Supreme Court – Patently-O https://patentlyo.com America's leading patent law blog Thu, 16 Aug 2018 16:55:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP https://patentlyo.com/media/2014/01/mbhb-3b.gif https://www.mbhb.com/ 480 150 Intellectual Property Law Impression v. Lexmark: Patent Rights Exhausted by Sale, Domestic or Abroad https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/impression-exhausted-domestic.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/impression-exhausted-domestic.html#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 15:53:30 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=20201 By Jason Rantanen

Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. (2017) – Download opinion

In a  straightforward and almost unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit on both domestic (8-0) and international exhaustion (7-1).

The Supreme Court’s opinion is summed up by a single sentence early on. “We conclude that a patentee’s decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose or the location of the sale.”  Slip Op. at 1.  The underlying  rationale is offered a bit later: “Patent exhaustion reflects the principle that, when an item passes into commerce, it should not be shaded by a legal cloud on title as it moves through the marketplace.”  Slip Op. at 11.  With these two pronouncements, the Supreme Court has in one swoop both simplified patent law and added new complexities, challenges and opportunities to the innovation ecosystem.

Impression v. Lexmark involved, at its core, the question of whether restrictions placed on a patented product could be enforced through an infringement suit–often a more viable legal mechanism for the patent owner than an an action for breach of contract.

Continue reading Impression v. Lexmark: Patent Rights Exhausted by Sale, Domestic or Abroad at Patently-O.

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By Jason Rantanen

Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. (2017) – Download opinion

In a  straightforward and almost unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit on both domestic (8-0) and international exhaustion (7-1).

The Supreme Court’s opinion is summed up by a single sentence early on. “We conclude that a patentee’s decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose or the location of the sale.”  Slip Op. at 1.  The underlying  rationale is offered a bit later: “Patent exhaustion reflects the principle that, when an item passes into commerce, it should not be shaded by a legal cloud on title as it moves through the marketplace.”  Slip Op. at 11.  With these two pronouncements, the Supreme Court has in one swoop both simplified patent law and added new complexities, challenges and opportunities to the innovation ecosystem.

Impression v. Lexmark involved, at its core, the question of whether restrictions placed on a patented product could be enforced through an infringement suit–often a more viable legal mechanism for the patent owner than an an action for breach of contract.

Under Federal Circuit precedent, the answer for over two decades was yes.  The theory relied upon by the Federal Circuit in decisions such as Malkinkrodt, and reaffirmed by the en banc court in Lexmark v. Impression, was that the patent owner could decide to give away only some of its patent rights when it sold or authorized the sale of a patented product.  As a result, the patent owner could sue a party who violated those restrictions for patent infringement because, the theory went, the purchaser did not possess the relevant set of patent permissions–the “sticks” in the “bundle of rights” that the patent owner possessed.  Thus, for example, a patent owner could place a single-use only restriction on an ink cartridge or medical device and sue for infringement if the device were reused.  In short, the exhaustion rule was effectively default rule of patent law that the parties could contract around.

The Supreme Court rejected this approach, basing its conclusion on common law principles of ownership as reflected in its 1853 decision in Bloomer v. McQuewan.  “For over 160 years, the doctrine of patent exhaustion has imposed a limit on [patentees’ right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their invention].”  Slip Op. at 5-6. “When a patentee chooses to sell an item, that product ‘is no longer within the limits of the monopoly’ and instead becomes the ‘private, individual property’ of the purchaser, with the rights and benefits that come along with ownership.”  Id., quoting Bloomer. While a patent owner may impose contractual restrictions, those restrictions are a matter of contract law, not patent law.  “A patentee is free to set the price and negotiate contracts with purchasers, but may not, ‘by virtue of his patent, control the use or disposition’ of the product after ownership passes to the purchaser. United States v. Univis Lens Co., 316 U. S. 241, 250 (1942) (emphasis added).”  Once  a patent owner sells a patented product, it has obtained the patent reward and may no longer rely on patent law.  Referencing its opinion in Kirsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 568 U.S. 519, 538 (2013), the Court observed that exhaustion has “an impeccable historic pedigree,” a backdrop against which Congress has repeatedly revised and fine-tuned the patent law.

The Federal Circuit’s error was that it started from the wrong place: interpreting the  infringement statute.  But “the exhaustion doctrine is not a presumption about the authority that comes along with a sale; it is instead a limit on ‘the scope of the patentee’s rights.'”  Slip Op. at 10, quoting United States v. General Elec. Co., 272 U. S. 476, 489 (1926) (emphasis added).   The sale transfers the foundational rights to use, sell or import the product sold; it simultaneously exhausts the patent rights:

The right to use, sell, or import an item exists independently of the Patent Act. What a patent adds—and grants exclusively to the patentee—is a limited right to prevent others from engaging in those practices. See Crown Die & Tool Co. v. Nye Tool & Machine Works, 261 U. S. 24, 35 (1923). Exhaustion extinguishes that exclusionary power. See Bloomer, 14 How., at 549 (the purchaser “exercises no rights created by the act of Congress, nor does he derive title to [the item]by virtue of the . . . exclusive privilege granted to the patentee”). As a result, the sale transfers the right to use, sell, or import because those are the rights that come along with ownership, and the buyer is free and clear of an infringement lawsuit because there is no exclusionary right left to enforce.”

