Here is a special report on recent news and commentary related to the Supreme Court’s denial of the petition for certiorari in American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc. v. Neapco Holdings LLC, an important patent eligibility case decided by the Federal Circuit in 2019. Today’s report highlights:

  • an article discussing how the Supreme Court declined to hear “a case that may have clarified the circumstances under which inventions warrant a patent”;
  • another article highlighting how “[a]ttorneys say the denial was particularly frustrating because all parties charged with interpreting this law have said it’s still unclear”; and
  • a third article addressing how the denial “leaves it up to Congress and the USPTO to take action to fix some of the unpredictability.”

Blake Brittain published an article for Reuters discussing how the “Supreme Court on Thursday declined to hear American Axle & Manufacturing Inc’s bid to revive its patent on technology for quieting driveshaft noise.” Brittain explained how “the Supreme Court last addressed patent eligibility in a 2014 ruling called Alice Corp v. CLS Bank International that helped establish a two-part eligibility test.” Brittain emphasized, however, that “[d]etractors have said the Alice case ruling and subsequent decisions guided by it have created confusion and inconsistency that has led courts to cancel patents on inventions that should be protected.” Accordingly, Brittain noted how a “U.S. Patent and Trademark Office spokesperson said after the ruling that innovation ‘cannot thrive in uncertainty,’ and that the office is committed to ‘making every effort to ensure that the U.S. patent system is as clear and consistent as possible.'”

Dani Kass wrote an article for Law360 addressing how the Supreme Court “rejected a highly controversial case on patent eligibility, ignoring impassioned pleas from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Federal Circuit that they need help interpreting the law consistently, and leaving attorneys to hope Congress will pick up the baton.” As the article notes, Michelle Holoubek, an attorney, said that “‘[t]he Federal Circuit has said they cannot interpret the law in a way that is consistent, which screams for intervention by the Supreme Court.'” Addressing the potential for Congressional intervention, Kass emphasized how “[m]ultiple senators have repeatedly addressed their frustrations with the state of patent eligibility law, but two large patent reform bills released in the last year didn’t address Section 101 of the Patent Act.” Nicholas Matich, another attorney, noted that “‘[t]o the extent that those who wanted to push reform were putting their eggs in the American Axle basket, it might change people’s legislative strategies.'”

Eileen McDermott authored an article for IPWatchdog addressing how, by denying certiorari in American Axle, the Supreme Court is “leaving it up to Congress and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to restore any semblance of clarity on U.S. patent eligibility law for now.” According to McDermott, the USPTO “is continuing to solicit feedback on eligibility issues and will presumably announce changes via rulemaking or revised guidance at some point in the future.” McDermott noted, however, that “while USPTO guidance/action on eligibility may be helpful on the front end, it is not binding on the courts and thus is of limited value.” Moreover, McDermott pointed out that the Supreme Court also “[yesterday] denied certiorari in Spireon, Inc. v. Procon Analytics, Inc., a petition that was filed in April of this year and asked the Court to consider identical questions to those presented by American Axle.”