Under 35 U.S.C. § 311(b), a Petitioner may seek to institute an IPR on grounds that “could be raised under section 102 or 103 and only on the basis of prior art consisting of patents or printed publications.” The Federal Circuit (Nos. 2020-1558, 2020-1559) recently decided that admissions regarding the prior art made in the challenged patent, commonly referred to as Applicant Admitted Prior Art (“AAPA”), cannot be “the basis” of an IPR but may have other uses for patent challengers.
Section 315(e)(2) states that once a final decision issues in an IPR challenging a claim, the Petitioner “may not assert either in [court or the ITC] that the claim is invalid on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review.” In California Institute of Technology v. Broadcom Ltd., Nos. 2020-2222, 2021-1527, the Federal Circuit clarified the scope of statutory estoppel, making it harder for some patent challengers to preserve invalidity arguments for litigation.
The Federal Circuit vacated the PTAB’s construction of a claim term, underscoring the principle that proper claim construction may require a close examination of the specification and other available evidence to understand what was purportedly invented and intended to be claimed.
The time bar in Section 315(b) says that IPR may not be instituted if the petition was filed more than one year after the petitioner was “served with a complaint alleging infringement of the patent.” A recent PTAB decision illustrates that petitioners should be wary of stepping over that line, even if there is a dispute about the patent owner’s proof of service.
Discretionary denial has been a hot topic at the PTAB. On Wednesday, February 24th, Wolf Greenfield hosted a webinar to discuss discretionary denial at the PTAB, and in particular, discretionary denial based on parallel infringement litigation in district court or the ITC.
Although judicial review of decisions during IPR typically occurs through appeal after the PTAB’s Final Written Decision, a growing number of cases are exploring other means of judicial review. Questions remain about whether those other means can provide a way to overcome the statutory limits on the appealability of IPR decisions, which we previously discussed. This post, which is the third in a series about judicial review of IPR, addresses a third trap for the unwary: the availability of alternatives to appeal.
Mandamus: Perhaps the most well-known alternative to appeal from and IPR is petitioning for a writ of mandamus. Ever since the Supreme Court’s first decision on IPRs, Cuozzo v. Lee, 136 S. Ct. 2131 (2016), left open the possibility of judicial review of constitutional and statutory rights related to institution, some have speculated that mandamus may be the best route to present those arguments. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s most recent decision on IPRs, Thryv v. Click-To-Call, 140 S. Ct. 1367 (2020), declined to foreclose the use of mandamus in “extraordinary cases.”
A series of Supreme Court cases has clarified that not all issues that arise in IPR are appealable. Thus, in addition to considering the issue of standing, which we previously discussed, a party considering appeal must also determine whether the issue it would want review can even be appealed. This post, which is the second in a series about judicial review of IPR, addresses a second trap for the unwary: the limited scope of permitted appeal.
Section 314(d) prohibits appeal of the PTAB’s decision “whether to institute [IPR] under this section.” Some interpreted that as limiting appeal only of the Institution Decision’s determination under Section 314(a) that the petition’s unpatentability arguments are sufficiently strong to deserve institution. The Supreme Court rejected that interpretation in Cuozzo v. Lee, 136 S. Ct. 2131 (2016), applying the appeal bar to the related determination under a different section that the petition was written with sufficient “particularity.”
(Co-authored by Elisabeth Hunt)
In the time since the America Invents Act (AIA) created the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), inter partes review (IPR) and other PTAB proceedings for challenging patents’ validity have proven to be powerful tools for those accused of infringement. But increasingly, the PTAB’s exercise of its discretion to deny institution of review for non–merits-based reasons has become a powerful counter-defense for patent owners. Although discretionary denial has been a feature of PTAB proceedings since their inception, the range of circumstances in which the PTAB discretionarily denies institution and the frequency with which it does so are increasing. Discretionary denial has thus become a disputed issue in an increasingly large proportion of PTAB proceedings.
Seeking judicial review of an IPR decision can be a trap for the unwary. Section 319 permits a “dissatisfied” party to appeal. And while the language may seem simple, it can lead parties astray. This post, which is the first in a series about judicial review of IPR, addresses the first trap for the unwary: the constitutional requirement of standing.
Although Section 319 might be misread to allow any “dissatisfied” party to appeal, the party must still have standing to appeal. Thus, in Droplets v. E*TRADE, 887 F.3d 1309 (Fed. Cir. 2018), the Federal Circuit held that a petitioner that won but was “dissatisfied” with the PTAB’s reasoning still could not appeal. And in SkyHawke v. Deca, 828 F.3d 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2016), a potentially analogous decision concerning reexamination, the court rejected an appeal by a winning patent owner that wanted a different claim construction.
Per the express language of 35 U.S.C. § 311, a petitioner in an IPR may request cancellation of a claim “only on a ground that could be raised under section 102 or 103.” In other words, an issued claim can only be canceled via IPR on the basis of anticipation or obviousness grounds. But once an IPR is instituted, can the PTAB also make eligibility determinations pursuant to section 101 and/or written description or enablement determinations pursuant to section 112? The answer is, in certain circumstances, “yes” according to the Federal Circuit in Uniloc 2017 v. Hulu, No. 2019-1686 (Fed. Cir. July 22, 2020).
In Uniloc 2017, the petitioners challenged the patent owner’s claims as anticipated and obvious. The patent owner defended the claims and also filed a contingent motion to amend requesting that, in the event certain claims were found unpatentable, the PTAB issue substitute claims pursuant to section 316(d). The petitioners opposed the motion to amend, arguing that the proposed substitute claims were directed to patent ineligible subject matter.