Exhaustion applies regardless of whether the patent owner sells the product or a licensee–even a licensee subject to restrictions by the patent owner.  “A patentee’s authority to limit licensees does not, as the Federal Circuit thought, mean that patentees can use licenses to impose post-sale restrictions on purchasers that are enforceable through the patent laws. So long as a licensee complies with the license when selling an item, the patentee has, in effect, authorized the sale.” Slip Op. at 11-12.

“In sum, patent exhaustion is uniform and automatic. Once a patentee decides to sell—whether on its own or through a licensee—that sale exhausts its patent rights,regardless of any post-sale restrictions the patentee purports to impose, either directly or through a license.”

The Court also held that foreign sales exhausted U.S. patent rights–in other words, a system of global exhaustion.  This conclusion, too, was bolstered by a common law policy against restraints on the alienation of chattels.

Justice Ginsburg concurred with the Court’s holding on domestic exhaustion but dissented with respect to international exhaustion.  She would hold that “A foreign sale…does not exhaust a U.S. inventor’s U.S. patent rights.”

What about Contracts? The Court’s Impression decision means that post-sale restraints on products will need to be enforced via contract rather than patent law.  That matters because contract law is subject to a number of constraints, including both privity and various public policy-based limitations on enforcement.  Patent law is not so limited.  Outside of the core questions of infringement and validity, enforcement of patents is subject to relatively few such constraints–misuse being one rare (and rarely successful) exception.  In addition, enforcement under contract law means that many cases involving post-sale restrictions will ultimately be decided by state supreme courts or other federal courts of appeal rather than by the Federal Circuit.

What’s left? Lexmark strikes a powerful blow against post-sale restrictions on products by negating the threat of infringement to enforce those restrictions.  But it hardly eliminates such restrictions–to the contrary, the Court is clear that such restrictions may still be enforced under contract law.  In addition, the Court’s opinion revolves around sales of products.  Left unanswered is the role that patents will continue to play in non-complete transfers–licenses of a good or service rather than a sale.

 

Previous Patently-O Commentary:

 

 

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Chisum on IPR Initiation https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/20168.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/20168.html#comments Thu, 25 May 2017 10:15:13 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=20168 Chisum on IPR Initiation

In an email distribution regarding their upcoming Chisum Patent Academy, Don Chisum and Janice Mueller opine on the upcoming Supreme Court case of SAS v. Lee.

They write:

The Court will address, at least indirectly, the PTO’s rule 37 CFR § 42.108(a). The rule allows the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) to institute inter partes review (IPR) on (and, implicitly, to adjudicate) only some of the claims of a patent challenged in a petition (and, also, only on some of multiple grounds of unpatentability). . . .

More likely than not, the Supreme Court will invalidate the practice that rule 108(a) makes possible as contrary to the governing statutes. 35 USC Section 318(a) requires that the PTAB “issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner.” If the PTAB must rule on all claims challenged in a petition in its final decision, it makes no sense to allow the PTAB (per Rule 108(a)) to “institute” review on fewer than all those claims. (NOTE: the statute on institution, 35 USC 314(a), sets a reasonable-likelihood-of-unpatentability “threshold” for “at least 1 of the claims challenged in the petition.” That can easily be read as contemplating that only one of the challenged claims must meet the threshold and that all challenged claims will be carried into a review upon institution, whether or not they met the threshold standard.)

Briefing in the case will go through the summer.

Continue reading Chisum on IPR Initiation at Patently-O.

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Chisum on IPR Initiation

Chisum-MuellerIn an email distribution regarding their upcoming Chisum Patent Academy, Don Chisum and Janice Mueller opine on the upcoming Supreme Court case of SAS v. Lee.

They write:

The Court will address, at least indirectly, the PTO’s rule 37 CFR § 42.108(a). The rule allows the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) to institute inter partes review (IPR) on (and, implicitly, to adjudicate) only some of the claims of a patent challenged in a petition (and, also, only on some of multiple grounds of unpatentability). . . .

More likely than not, the Supreme Court will invalidate the practice that rule 108(a) makes possible as contrary to the governing statutes. 35 USC Section 318(a) requires that the PTAB “issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner.” If the PTAB must rule on all claims challenged in a petition in its final decision, it makes no sense to allow the PTAB (per Rule 108(a)) to “institute” review on fewer than all those claims. (NOTE: the statute on institution, 35 USC 314(a), sets a reasonable-likelihood-of-unpatentability “threshold” for “at least 1 of the claims challenged in the petition.” That can easily be read as contemplating that only one of the challenged claims must meet the threshold and that all challenged claims will be carried into a review upon institution, whether or not they met the threshold standard.)

Briefing in the case will go through the summer.

