SAS v ComplementSoft (Fed. Cir. 2016)
Today, the Federal Circuit denied SAS’s en banc request challenging the USPTO’s approach to partial-institution of inter partes review petitions. In a substantial number of cases, the PTO only partially agrees with the IPR petition and thus grants a trial on only some of the challenged claims. In the present case, for instance, SAS’s IPR Petition challenged all of the claims (1-16) found in ComplementSoft’s Patent No. 7,110,936, but the Director (via the Board) instituted review only on claims 1 and 3-10.
The statute seems to side with SAS: The Board “shall issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner” 35 U.S.C. § 318(a). However, the appellate panel in this case (following prior precedent) held that “Section 318(a) only requires the Board to address claims as to which review was granted.”
In its petition, SAS wrotes:
Because § 318(a) is clear and unambiguous in requiring a final written decision as to “any patent claim challenged by the petitioner,” the PTO had no authority to adopt a contrary rule authorizing IPRs “to proceed on all or some of the challenged claims,” 37 C.F.R. § 42.108(a). Regardless of efficiency or workload concerns, the PTO’s rulemaking authority “does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms.” Utility Air Regulatory Grp. v. Environmental Protection Agency, 134 S. Ct. 2427, 2446 (2014).
In what appears to be a 10-1 decision, the Federal Circuit has denied SAS’s petition for en banc review. Although the majority offered no opinion, Judge Newman did offer her dissent (as she did in the original panel decision).