Indian tribes ability to shield patents from review at the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) took another blow at the Federal Circuit.  The Federal Circuit in a precedential decision, affirming the decision of the PTAB, held that tribal sovereign immunity cannot be asserted in inter partes review (“IPR”) proceedings before the PTAB.[1]

The Federal Circuit based the decision on two principles extrapolated from Supreme Court decisions.  First, the general proposition that “immunity does not apply where the federal government acting through an agency engages in an investigative action or pursues an adjudicatory agency action.”[2]  Second, the Supreme Court’s recognized distinction between adjudicative proceedings brought by a private party against a state, on the one hand, and federal agency-initiated enforcement proceedings, on the other.  According to the Federal Circuit, immunity may generally be invoked in the private party actions, but not in the federal agency-initiated enforcement proceedings.
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The USPTO announced today proposed rulemaking for changing its policy related to claim interpretation in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) proceedings (not including patent examination). Currently, the broadest reasonable interpretation (“BRI”) standard is applied when analyzing claims. The proposed new rules would result in “the same as the standard applied in federal district courts and International Trade Commission (“ITC”) proceedings;” i.e., “ordinary and customary meaning” according to “a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention,”[1] and “reasonable certainty” for definiteness analysis[2]. In addition, it is proposed that the USPTO/PTAB “will consider any prior claim construction determination concerning a term of the involved claim in a civil action, or an ITC proceeding, that is timely made of record in an IPR, PGR, or CBM proceeding.”
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The Federal Circuit on Wednesday reversed Court precedent and long held belief that inter partes review (“IPR”) institution decisions were categorically non-reviewable. The Court, sitting en banc, held that the issue of whether a petitioner is time-barred from filing an IPR petition  under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b) is in fact reviewable.[i]

This case arose

It was a busy year for patent litigation across the broad, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB), U.S. District Courts (USDC), Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). A quick look at the number of patent litigation cases

In an unprecedented move by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Patent Trials and Appeals Board (PTAB) has permitted the filing of amicus briefs on whether the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe (“Tribe”) should be permitted to terminate the inter partes review of Allergan’s patents contested in IPR2016-00127, IPR2016-01128, IPR2016-01129, IPR2016-01130, IPR2016-01131, and IPR2016-01132.

The America Invents Act (“AIA”) provides for post grant challenges of U.S. patents in the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. One type of AIA proceeding, Inter Partes Review (“IPR”), came into effect in September 2012, and provides a process for relatively quick determination of invalidity of challenged patent claims based on published prior art. [1] IPR decisions rendered in the past five years have created a body of law addressing a variety of issues related to invalidity challenges before the PTAB. In a recent IPR proceeding, a novel strategy has arisen that posts an interesting question of first impression, whether the assignment of a patent involved in an IPR proceeding to a U.S. Indian tribe can avoid an IPR proceeding based on a sovereign immunity defense. The present blog post summarizes the new issue that the PTAB will be required to decide in the IPR.
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