 

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Supreme Court Reins In Patent Venue https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/supreme-court-reins-patent.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/supreme-court-reins-patent.html#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 14:52:08 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=19655 by Dennis Crouch

In TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, the Supreme Court has significantly shifted the balance away from the geographically fringe Eastern District of Texas – holding that the residence requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) refers only to a defendant’s State of Incorporation for patent infringement venue purposes.

Read the Decision: 16-341_8n59.

The short (10-page) unanimous opinion authored by Justice Thomas reaffirms the court’s prior decision in Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U. S. 222, 226 (1957) — holding again that “for purposes of §1400(b) a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation” and rejecting the notion that a much broader definition of venue (found in §1391) applies.

Although the Supreme Court law appears continuous.  The Federal Circuit created a major blip in its 1990 decision of VE Holding Corp. v. Johnson Gas Appliance Co., 917 F. 2d 1574 (1990).  In that case, the appellate court held that patent infringement venue is proper in any court having personal jurisdiction over the defendant.  That expansive change allowed for the rise of patent-focused venues such as the Eastern District of Texas where the majority of infringement lawsuits have been filed over the two decades (heat map below). 

Continue reading Supreme Court Reins In Patent Venue at Patently-O.

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by Dennis Crouch

In TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, the Supreme Court has significantly shifted the balance away from the geographically fringe Eastern District of Texas – holding that the residence requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) refers only to a defendant’s State of Incorporation for patent infringement venue purposes.

Read the Decision: 16-341_8n59.

The short (10-page) unanimous opinion authored by Justice Thomas reaffirms the court’s prior decision in Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U. S. 222, 226 (1957) — holding again that “for purposes of §1400(b) a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation” and rejecting the notion that a much broader definition of venue (found in §1391) applies.

Although the Supreme Court law appears continuous.  The Federal Circuit created a major blip in its 1990 decision of VE Holding Corp. v. Johnson Gas Appliance Co., 917 F. 2d 1574 (1990).  In that case, the appellate court held that patent infringement venue is proper in any court having personal jurisdiction over the defendant.  That expansive change allowed for the rise of patent-focused venues such as the Eastern District of Texas where the majority of infringement lawsuits have been filed over the two decades (heat map below). PatentLawPic984

What next:  Section 1400(b) limits patent cases to the judicial district (1) “where the defendant resides,” or (2) “where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.”  This means a likely large boost of lawsuits in Delaware.  National retailers will still be amenable to suit essentially everywhere, but many would-be defendants will be able to avoid E.D.Texas at least. There will also be new litigation on the implications for foreign companies with no established place of business in the US.  The decision here expressly refuses to address that question other than noting that it did previously decide that foreign corps can be an exception to 1400(b). Although possible, it is unlikely the court will adapt the “established place of business” to include the internet, although that portion of 1400(b) has not been explored since the e-tailing explosion.  With less concentrated venue, I we can also expect a rise in multi-district litigation.  For more, consider Prof Janicke’s article on the Imminent Outpouring from the Eastern District of Texas.

 

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SAS Institute v. Lee: Partial Institution of Inter Partes Review https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/institute-institution-decision.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/institute-institution-decision.html#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 13:39:25 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=19609 by Dennis Crouch

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new AIA-trials case: SAS Institute v. Lee

The inter partes review appeal focuses on the procedural question of whether the America Invents Act permits the USPTO to partially institute IPR proceedings – as it has been doing. SAS argues instead that the statute requires a full up/down vote on a petition and, if granted, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) must then pass final judgment on all petitioned claims:

Whether 35 U.S.C. § 318(a) … requires [the] Board to issue a final written decision as to every claim challenged by the petitioner, or whether it allows that Board to issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of only some of the patent claims challenged by the petitioner, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held.

As I previously wrote,

The basic setup here is that SAS argues that the PTO cannot partially institute IPR proceedings since the statute requires that PTO “shall issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner.” 35 U.S.C.

Continue reading SAS Institute v. Lee: Partial Institution of Inter Partes Review at Patently-O.

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by Dennis Crouch

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new AIA-trials case: SAS Institute v. Lee

The inter partes review appeal focuses on the procedural question of whether the America Invents Act permits the USPTO to partially institute IPR proceedings – as it has been doing. SAS argues instead that the statute requires a full up/down vote on a petition and, if granted, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) must then pass final judgment on all petitioned claims:

Whether 35 U.S.C. § 318(a) … requires [the] Board to issue a final written decision as to every claim challenged by the petitioner, or whether it allows that Board to issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of only some of the patent claims challenged by the petitioner, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held.

As I previously wrote,

The basic setup here is that SAS argues that the PTO cannot partially institute IPR proceedings since the statute requires that PTO “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)

Although a somewhat sideline issue, it will likely have its biggest impact on estoppel resulting from AIA trials and, as a result, may also shift filing strategy.

AIA Trial Docs:

 

 

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SAS Institute Inc. v. Lee: Challenging Partial Institution https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/institute-challenging-institution.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/institute-challenging-institution.html#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 15:14:45 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=16694 The Supreme court has relisted SAS Institute Inc. v. Lee, 16-969 – an important step in the progress toward grant of certiorari.  The inter partes review case presents the following question:

Whether 35 U.S.C. § 318(a) … requires [the] Board to issue a final written decision as to every claim challenged by the petitioner, or whether it allows that Board to issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of only some of the patent claims challenged by the petitioner, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held.

