees; as it finds that the USPTO has satisfied FOIA’s dictates, it will grant summary judgment in Defendant’s favor. Having successfully obtained another 67 pages of records in this round, Plaintiff’s expedition – at least via this lawsuit – is finally finished. 1 I. Background The Court’s first Opinion in this matter lays out the full details of the controversy, see Huntington v. U.S. Dep’t of Commerce (Huntington I), 234 F. Supp. 3d 94, 98-100 (D.D.C. 2017), so they are only briefly summarized here. In 1994, the USPTO implemented the SAWS program “to allow patent examiners to alert leadership when a patent might issue on a sensitive matter.” See ECF No. 14-4 (Declaration of John Ricou Heaton), ¶ 21. This alert triggered an internal quality-assurance check, see ECF No. 18-1 (Supplemental Declaration of John Ricou Heaton), ¶ 22, which could affect whether an application was ultimately granted or denied. See Heaton Decl., ¶ 9. If the patent was issued, then a SAWS report – describing the invention and its sensitive nature – would be generated and, depending on the issue, sent up the chain of command. Id. SAWS reports were also sent to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) as part of the appeals process. See Huntington I, 234 F. Supp. 3d at 108. The USPTO abandoned the program in March 2015. Id. During the first half of 2015, Huntington submitted several FOIA requests to the USPTO seeking records related to SAWS. After Commerce initially released some documents, see ECF No. 11-4, Exh. 2-2 at B002, Huntington filed multiple unsuccessful administrative appeals, id., Exhs. 2-3, 2-4, and then brought this suit in December 2015, alleging that Defendant had failed to both conduct an adequate search and produce responsive records. See ECF No. 1 (Complaint), ¶¶ 34-43. In response, the USPTO undertook “a more thorough subsequent search,” Heaton Decl., ¶ 23, and released 4,114 pages and five spreadsheets of material, of which one document was redacted in full and 132 pages were redacted in part pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 3, 5, and ...

Original document
Source: All recent Immigration Decisions In All the U.S. Courts of Appeals