This is the third and final installment of my recent interview with former Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel. In this installment of the interview we discuss the future of the Federal Circuit now that Judge Rader is a private citizen. We discuss the type of candidate that should be appointed to replace him, and the always concerning panel dependency.
QUINN: So now we still have one topic still to discuss. Perhaps, if you have the time, we could talk about the Federal Circuit. I don’t want to get into any of the touchy subjects, which some people are diving into. I’m more interesting in talking about moving forward, you know, Judge Rader is now a private citizen and he was clearly one of the champions of the patent system and a believer in the power and the importance of patents. And now he’s not on the Court any more. I wonder what that’s going to mean moving forward. I wonder— and then I can’t help but wonder about panel dependency, which is a problem that a lot of people talk about. And particularly in light of the fact that the Supreme Court has remanded Ultramercial to the Federal Circuit. And Judge Rader was on that panel. So you already have people talking about whether that outcome in what could be a very important case will become panel dependent.
MICHEL: Right. Well, first of all I think Judge Rader will continue to play a very constructive role as a vocal spokesman now in the private citizen realm. And in fact being a private citizen he can be much more frank and candid than he was able to be as a sitting judge. So his voice may get even more interesting and even louder as a part of the overall debate. His replacement will be very important. So just as people are focused on is Phil Johnson going to become the new patent director, will he get nominated, can he get confirmed, how will he do? All those interesting very important questions, people should also be asking who will replace Judge Rader? Who will get nominated, can that person get confirmed, can they get confirmed as fast as they need to get confirmed so the Court is at full strength?
On July 3, 2014, I had the opportunity to interview Judge Michel, former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The interview took place at the University Club in Washington, DC. Our conversation was wide ranging, dealing with all the pressing issues of the moment in the patent world. In part 1 of the interview Judge Michel explained exactly why the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bankwas terrible, saying that he thought the decision would lead to “total chaos” because there is no repeatable, predictable test that can be objectively applied.
In part 2 of the interview, which appears below, we continue our discussion of Alice, but focus on how the Supreme Court is importing considerations that historically (and correctly) are matters of obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103.
QUINN: Well, I know one of the things that we’ve talked about in the past as a concern is with all these decisions patents have gotten a lot longer, a lot more difficult to read, and really almost in some ways hide the innovation. And it’s not necessarily a conscious “I want to hide it,” sometimes it may be, but patents from 50, 60 years ago used to be a couple pages long and that included the drawings. What do you think the Alice decision is going to do to the complexity of patent applications moving forward?
MICHEL: Well, it’s hard to imagine that it will encourage shorter or simpler applications. But I don’t really know. I can’t predict. And part of what worries me is the extent of the harm is difficult to gauge. I think there will be harm. My concern is that it’s likely to be massive harm. But it can be equally argued that the harm will be very small because really nobody knows. So we’re taking a huge gamble here where nobody knows what the risks and harms can be. Also consider this you talk about the stability of property regimes in the law, how about the right of a property owner as to who’s going to decide things? In our lawsuit where you sued me if I claim your patent’s invalid as obvious I’ve got to prove it. I’ve got to prove it to an elevated burden with admissible evidence to a jury. But in a 101 matter it looks to me like there’s no role for the jury it’s all going to be up to the district judge to decide whether to invalidate the patent by declaring it ineligible. So there’s a lurking issue here of right to jury trial because the Supreme Court has now shifted the center of gravity of an invalidity case from the trial and the jury to a pretrial motion with no jury and probably very limited factual records.
Chief Judge Michel (ret.), Dec. 10, 2013, at IPO Inventor of the Year ceremony in DC.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with private citizen Paul Michel, who we know in the patent community as the former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Judge Michel left the Federal Circuit several years ago now, choosing to retire rather than take senior status. Michel told me back then that he wanted to step down so he could say what needed to be said on behalf of the patent system, something he felt he couldn’t do while a member of the federal judiciary.
Judge Michel has been true to his promise. He keeps an active speaking schedule, he continues to appear on Capitol Hill to discuss matters of concern for the patent system, he continues to attend numerous industry events, and he has freely given of his time on the record for us at IPWatchdog.com.
In our latest conversation we talked about a great many things, including the seemingly inevitable nomination of Phil Johnson as Director of the USPTO, which now seems very unlikely. We also spent considerable time talking about the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank. As you will read in the interview below, Michel thinks the decision was terrible and will lead to nothing short of chaos because there is simply no workable, repeatable test that can evenly and predictably be applied by the numerous decision makers in the patent world.
Chief Judge Paul Michel at his retirement party, October 19, 2010
This is the final installment in my follow-up interview with Chief Judge Paul Michel, who retired from the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit effective June 1, 2010. In some ways this might be the most interesting of all of the interview segments for those practicing in the patent arena, or those who have any reason to appear in front of the Federal Circuit. In this final installment Chief Judge Michel speaks with me about what, in his opinion, makes for effective appellate advocacy, both in terms of written briefs and in terms of oral presentation.