The basic setup here is that SAS argues that the PTO cannot partially institute IPR proceedings since the statute requires that PTO “shall issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner.”

Although the Department of Justice has sided with the PTO’s approach here, in a prior filing the DOJ argued that the PTO erred in “picking and choosing some but not all of the challenged claims in its Decision.” See Department of Justice v. Discovery Patents, LLC, Case IPR2016-01041 (Patent Trial & Appeal Bd., Nov.

Continue reading SAS Institute Inc. v. Lee: Challenging Partial Institution at Patently-O.

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The Supreme court has relisted SAS Institute Inc. v. Lee, 16-969 – an important step in the progress toward grant of certiorari.  The inter partes review case presents the following question:

Whether 35 U.S.C. § 318(a) … requires [the] Board to issue a final written decision as to every claim challenged by the petitioner, or whether it allows that Board to issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of only some of the patent claims challenged by the petitioner, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held.

The basic setup here is that SAS argues that the PTO cannot partially institute IPR proceedings since the statute requires that PTO “shall issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner.”

Although the Department of Justice has sided with the PTO’s approach here, in a prior filing the DOJ argued that the PTO erred in “picking and choosing some but not all of the challenged claims in its Decision.” See Department of Justice v. Discovery Patents, LLC, Case IPR2016-01041 (Patent Trial & Appeal Bd., Nov. 29, 2016).

The outcome of a rule-change here  is unclear – while the patent challenger (SAS) is petitioner here.  Patentees may prefer the all-or-nothing approach that would hopefully result in final judgments confirming patentability as well as the resulting estoppel.

 

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Shore v. Lee https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/shore-v-lee.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/shore-v-lee.html#comments Tue, 16 May 2017 17:27:23 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=16642 In Shore v. Lee, the Federal Circuit affirmed a PTAB finding without opinion.  Shore’s petition to the Supreme Court asks whether “the Federal Circuit’s affirmance without opinion of the PTO’s rejection of Petitioner’s patent application violate 35 U.S.C. § 144?”  In its first opportunity to support the Federal Circuit’s R.36 jurisprudence, the Department of Justice has passed – instead waiving its right to offer any argument in support.  The Supreme Court will consider the petition later this month.

Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion: At the Supreme Court

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Similarly in Broadband ITV v. Hawaiian Telecom, respondents have waived their right to respond to Broadband’s challenge to quick-look eligibility denials.

Supreme Court: Challenging Quick-Look Eligibility Denials

Continue reading Shore v. Lee at Patently-O.

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In Shore v. Lee, the Federal Circuit affirmed a PTAB finding without opinion.  Shore’s petition to the Supreme Court asks whether “the Federal Circuit’s affirmance without opinion of the PTO’s rejection of Petitioner’s patent application violate 35 U.S.C. § 144?”  In its first opportunity to support the Federal Circuit’s R.36 jurisprudence, the Department of Justice has passed – instead waiving its right to offer any argument in support.  The Supreme Court will consider the petition later this month.

Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion: At the Supreme Court

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Similarly in Broadband ITV v. Hawaiian Telecom, respondents have waived their right to respond to Broadband’s challenge to quick-look eligibility denials.

Supreme Court: Challenging Quick-Look Eligibility Denials

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Oil States: Trump Admin Supports AIA Trial Proceedings https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/states-supports-proceedings.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/states-supports-proceedings.html#comments Fri, 12 May 2017 14:05:42 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=16624 Oil States v. Greene’s Energy (Supreme Court 2017).

After receiving party briefs in this case, the Supreme Court requested a responsive brief from the Michelle Lee in her role as PTO Director on the constitutionality of the AIA trial system.  That brief has now been filed by the new acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall who handled a number of patent cases in private practice.  Despite the regime change, the SG’s office continues to strongly support the AIA Trial system and the brief argues strongly that patents are public rights that may be subject to administrativ review:

Patents are quintessential public rights. Pursuant to its constitutional authority to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” by establishing a patent system, U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, Cl. 8, Congress created the USPTO, an agency with “special expertise in evaluating patent applications.” Kappos v. Hyatt, 566 U.S. 431, 445 (2012). Congress directed that agency to issue a patent if “it appears that the applicant is entitled to a patent” under standards set by federal law, 35 U.S.C. 131. Patents accordingly confer rights that “exist only by virtue of statute.” Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S.

Continue reading Oil States: Trump Admin Supports AIA Trial Proceedings at Patently-O.

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Oil States v. Greene’s Energy (Supreme Court 2017).

