Phigenix v. ImmunoGen (Fed. Cir. 2017)
In this case, the patentee ImmunoGen won its case before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) with a judgment that the challenged claims are not obvious. U.S. Patent No. 8,337,856. Phigenix appealed, but the appellate court has dismissed the case for lack of standing – holding that the challenger-appellant failed provide “sufficient proof establishing that it has suffered an injury in fact.”
Article III of the U.S. Constitution provides for federal judicial power over “cases [and] controversies.” Although not found in the text, the Supreme Court requires existence of an “actual” conflict between the parties — thus prohibiting the courts from issuing advisory opinions. The doctrine of standing requires that a plaintiff/appellant “have (1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the [defendant/appellee], (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” (quoting Spokeo (2016)). As a Constitional limit on judicial power, standing must always exist during a lawsuit and may be raised sua sponte by a trial or appellate court.
The case here began with Phigenix’ filing its inter partes review (IPR) petition. Since the PTO/PTAB is an administrative agency empowered by statute and Article I of the Constitution, its power is not limited by Article III. Thus, for IPR petitions, the PTO Director need not concern herself with the question of whether the petitioner has standing in the Federal Courts sense. When the case is appealed, however, the appellant must provide the required proof of injury.
In this case, Phigenix is something of a competitor of the patentee ImmunoGen and, although Phigenix does not plan to use the patented invention itself (at this point the company is only a licensor), the appellant argues that the existence of the patent makes ImmunoGen a stronger market competitor – leading to actual economic injury. In the appeal, the Federal Circuit suggests that the injury might be sufficient – but that Phigenix failed to prove its existence.
The conclusory statements in the Gold Declaration and the [attorney] letter as to the hypothetical licensing injury therefore do not satisfy the requirements of Rule 56(c)(4).
Without providing the evidence of injury, the court could not hear the case. The court also reiterated its prior position that the right-to-appeal created by 35 U.S.C. 141(c) does not replace the standing requirement. See Lujan and Consumer Watchdog.