This past Monday, June 21, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Arthrex, Inc., Smith & Nephew, Inc. v. Arthrex, Inc., and Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc. By a vote of five to four, the Court concluded that the statutory authority conferred upon the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to issue final decisions on behalf of the Executive Branch in inter partes review proceedings violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause because the PTAB’s Administrative Patent Judges are not nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Given this violation, the Court voted seven to two to sever the unconstitutional portion of the patent statute, giving the Director of the Patent and Trademark Office, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the power to review the PTAB’s decisions. Here is a summary of the Court’s opinions.
Breaking News – Supreme Court Agrees PTAB’s Authority Violates Appointments Clause, Remands for USPTO Director to Determine Whether to Grant Rehearing
This morning the Supreme Court agreed with the Federal Circuit that the statutory authority given to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board violates the Appointments Clause. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed with the Federal Circuit as to the appropriate remedy given this violation. According to the Supreme Court, both the constitutional violation and the appropriate remedy relate to the lack of statutory authority for the Director of the USPTO, a principal officer of the United States nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, to decide whether to grant rehearing with respect to the underlying inter partes review proceeding. Here is a brief summary of the Court’s holding in United States v. Arthrex, Inc.; Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc.; and Smith & Nephew, Inc. v. Arthrex, Inc., along with language from the Court’s controlling opinion.
- NYIPLA Amicus Brief in Ericsson v. Samsung Advocates the Adjudication of U.S. Patent Rights by U.S. Courts – The New York Intellectual Property Law Association (NYIPLA) recently submitted an amicus brief urging the Federal Circuit to balance the interests of the U.S. in resolving domestic patent protection against the rule of comity.
- Vivint Patent Ruling Upheld Over Belated Appointments Argument – The Federal Circuit ruled that Vivint forfeited the constitutional arguments from Arthrex when it failed to raise such arguments on appeal, even though Arthrex had not yet been issued at the time of the appeal.
- Banks Face Lawsuit ‘Frenzy’ After Business Patent Reviews End – In the last eight months, nearly three times as many patent suits involving financial services patents have been filed against banks and e-commerce companies after the PTO’s covered business method review program expired last September.
Here’s the latest.
Guest Post by Kristen Osenga
In any given year, the Federal Circuit covers a wide spectrum of issues in patent law, and 2020 was no different. Of course, a lot about 2020 was different — including seeing the Court hold (and now livestream) telephonic arguments — but most of the patent cases decided were similar in type to other years . . . a little patent-eligible subject matter, a little jurisdiction and venue, a case about infringement of standard essential patents, and a bit of deciding what the Patent Trial and Appeal Board can and cannot do. There were no real blockbuster cases in 2020 (other than maybe the Arthrex denial of rehearing, more on that later). This could be due to the pandemic, or maybe it is a sign that patent law is settling in for a bit. Of course, that does not mean the law has settled in the right place, but that is a different issue for a different day.
For today, a few cases are worth highlighting from the Federal Circuit’s 2020 patent opinions. To be clear, this is not an exhaustive review, but rather simply a short selection noting some of the more important patent cases decided last year.
On Monday, March 1, 2021, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the closely-watched patent case, United States v. Arthrex. As we previewed a couple days prior to argument, two main issues were considered by the Court. First, for purposes of the Appointments Clause, whether administrative patent judges (APJs) of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) are principal or inferior officers. And second, if APJs are indeed principal officers, whether the Federal Circuit properly cured any Appointments Clause defect through the remedy it provided. Here are the details.
On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a much-anticipated patent case, United States v. Arthrex, Inc. The first issue for consideration by the Court is whether, for purposes of the Appointments Clause, administrative patent judges of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board are principal or inferior officers. The second issue is, if administrative patent judges are indeed principal officers, whether the Federal Circuit properly cured any Appointments Clause defect through the remedy it provided. This is our argument preview.
Here is an update on recent activity at the Supreme Court in cases decided by the Federal Circuit.
- Two response and reply briefs were filed with the Court by the United States and by Smith & Nephew in a case that has been granted certiorari, United States v. Arthrex, Inc.
- Two amicus briefs were filed with the Court: the first by the New York Intellectual Property Law Association (NYIPLA) in American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc. v. Neapco Holdings LLC, and the second by a non-profit advocacy organization, US Inventor, Inc., in Akeva L.L.C. v. Nike, Inc.
- One new waiver of right to respond was filed by Iancu in Samaranayake v. Iancu.
- The Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari in the case of InfoBionic, Inc. v. Cardionet, LLC.
Here are the details.
- Fed. Circ. Backs Sanofi, Regeneron PTAB Win Over Amgen – In a precedential opinion issued on Tuesday, the Federal Circuit upheld a Patent Trial and Appeal Board decision invalidating Amgen’s patent aimed at treating inflammatory disorders.
- Patent Reviews in ‘Limbo’ As Supreme Court Takes Case on Judges – The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that it will review the Federal Circuit’s decision in Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew Inc.
- Fed. Circ. Denies Appeal of Order Backing Card IP Under Alice – On Wednesday, the Federal Circuit rejected an interlocutory appeal after a district court found that a patent describing a card that can be used as a debit card, a loyalty card, and a gift card all at once was not directed to an abstract idea.
Here’s the latest.
Yesterday the Supreme Court granted the petitions for certiorari in three related Arthrex cases: (1) United States v. Arthrex, Inc. (19-1434), (2) Smith & Nephew, Inc. v. Arthrex, Inc. (19-1452), and (3) Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc. (19-1458). The Court decided to consolidate the cases for briefing and oral argument and announced that all future filings and activity will be reflected on docket of No. 19-1434. The Court’s widely anticipated review will determine the fate of Administrative Patent Judges (APJs) under the Appointments Clause. Here are the details.
- A Patent Crisis—Supreme Court Can Help America Compete Again – Former Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, Randall Rader, discusses the need for a strong patent system in the United States in light of recent decisions and international competition.
- Federal Circuit Shoots Down Apple Bid to Strike Certain Voip-Pal Claims Upheld by PTAB – The Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s finding of validity of Voip-Pal’s patent and upheld the sanctions granted against Apple in Apple Inc. v. Voip-Pail.com, Inc.
- IP at the Supreme Court: 2 Big Cases and a Lot of Long Shots – With the Supreme Court already granting certiorari to one case appealed from the Federal Circuit, other cases may also warrant review by the nation’s highest court.
Here’s the latest.