After receiving party briefs in this case, the Supreme Court requested a responsive brief from the Michelle Lee in her role as PTO Director on the constitutionality of the AIA trial system.  That brief has now been filed by the new acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall who handled a number of patent cases in private practice.  Despite the regime change, the SG’s office continues to strongly support the AIA Trial system and the brief argues strongly that patents are public rights that may be subject to administrativ review:

Patents are quintessential public rights. Pursuant to its constitutional authority to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” by establishing a patent system, U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, Cl. 8, Congress created the USPTO, an agency with “special expertise in evaluating patent applications.” Kappos v. Hyatt, 566 U.S. 431, 445 (2012). Congress directed that agency to issue a patent if “it appears that the applicant is entitled to a patent” under standards set by federal law, 35 U.S.C. 131. Patents accordingly confer rights that “exist only by virtue of statute.” Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, 229 n.5 (1964). . . . Petitioner’s constitutional arguments do not warrant this Court’s review.

[Read the Brief: 16-712_oil_states_energy_servs._llc_opp]  The Supreme Court has already denied certiorari in three prior constitutional challenges to the AIA trial mechanisms. MCM Portfolio v. Hewlett-Packard; Cooper v. Lee; and Cooper v. Square.  If Oil States is denied here, there are also several more cases waiting in the wings to raise the challenge again.

Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group

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Federal Circuit Refuses to Hear Private Right Issue https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/federal-circuit-refuses.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/federal-circuit-refuses.html#comments Thu, 11 May 2017 15:40:34 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=16612 by Dennis Crouch

Cascades Projections v. Epson America (Fed. Cir. 2017) (en banc denial)

In a split decision, the Federal Circuit has denied Cascades petition for initial en banc hearing.  The petition asked one question: “Whether a patent right is a public right.” Because a Federal Circuit panel already decided this decision in MCM, Cascades asked the court to bypass the initial panel appeal and head straight to the en banc question.  See MCM Portfolio LLC v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 812 F.3d 1284 (Fed. Cir. 2015), cert. denied 137 S. Ct. 292 (2016).  The issue is important because the answer to the private right question could lead to a judgment that the administrative patent trial system is an unconstitutional violation of due process rights.  I previously discussed the case on Patently-O.

Whether a Patent Right is a Public Right

 

For judges wrote separately on the case:

Judge Newman Concurring in Denial: The important question here is “whether the statutory scheme created by the America Invents Act, in which the Office is given an enlarged opportunity to correct its errors in granting a patent, with its decision subject to review by the Federal Circuit, meets the constitutional requirements of due process in disposition of property.”  Judge Newman suggests that she would vote for re-hearing after “full opportunity for panel rehearing.”

Judge Dyk (Joined by Judges Prost and Hughes) Concurring in the Denial: “MCM was correctly decided.

Continue reading Federal Circuit Refuses to Hear Private Right Issue at Patently-O.

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by Dennis Crouch

Cascades Projections v. Epson America (Fed. Cir. 2017) (en banc denial)

In a split decision, the Federal Circuit has denied Cascades petition for initial en banc hearing.  The petition asked one question: “Whether a patent right is a public right.” Because a Federal Circuit panel already decided this decision in MCM, Cascades asked the court to bypass the initial panel appeal and head straight to the en banc question.  See MCM Portfolio LLC v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 812 F.3d 1284 (Fed. Cir. 2015), cert. denied 137 S. Ct. 292 (2016).  The issue is important because the answer to the private right question could lead to a judgment that the administrative patent trial system is an unconstitutional violation of due process rights.  I previously discussed the case on Patently-O.

Whether a Patent Right is a Public Right

 

For judges wrote separately on the case:

Judge Newman Concurring in Denial: The important question here is “whether the statutory scheme created by the America Invents Act, in which the Office is given an enlarged opportunity to correct its errors in granting a patent, with its decision subject to review by the Federal Circuit, meets the constitutional requirements of due process in disposition of property.”  Judge Newman suggests that she would vote for re-hearing after “full opportunity for panel rehearing.”

Judge Dyk (Joined by Judges Prost and Hughes) Concurring in the Denial: “MCM was correctly decided. . . . [T]here is no inconsistency in concluding that patent rights constitute property and that the source of that property right is a public right conferred by federal statute.”

Judge O’Malley, Dissenting from the Denial: Patent rights are likely “core private rights only subject to adjudication in Article III courts.”

Judge Reyna, Dissenting from the Denial: “The state of current law compels en banc review.”   According to Judge Reyna, the clear statement from Supreme Court’s 1898 decision in McCormick Harvesting that “The only authority competent to set a patent aside, or to annul it, or to correct it for any reason whatever, is vested in the courts of the United States, and not in the department which issued the patent.” McCormick Harvesting Mach. Co. v. C. Aultman & Co., 169 U.S. 606, 609 (1898).

We’ll look for the upcoming panel decision in the case and subsequent en banc hearing.

 

 

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Court-Agency Allocations of Power and the Limits of Cuozzo https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/agency-allocations-limits.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/05/agency-allocations-limits.html#comments Fri, 05 May 2017 16:12:56 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=16583 Guest post by Saurabh Vishnubhakat, Associate Professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law and the Texas A&M College of Engineering.  Although Prof. Vishnubhakat was an advisor at the USPTO until June, 2015, his arguments here should not be imputed to the USPTO or to any other organization.

