by Dennis Crouch
Wi-Fi One v. Broadcom (Fed. Cir. 2017)
First en banc order of the year: the Federal Circuit will review the following question:
Should this court overrule Achates Reference Publishing, Inc. v. Apple Inc., 803 F.3d 652 (Fed. Cir. 2015) and hold that judicial review is available for a patent owner to challenge the PTO’s determination that the petitioner satisfied the timeliness requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 315(b) governing the filing of petitions for inter partes review?
en banc order. Briefs of amicus curiae may be filed without consent.
One Year Filing Deadline: Section 315(b) creates a statute of limitations for inter partes review proceedings – indicating that the petition for IPR must be filed within one-year of “the date on which the petitioner, real party in interest, or privy of the petitioner is served with a complaint alleging infringement of the patent.” Here, Wi-Fi argues that Broadcom was in privity with entities involved in parallel district court litigation involving challenged patents — creating a time bar under 315(b).
The PTAB rejected Wi-Fi’s argument and call for discovery on the issue — holding that the “privy” requirement could only be met if Broadcom had the right to control the District Court litigation.
No Appeal: On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed – holding Section 314(d) prohibits appellate review of the institution issue. In particular Section 314(d) states that
The determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.
In Achates, the court ruled that the one-year-deadline determination is an institution decision – “even if such assessment is reconsidered during the merits phase of proceedins and restated as part of the Board’s final written decision.”
In the background stands the 2016 Supreme Court decision in Cuozzo. In that case, the Supreme Court gave effect to the no-appeal provision of 314(d). However, the Supreme Court noted that unusual questions – such as constitutional questions – might still be appealable. The foundation for the en banc review decision will be its interpretation of the following Cuozzo excerpts:
We conclude that [314(d)], though it may not bar consideration of a constitutional question, for example, does bar judicial review of the kind of mine-run claim at issue here, involving the Patent Office’s decision to institute inter partes review. . . .
Nevertheless, in light of §314(d)’s own text and the presumption favoring review, we emphasize that our interpretation applies where the grounds for attacking the decision to institute inter partes review consist of questions that are closely tied to the application and interpretation of statutes related to the Patent Office’s decision to initiate inter partes review. See §314(d) (barring appeals of “determinations . . . to initiate an inter partes review under this section” (emphasis added)). This means that we need not, and do not, decide the precise effect of §314(d) on appeals that implicate constitutional questions, that depend on other less closely related statutes, or that present other questions of interpretation that reach, in terms of scope and impact, well beyond “this section.” . . . Thus, contrary to the dissent’s suggestion, we do not categorically preclude review of a final decision where a petition fails to give “sufficient notice” such that there is a due process problem with the entire proceeding, nor does our interpretation enable the agency to act outside its statutory limits by, for example, canceling a patent claim for “indefiniteness under §112” in inter partes review. Such “shenanigans” may be properly reviewable in the context of §319 and under the Administrative Procedure Act, which enables reviewing courts to “set aside agency action” that is “contrary to constitutional right,” “in excess of statutory jurisdiction,” or “arbitrary [and] capricious.”
The question then for court is whether we have a shenanigan here.