Fall Line Patents, LLC v. Unified Patents, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2020) [FallLine]
In this case, the court begins with a lamentation that a Federal Circuit panel is “bound by the determinations of a prior panel, unless relieved of that obligation by an en banc order of the court or a decision of the Supreme Court.” Quoting Deckers Corp. v. United States, 752 F.3d 949 (Fed. Cir. 2014).*
Here, Fall Line appealed against the PTAB’s real party-in-interest determinations. That argument was recently foreclosed in ESIP Series 2, LLC v. Puzhen Life USA, LLC, 958 F.3d 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2020). Fall Line attempted to skirt the decision by asking the court to use its “mandamus jurisdiction” to hear the case. On appeal, the Federal Circuit concluded that would be improper in this case. Although mandamus may be proper to review “institution decisions that implicate constitutional or jurisdictional violations” — mandamus is not proper for an “ordinary dispute” over the construction of an “institution-related statute.” Fall Line’s argument would have carried more weight – but for Thryv.
While we [previously held] that statutory prerequisites to the Director’s authority to institute an IPR were not related to institution within the meaning of § 314(d), the Supreme
Court disagreed with that conclusion in Thryv.
Fall Line also argued that the Arthrex severance was inadequate to cure the appointments clause problem with PTAB judges. Here, the court concluded that argument was considered and rejected in the Arthrex decision itself. “As a panel, we are bound.”
Still, Fall Line will get a new trial at the PTAB under Arthrex.
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Note here that the opening line of the case doesn’t actually apply to this decision because it was issued with the following caveat: “This disposition is nonprecedential.”