Prof. Vishnubhakat was counsel of record for the amicus brief by patent and administrative law professors in this case.

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Yesterday’s argument in Wi-Fi One, LLC v. Broadcom Corp. suggested that the en banc Federal Circuit are grappling with at least three important issues as they consider the reviewability of PTO decisions to institute inter partes review that arguably violate the one-year bar of 35 U.S.C. § 315(b):

  • How does the IPR statute allocate power between the PTAB and the district courts to reevaluate patent validity?
  • How does the Supreme Court’s opinion last Term in Cuozzo Speed Techs., LLC v. Lee allocate power between the USPTO Director and the Federal Circuit to oversee the PTAB?

Continue reading Court-Agency Allocations of Power and the Limits of Cuozzo at Patently-O.

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Guest post by Saurabh Vishnubhakat, Associate Professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law and the Texas A&M College of Engineering.  Although Prof. Vishnubhakat was an advisor at the USPTO until June, 2015, his arguments here should not be imputed to the USPTO or to any other organization.

Prof. Vishnubhakat was counsel of record for the amicus brief by patent and administrative law professors in this case.

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Yesterday’s argument in Wi-Fi One, LLC v. Broadcom Corp. suggested that the en banc Federal Circuit are grappling with at least three important issues as they consider the reviewability of PTO decisions to institute inter partes review that arguably violate the one-year bar of 35 U.S.C. § 315(b):

  • How does the IPR statute allocate power between the PTAB and the district courts to reevaluate patent validity?
  • How does the Supreme Court’s opinion last Term in Cuozzo Speed Techs., LLC v. Lee allocate power between the USPTO Director and the Federal Circuit to oversee the PTAB?
  • How might this case resolve (or aggravate) rule-of-law concerns that the Federal Circuit has recently expressed, especially as to separation of powers under the Chenery doctrine?

The Federal Circuit’s panel decision in Achates Reference Publ’g, Inc. v. Apple Inc. held that PTAB decisions to institute IPR are unreviewable even where the § 315(b) time bar may have been violated.  The en banc question here is whether to overrule Achates.

The USPTO’s interest in the case was clear from the large group of agency employees in attendance, including members of the PTAB and the Solicitor’s Office as well as Director Michelle Lee herself.  The USPTO also formally intervened in the case and designated Mark Freeman from the DOJ Civil Division’s Appellate Staff to argue.

The PTAB-District Court Balance of Power

Historically, of course, the power to invalidate patents in the first instance resided in the district courts.  An opening exchange with Chief Judge Prost laid the groundwork that although the AIA sought efficient patent validity review outside the courts, it also constrained the administrative alternatives in a variety of ways.  The USPTO would later elaborate this point as well, that challenges that would have gone to court would now go to the agency, but this reallocation of power would not be total.  District-court defendants and their privies would have to act within a year, or never at all.  Judicial review can police this balance of power—but not without disruption of its own, and so the dispute over appealability.

The Main Cuozzo Exception: Relatedness to Institution

From early in Wi-Fi’s argument, several members of the court starting with Judge Dyk explored whether the § 315(b) time bar is distinguishable from the § 312(a)(3) particularity requirement that was found nonappealable in Cuozzo.  A well-known passage in Cuozzo orients the holding toward institutions that are made “under this section [§ 314]” or that are “closely tied” to institution-related statutes.  Meanwhile, several types of “shenanigans” may still merit review, such as constitutional defects, interpretations of less closely related provisions, or decisions whose scope and impact reach well beyond institution.  As a result, arguments to limit Cuozzo and afford review have often focused on these exceptions, especially on framing the statute as “less closely related” to institution “under this section [§ 314].”  Judges Chen and Stoll also followed up at several points with Broadcom and the USPTO about the “under this section” limitation.

Reconciling Cuozzo’s Majority and Dissent

Judge Chen also took an interesting further approach to how closely related a statute must be for Cuozzo to apply.  He noted that the dissent in Cuozzo complained specifically that the majority’s approach swept broadly and harmfully.  The Cuozzo dissent argued that the majority’s position would foreclose review even of issues such as the § 315(b) time bar because timeliness is “no less . . . closely tied” to institution.  The majority disclaimed various other horribles but was silent about the alleged relatedness of the one-year bar to institution.  Was this colloquy from Cuozzo a signal of consensus that the time bar is, indeed, the type of PTAB decision that is immune from review?

One sensible answer is that the Cuozzo dissent’s argument about the one-year bar should be seen as hortatory, intended first to build a majority and later, when the case was lost, to cabin the impact of the majority’s reasoning.  In other words, the dissent did not merely read the majority’s logic broadly but read it broadly as a reason to reject that logic.  To accept part of the Cuozzo dissent’s premise now while continuing to reject the dissent’s urged conclusion may itself be problematic cherry-picking, especially if any supposed agreement by the Cuozzo majority were to be inferred from its silence on the matter.  Indeed, Wi-Fi answered Judge Chen along just these lines by discussing what the Cuozzo dissent was trying to accomplish—limiting nonappealability to a prohibition of interlocutory review—not merely what the dissent said.

