Knowles Electronics v. Matal (Fed. Cir. 2017)
In an interesting sua sponte order, the Federal Circuit has demanded briefing on whether the USPTO has the right to intervene in an appeal from an inter partes reexamination decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).
Analog Devices filed for the inter partes review against Knowles’ U.S. Patent No. 8,018,049 covering a Silicon Condenser Microphone Package. The PTAB agreed with the challenge and found a substantial number of the claims unpatentable.
The setup here is that the patentee is appealing the PTAB unpatentability decision, but Analog has dropped its case. As such, the PTO has stepped-in as an intervenor in the case. The Federal Circuit then asks:
When the prevailing party in an inter partes reexamination proceeding before the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) declines to appear before this court to defend the decision below, is the USPTO’s Director required to possess Article III standing in order to intervene?
If yes, does the Director possess such standing in this appeal?
Additionally, if the Director does in fact possess standing; must the Director defend the Board’s decision? Alternatively, what are the ramifications if the Director declines to defend the Board’s decision?
Although the case here focuses on the vestige inter partes reexamination system, it has obvious and direct implications for the replacement inter parties reviews.