In a new filing, Alexander Shukh has asked the Federal Circuit to stay its mandate pending Mr. Shukh’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari. In his unsuccessful petition for en banc rehearing, Shukh asked the following question:
Whether, in a Section 256 Correction of Inventor action, does the common interest doctrine of attorney-client privilege entitle an inventor to access and use his own invention records and communications?
The Federal rules of appellate procedure do not require stay of mandate in the situation but permitted in cases where “the certiorari petition would present a substantial question and that there is good cause for a stay.” Here, I would expect that standard has been met. In particular, in the Stanford v. Roche case, the Supreme Court openly questioned the illogic of FilmTec. I have included an excerpt on-point from the Stanford oral arguments.
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JUSTICE GINSBURG: The whole thing that was wrong here is that Stanford, instead of drafting the agreement “I agree to assign,” should have said “I hereby assign” and then there would be no case. Is that — the Cetus agreement said “I hereby assign,” and the Federal Circuit said for that reason, even though it was second in time, it takes precedence. Stanford just said “I will assign.”
So if Stanford had instead used exactly the formula that Cetus used — “I agree to assign and hereby do assign” — would you have any case?
MR. FLEMING: …But Justice Ginsburg, your question is — is sound, which is that there is this distinction between an agreement to assign and a present assignment of future expected interests. That has been the law for decades. There are plenty of settled expectations based on that. That has not been challenged, not in the petition for certiorari, not in the opening brief of Stanford, and it only comes up in a footnote on the penultimate page of the reply brief. . . .
JUSTICE GINSBURG: We have a number of sample clauses in this record, and some say “I will assign.” Some say “I hereby do assign.” The notion that the — that answer, who is it who loses, should turn on whether one drafter says “I agree to assign” and the other says “I hereby assign” does seem very odd.
MR. FLEMING: That’s a distinction, Justice Ginsburg, that goes back to the Federal Circuit decision in Arachnid by Judge Giles Rich, who is a notable authority on the patent act. He relied on the Curtis treatise from 1873. But if that were an issue that the Court wished to reconsider, I think –
JUSTICE SCALIA: Is that patent law or is it regular contract law? Doesn’t it apply in other fields as well? I mean, I’m — I’m not aware that this is a peculiar doctrine applicable to patent law.
MR. FLEMING: No, not in particular. An agreement to assign is specifically that. It’s an agreement to do an assignment in the future.
JUSTICE SCALIA: To do it in the future. If somebody else gets an assignment before that agreement is — is executed, the assignment prevails.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Then we’re talking about nonexistent property; property that may never, in fact, exist?
MR. FLEMING: That comes from the FilmTec decision, which relied on Justice Storey’s decision in Mitchell, and it’s used, again, by universities like Caltech and MIT that rely on the validity of a present assignment of future expected interest. I mean, I know that the issue of the interpretation of agreements to assign was addressed in the cert petition in ProStar v. IP Venture, which this Court denied cert on three terms ago. But if this Court were to wish to reconsider that doctrine, I would submit it can be done in an appropriate case where there is an amicus briefing on that issue. That’s not been considered here at all.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: So in the future, the universities would be protected against a third party simply by changing the form of contract with their employees to say “I hereby assign,” so we would have no continuing problem?
MR. FLEMING: I — they — they would be protected from this particular constellation of facts that came up in this case. There might be other problems –
JUSTICE BREYER: Yes, and then your clients would be out there arguing, oh, but you, see you can’t assign a future interests in the fruits from black acre; I mean, you can promise to do it, but black acre isn’t even around yet. And so when somebody ran in and got those fruits, well, then now we have a fight; and in law the second person wins, and in equity maybe the first person can get an injunction. I don’t know. But I guess people would raise that kind of argument, wouldn’t they?
MR. FLEMING: The point, Justice Breyer, is that all these questions are resolved in the exactly same way when we’re not talking about a federally funded invention.