The Other Cuozzo Exception: Scope and Impact

Apart from “less closely related” statutes, the argument also started at times to explore Cuozzo’s “scope and impact” exception, particularly where the PTAB might act outside its statutory authority and thereby lose immunity from review.  It was the USPTO to whom Judge Chen suggested that the one-year bar of § 315(b) may well have been a Congressional allocation of power between the agency and the district courts to resolve patent validity disputes.  This view of the time bar would make it a statutory limit on the agency’s authority, a violation of which would render the PTAB susceptible to appellate review despite Cuozzo.

The scope and impact of § 315(b) are also stark when seen through the lens of court-agency substitution.  Arti Rai, Jay Kesan, and I have reported in recent research that a substantial share of petitioners (about 30%) seek PTAB review before being sued in district court on the patent in question.  This and related findings indicate that, in addition to ordinary court-agency competition over who resolves the validity of a patent in an ongoing infringement lawsuit, the PTAB also competes with the courts over who should resolve preemptive strikes against patents.  As the law professors’ amicus brief argued in this case, the one-year bar of § 315(b) sets an important boundary line in this competition and—as Judge Chen suggests—preserves an inter-branch allocation of power.  Thus, its scope and impact reach well outside the walls of the agency and into the federal courts, empirically as well as analytically.

The USPTO Director-Federal Circuit Balance of Power

One of the most significant aspects of this case, and why it was an apt choice for en banc review, is that the Federal Circuit is shaping its own ability to shape future cases.  Much like the balance of power between the PTAB and the district courts to evaluate patent validity in the first instance, also at stake is the power to correct errors and bring uniformity to the decision-making of the PTAB.  This latter power, too, was reallocated away from the Federal Circuit by the AIA’s nonappealability provisions.

The Source(s) of Uniformity

One might suppose, as Wi-Fi began to argue, that the absence of judicial oversight would leave individual PTAB panels to generate consensus in a common law fashion, and that consensus is unlikely to emerge because of the PTAB’s sometime disregard for its own prior analogous precedents and for prior court judgments regarding the validity of the same patent.  (Even a Federal Circuit panel endorsed the latter as recently as a month ago in Novartis AG v. Noven Pharms. Inc.)

Judge Wallach, however, strongly rejected Wi-Fi’s view that nonreviewability might leave uniformity and oversight to individual panels of the PTAB.  Instead, he noted, the Director of the USPTO can impose uniformity by assigning additional judges to particular panels to resolve contentious issues in a certain way.  To this, one might add that the Director can also generate uniformity directly through the ordinary chain of administrative command as an ex officio member of the PTAB and through the process for designating PTAB opinions as precedential, representative, or informative.  Judge Wallach raised the issue with Broadcom as well, asking whether “stacking the panel” to reach certain outcomes would qualify as judicially reviewable shenanigans.

This alternate view of uniformity is significant for its implicit but direct potential not only for displacing the Federal Circuit but also for making patent validity decisions more responsive to political constituencies.

The APA Presumption of Reviewability

The counterargument to this potential injection of politics into patent adjudication came in the closing minutes of the hearing.  For all the discussion about Cuozzo and its enumerated exceptions, Wi-Fi argued that the Cuozzo holding did not make nonreviewability the new baseline in administrative reviews of patent validity.  Rather, Cuozzo was one instance where the Administrative Procedure Act’s ever-present presumption favoring judicial review was rebutted clearly and convincingly enough as to institution decisions.  To construe the nonappealability statute as to timeliness under § 315(b) or any other issue would require a fresh analysis of statutory text, purpose, legislative history, etc.

Judge Moore engaged this argument, suggesting that Cuozzo need not be limited entirely to its facts with nonappealability decided from scratch each time.  She suggested, for example, that Cuozzo could be seen as precluding a range of appeals from institution and institution-related decisions, but that the opinion’s limitations apply here and thus dispel the indications that were clear and convincing in the Cuozzo case itself.

Notably, Judge Moore was also one of several, including Judges Newman and Reyna, to ask whether PTAB actions that are plainly invalid or ultra vires would enjoy immunity from review.  This concern, too, is of a piece with the balance of power between the Federal Circuit as judicial overseer and the Director of the USPTO as political overseer because it highlights a necessary choice between correcting agency errors and tolerating them in the name of Congressionally intended agency autonomy.

Making the PTAB Better Explain Itself

Finally, the en banc court referred at various points to the need for greater transparency in the PTAB’s own decision-making.  This is a concern that Federal Circuit panel decisions increasingly voice in PTAB appeals.  An early colloquy with Chief Judge Prost explored whether the PTAB might be shielded from review of certain issues in final written decisions simply by omitting discussion of those issues from its final written decisions, in light of the APA’s general requirement that an agency articulate its “findings and conclusions, and the reasons or basis therefor.”  Similarly, in the discussion over political panel-selection by the USPTO Director, Judge Wallach suggested that rule-of-law values such as predictability, uniformity, and transparency of judgments and the neutrality of decision-making may be threatened.

