Just because your issued patent was examined by the USPTO does not mean that it is free from challenge. Your competitors may, of course, scrutinize your patent and use IPR to challenge its validity—potentially turning your patent shield into a roadmap to their next product. This was the case in a recent IPR.
This past year, the Supreme Court in SAS Institute v. Iancu held that once the PTAB institutes an IPR trial its subsequent final written decision must address all claims challenged in the petition. The Court explained that its holding was compelled by a plain reading of 35 U.S.C. § 318(a), which states that the PTAB must issue a final written decision on “any patent claim challenged by the petitioner.” SAS Institute did not decide, however, whether the PTAB’s final written decisions must also address all grounds raised in a petition. The Federal Circuit has subsequently provided a clearer answer.
Section 311(b) of the American Invents Act (“AIA”) provides that a petitioner may request cancellation of one or more claims of a patent “only on a ground that could be raised under section 102 and 103 and only on the basis of prior art consisting of patents or printed publications.” In light of this clear restriction on the evidence that can lead to the cancellation of a claim, one might reasonably assume that all of the petitioner’s evidence during that trial must be prior art. A recent decision from the Federal Circuit, however, shows that this assumption is not entirely correct. Rather, in some situations, the cancellation of a claim may turn on evidence that is not even prior art to the claim.
Topics: Patent Owners
A hallmark of IPR proceedings is that the petitioner—not the patent owner—has the burden to prove that the challenged claims are unpatentable. This hallmark is statutory as section 316(e) of the American Invents Act (which created IPRs) provides that “the petitioner shall have the burden of proving a proposition of unpatentability.” And yet, a recent decision from the Federal Circuit confirms IPR nonetheless applies the traditional rule that can shift a burden to the patent owner to rebut the petitioner’s prima facie case of obviousness. Patent owners thus cannot blindly rely upon section 316(e) and, in certain circumstances, should consider submitting evidence to defend the claims.
As we have previously discussed, some petitioners for IPR are not able to appeal an adverse decision by the PTAB because they lack constitutional standing. Though Article III standing is not required to file an IPR petition, because it does not apply to administrative proceedings, standing is required to bring a case in Federal court—including an appeal to the Federal Circuit. Several recent decisions have further clarified this standing requirement and give good reason to continue to follow the issue.
Topics: Patent Owners
Typically, the PTAB and district courts apply different claim construction standards, which can cause the two forums to construe the same term from the same patent differently. Such divergent treatment occurred in a recent PTAB decision, Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Janssen Oncology, Inc. (IPR2016-01332). In Mylan, the PTAB’s claim interpretation of the term “treatment” differed from the district court’s interpretation of the same term in co-pending litigation. The Mylan decision illustrates the divide between the two forums’ claim construction standards and the consequences that those different standards can have on an IPR.
The PTAB recently signaled a warning to petitioners about the dangers of third party submissions made during patent prosecution—even during prosecution of a separate but related patent. For patent holders, this warning serves as an opportunity to protect their patents in similar situations. In PGR2017-00038, Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. filed a petition to institute post-grant review of U.S. Patent No. 9,466,035. Live Nation’s arguments were that the claims were patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101 and would have been obvious under 35 U.S.C. 103.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group—a case that addresses whether inter partes review unconstitutionally usurps the federal courts’ authority to adjudicate the validity of patents. An examination of the Justices’ questions provides hints of how they are thinking and suggests that IPRs may survive constitutional review.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two patent cases concerning IPRs. The first case (Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group) has garnered much of the attention because it concerns the constitutionality of IPRs, but the second case (SAS Institute Inc. v. Matal) may actually have a bigger impact on how IPRs work. In SAS, the Supreme Court considered the PTAB’s practice of selecting which challenged claims it reviews, rather than, once it institutes a trial, issuing a final decision on the patentability of all claims challenged in the petition. The oral arguments suggest how the Justices are approaching the case.
No matter whether you are the patent owner or petitioner in an IPR, expert witness testimony is an important aspect of building your case. The Board relies on expert witnesses to provide insight into the often highly technical aspects of a given case, and will inevitably choose to give more weight to the testimony of one side’s witness over the other. This can be especially true when the testimony of the opposing experts is in direct conflict. So how does the Board choose which expert testimony to give more weight? Sometimes it’s a question of timing, as in the recent decision in Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. AstraZeneca (IPR2015-01340).