The AIA-Trial claim construction issue is important and many of us would like to see the Supreme Court address it in Cuozzo. However, there is one legal matter that has been an elephant-in-the-room since the Cuozzo appeals began several years ago: Standing.
As a general matter, parties do not have standing to raise issues on appeal that have no impact on the underlying dispute. Likewise, a court has no jurisdiction over issues when the parties have no standing. An important feature of standing is that it is generally non-waivable. Rather, a court must dismiss a case when one or more parties lack standing — even if (as here) neither party raise the issue.
The standard theory of claim construction is that the USPTO’s “Broadest Reasonable Construction” is broader than the standard Phillips construction used by courts in infringement litigation. The theory behind this change in standard is that it allows the PTO to serve a gatekeeping role to better in sure that issued patents are valid patents. The particular oddity of the underlying case is that Cuozzo is asking for the Phillips standard to be applied in order to receive a broader claim construction of the term “Integrally Attached.” Here, on its way to finding the disputed claims obvious, the PTAB construed the term in a way that excluded a described embodiment of the invention and Cuozzo has argued that the proper construction includes that embodiment. To be clear here, a more broadly construed claim would encompass more prior art and thus are more likely to be invalid as obvious. Although not strictly impossible, it would indeed be a rare case where the narrower claim is obvious while the broader is nonobvious. [edited this] Point here is that if Cuozzo gets what it wants from this question on appeal (a broader claim scope), it is no closer to overturning the decision that the claim is obvious – in fact, Cuozzo will be further from that goal.
Although only spending a few pages on the issue, the newly filed Public Knowledge amicus brief roughly outlines case:
[I]n this case, Cuozzo’s patent received a narrow interpretation, and Cuozzo seeks to have the patent read to encompass more subject matter, not less. In other words, Cuozzo is asking for a narrower claim construction standard in order to obtain a broader claim construction. . . . This backwards fact pattern is not just puzzling; it potentially means that Cuozzo has no standing to raise the question, such that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the case.”
[Read the Brief: CuozzoPKAmicus.]
Cuozzo is not run by idiots. Rather, Cuozzo appears to be taking a broader strategy — it wants the term broadly construed in this case so that it will help the enforcement of parallel claims in other cases. PK explains again:
Why, then, does Cuozzo pursue this case? It cannot be to alter the outcome of the inter partes review, as the district court standard will leave Cuozzo’s patent claims equally invalid—a broader reading of a claim cannot be valid when a narrower one is invalid for obviousness. Instead, the record reveals that Cuozzo seeks a broader claim construction in order to facilitate its infringement arguments in unrelated litigation—a manipulative attempt to commandeer inter partes review to ends
external to the proceeding.
Apart from PK’s snide “manipulative” remark, I am on-board with this analysis.
At this point, it may make the most sense for the Supreme Court to dismiss the claim construction issue as improvidently granted but retain question two regarding the appeal of institution decisions.