Translogic Tech. v. Dudas (on petition for certiorari 2008)
In 2007, Professor John Duffy wrote a Patently-O Patent Law Journal article challenging the constitutionality of the current system for appointing administrative patent judges. The Patent Act requires the Director of the PTO to appoint BPAI judges. 35 U.S.C. §6. However, under Article II of the constitution, appointment of “inferior officers” such as these may only be delegated as far as a “Head of Department.” In this case, the head of department would be the Secretary of Commerce – not the PTO Director.
Now, Translogic has repackaged Professor Duffy’s article in its petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court — arguing that the BPAI’s rejection of the Translogic patent during reexamination should be vacated because one of the APJs was unconstitutionally appointed. (Based on the BPAI decision, the CAFC Set aside an $80 million jury verdict against Hitachi).
The question presented:
Under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, art. II, § 2, cl. 2, Congress may vest the appointment of inferior officers in the President, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments. In this case, one of the three members of a panel of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (“Board”) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) that ruled on the claims of Petitioner’s patent was appointed by the Director of the PTO, who is not the Head of a Department.
The Questions Presented are:
- Whether one of the members of the panel of the Board was appointed in violation of the Appointments Clause; and
- If so, whether there must be a vacatur of the Board’s decision.
Translogic’s brief is clean and could be an easy grant. It raises questions that the Supreme Court is designed to answer: how the Constitution limits federal law. The only knock is that this issue was not raised at the BPAI or the CAFC (until a rehearing request) – primarily because Professor Duffy’s article was not yet published.
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