by Dennis Crouch
We have a more complete post coming on Monday, but wanted to highlight Arthrex v. Smith & Nephew (Fed. Cir. 2019). In Arthrex, the Federal Circuit held that the PTAB Judge (APJ) appointments process “violates the Appointments Clause, U.S. Const., art. II, § 2, cl. 2.” In particular, the court held that APJs are “principal officers” and thus require appointment by the President rather than merely the Secretary of Commerce. The court cited and relied upon Prof. John Duffy’s paper that started this whole process: John F. Duffy, Are Administrative Patent Judges Constitutional?, 2007 Patently–O Patent L.J. 21, 25 (2007) (concluding that administrative patent judges are officers as opposed to mere employees).
In the case, the court also provided a remedy — invalidating a portion of the statute that limited the PTO’s ability to remove APJs from the board. By making removal easier, the PTAB Judges are then re-classified as inferior officers — and thus were properly appointed.