It has been a privilege to provide my two different interviews with Chief Judge Michel, and to be invited to his recent retirement party. Chief Judge Michel has always been gracious and giving of his time, and is truly committed to working for a better patent system now that he is a private citizen. Despite his extraordinary accomplishments he is always exceptionally humble and truly a nice guy, proving the old adage that nice guys finish last is not always true.
Over the summer I had the opportunity to interview Chief Judge Michel on the record, but our conversation took on a life of its own and many of the topics I had hoped to cover wound up having to be cut due to time considerations. Chief Judge Michel graciously agreed to a second interview, which took place on September 24, 2010. In part 1 of this interview sequel, we discussed fee diversion at the USPTO, he gave an insiders view of the Senate confirmation process, discussed the confirmation process of Robert Bork and a federal judiciary that seems almost ignored by Congress. In part 2, which appears below, Chief Judge Michel and I talk about the Federal Circuit, focusing on the good decisions during his tenure on the Court, as well as a few he thought the Court got wrong, including a nearly unanimous en banc decision. We discuss inequitable conduct, his thoughts regarding the Supreme Court should be meddling with patent law so much, and what he tried to do as Chief Judge to bring the Court together and build a collegial working environment.
Part 3 of this interview will appear on Wednesday, October 27, 2010. In that final installment Chief Judge Michel explains what Federal Circuit Judges are looking for in the briefs, in oral argument and the characteristics of an attorney who is likely to find success at the Federal Circuit. Stay tuned!
The Honorable Paul Michel, Chief Judge of the CAFC (ret.)
In July 2010 I had the privilege of interviewing Chief Judge Paul Michel of the Federal Circuit, who had just recently retired from the Court effective May 31, 2010. Chief Judge Michel spoke with me on the record for over 1 hour and 40 minutes, and even then I only was able to get to a fraction of the topics that the Chief Judge agreed to discuss on the record. Chief Judge Michel agreed to go back on the record with me to address those additional topics, such as the confirmation process to become a judge, the state of the federal judiciary, funding for the Patent Office, Federal Circuit decisions over his tenure on the Court and more. We had our second interview on September 24, 2010, again at the University Club in Washington, DC.
The timing of the publication of this second interview with Chief Judge Michel is quite fortuitous. This evening the Federal Circuit Bar Association is holding a retirement party for him, together with dinner and dancing. Unfortunately, I find myself in San Francisco teaching the PLI patent bar review course and I am unable to attend. Renee Quinn is attending the event and will have a full report of the festivities, so check back tomorrow for more.
In this final installment of my interview with Chief Judge Paul Michel we discuss Bilski v. Kappos and what he thought of the Supreme Court’s decision. Judge Michel talks about how only one of the Justices who decided Bilski ever decided a patentable subject matter decision, leaving the impression that the Supreme Court should probably just leave well enough alone. He tells us that he “think[s] the Federal Circuit can help minimize harm” that may otherwise be caused by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bilski v. Kappos, but is unsure whether the Federal Circuit can all “the harm that may lie inherent in the approach of the Supreme Court in that opinion…” Chief Judge Michel also discusses how he feels that the patent system is now favoring extremely large companies over independent inventors, start-ups and small businesses. Plus, the fun stuff!
On July 9, 2010, I sat down with the Honorable Paul Michel, the recently retired Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In this interview, which lasted for 1 hour and 40 minutes, we talked about his experiences as a prosecutor in Philadelphia and then in Washington, DC where he was a special prosecutor in the Watergate investigations and the lead prosecutor in the Koreagate investigations (see Part I). We also discussed the decline in the checks and balances the federal system; the Founding Fathers and how they viewed patents and how the Patent Office used to be held in such esteem (see Part II).
In this third installment things get interesting, perhaps even a bit explosive. The former Chief of the Federal Circuit pulls no punches and talks openly and honestly about Congress, laying the blame for the decline of the Patent Office squarely on the feet of Congress who has since 1992 siphoned off at least $750 million thanks to fee diversion. This has left the Patent Office short on resources to do what needs to be done. The Judge also makes the case for regional Patent Offices and getting involved in the patent reform debate so that a handful of companies can’t dominate the discussions to their sole benefit. He talks about perhaps setting up a think tank to promote a pro-patent and innovation agenda, and how it is a “travesty” that patent rights cannot be enforced in a relevant time frame through litigation because of backlogs in the federal court system. I think it is fair to say that Congress was in the cross-hairs during this segment of our interview and some of what Chief Judge Michel tells me was surprisingly forceful, direct and extremely critical. Having said that, I think practically everyone in the industry will agree with him. I know I sure do!