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Kathryn Thornton

Associate, Intellectual Property

Ropes & Gray

As an intellectual property associate at Ropes & Gray, Kathryn Thornton cultivates a diverse practice across patent, trademark, copyright, and false advertising matters. Kathryn has litigated at the trial level in federal district court and the International Trade Commission. She has also worked on appellate litigation at the Federal Circuit and on behalf of amici in the Fourth and Ninth Circuits. Her practice spans a broad range of technologies, including software, consumer electronics, and pharmaceutical products.

Kathryn maintains a robust pro bono practice, including projects related to asylum, discharge upgrades for military veterans, and U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. She has advised pro bono clients on obtaining, licensing, and protecting trademarks and on the intersection of technology and copyright. Kathryn is also a DC mentor circle leader in the Ropes & Gray Women’s Forum.

Before joining Ropes & Gray, Kathryn clerked for the Honorable Catherine C. Eagles of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Prior to law school, Kathryn worked in rights and contracts at the University of North Carolina Press.

Recent Articles by Kathryn Thornton

Golden v. United States Shows That the Federal Circuit Overstepped Its Bounds in Celgene

Last week, in Golden v. United States, the Federal Circuit again rejected the argument that the cancellation of a patent in an America Invents Act (AIA) post-grant proceeding violates the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. Just as it did in other cases raising Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)-related Takings Clause issues, the appellate court in Golden relied on its July 2019 decision in Celgene Corp. v. Peter (931 F.3d 1342 [Fed. Cir. 2019]), rejecting the Takings Clause argument on the merits. See Collabo Innovations, Inc. v. Sony Corp., 778 F. App’x 954, 961 (Fed. Cir. 2019); Enzo Life Sci., Inc. v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 780 F. App’x 903, 911 (Fed. Cir. 2019). But unlike these previous decisions, the Federal Circuit’s analysis in Golden also included discussion and resolution of an important threshold jurisdictional question—an issue that, as we argued in a November 2019 IPWatchdog piece, should have precluded the Federal Circuit from reaching the merits of the Takings Clause argument in Celgene in the first place.

Celgene Corp. v. Peter: Should the Federal Circuit Leave PTAB ‘Patent Takings’ Issue for Another Day?

Nearly four months ago, the Federal Circuit for the first time addressed the applicability of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to IPRs, holding in Celgene Corp v. Peter “that the retroactive application of inter partes review (IPR) proceedings to pre-America Invents Act (AIA) patents is not an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment” Celgene Corp. v. Peter, 931 F.3d 1342, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2019). Since then, the court has continued to reject similar Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)-related Takings Clause claims on the merits. E.g., Collabo Innovations v. Sony Corp., No. 2018-1311 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 5, 2019). Unsurprisingly, Celgene filed a request for an en banc rehearing, and the government has just this week filed its response. Both Celgene’s en banc petition and the government’s response address the merits of Celgene’s constitutional claim—but as we hinted at in an earlier article analyzing the Celgene decision, there is a serious question whether the Federal Circuit should have even reached the merits of the Takings Clause issue in its panel opinion. In light of Supreme Court Takings Clause precedent, the Federal Circuit may want to either request supplemental briefing to decide whether it should have addressed the constitutional question in the first place, or potentially even revise the panel opinion and leave this issue to be decided in another case.

Next Steps After Celgene: Federal Circuit Ruling on Takings Clause and IPRs Leaves Open Questions

Since the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of inter partes review (IPR) a little more than a year ago in Oil States, several patent owners have brought other constitutional challenges to America Invents Act (AIA) trial proceedings. These cases have been slowly percolating at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In many cases, however, the Federal Circuit has declined to address these constitutional claims on the merits, finding them unnecessary to resolve or insufficiently developed by the parties. But early last week, the Federal Circuit for the first time addressed the applicability of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to IPRs, holding in Celgene Corp. v. Peter, Case No. 18-1167 (Fed. Cir. 2019) “that the retroactive application of IPR proceedings to pre-AIA patents is not an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment.” While the court’s holding may appear on its face to forestall current and future Takings Clause challenges to AIA proceedings, its analysis leaves some questions unanswered, and may even provide a narrow path forward for future takings claims. Furthermore, given the Supreme Court’s predilection for addressing both AIA and Takings Clause issues, the Federal Circuit panel’s decision may not be the last word on this interesting issue.