These concerns are also consistent with recent decisions finding fault with the PTAB’s failure to explain its reasoning with enough detail even to enable meaningful review.  For example, citing the Chenery doctrine, the In re NuVasive, Inc. panel decision last December reversed a finding of obviousness not because it was necessarily wrong, but because the reasoning that the PTAB had articulated could not support the decision, while the separation of powers forbade the Federal Circuit to supply its own rationale.  Similarly, in the Shaw Indus. Group., Inc. v. Automated Creel Sys., Inc. panel decision early last year, Judge Reyna wrote separately to chastise the USPTO for its opaque practice of making partial institutions while denying certain grounds or prior art as “redundant.”

Conclusion

The opportunity to clarify these allocations and reallocations of power is likely to be a welcome aspect of en banc consideration.  The power in question may be to adjudicate (as between the PTAB and the district courts), to oversee (as between the USPTO Director and the Federal Circuit), or simply to force a clearer account of the PTAB’s own reasoning.  All of these powers have seen significant revision under the AIA, reflecting the more general ascendancy of administrative adjudication in patent law.  In seeking the right balance for each of these powers, the Federal Circuit appears to be taking seriously the warning that “no legislation pursues its purposes at all costs” and that if the goals of the AIA are important, so also are the particular means that Congress enacted to achieve those goals.

Case Information

  • Oral Argument Recording
  • En Banc Panel: Prost, Newman, Lourie, Bryson, Dyk, Moore, O’Malley, Reyna, Wallach, Taranto, Chen, Hughes, Stoll
  • Arguing for Appellant Wi-Fi One, LLC: Douglas A. Cawley (McKool Smith)
  • Arguing for Appellee Broadcom Corporation: Dominic E. Massa (WilmerHale)
  • Arguing for Intervenor Michelle K. Lee, Director of the USPTO: Mark R. Freeman (DOJ Civil Division, Appellate Staff)
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Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion: At the Supreme Court https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/04/wrongly-affirmed-without.html https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/04/wrongly-affirmed-without.html#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:13:11 +0000 https://patentlyo.com/?p=16495 Shore v. Lee (Supreme Court 2017)

In a new petition for writ of certiorari, patent attorney and inventor Michael Shore has challenged the propriety of the Federal Circuit’s continued approach of affirming patent office decisions without opinion. In a forthcoming article titled “Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion” (Wake Forest Law Review), I raise the previously unnoticed requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 144 that the Federal Circuit issue an opinion in appeals from the Patent Office (PTO).  Although the Supreme Court generally permits its lower appellate courts to issue summary affirmances, I argue that the Patent and Trademark statutes take precedence in this particular situation.  The issue has come to a head with the large number of no-opinion judgments being issued by the court since the creation of the system of administrative patent trials (IPR/PGR/CBM).

Running with that argument, Shore raises the following three questions:

  1. Does the Federal Circuit’s affirmance without opinion of the PTO’s rejection of Petitioner’s patent application violate 35 U.S.C. § 144?
  2. Does the statute’s requirement that the Federal Circuit issue a “mandate and opinion” govern over Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 36’s general permission for appellate courts to render judgment without opinion?

Continue reading Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion: At the Supreme Court at Patently-O.

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Shore v. Lee (Supreme Court 2017)

In a new petition for writ of certiorari, patent attorney and inventor Michael Shore has challenged the propriety of the Federal Circuit’s continued approach of affirming patent office decisions without opinion. In a forthcoming article titled “Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion” (Wake Forest Law Review), I raise the previously unnoticed requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 144 that the Federal Circuit issue an opinion in appeals from the Patent Office (PTO).  Although the Supreme Court generally permits its lower appellate courts to issue summary affirmances, I argue that the Patent and Trademark statutes take precedence in this particular situation.  The issue has come to a head with the large number of no-opinion judgments being issued by the court since the creation of the system of administrative patent trials (IPR/PGR/CBM).

Running with that argument, Shore raises the following three questions:

  1. Does the Federal Circuit’s affirmance without opinion of the PTO’s rejection of Petitioner’s patent application violate 35 U.S.C. § 144?
  2. Does the statute’s requirement that the Federal Circuit issue a “mandate and opinion” govern over Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 36’s general permission for appellate courts to render judgment without opinion?
  3. Assuming that the Federal Circuit can issue an affirmance without opinion despite the language of § 144, does the Federal Circuit act within its discretion by issuing an affirmance without opinion that does not meet any of the criteria listed in Fed. Cir. R. 36(a)-(e)?

[Read the petition: 2017_WL_1406097]

Certainly, if the PTAB had issued its judgment without opinion, the Federal Circuit would have immediately vacated that decision. However, the appellate court suggests that the rules of opinion writing should not be self applied.

In the underlying case, Shore’s patent application (with co-inventor Charles Attal – founder of Austin City Limits Festival) covers a method for creating a custom video track of a live musical performance.  The claims were rejected as obvious – affirmed by the PTAB.  On appeal, Shore raised several challenges regarding both interpretation of the prior art and claim construction.  Rather than working through those arguments, the Federal Circuit simply affirmed without opinion.

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